Sunday, May 30, 2010

David Clark Talks, Garbo Listens.

We complete our series of interviews with the triumvirate behind the porcelain throne by questioning co-co-creator David Clark, the genius who gives the characters form.

Q: So, David, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, one of the seminal arts institutions of the United States, a great architectural treasure by Frank Furness, did your training there prepare you for working with Weingarten?

A: I think so, most of my teachers were '60s hippie/Trotskyites.

Q: You are sandwiched between Richard Thompson and Bob Staake in the Reuben award list. Are you ham or cheese? (Yes, bad pun on Reuben, I know. No ham there.)

A: Between those two? I'll say cheesy.

ME: The Reuben Award, not the sandwich, presented by the National Cartoonists Society, is named after Rube Goldberg, Founding Father of the NCS and inventor of hundreds of intricate and complicated devices that perform simple tasks. (All you whippernappers, think Wallace of Wallace and Gromit.) It is the Oscar of the cartooning industry.

Q: As an illustrator, you must have a continuous slideshow playing before your mind's eye in reaction to things you read and hear. Are you the kind of guy who goes to see Lord of the Rings and thinks, "No, no, Peter Jackson is an idiot. The Nazgûl don't look like THAT?"

A: Actually, the Hobbits were more disappointing.

Q: How much of a description did you have of the characters in Barney & Clyde when you sat down to draw them?

A: Gene & Dan gave me some very good character studies. I sent sketches, and we went back and forth. Gene spent an inordinate amount of time considering the female characters... (insert a throat growl ala Roy Orbison)

Q: Barney seems to bear a resemblance to C. Montgomery Burns. Is that intentional?

A: I'm thinking more like Elmer Fudd...but, I'm not responsible for my subconscious! Besides, don't you know all wealthy industrialist look alike?

Q: Weingarten is known as the King of the Underpants Jokes. Was your skill at drawing underwear key to you being chosen to illustrate the strip? Can we look forward to lots of underpants humor? And, since Amy Lago has imposed a no-nudity rule: Barney, boxers or briefs?

A: Long live the King! I don't think Gene or Dan have ever seen my and I'm pretty sure Amy's "no-nudity" rule only applies to Gene. Lucretia probably buys Barney's undies, soooo.......(cue Roy Orbison)...more to come, I'm sure.

Q: Which of the characters is your favorite to draw?

A: Clyde and Dabney have a lot of slapstick potential which makes them fun to draw. Can't wait for the "When I nod my head, hit it." routine.

Q: Weingarten has described you as putty in his hands. (Actually, he said "malleable" and "nitrogylcerin," so he could have been talking about Semtex). How do you let him know that a particular joke or idea isn't going to work visually?

A: Semtex, eh? That could be very persuasive... Gene and Dan write very visually and have a real grasp of comic art (Dan especially). I lean on them a far so good!

Q: Has your collaboration reached the point where you feel secure enough to secretly draw caricatures of Gene with daggers stuck into him?

A: You've been peeking! Dan's a little tougher, but I show no mercy!

Q: As a freelancer, what kind of adjustment have you had to make to accept this regular gig?

A: No huge adjustments, just a little less free time for now. A regular gig sounds good.

Q: Are you and Dan plotting to take over the strip?

A: Have you heard something...? Dan, call me!

Q: What religious groups have you decided to mortally offend -- other than the Quietists and the Society of Friends?

A: I'm afraid Gene & Dan won't be satisfied until the Shakers declare a Fatwa on us.

Q: Do you think the Flyers can take the Habs in the conference playoff and advance to the Stanley Cup finals? (As a native Philadelphian, I am obligated to ask.)

A: A dated question, love the goon squad. But I grew up with the Blackhawks. Cooler uniform!

ME: Blackhawks took Game One, 6-5.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dan Weingarten Denies All Knowledge...

In our continuing effort to keep the Barney & Clyde Juggernaut surging ahead (the latest victim is Little Orphan Annie, which has fallen beneath the relentless drubbing administered by B&C), we bring you another exclusive interview with one of the creative team members. Today, it's Dan Weingarten, who offhandedly came up with the idea for the strip.

Dan, a few questions about the strip, Barney & Clyde.

Q: How cool is it being personally acquainted with Dave Barry?


Q: Which of Dave Barry's books is your favorite?


Q: Don't you just love Dave Barry's latest book, "I'll Mature When I'm Dead?"

A: Results hazy.

Q: On a scale of one to ten, how much funnier is Dave Barry than Gene?

a) Ten.

b) Geometrically.

c) Exponentially.

A: b) Geometrically. Specifically a circle.

Q: What's with the ampersand? Plain old Latin "et" isn't good enough for you?

A: We let the two fight it out. Ampersand won. What can I say, he's got better reach.

