On Strips: Billy's Line
Here's an interesting example: a 1978 Sunday Family Circus from Bil Keane featuring the oft-copied/parodied dotted line showing Billy's path as he runs through the neighborhood.up for sale on ebay if you're interested.)
What I find interesting here is how Keane actually drew that dotted line. My assumption had always been that he inked a solid black line, and then went in with some white paint to create the spaces between the dashes. That would strike me as the easiest way to have done these. But let's take a look at what Keane actually did...
All of which says what? Well, first, that Keane was no idiot. He knew how to create that dotted line effect efficiently. And, although I didn't touch on it much here, there's some subtlties in the execution of it, too, that make it a lot more readable than it might've been. That's probably why so many people remember the motif -- because Keane always did an excellent job of communicating the line even as it weaves in and out of other lines on the page. The reader never has to question where it goes. In large part because Keane spent some amount of time on the details of the line itself.
The other thing this says is that Keane used some really high quality materials on his work. Granted, he'd been doing the strip for nearly twenty years at this point, so we're not talking about a fresh-faced kid but a middle-aged adult who'd already made a successful career for himself, and could afford quality materials. He was a professional, and treated his work very much as a professional would.
I'm still not a big fan of Keane's style of humor, or his occasional heavy-handed religious iconography, but the man was unquestionably talented in his illustration and studying an original of his for the first time does give me a greater appreciation of his work.