A Guide To Good PaRANTing

FUNDRAISER UPDATE: 55/100 prints are sold! If you were thinking about supporting this IRS “Get out of tax jail” fundraiser, NOW is the time.  The “Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time” print is signed by both of us, numbered and limited to 100 pieces. [More details HERE.]

hijinks ensue fundraiser print 2013 web

All proceeds are going to pay an unexpected IRS tax bill. Your support and help are greatly appreciated, plus you get a pretty sweet piece of art for your wall. Hate art? Hate walls? Donations are also incredibly appreciated, if that’s more your style.

Here’s a new print I made and put in the HE store: “Adventure Time Lord.” I bet it will also be a shirt over at Sharksplode pretty soon.


Speaking of making new things, my wife just made a couple of Game Of Thrones inspired necklaces for you Starks and Lannisters.

Game Of Thrones Necklaces - Stark and Lannister - Science And Fiction - Etsy

Thus ends my railing against Garfield for now. If you want to see some truly dark, bizarre and experimental comics, please take a look at the Garfield archives starting HERE (going HERE, HEREHERE and HERE) and ending HERE. [SPOILERS: I think maybe Garfield was dead the entire time.]

My stance on “Why are you being so hard on a kids movie/show/comic/whatever?” is pretty straight forward. OF COURSE there’s art that’s JUST for kids. Kid’s like dumb stuff and there’s a ton of dumb to fill that need. But kids ALSO like high quality stuff, and there’s plenty of high quality kids’ stuff out there that also has crossover appeal to adults. Sure, not everything can be Pixar, but a lot of it can exist on a spectrum of kid+adult entertainment that ranges from “non-annoying” to “I really want to see how Curious George gets out of this mess he’s gotten himself into.” And the simple fact that quality kids entertainment DOES exist and is READILY AVAILABLE just makes everything else unnecessary.

I don’t mind if my kid reads Garfield or other boring, not funny comics as long as she enjoys them. I even get excited that shes’s exploring the medium of comics on her own, regardless of what she’s reading. Hell, I get excited that she loves reading so much, regardless of what she’s actually reading. But I get extra special super excited when she reads something fantastic, something I loved and still love, something that sparked my imagination at her age and helped shape who I am and what I do today – something like Calvin And Hobbes. So I will continue to guide her along her geek journey and gently nudge her in the direction of quality, but I will also sit with her and watch incredibly vapid and annoying cartoons like Littlest Pet Shop (guhhhh) just to be around her and just to make sure she knows I am more interested in her than I am in making sure she likes the right things.

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  1. "I am more interested in her than I am in making sure she likes the right things."
    You are a fantastic parent Joel. This makes my heart happy.

  2. Of course there's stuff that really is just meant for kids. When I was a kid, I loved the 80s TMNT cartoon, Power Rangers, Transformers, but now as an adult, 90% of that stuff is almost unwatchable, the shitty writing and low budget is pure torture.

  3. There's a typo in the first panel: "Enjoy your the new books".

    But so that my first ever comment isn't just pointing out a typo I want to say that this is one of my very favourite webcomics and has been for a few years. I've drifted in and out of reading others but have always stayed up to date with HE. And I've enjoyed whichever direction the comic has taken because it consistently makes me laugh, and think, and stuff. So thank you Joel!

    • Also lagsagnahghgugh (purposely mispeled b/c I git it rong haf the tyme all sew)

      (Its an unfinished strip… only half nekkid)

      yeah.. and brave is good… it has kilts damnit.. and the lead character didnt look like barbie

      though I would criticize the abused concept that all men are doltish and stupid with out a good woman to guide them…without them knowing they are beeing leash-led through their stupidity..

      (But maybe that is EXACTLY what THEY *want* us to think!?!?)



      • How is it a "feminist conspiracy" when the vast majority of writers for tv shows, movies, advertisements, etc that use that concept are men writing about how much men suck and how immature they are, and tasking women with the job of being care givers for adult men? That's like the opposite of a feminist conspiracy considering it's 1) enacted almost completely by men and 2) results in more work for women.

    • Agreed. Brave is great.

      I think part of the reason so many adult men like Pixar movies so much is that many of them are about fatherhood in one way or another. Brave is about mothers and daughters and so doesn't resonate quite a strongly for those men.

      PS Really loving this storyline all around. I think the fact that we all loved Garfield so much is why we now resent him so much. We feel betrayed by our own feelings.

      PPS I'm certainly full of theories today.

      • I'm partly at fault for not seeing Brave, but only because I couldn't nail down what the plot was from its ads. Also, I haven't seen a Pixar movie in theaters since WALL-E (and I don't think Wreck-It Ralph counts)

        • It's actually pretty good. I think it stumbles with its pacing more than anything, but the characters are enjoyable and it's a mother/daughter story which we don't get as often as pretty much every other story in kid's entertainment.

    • Nothing. Nothing is wrong with Brave! Cars, on the other hand…. ugh. I'll have to resign myself to the fact that, one day, my son will want to watch it and I'll have to sit through it with him.

    • It loses me as soon as the mom turns into a bear. I just don't feel it. I love the character of Merida and I think there's a great story to tell with that character, but they one they chose didn't touch me very much at all.