Q: Do you see Barney & Clyde as:

1) A classic Hegelian dialectical struggle between the forces of Capital and the forces of the Proletariat to control the resources of Society and to form a State in which one or the other dominates, or,

2) A Gnostic struggle between the forces of Light and Dark, the dynamic tension between which opposites results in the creative energy of the World as we know it, or,

3.14159) A struggle to sneak a really good fart joke past the editors?

A: 22/7) I'd say a combo of manichæism and fart jokes. Actually, "Manichæism & Fart Jokes" was our working title for a while.

Q: How pathetic is it that Gene can only fulfill his lifelong dream of having a comic strip by stealing an idea from his son? Isn't that worse than Earl Woods living vicariously through his son's sports exploits?

A: He wanted a second girl, I gotta make up for it somehow.

Q: Are you basically OK with Gene using incidents from your childhood to get cheap laughs in the strip, or is this an issue that will resurface with ugly repercussions when it comes time for you and Molly to put Dad in a nursing home?

A: Intimate moments of my past have been used for cheap laughs since before I was able to walk thanks to Dave Barry. As a result I am practically impervious to embarrassment (my father's public dancing helped too).

Q: Where do you see the strip going in terms of the developing story? Will there be vampires and werewolves, metaphorical representations of teen angst and hormonal explosions? Or CGI robots battling to decide the fate of Humankind in the Universe, representing the inevitable obsolescence of humanity before its own technology? Poop jokes, representing desperation and a loss of bowel control with advancing age?

A: This I am afraid to say is a trade secret. Although I will be stealing all of those ideas.

Q: The picture we have of Gene from his own account is that he is essentially helpless with real life matters. Can you tell us an anecdote that will pointedly illustrate his complete ineptitude?

A: There are certainly many. The challenge is thinking of one that hasn't been written about. Ask again in a week.

Q: What's your opinion of this new paint that combines primer and finish coat in one?

A: It seems unnatural. It's like birth control meds that remove a woman's period. Bleeding once a month is what makes them know men are superior. I fear the coming age.

Q: According to Gene, you have recently returned to college. Does being in constant contact with the world's biggest Bob Dylan fan make you the coolest guy on campus, or what?

A: No, it's his knowledge of clock repair that does.

You're supremely welcome,

Tune in next episode for possibly another Q&A with artist David Clark. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The T & A you have been waiting for.

Make that a Q&A with Gene Weingarten by Horace LaBadie, the "Barney & Clyde" official historian.

The fans have been incredibly patient, and we have had some goofing around time before the official debut of the strip, but here is some real news about Barney & Clyde, straight from one of the horse's arses that created it.

Little less than a month until the launch date. Time to speak to the Media.

Q: You've described the genesis of the strip from a remark by your son Dan, but who came up with the names of the title characters?

A: We did them together. Some practically wrote themselves: Duane had to be Duane because it is the stupidest name out there, and his last name had to be Butkus because he is a brown nose. Ms. Foxx became Ms. Foxx for obvious reasons. I thought of Lucretia both because of Barney's wealth -- "lucre" -- and because Lucretia has a Borgia-like edge to her. Dan came up with the rabbit's stage name, "Fluffykins McNeedsahug." It was so treacly we knew he needed another name, a less sweet name, to balance it. Now what could that be?

Q: Do you remember the first gag that made you think that there was a strip in the basic idea?

A: Absolutely. We knew it was going to be great when we came up with the first day, which was Barney on a chair, with a noose around his neck, about to hang himself, out of a general existential dissatisfaction with life. Then we got an editor, Amy Lago, who informed us: 1) No hangings. 2) no full-frontal nudity. So the strip had to change a bit.

Q: When did you know that you would need a real artist to do the cartooning for the strip?

A: From the get-go. Dan and I are arseholes, but we are not deluded arseholes.

Q: Did you know what the characters looked like before you found your cartoonist? How much did they evolve from the original concepts to their current looks?

A: We discovered what they looked like as soon as David Clark showed us. It was great to meet them, at last. Here's an interesting tidbit for your historiography: Clyde was originally black. We conceived of him as black. We knew we'd get some pushback, in making the millionaire white and the street guy black, but we felt that it was defensible inasmuch as Clyde is both the brains and the conscience of the strip. Amy the editor was reluctantly okay with that. The problem was that -- as our good friend and advisor Tom Scocca warned us -- Clyde was beginning to resemble the classic "Magic Negro" trope. It was disturbing. We abandoned it early.

Q: You've expressed your admiration for the almost Dickensian cast of characters that Garry Trudeau has created for Doonesbury. Was the opportunity to create a large cast of characters something that appealed to you?

