Friday, August 31, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Big Production

Starring: Ozzark & Sillone. Copyright 1999-2007 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 1999 in the Hunter Envoy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Beggar Friends

Starring: Damon (D-Squared), Homeless Guy. Copyright 2000-2007 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 2000 in Hunter Envoy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Brain Muffins


Starring Ozzark, Sillone & Fats. Copyright 2000 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 2000 in the Hunter Envoy Newspaper.

Ozzark & Company - The Overview!


Finally! Some of you have read the rumor that I'm a cartoonist, and I'd like to finally prove that rumor true. Until now, I'd had a hard time trying to upload some of my work onto this site because it was on a separate computer. Now, I've managed to upgrade my internet access with that computer, which contains all of my treasured artworks (well, not all of them; another story to come.)

So, I'd like to introduce my life-work if you will, Ozzark & Company. I created this strip on March 3, 1982 as a present to my mother. Actually, I had drew a cartoon picture of un mariachi in front of an upright piano in crayon on loose-leaf paper; there's not a lot most little kids can afford in terms of artist materials. I gave her the picture on her birthday (March 2) and she liked it a lot, so I decided to make more. I copied the character and gave him different outfits, settling on a suit with a medicus symbol scribbled all along the sides and on his derby. Now I needed a name.

I wanted this character to have a distinctive name, since he was supposed to be a distinctive character. I was very much into making street maps at the time, using atlases and globes to find names for naming the streets I created out of my imagination. I took my globe and spun it, stopping it with my finger. My finger pointed to the Ozark Mountain range. Cool, I decided, and added an extra z for flair. Ozzark was born.

I must tell you that I was a Peanuts disciple from birth; I learned to read by reading Peanuts books that actually belonged to my older sister, Dorothy. I watched animated Peanuts specials religiously, and devoured any books or compilations I could get my hands on. Naturally, my first foray in cartooning had resemblances to Peanuts characters. Ozzark looked very similar to the long, thin version of Snoopy in a suit and hat (and shoestring thin, long and droopy mustache.) I knew enough to try to find ways to make his appearance more distinctive and less derivative, and I also knew that my cartoon needed to be copyrighted(!) I copied styles from my favorite Peanuts books in creating my own book, with paneled strips and a straight story-line throughout. I changed his clothing and gave him a long-sleeve shirt and pants, covered with an indistinct swirl from top-to-bottom, along with a boxy beret that resembled a graduation cap. I bound my book with masking tape and called it Ozzark On The Road. I then sent it to a local publisher I found in the yellow pages, asking them to consider publishing it. I never heard back from the publisher, which only served for me to try harder.

I wrote and drew several books in this manner, filling them with references to other cartoons and one-liners I overheard from family members. Said family members were quite impressed with my ingenuity and proceeded to acquire more art supplies for my newly developing avocation. I even began to write stories and plays based on my cartoon, whose cast had ballooned to thirteen; each with a variation on Ozzark's name. All of the guys' names began with O, and all of the girls' names began with A. Collectively, the group became known as Ozzark & Company, to signify the central character and his supporting cast. I added at least twenty more characters later on, keeping with my naming scheme and continuing to draw comics that ultimately made sense to only myself. Of those, including the thirteen original characters (I was also a history buff), I only draw or refer to seven: Ozzark, Ouncey Ozzark (his little brother, who's name I shortened to Ouncey), Ozzy (his best friend growing up), Sis (his younger sister), Asela (Ouncey's friend), Ozzone (his cousin from the West) and Ozvaldo (his Latino cousin). And of those, only Ozzark and Ouncey have continued to appear as regulars.

I carried my creations from elementary school all the way through high school, where I made my first significant alterations to the strip. I dropped the naming scheme (thankfully) in favor of nicknames, introducing Candy; Ozzark's first love interest, Fats; a random and oblivious oddball who became an unwelcome friend and foil for Ozzark, and Zero; a nitwit who became Ouncey's unlikely best friend and foil. It was also during this time that I became friends with other cartoonists, among them a fellow named Chris Truett who like me had developed a cartoon from his earlier childhood, called Team Truett; a racing enthusiast and leader of an eclectic assortment of cartoon characters of other styles, and Tom Tait, whose character Tom Tater was a direct satire of Mr. Potatohead long before Toy Story did the same and a Checker Cab enthusiast. These two best friends, among others, formed a group calling itself the Cartoon Posse, when 'posse' was a popular Hip-Hop colloquialism. We would draw vignettes with each other's characters and pass them among each other between classes, often playing out the drama among members of our strange group; which included a living Superman insignia in a cape, and a midget draped in kingly robes and a crown, who always brandished a sword at least twice his size. Strange as it seems, I learned not only different styles of drawing, but how to develop stories and character arcs from these little jams and cartoon battles. My first distribution of Ozzark and Company occurred when I was invited to draw my strip for the school newspaper, and from there I drew almost regularly on a monthly basis. As a pièce de résistance, I painted a mural of Ozzark based on a picture I drew and made into a t-shirt of him leaning on a lamppost in park in front of the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie, NY.

