In 1993 Cornerstone switched from tabloid size back to a traditional 8.5 x 11 magazine layout, and Oboe returned to a two page comic. “Herd & Scenes” was partially a response to the famine in Somalia, and partially a silly story about food (ribs). Maybe not such a great combination in hindsight. My intentions were good; to raise awareness of poverty and hunger issues, but I’m not sure that I pulled it off. Stylistically I was happy with it, it looks good, and there are a few moments I still enjoy (like the farmer exclaiming that UFOs have slaughtered his heifers).
The part with the reflecting cow eyes was based on a true story a friend told me, and the crash scene was inspired by a late night Cornerstone run for ribs, with me in the passenger seat holding a bucket and wondering what would happen if we were in an accident. This cartoon gave first names to the Smiths from Oboe’s church. I must confess to a horrible tendency to name my characters after real people, with no thought as to how those characters might reflect back on their namesakes. So let me just state for the record that the real “Brian and Leah” are wonderful people, nothing like these imaginary characters. The Smiths first appeared in “Pastoral Scenes” and Mr. Smith is also in “The Six O’Clock Snooze”.
Not much hidden in this one, though I would like to point out the “Pieta” picture on the wall in the 3rd box. Another mother holding her dead child. And the Smiths have some diet pills in their cool U-Roc-2.
“Guess Who’s Coming to Heaven” is a story about Joe and Alice being accepted by their church. It was influenced in part by my wife and my early attempts at getting pregnant, including a miscarriage. The ultra-sound image at the bottom of the cartoon is the actual picture of our youngest, Warren, in the womb. Warren is now grown into a fine and healthy young man.
This cartoon was never one of my favorites for whatever reason, and certainly hasn’t improved with age. It does have the distinction of the being the last one in the tabloid format, and coincidentally it was also the last one featured in the book collection of comics that was released in 1992. So the rest of the comics to be posted in this blog were never reprinted after their initial appearance in Cornerstone, and may be unfamiliar to those loyal readers who purchased the book. BTW, the book “OBOE JONES” has been out of print since its initial press run. But I have seen used copies available online from time to time. I do have a few pristine copies of the book in a box somewhere, but I’m saving them for my kids.
A few inside jokes in this one, like the milk container Alice is holding in one scene which is meant to look like the weird “milk in a bag” containers they use in Canada. The pizza is certainly a Giordonos deep-dish pizza, and Warren’s due date appears after my signature. He was a little late.
This one is probably hard to understand if you don’t remember the headlines form the early 90′s, but it sure was a lot of fun to draw. From Oboe’s crazed expressions to people popping out of the oven and all that weird scenery. The 6 O’clock Snooze has got to hold the record for the weirdest cartoon angle ever: one scene is from the atomic point of view. Some of the dreamscape backgrounds were sections of old Cornerstone cover art, and the characters were colored with charcoal pencil like I tried in “Poison Pen” (once again, a great debt is owed to the long-suffering darkroom staff). If I had known how close we were to this thing called “Photoshop” I’m sure I wouldn’t have bothered with all the painstaking special effects.
Overall this comic is kind of silly, but for whatever reason I still like it. Maybe just because it was so fun to create. Trivia: In keeping with the slumberland theme “Little Nemo” appears in the next to last box, and “Burger Bean Bake” was one of my favorite items on the Jpusa menu.
I had long wanted to draw a strip about Tuber’s job raking potato chips, and finally got around to it with “the Industrial Revelation”. The story may be familiar to the many musicians, artists and writers, (and yes, cartoonists) who must endure a “real” job while they struggle to pursue their creative endeavors. And for people of faith, who feel a “calling” to glorify God through art, the struggle can seem even more difficult. So I drew Tuber at work, hoping that his band will get signed by “Frankincense” records (get it?) so that he can quit his job. It’s a theme I returned to later in the last strip “The Limited Engagement”.
It was a great deal of fun to draw all of the factory scenes, completely made up of course. You may note the way I tried to lead the readers eyes through those scenes by making the focal point of each box the same yellow color. -Even Tuber’s eyes are yellow. One other small detail: in the box where Tuber is stomping the sour creme, one of the tiny figures in the background is a version of the “matchstick man” that I painted for the cover of that issue of Cornerstone.
A fairly straightforward story about Neil, Oboe’s long-suffering pastor. I received a few letters from members of the clergy after this one came out, asking how I knew what it was like to be a minister, so I guess it must have struck a chord. Some of the characters were loosely based on real people, like my friend “Dan” as well as Mike Webster, and of course my pastor at the time was named Neil (He didn’t look anything like my drawing, but was just as long-suffering. -He would have to be, with me in his church!). Not much else to mention about this one, though I am proud of some of the scenes, like the eyeball reflection, and the lady complaining to Neil while her shadow eats him (I still laugh at her line “Well, I told that crabby horse-faced old fool to stop judging me and …”).
