“Limited Engagement” was the last published Oboe comic, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I knew my years at Cornerstone were coming to an end, but I thought there was still time for a few more cartoons. I would have tried to go out with more closure had I known this was the final one. So it turns out that Oboe, the strip’s namesake, didn’t appear in the first or last cartoon of the series. I only just realized that fact now myself as I write this.
I’m glad to say that I liked this cartoon, so at least we ended with one of the better ones (imho). The story of Tuber growing up, In a way, is not a bad end to the series. This one looked good too, finally back to the classic Oboe look that I had lost when I started using the computer for the color. It took a while, but eventually I realized that I didn’t have to use every trick in the Photoshop book every time. My favorite part is Gloria loudly saying “I do?!” at the top of page 2.
The Long Lost Last Oboe
While I was finishing “Limited Engagement” I started to write the next one (again, not knowing there wouldn’t even be another one). The story was based on a popular seminar for men that I had attended, and the theme for the next year’s rally was to be “reconciliation”. Seemed like a perfect opportunity for Oboe and Tuber to get back together. For the sake of closure, and for all of those readers who were left hanging, here’s that script:
I’m not completely certain, but I do really think that this group was indeed offering discounted admission to people who brought along someone from another race, which is why it’s in the story. -I didn’t just make that part up. Also, the women shown protesting the rally were part of my own experience, and I did wonder what they had against fidelity and commitment.
Anyway, Tuber and Oboe were slated to reconcile. My son read my Oboe comics years later and asked me to finish the story, so I dug out this old script for him. And I also included one final box, just for kicks which I will also post here. It was the first new Oboe cartoon in ten or so years (although he does still make cameos in my other comics from time to time).
Future Oboe Comics?
From time to time I get e-mails from people asking if there will ever be a new Oboe Jones cartoon. The answer is “Yes, and No”. Yes, because I would certainly make a new one should some publisher hire me to do so. No, because it’s very hard to imagine that ever happening. Print media is hurting these days, and many of the magazines that used to print comics don’t even exist anymore. It’s hard to find a publisher who wants to print a simple one-boxer, so finding a publisher to pay for a big two-page extravaganza seems more unlikely every day. There are a lot of web-sites looking for content now, but those sites don’t want to pay for anything. And I wouldn’t want to do it on the cheap. Better no Oboe than a new, bad Oboe comic. Anyway, it’s probably just as well. Oboe was a product of his time, and I’m not sure that he would be the same in today’s post-modern church (Po-Mo Oboe?). Not to mention the fact that he would be in his 60s now, and Eugene all grown up.
Of course, in a sense, I don’t think I ever stopped drawing Oboe. My new comic strip is really just Oboe in a thrift shop, with Dag as Tuber, and Cassidy as a Claymore/Joe combo. Also, Eugene is still Eugene in my True North strip. Some samples of these other comics are an my site: http://www.kevinfrank.net.
In hindsight, Oboe Jones was about community (obviously!). Oboe and company lived in a communal apartment building, and the stories reflected my own experience in community. It wasn’t intentional, but how could it have been otherwise? And the strip itself was a kind of a group effort thanks to all the genius help I had along the way, from my editors to the long-suffering darkroom crew to the many copy editors too. Not to mention the people who helped by watching my children, or cooking our meals or working in one of the businesses that helped support Cornerstone magazine. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create these cartoons for so long. And lastly, thanks go to all of the many readers who followed Oboe’s adventures over the years. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had in creating it.
“Tenets” was loosely based on a situation some friends of mine became entangled in. A disagreement where all the parties involved were certain that they were doing the right thing, but where there was no reconciliation. So I thought that I’d put Oboe and Tuber into a similar conflict. This one ended up being the last strip to feature Oboe, but I didn’t know it at the time. -I certainly would not have made his final appearance such a downer if I had known. I was already planning on Tuber and Oboe reconciling in a later strip, but the series would end before I had the chance to draw it.
Yet again more color experimentation that I was not really pleased with after the fact. Too many scanned-in sweaters and textures. Photoshop had given me way too much power.