A: I think it appealed to Dan more than to me. When I conceive of plays, they all contain two characters. I'm glad Dan is part of this, because if we had wound up with only two characters, "Barney & Clyde" would have been one step closer to "Prickly City," and I would have had to kill myself with an adz.

Q: How did the supporting characters develop? Who came along first?

A: We knew we were going to have a cynical, seditious kid. The reason we knew that is that Cynthia is, essentially, Dan at 11. There are at least two plot twists so far that are simple re-tellings of what Dan did as a kid. You'll see the first one in an early Sunday -- it involves an art class.

Q: What about this Mountbatten fellow? Does he have any real royal connections, or is he more like The Dauphin in Huckleberry Finn?

A: Dabney Mountbatten III is the illigitimate (sic) son of the common law wife of the grandson and bastard heir to the squandered fortunes of Louis Mountbatten, viceroy of India, first Earl of Burma and Admiral of the Fleet.

Q: How much arm-twisting did it take to get David to agree to draw the strip?

A: None. David is like 24-karat-gold: Wonderfully malleable.

Q: As your collaborator, do you allow David to suggest ideas for strips?

A: "Allow?" Yes. The three of us are equal creative partners. But David is like the element mercury: extremely reflective. He doesn't suggest ideas, but he reflects our ideas in a more positive light. What he does is no less creative than what we do, though: He takes our sometimes primitive efforts to tell a story through sequential art and improve the narrative enormously by his choice of angles, his blocking of the characters, etc.

Q: Is there a lot of back and forth during the production of a given strip, with you and Dan and David arguing over how a gag is written and drawn?

A: It is interminable. We will be nitpicking each other constantly. I just looked at the email trail for a single Sunday strip: David re-drew it, in some way, 11 times. There was input (in this order) from me, from Dan, from me, from David, suggesting a change to my suggestion, from Amy the editor, from Dan, from Dan, from me, from Amy, from Dan, from me. David is a saint. He's like potassium chloride -- he has no boiling point.

Q: What will be the strip's place in popular culture 50 years from now?

A: Most major universities will have a "Department of Barney & Clyde Studies."

Q: Is there any comparison between your artist and an element or compound that you have failed to make?

A: Yes. David's drawings really pop, like nitroglycerine.

Q: That's not very good.

A: Okay, they're crisp, like an alloy of Niobium and Titanium.

Q: Better.

A: Thanks.

No, thank you. Most of the answers were informative, and some were almost funny.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Clyde's Commencement Address.

Fellow unemployed,

You have just wasted four, or if you are particularly thoughtful, five, years and tens of thousands of dollars. Congratulations! You are now prepared to take your place at the end of the line of those looking for a way to pass the time before they die. After all, that's what life is all about -- finding something to do while you are waiting for the Grim Reaper to scythe you off the planet.

You no doubt have been told that you should set goals, work hard, achieve, breed, and make the world a better place. I suppose that there are future billionaires, inventors, surgeons, scholars and heroes listening to me today. It doesn't matter. You all have one foot in the grave. In a few years, relatively speaking, we will all be dead. And after you are dead what difference will it make to you personally what you have done in life? It won't make any difference. You'll still be dead! Soon Bill Gates will be as dead as Bill Sikes, who, for those of you who bought the Cliff's Notes, you will recall was never actually alive.

The most that any person can hope for in life is to do as little harm to others as possible while suffering as little pain as possible oneself. Everyone suffers. That is the most important thing to know about life. And then it ends. The trick is do as little as possible to increase suffering for oneself and others. That means do as little as possible. Every person who strives increases his own suffering and the suffering of others. Prolonging life by striving is only to increase suffering. Another word for striving is strife.

That's right, striving is conflict. And conflict never brings anything but suffering. I say, "Don't strive!" You and every other person will be happier for your lack of effort.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Clyde Panhandles in Britain.

On his annual vacation to Great Britain, Clyde visited Salford in time for the mass nudity.

"Next stop was a cobbled road under a railway bridge. As we stood blue-lipped a tramp staggered towards us. He grinned and toasted us with a can of lager. “Has anyone got any spare change?” he shouted. Tunick was not impressed at the ensuing giggles."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Freddie the Freeloader files Federal plagiarism suit.

It was disclosed today that Freddie the Freeloader has filed suit in Federal court charging Clyde of the comic strip team Barney & Clyde with plagiarism. Freddie the Freeloader alleges that Clyde has copied his look and feel, thereby infringing his copyright. In a statement to the media, Freddie the Freeloader said, "That effing Clyde has stolen my effing costume, my effing unshaven cheeks and chin, my whole G-D effing torn coat and trousers off my effing body. If he thinks that I'm going to sit effing still for it, then he's got another effing think coming." Messages left for Clyde and his representatives were unanswered.