Oh, one other thing: This one was unique in that the lettering was done by a computer for the first time. My friend Pat digitized my friend Karl’s hand -lettering style into my own personal font, a version of which I still use to this day. Of course, the text was printed out, cut up, waxed onto the drawings and photographed, but still a harbinger of the near digital future.
I suppose it was a tad self-indulgent, but I thought it would be fun to insert myself and the rest of the Cornerstone staff into a comic. The magazine was published by a faith-based charity group, and as such, there was an overlap between the many different branches of service. While my primary “job” was as a staff artist, at any time I might be pulled to serve dinner to the homeless, unload a truck, or any number of other duties. And since we often worked nights, we would often be called upon for those “after-hours” emergencies too.
So, I drew Oboe and Co coming out and visiting the office to show what it was like to juggle these differing priorities. Everything that happens in the comic is true (beyond my characters being alive, of course), although it wouldn’t have all happened in one day. And while we did get donations of coats for the shelter we never unloaded 100,000, so I must confess to a little exaggeration.
You’ll note that Chris Ramsey appears a few times in this cartoon. Chris was the unsung hero of Cornerstone in my opinion. One of the staff writers, he was also the coordinator of most of our extra-curricular activities, and more often than not he was the first guy to get his hands dirty. And credit goes to his wife Sandy, too, for unflaggingly managing the C’stone office for many years.
In one box Chris is shown telling us artists that we have roofing and moving jobs lined up. In addition to creating Cornerstone magazine, we staffers had the privilege of helping to pay for its printing too (for some reason we had trouble hanging onto advertisers, possibly due to the fact that the magazine often came out several months later than predicted). I could have drawn another cartoon based on the adventures of the staff as we performed these physically demanding jobs, but it would have been too embarrassing. Case in point: on one moving job I was in the back of a truck that was being driven up Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive (where commercial vehicles like ours were forbidden) when the back gate came unlatched. The gate slowly opened all the way as I struggled to prevent the furniture from sliding out and into traffic. Some poor customer’s prized possessions were crashing down around me and slipping towards the open door while the horrified drivers behind me took evasive action. Some of these commuters pulled-up even with our truck driver (yes, another staff member) and began honking and gesticulating, tying to tell him that his truck was dangerously unlatched. But “M” just figured they were mad at him for driving his commercial truck on Lakeshore Drive, and he ignored them. Needless to say, that was one job where we didn’t get paid in the end.
“Out of the Drawing Board” started with a bunch of photos (thanks Tom) which were turned into high-contrast line art, and then drawn over. I tried to make the cartoon characters appear garish, with primary colors, and the “real” world in more muted tones. Also, I begged my tireless darkroom friends to composite the ‘toons with a coarser halftone screen that the rest of it. That is, the color for the cartoon characters is printed with bigger dots, like a newspaper comic. Unfortunately it’s hard to see the difference unless I point it out (as I’m doing here) and nobody ever noticed, despite all the extra work it took. Sorry guys.
This whole comic is a series of inside jokes, and I can’t point them all out here, but I would like to mention that the cute girl at the typesetter is my wife, Kathryn.
Of all the Oboe Jones cartoons, Pornogravity is my favorite (or favorites, since this was a two-parter). In fact, I think this may be the best cartoon I ever created. I am hard pressed to think of anything better.
I wouldn’t go so far as to claim divine intervention, but for whatever reason, these comics just seemed to come together. The story was all too easy to write, and the artwork complimented the story. Even the color palette, with all those night scenes, fit perfectly with the serious subject matter. Also, being able to tell the story in two parts gave me a chance to slow down the pace. The whole first page is practically just Oboe being preoccupied with his interior struggle. All of the pieces just fell together for these two. And in the credit where credit is due department, I have to tip my hat to my editor. When I first wrote this story, the main character was Tuber, and it was a sillier plot. But my editor took one look at the script and said “Oh no, it has to be Oboe” and she was right. So thank you Dawn. Showing Oboe with feet of clay gave him a depth I think that he lacked up to this point, and the story became more real.
I still love the near-miss car crash scene, where Oboe imagines his funeral. And also the super-sweet grandmother holding apple pies that takes over behind the counter still makes me laugh. There’s not a lot hidden in these, but in the second part where Oboe imagines his Sunday-school class appearing behind him, each one of those kids was drawn by a different staff member (If memory serves, Karl, Mark, Bruce, Dick, Janet, Becky and Kate).
At any rate I think these two have stood the test of time, and maybe, just maybe, they’re cartoons that God would put on his fridge.