The biggest changes to date came when I left for college and started drawing for the college's newspaper. New people and a new environment brought about new influences, and thus new characters. Among those was one who made the leap from high school with Ozzark, Ouncey and (not surprisingly) Fats: Sillone, Ozzark's new and long-lasting love interest. With her, the focus of the strip developed and matured even further. The introduction new characters, collectively known as the CIX Posse (6th Floor Posse of Meridian Hill Hall), brought depth and a renowned sense of identity to the cartoons I drew from then on. Whereas Ozzark & Company was a collection of character types loosely based on composites (except Ozzark, whose early influence was my brother Joseph, Ouncey who was my alter ego, and Fats who is definitely based on someone I know), it was with them that I began to focus the strip as Afrocentric, with characters based on particular people I knew, who also represented a cross-section of Black culture. The settings, dialogue and characters were influenced mostly by the renaissance of the Hip-Hop culture.
Artistically, developed significantly by incorporating techniques from many of my favorite artists of the time; most significantly Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County), Sergio Aragones (Mad Magainze, Groo the Wanderer), Antonio Prohías (Spy vs. Spy) and Samm Schwartz (Archie). A direct influence and colleague was the school newspaper's head artist, Rodney Reynolds (drawing by the name Da Bama), who taught me technical aspects of drawing comic strips that propelled my strip to a professional standard.

Another significant development involved Ouncey; up until that time, Ouncey was Ozzark's smart-alecky genius little brother who played pranks on the rest of the cast. But a personal incident changed that. As I was on my way to my friends' house (most of the posse had moved together from the dorms to the surrounding off-campus housing available for rent, I was attacked by a group of young thugs, who stole a record on the cover of which I had drawn a concept that involved my cartoon characters that were based on them. I escaped with my health intact, but my sense of security and pride for my ethnicity in complete shambles. The attack opened me to a darker level of observation that had only existed in my imagination. I took revenge for the attack in a series of cartoons that starred Ouncey, evolving him from a playful smart aleck to a brooding vigilante who destroyed everything in his path. This loss of innocence deeply effected both of us; I never forgot the incident and developed a more objective view of Black culture that at the time deflated my Afrocentric sensibilities. In a way, it also reflected the changing focus of Hip-Hop from Afrocentric to a devolving urban and cultural decay. A change of scenery on my part reinvigorated my creativity and waning sense of self, and I was back to drawing Ozzark & Company, injecting my own various aspects into each character as inspiration.

Today, the cast of Ozzark & Company includes Ozzark and his family (including his parents and siblings), his long-time girlfriend and his buddies from the CIX Posse. And Fats; for some reason, Fats has endured as a popular character, so I made him part of the family as Sillone's cousin. And Ozzark, for his part, has learned to tolerate him as an affable foil and unlikely friend. Each has incorporated my own personal observations within the context of their own established personalities. Or so I like to think...

Over the next several days, I'd like to present some selected strips from past doings, and in time I hope to also present brand new strips, as my studio has recently experienced some upgrades. Ultimately, I intend to bring Ozzark & Company to wide distribution via newspaper syndication and motion pictures, but for now, enjoy the strips, feel free to comment and thanks in advance for the support.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Work Boring You To Tears? Me, Too...


I can truthfully say that I work in the entertainment industry, though I am not as of yet an bona fide entertainer. I do draw comics and I do work FT as a production assistant on independent films, but I don't get enough acting gigs or work as a director to claim entertainer status. Much of my time is taken up by trying to earn/save money by temping at various organizations, mostly as an executive assistant (which is by no means as important as it sounds.) Uusally I am entering data into an archaic or obsolete archive database, or sorting files, occasionally faxing, blah-blah-blah...