  4. Garfield, IMHO, isn't *bad*. The problem is, it isn't nuanced. It doesn't grow. So, once you've read one Garfield book, you've pretty much read them all. This is the same problem with Family Circus, and with many newspaper comics. They have a dozen good jokes that they run into the ground, and then a lot of filler to distract from the fact that there's only a dozen good jokes.

    • And this was the formula for success in newspaper comics for 60+ years. Give them what they like every single day and never deviate from what works. I think I get particularly upset about this issue because it offends me as a cartoonist and as a creative professional that the pinnacle of cartooning success is prolonged mediocrity.

  5. It is worth checking out some of the Garfield variants that take the original content but alter it in some way like:

    *Removing Garfield (so Jon is talking to himself) http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/

    *Random panels combined together (which make about as much since as the originals) http://malicelabs.com/garfield/

    *Extracting all text from every Garfield comic then utilizing the power of Markov chains to reassemble phrases and insert it into the strip http://joshmillard.com/garkov/

  6. I have a three-year-old daughter, and curating the media she's exposed to is definitely an interesting (and usually enjoyable) gig. Curious George is pretty-much the apex of preschool cartoon shows. Bubble Guppies, Justin Time, and Peep and the Big Wide World are also quality. Most of the other stuff…ugh. Dora is actually so terrible that I find it kind of impressive. Unendurable, but impressive.

    • If she likes Curious George, she might like Martha Speaks and Word Girl. Both are heavy on vocabulary and have definitely contributed to my kiddo's above average vocabulary.

      One thing I think of a lot of people dont realize about Curious George is that it's a science show masquerading as a kids show about a monkey. Every episode contains a problem and a series of practical experiments to derive a solution. Also some of the main characters are research scientists AND it's probably the most ethnically and culturally diverse show on television.

  7. It's hard to predict what kids will like and dislike but I do think part of the parents job is to provide a steady supply of quality. For my kids that meant all the Miyazaki movies, Pixar, Calvin & Hobbes, the Cartoon History of the Universe, and Zot!. The latter surprised me as I bought it for myself but the girls had been reading Scott McLoud's Understanding Comics series and just picked it up. I think they've read it about ten times now.

    There's stuff they like that I'm not sure about but I don't worry about it too much as I figure quality will win out in the end. I know I read a ton of crap, including Garfield, when I was a kid but as an adult I don't remember most of it. I do keep coming back to stuff like Calvin and Hobbes though.

  8. Please please go the next step and watch the Garfield and Friends cartoons (free on Amazon Prime and Hulu, probs Netflix?). These cartoons are deliciously subversive, like the one where Garfield makes his audience answer multiple-choice questions to decide what he does next, or the one where they discuss the "rules" of cartoons like the double-take, the spit-take, the "running in front of scenery that never changes," and all the other tropes.

    • I actually watched all of GaF when I was a kid and I remember liking it quite a bit, but it has almost nothing in common with the actual comic strips.

  9. I'm going to feel like an asshole when I do this to my inevitable niece and nephew my brother will have accidentally. Probably more the Star Wars Prequels than anything.

  10. I clicked on those link and read for few minutes. And I remembered why I liked the old Garfield collections. Not the new ones. They did turn boring and crappy. But the book from the early 80's that my mom gave me? I can still go back and get some good chuckles out of it. Is it Calvin and Hobbes (the best comics ever written)? No, but it's not crap either. Not the early ones anyway.

  11. I liked "Brave" for the same reason I liked "The Princess and the Frog" – Disney movies (thus, movies my autistic daughter will watch) that push the message that a girl in trouble doesn't need to wait around for some Prince Charming to "rescue" her (in fact, in "Princess and the Frog", *she* rescues *him* several times).

    And "Cars" was actually watchable, and had a number of enjoyable sequences. I deny that any sequel was ever made.

    • Like i mentioned to another commenter, I think the characters and basic premise of brave are great. It completely lost me when the mom turned into a bear. I think a much more relatable story would have been Merida and her mom being thrust into a dangerous situation and having to overcome it together AS HUMANS. The bear thing just took me out of it. The messages are all positive and great, but the choices they made with the story lose me.

      • On the other hand, the transformation set up what I consider to be the single best line in the movie, as Merida tries to explain the situation to her brothers.

        "A witch turned Mom into a bear – it's not my fault!"

      • I think the person upthread might be right — Brave depicts a dynamic that is more unique to mother/daughter relationships. To me, the mom turning into a bear was perfect, because, as a daughter, there's a time around puberty where you go from being really close to your mom to hating her *without knowing why, and without wanting it to happen*. The random bear transformation captures that well.

  12. Honestly, Cars 2 is the favorite kid movie in our house. because Mommy is just a huge James Bond fangirl, and Cars 2 is a James Bond movie. With cars.

  13. Joel, you positively 'jaunty" in that first panel. Are you okay? Unwell? Are you being held somewhere against your will? Do you need rescue? Draw 2 circles on your backpack for "yes" and 3 circles for "no".

    Really, though, I'm glad if the character demeanor matches the real-life one. I've just been listening to the released after shows and their accompanying podcast episodes. You've dropped a lot of snark and shoulder chips somewhere. Good for you.

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