What's Going on with Andy?

By | Wednesday, March 31, 2021 Leave a Comment
Here is yesterday's installment of Andy Capp...
Andy Capp strip
What immediately stood out to me is the thing that almost never stands out in a comic: the word balloons. Not so much the dialogue itself, but the actual balloons themselves. Those balloon shapes do not even remotely match the dialogue that they're encircling. The text (particularly in that middle panel) is weirdly off-center, the breathing room between the text and edge of the balloons is wildly inconsistent even within a single balloon, and the leading changes from balloon to balloon. What the heck is going on here?

I actually spoke with Sean Garnett, one of the strips co-writers, and it turns out there's an excellent reason for the balloon issues. Namely, artist Lawrence Goldsmith is out sick! I didn't pry into the details, but he took ill rather suddenly and had to be rushed to the hospital for an operation. So what they've done is taken the artwork from an older strip and wrote new dialogue for it. The new script, then, has been dropped in place by someone in the Mirror's syndication department.

I don't think I've seen this done before in a syndicated strip. The concept itself certainly isn't new. Heck, it seems like most memes are basically created this way! And there have even been variations on the idea with syndicated strips: pairing Family Circus comics with quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche, or just removing Garfield entirely from his own strip. But this is the first time I've seen anything like this done to make new, official syndicated strips.

Other creators have certainly taken ill before and couldn't complete the artwork for a daily strip, but in the instances I can think of, they almost always just re-ran an old strip without any changes. On occasion, there might be a guest creator to step in, but those were usually in cases where the original creator had actually planned a vacation or something; that would be all but impossible to coordinate on short notice. Also, in those cases, it's primarily done because there is only one creator doing all the work on the strip. With Andy Capp here, we've got a few people working on it.

You couldn't do this indefinitely, of course, but Andy has been around long enough that there's a good backlog of strips to work with for a variety of situations, and the strip set-up itself lends itself to returning to similar locations and situations. Andy and Flo at the marriage counselor, for example, is a scene we've seen many times before already. Andy and Chalkie at the bar. Andy falling down drunk into the canal. The gag-a-day nature of the strip means, as Charles Schulz once said, “A cartoonist has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.” They've got a good set-up to work with here.

At this point, Garnett didn't know when exactly Goldsmith will be back on, only saying "as soon as he's back to full strength." I don't have any more details myself, but I'm guessing a couple weeks at least; if it were any less time, you could probably pin down something more firm.

In the meantime, though, my best wishes naturally go out to Goldmsith and I hope his recovery goes quickly and without incident.
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