And that is the problem. Office jobs like these are blah-blah-blah. As a PA (production assistant), I'm more-often-than-not driving throughout the city, picking up or delivering film equipment or staff to and from location or the production headquarters. Sometimes, I drive a production unit on tech scouts. I've built a very good reputation as a hard worker and sharp driver, not to mention resourceful; which is always important as a PA.

The drawbacks to PAing is that the work can be infrequent; depending on who is involved, you might spend weeks between productions before you get called on. Then you have to worry about not only not only how much you get paid (I no longer work for free, unless it's a short-term favor for a friend), but when. I worked on a production that was so loosely organized, when the film wrapped (completed all principal photography), the crew waited for nearly two months before they received their final paychecks. Apparently there was some litigation involved; in particular regarding an incident in which one of the PAs absconded with a passenger van:

After I had finished some extra errands for the production office, I returned my unit truck to the lot we had rented the trucks from. The passenger van that was also used by our production was right next to my truck. The next day, I received a call, asking if I knew where that particular van was. I wouldn't know, I was driving a truck all day, and it was still there when I came back with the truck. I had walked back to the nearest subway station to get home. I asked the person who called me to let me know when the van turned up, knowing that if the van wasn't found, I would not only not get paid, but I would also be regarded as a suspect, unfair as it all was.

Naturally, the van didn't show up and no one received their last checks. It was a bad time for this to happen, as I was counting on that check to help pay the rent. Desperately, I reached out to my temp agency for work, and fortunately I landed in a temp job the next day. I was working as a data-entry specialist for a non-profit education company for an indeterminate amount of time for decent money; enough to pay the bills at least.

This assignment turned out to be different in two ways: It didn't involve what the agency told me; I was doing more than data entry. I was also trafficking and proofreading documents that ended up being used in sales-pitches to various school districts. On top of that, in two weeks I was training someone else to do the same thing. This guy, as it turned out, was a stand-up comedian, also temping while doing gigs in his off-time. We talked about the entertainment industry, exchanged numbers and became friends. He gave me a number to his agent, who turned out to be the same agent I was dealing with in regards to getting involved in voiceovers. Funny!

The other thing about this assignment was the overtime. Wow. My supervisor asked me early on if I would be willing to work overtime, and for how long. I gave him the smart answer: "I'll work as long as you need me." He was rather pleased by that, I should say, because I ended up regualrly working at least twenty hours of overtime per week. Which, by the way, made my check look very interesting.

I suppose I can say I made the work interesting. I imagined myself being a project manager, procuring, investigating, redesigning and approving documents, while supervising others. There was a third temp involved for two weeks, but his slow work pace and disinterest in the project ended with his being told that the project was over, which was a humane way of saying, "you're fired." I had hoped he would turn it around before this happend, as the boss asked for my input on this, but I soon saw that it wouldn't happen and reluctantly agreed. I did manage to argue successfuly for him to finish out the week, something I had not been allowed to do in a previous assignment and left me in dire straits. I promised never to allow that to happen to me or anyone else.

I eventually received a call from a producer I had worked for to come work on a new film production. I was eager to join, but I needed to finish the project I was currently working on. Fortunately, it worked out; we completed the bigger portion of the project that my supervisor had hired us for, and I was able to go on to my new gig without a hitch.

As it turned out, I had to wait another week, as the director had accidently busted his arm demonstrating a stunt he had wanted to film.

Months have gone by, and so have several other gigs I worked on, and here I am temping again. Had I waited, I would have ended up on another film gig, but I decided I needed a break from even that. The last gig I completed had been somewhat of a struggle, but since the people involved were very nice, I stuck with it and did some favors for them afterwards. But the dog days were approaching, so I decided to answer the temp agency's call for a long-term assignment at the same place I temped with them before, for even more-decent money.

As soon as that assignment started, I received three calls for film gigs. Funny, when you're starting out, you're starving, but when you get a few of them under your belt, they all come at once. And, in regard to this current asignment, I wonder why I didn't really take them. Is it that the work is boring, or have I become bored with the work?

However, in light of the funky weather and other recent events (my landlord is fending of foreclosure on his house, which includes my apartment), I have to consider myself lucky to have steady work. And, according to my newest supervisor, there might be some overtime involved in the very-near future... whaddya think of that? >;)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Jim Dean

"It does not matter if you are rich or poor, it's the people you know or whom you are acquainted with that makes your life what it is, for better or for worse. This is very apparent when you lose someone." - Uncle Woodrow

Jim Dean
was a friend of mine, and I say that knowing that I never met him in person and that the only contact we've ever had was through Banter. There was something about his abrasiveness, his bellicosity and sarcasm that added interesting colors to his research and commenting. If there was anyone who created a picture of himself and everything he said through his words, he was certainly one.