Now that the cartoon strip was ten years old, my editor suggested that it was about time for Oboe to enter into some kind of romance. I was ambivalent about the idea, as I had always liked Oboe and Eugene on their own, but took my editor’s advice and created the character of “Molly”. Her name is from the Beatle song “Obla-di, Obla-da”, so that if she and Oboe were to marry she would become Molly Jones (like “Desmond and Molly Jones…”). This probably exemplifies just how much planning I put into the new character.
The story is so-so. I guess it works in a “soap-opera” kind of way, but it’s nothing special. Although I do still laugh at the sub-plot with Bill and Apoplexy (“Did Oboe beat you? He did?!”). This was another one of my experiments in Photoshop. Now that I could scan in real denim for Oboe’s coat or a real cloth pattern for Molly’s dress, I had to try it. But I think that the results detracted from the comic instead of enhancing it. And thanks to Photoshop I was now able to put my newborn baby on the front page of the Chicago Tribune.
1995 was the tenth anniversary of the Oboe Jones comic feature in Cornerstone, so I thought I would reintroduce all of the characters through the dog’s perspective. This was not one of my favorites because it didn’t have much of a story; it was just some lame gags pieced together by Apoplexy. This was also the the second one that was colored in Photoshop, and I was experimenting with all of the cool stuff I could now do on a computer.
Ironically, this “reintroduction” turned out to be the last time we saw Joe and Alice or Margo in a comic. Little did I know.
In an earlier post I said that “Aparthy” was my least favorite Oboe Jones comic, but on second thought this one may take that honor. Aparthy was a bad story, but at least it had a story, while Postcards was really just a big commercial for the Cornerstone Festival. That music festival was sponsored by the same group behind Cornerstone magazine, so we all were a part of the planing and execution. I thought it would be fun to draw a big “Where’s Waldo” scene of the fest, and it was indeed a lot of fun to make, but maybe not as much fun to read.
We held another contest for this one, awarding a free pair of tickets to one lucky reader who found all of the cast members in this scene. We had a better response with this contest than we had with “Herd & Scenes” but people had trouble finding the characters (some were in it more than once). One entrant just circled the signatures on all the postcards. The lucky winner of the draw is listed on the bottom of the next comic.
This comic is the first one that was colored on the computer. It took me a while to master the new technique, and the next few cartoons were experiments in Photoshop. But it certainly was a lot quicker and easier than cutting all of that Rubylith film. Of course there is a lot of hidden stuff in this one, much too much to list. But see if you can find the “blue boy”, a tribute to the little boy who climbed into a porto-potty and stained himself with the blue cleanser inside.
This one, obviously, is an homage to Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” movie. Some of it won’t make much sense if you don’t remember the movie. Cornerstone did something unusual with the color plates for this issue, so I didn’t have the option of full-color printing. I decided that this was the perfect time for the serious subject matter of “Forgiven”, which would be enhanced by black & white with a gray wash.
Still, I must confess that I am somewhat embarrassed by this comic now. I don’t know how I had the gall to think I could write a story about a topic that I knew so little about. I have always been intrigued by war stories, and I meant only to honor the men and women who have served in the military. And the message, that there can be forgiveness and redemption is good… but still. I didn’t receive any letters from servicemen, pro or con, so I’m not sure how it went over. I certainly hope no one was offended by it.
This one was too serious for me to hide a bunch of inside jokes in it, but I did think that having them ride in a Mustang (like a horse) was fun. And that Mustang looks just like the black ’67 I once owned.
This is another one that I have always liked. Pastor Neil proving his faithfulness, told via a unique overlapping layout that turned out quite nicely (imho). Sadly, I can’t remember how I came up with the layout at all, probably I was just hankering to draw some more elaborate scenes. You’ll note that the color in the background scenes is more restrained, while the foreground boxes are brighter. And like in “Industrial Revelation’ I tried to lead the eye with certain colors in each of the background scenes. This time it was a caramel/tan color and white. The focal point of each of those boxes is in those colors. And if you look closely, you can also see that each of the background scenes is “linked” to the others; there is a hospital sign before the hospital scene, and so on.
Not much hidden in this, besides some of the names on stores, and an ad for the “Cameo U-Roc-2” (from Herd & Scenes) on the back of Time magazine. My only regret with “Infamy” is that it wasn’t included in the Oboe book. I should have waited one more year!