#4: Funny Pages: A Cartoonist's Movie
I saw a film about becoming a cartoonist the week I got laid off as a cartoonist.
August 20th, 2022
Tonight I got to attend the premiere of a new film called Funny Pages.I took Sophie along and didn’t show her the trailer ahead of time. It had 100% on Rotten Tomatoes at that point, which was enough to convince her to make the schlep to the end of a very long dock at the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
I was a bit down in the dumps as this week I’d been laid off at my longtime cartooning gig doing a syndicated daily comic strip.
As the sun set over the Manhattan skyline, we grabbed one free beer and one $3 water and plonked ourselves down in the last two seats available to hear the Rooftop Films guy mumble something into a muffled microphone for ten minutes before tucking into the screening.
The ferries sloshing past every 20 minutes with drunken passengers yelling fun things like “Yo!” and “Hey!” throughout the film was Very New York.
Funny Pages is an odd duck of a film. I’m glad it got made. Nothing like this gets created anymore (unless there’s some kind of giant superhero universe attached to it.) It felt like one of those old 90’s/Early--00’s cult films about nothing in particular, but everything all at once.
The film charts a chunk of a kid’s life in New Jersey, from his final days in his senior year of high school, to disappointing his parents by not going to college, ending on Christmas morning of the same year.
He wants desperately to be a cartoonist. He’ll do anything. He’ll bust his guts working a crappy job and live in an old dive of a building in the poor part of town with weird neighbours just to make ends meet while he figures it out. I related very deeply.
of when I finished highschool in my hometown of Perth, I didn’t go to college (University) either. All of my friends went. Instead, I went straight into working for a printing company while pursuing my career as a cartoonist late into the night. I was desperate for a mentor of any kind who could teach me. (They don’t teach cartooning at college.) I did a correspondence course in cartooning through the mail, but it was very slow.
The day a ‘real live cartoonist’ walked in the door of the print shop I was working at changed everything. He wanted some photocopies of his cartoons. I told him I was a cartoonist, so that weekend he introduced me to a generous group of local cartoonistswho I learned from. Years later I ended up presiding over the group. The best thing I ever did to become a better cartoonist is to shut my mouth and listen to other cartoonists.
The young man finds a strange artist who he gloms onto — a ‘cartoonist’.He insists he can learn from him. Utter madness ensues.
I remember seeing American Splendor20 years ago and being so taken aback at how cartoonists and comic artists are portrayed in films. I wondered if that’s how everyone sees us.
The whole madcap caper is all kinds of weird, and many won’t like it because of the story structure. You think it’s going to be one thing, then it’s another thing, then everything happens, then nothing happens. It goes from funny, to farce, to dark at the drop of a hat. There’s gore. Nudity (not the sexy kind). Most importantly, there are cartoons.
If you’re a cartoonist, go see it. If you like cartoonists, go see it. If you know nothing about cartooning, go see it. If it were the first episode of a Netflix series (which it feels like) I’d be 100% invested for the whole season.
The term “Funny Pages” is kind of a misnomer: it should possibly have been called “Funny papers”
The old saying, “See you in the funny papers!” refers to the comics section of the newspaper. It was a light-hearted way to say goodbye, see you later, in the 1920s through WWII. It would be used with a friend or casual acquaintance. Just a breezy way to say ‘our lives are funny/ironic/interesting, I wouldn't be surprised if someone started writing a comic strip based on us. I'll see you around, just as likely in the funny pages as anywhere else. It is often misused with the word pages instead of papers. Ref: Urban Dictionary
Yeah. Rupert Murdoch’s cronies, in all their wisdom, killed off the entire Aussie daily comic strip industry in a single day. Real nice.
(I’m still going to be doing new Sundays, but the dailies will go into reruns for the few small papers it still runs in.)
Any young, aspiring artists in Australia who wants some guidance on how to be a cartoonist, hit up the Australian Cartoonists’ Association. If you’re in the US, hit up the National Cartoonists Society. Reach out to me directly if you want. I’m at email@example.com
A ‘color separator’ who briefly worked at Image Comics, played for laughs incredibly well by Matthew Maher.
American Splendor is a 2003 American biographical comedy-drama film about Harvey Pekar, the author of the American Splendor comic book series. It’s really good. Paul Giamatti plays Harvey and nearly ruined his vocal cords playing the role
Overheard at the Comedy Cellar
Elaine's coming now. We need an extra chair!
Six Duck Salads with Gus Van Sant
When one door closes another opens. I loved your acting skills as Dan Driff in the Selsun Blue ad. Maybe you have a future as a movie star?
One more reason to hate Rupert Murdock!