On History: "Stripped" Review

By | Tuesday, April 01, 2014 Leave a Comment
Yesterday, I got my long-anticipated copy of Stripped in the mail. It's the end-all, be-all in comic strip documentaries. I mean, sure, there are ones that are more focused ones on Charles Schulz or Jim Davis and whatnot, but this one is an hour and a half on comics strips overall. And it's pretty comprehensive for that amount of time. They did some digging and got some good archival footage to use, but more significantly, they talked with a LOT of people in the industry. From some of the older established guys like Mort Walker to contemporary webcartoonists like Dylan Meconis. They look at the business side from folks like Lee Salem and get the outlook from the supreme idealist of creative freedom in comic strips, Bill Watterson. (I believe this is the only audio interview Watterson has ever given.)

One of the producers, Dave Kellet, is a successful cartoonist himself and I'm sure that helped in any number of ways. In the bonus features on my Kickstarter DVD, there's additional interview footage in which you can tell he's got a good repore with the interview subjects, in part, because they speak the same language. They never have to explain WHAT the different tools are, or how and why they're used.

And in talking with all these people, and pulling out archival footage from source I had never heard of, they put together a fairly comprehensive look at the history of the comic strip. My first real look at that history came from Rebert Harvey's Children of the Yellow Kid and, while that is indeed a great work and in many ways more suited to comic strip history (being a printed book and all) it was still published in 1998 and effectively didn't cover anything outside of American newspaper strips. Stripped is naturally more up-to-date, but I think is greatly enhanced by seeing and hearing many key players relay things in their own voices, frequently from the very studios in which they work. There's a lot to be said for that, I think. Not to mention that, as an 85 minute film, it tends to be a little more accessible to a wider audience.

I've devoted a lot of time and energy over the years learning about comics. I've watched a number of documentaries about the medium, from profiles of individual artists to self-promoting, corporate-produced hype pieces to sweeping histories of the medium. But this is by far the best one I've ever seen on comic strips and it's well worth your time.

Today is April 1, and producer Dave Kellett is hoping to make Stripped the #1 movie on iTunes for the day. If you're even considering watching it, even if you won't have time to sit through the whole thing until next month, why don't you go ahead and get it now to make Dave happy? For as much work as he 9and everyone else!) put into this movie, and for as fantastic as it turned out, they deserve it.
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