I liked teasing him. He often would blast away at us with fiery, if sometimes off-the-mark blather about this player's statistics, that player's effort, the bumbling of the Yankees front office or, seeming to feel particularly jaunting, he would debate one or many of us. Well, debate is not strong enough... battle.

JD battled long and hard on a point he believed in, whether it was right or wrong. Sometimes it seemed like he battled just for the principle of it. But among other things, it was his passion for the Yankees and his quick response with sabermetric research that won the admiration of even his detractors. I am not nearly as good with numbers as he was, but if anything he was among the few that inspired a notion for me to learn.

I don't know in what regard he held me; perhaps he saw me as a trifle, or maybe he respected my sense of humor. I do know that we once engaged in a surprisingly straightforward "conversation" that led me us to understand more about each other, and perhaps more respect for each other. We didn't agree a lot of times, but we did (eventually) respect each other.

My point is, it's odd that one can develop a friendship with someone in an internet community, but as I've always said, Bronx Banter is like family. And JD was like a brother. A bad brother, sometimes, but family nonetheless.

Rest In Peace, Jim Dean.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Phillip Francis “Scooter” Rizzuto

My man Sliced Bread at Bronx Banter hit the board with some sad news: Phil Rizzuto, “The Scooter” to many, passed away today (Aug. 14). Apparently, the news was first posted on Wikipedia, but was soon followed up by radio 1010WINS in New York.

I won’t attempt to give a biography and retrospect of the man, for I only knew him in my lifetime as a television icon for the New York Yankees. Of course he was a winning shortstop on many winning Yankee teams in their 40-50s dynasty, but in my time he was known as the affable homer “Scooter”, coloring the Yankee games with a unique set of crayons with his pal and fellow booth mate Bill White. “Holy Cow” was such a signature saying that it even spawned, among other things, an ice cream parlor in upstate Red Hook, NY.

You see, my family and I were log-cabining in Norrie State Park in Staatsburg, and since we liked exploring, we’d either walk or ride around the countryside, taking in the beautiful scenery. By chance, we passed a plaza and Mom yells out, “Holy Cow!” Thinking she was being nutty again, I shook my head and kept daydreaming, when Dorothy nudged me in the side. “No, really – Holy Cow!” she said, pointing out the window. To our left, we were passing a ranch-type building with big block letters on the roof, which read, “Holy Cow! Ice Cream Parlor” That was a helluva laugh, to be sure.

The next day, Mom had a notion, and we drove right back up the same route, pulling into the lot next to the parlor. We went inside, greeted by a bright interior with pictures of cows wearing Yankee caps and framed newspaper clippings about the store, among other things. One of those other things happened to be a picture, personally inscribed by the man himself, with a huge smile on his face:

“Holy Cow! With a name like that, it’s gotta be good ice cream!” Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto.

And you know what? It definitely was.

Scooter was as much the face of the Yankees as Ruth, DiMaggio, Yogi, Mantle, Steinbrenner, Reggie, Donnie and Jeter. But as opposed to them (with the exception of Yogi), Phil was one of us. It was the reverence for the man as a homegrown icon of our youthful experiences and our everyday lives that finally elected him to the Hall of Fame, more than his numbers as a player. I suppose had Buck O’Neill, another player of his generation from the Negro Leagues, who became the goodwill ambassador of baseball itself, simply been a Yankee at any point of his career, I think there would be no question at all about his place in the pantheons of the Hall of Fame. But that takes nothing away from Scooter. He defined an era for not only Yankee teams, but Yankee fans. His signature call was honest and clean; definitely rooting for the home team as much as Harry Carey, but just as much welcome in its place. And, teamed with the impeccable Bill White (who went on to become National League President), they became in my opinion one of the most significant tandems in broadcast history.

I’m thinking that this weekend, I’d like to go upstate to Red Hook and get myself a large soft-serving of chocolate-vanilla twist-in-a-cup with sprinkles. Rest in peace, Scooter, you did good. >;)

(For those who may be interested, here’s the address):
Holy Cow! Ice Cream
(845) 758-5959
7270 S Broadway (Route 9)
Red Hook, NY 12571

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cashman + Joe = How'ya Like Me Now!

Well. Having the best record in baseball after the All-Star break, not even to mention the best record in New York does wonders for a man's image. Or should I say men. Brian Cashman, routinely lit up in newspapers and on blogs (including my favorite) is right now enjoying Prodigal Son status as his recent picks Phil (From The Future) Hughes and Joba (Mr. LuvaMan) Chamberlain have made their presence not only known, but more felt than velvet at the Met. Hughes, as every Yankee fan knows, is the Leader of the New School; what with his makeup and his plus variety of pitches. But I have to tell you, I like Joba. Not because he's a bredren Native American, mind you (what, I didn't tell you? My mother's grandfather was a full-blooded Choctaw who rode with Teddy Roosevelt up San Jacinto, but that's another story), but because he's got the best damn slider, period. This pitch would even make the devil jump back and say, "Damn!" Even more than that, he's cool. In short interviews so far, he has comported himself with maturity and a focus that is refreshing. I predict that one day, he'll be what Mo is to the team now.

How cool was it to see Phil, Joba and Mo pitch in succession, shutting down a team while in hot pursuit of something more? What got me the most, while watching Mo warm up on YES, was how young he looked. It was like watching a moment of time from some time ago; there was brightness in his eyes and pop in his fastball. Next thing you know, there was splinters on the infield as his cutter did exactly that, as usual.

This, ladies and gentlemen, has been a pleasure. Especially since the local papers, whom I still despise, have been falling all over themselves to now praise the two men they felt were the biggest losers in a season that appeared lost only a few months ago. My only wish at this point is that the newspapers in October are printed on fallen ticker-tape (and that all the unsold papers be left on every front lawn in Queens.) But I digress...

I certainly invite comments from baseball fans, as there is lots to talk about, but I only ask that you be sensible with your comments. I like wit and cleverness, not trolls. I won't deem you a troll if your a fan of another team, but I will if you only blather and leave insults or epithets. Otherwise, have fun; I'll be back with some other stuff later on >;)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Cartoon Crimmicissmm: "Single & Looking"


From http://www.gocomics.com/outofthegenepool - This is a direct quotation of the blurb on the go-comics website of the strip...

"Out of the Gene Pool by Matt Janz

Can’t we all just get along? It’s not the easiest question these days. With all of our differences, it’s amazing the Earth still rotates in one direction. "Out of the Gene Pool" is a comic strip with characters you might recognize from your own neighborhood: hard-working dads, frazzled moms, inseparable friends, gossiping co-workers and some folks who are just plain bizarre. They manage to coexist on this big ball of dirt--one day at a time, aspiring for progress rather than perfection."


And this is what I have to say >;)...

Here's a comic strip that I started out not liking very much, then gradually drew to like it a lot, but since has slipped over the high point of its parabola: Out Of The Gene Pool, which has been recently renamed "Single & Looking."

I am rather ambivalent about this switch. I had grown accustomed to reading the strip and finding something to laugh about more often than not, but I certainly do understand why creator Matt Janz has made the switch. According to his site, he had begun focusing on several characters within the strip and decided to approach his syndicate about making the switch. The characters in question, Jackie and her son, Travis, Sam, Zoogie (a scruffy teddy bear/troll-like creature with a lounge lizard personality, and Madame Red (Sandra Bernhardt), were easily the most popular characters in the strip; each with defined personalities that lent themselves to creative circumstances. My favorite in fact is Madame Red, for her cynical, sarcastic outbursts and a complete lack of, or will for tact, which my sister Terry would have been proud of.

Out of The Gene Pool focused on Sam's older sister Andy and her troll-like husband, Rufus, along with their mutant-like son Miller, whom was best friends with Travis. Being that Jackie and Travis are African American and Miller is kind of a mutant, I read a lot into the minority culture aspect of their relationship with each other and in their everyday lives, even if that was not the creator's intention.

Sam entered the strip more than a year ago and became tight with Rufus and Miller, and by association with Travis. And of course, with Andy and Jackie being BF (but apparently not F), Sam was the doted-on little brother who needed a place to live, a job and most importantly, some (...). Gradually, Jackie and Sam have grown close out of similarly odd and comically sad circumstances (or at the unconscious whim of Mr. Janz) and have become "best friends", which to me is another way of saying that Sam would hit that in a minute if it weren't for three things: Jackie's ideal man is Taye Diggs, Travis would never allow it (poor kid hopes his father gets back with Mom) and for obvious reasons, the demographics for such a pairing are not suitably strong enough to overcome the outrage from the majority of readership that would object to a germophobic, pasty white-boy slacker dating a shallow-minded, middle-aged baby-moms version of Angela Bassett... yes, I am conjuring images of "Waiting To Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back". I suspect in Janz' case, he might be channeling the former, while keeping the latter in his cheek, next to his tongue.

No folks, as edgy as it appears, there likely won't be a comic-strip version of Something New, which actually (in my opinion) would probably be the only way to begin meaningful dialog on race relations in mainstream America. The fact is, their close friendship is probably making some heads explode as is, so good for Matt on that point >;).

But I remain ambivalent. As natural as the process was that generated this change, I always felt that Jackie's shallowness was too irritating to warrant special attention; the only way to justify her status, being that she has many flaws in her character and ability, was to juxtapose her with men with even more outlandish quirks, flaws and inabilities. Yes, he touches well on what a black single mom has to deal with in terms of prospects, especially with a protective and ambitious seed, but coming from my own experiences, I never felt sanguine about lampooning a sista's flaws and insecurities for the sake of laughs when in reality such qualities would either afford her a sitcom on BET or ridicule and derision on the Senate floor. Jackie, as cartoonish and unreal as her character is, has elements about her that I would otherwise find offensive, especially since the mainstream image of black women up to this point has been nearly as cartoonish, or overly more-so.

At the same time, Sam is still more so a supporting player that either reacts to Jackie's discretions/indiscretions, or is the simple butt of jokes about his own flaws. More interesting is his animal-pal Zoogie, who defies categorization simply by the force of his ego, or Madame Red, who defies everything out of pure habit. To me, Sam is no more than a foil for Zoogie's purely self-centered indiscretions, or a sounding board to Travis' ambitions (much as his best friend Miller served as partner/foil.) Sam otherwise has no developed personality other than the fact that he abhors germs, and thus has trouble getting dates or keeping them interested long enough. This makes the pairing of Jackie and Sam uncomfortably odd, even under the circumstances.

That's why it's important to make this distinction, and to me, Janz is still in the process of balancing this: it's a cartoon. How far do you take images and ramp up their virtues and flaws without offending the people they represent, but still retain properties that render them wholly interesting? For me, Jackie's life situation (single mother with job) is closely related to how I was brought up, and therefore I take a special interest in her relationship with her son, her friend(s) and society at large. That's a situation that has been largely untouched in comics and entertainment (with some notable exceptions that were either middling or polarizing), so I look at how Janz portrays these characters. I say, if it were a problem, the New York Daily News would have dropped it like a hot potato from their pages (as they so often did with The Boondocks, which more directly observed and informed on the issue of race relations and particularly interracial relationships), but only time will tell. Other notable strips have changed their name and/or first-team roster in early-to-mid stages of their existence, including Popeye (from Thimble Theatre), Scruffy Smith (from Barney Google and Sparkplug, which was blessed from childhood as the moniker of another quick-change artist, Charles M. Schulz.) A notorious example of this type of evolution, if you will, is Opus (Berkeley Breathed), which began it's existence as Bloom County and then brilliantly segued to Outland before retiring and reemerging some years later as Opus. Ultimately, the characters themselves, and the audience reaction to those characters often determine the direction the entire strip takes. (in Schulz' case however, the name "Peanuts" was actually forced on him by his publishers, and he resented this to the day he died.) Even in my own work, I found it necessary to shake up the roster; add characters and drop others, and in one case completely spin a character into an alternate universe of it's own. This is as natural as living our own lives.

Overall, I recommend the strip based on it's graphic style (clearly cartoonish, but cleanly done so), but with the reservation that the strip either benignly ignores or perhaps is cleverly building up to issues that could certainly shake up the syndicated comic strip industry. It's edgy like sneaking through the barrier edgy, not confronting authority edgy. I still can't tell what the creator's bent is, which more than likely pleases the syndicate to no end as it does not limit it's potential audience to a particular demographic category. But in the wake of Aaron MacGruder, that's still kind of lame. If you like chuckles without strong or subversive commentary, you'll like the strip as was, and as currently constructed.

Yet, as George Carlin so eloquently put it, entropy excites me. You have fun with that.