Wednesday, March 08, 2006


This particular comic story was very hard to structure. I had this idea to tell 2 stories at once:

1) A mood piece about the wonders of getting a barber haircut for the first time. This was to be done visually, almost in pantomime-completely through the drawings and focusing on Jimmy's POV.

2) A social statement about the pre and post Beatles world. Many smart people who lived through the 60s noticed that the whole western world reversed its basic philosophy. We went from the lofty western ideals of progress, logic and common sense to a world bathed and blinded by eastern mysticism - which is why everything sucks so bad now.

This story is told allegorically and is represented by George's and Harvey's complaints about the modern generation and what makes a decent haircut.

I knew that the world was ruined by 1970 but wasn't exactly sure what caused it. 25 years later it was explained perfectly to me by Spumco's producer, Kevin Kolde. He said it so plainly and it all fell into place for me: "It's the Beatles fault. They ruined the world." And I knew in an instant that he was right. Even though I love the Beatles' music, I have to admit they sure as Hell ruined the world. You hear that, Dad? (He predicted it the day he first saw men with girl hair on Ed Sullivan in 1964.)

Here comes the setup for story 2 about how the world has changed. Setup 1 about Jimmy getting a haircut misleads the audience into thinking that it's the main story, but this next page prepares us to think about larger issues.

I'm a firm believer in clear storytelling and you need "structure" as a tool to guide the audience through the emotions and thoughts you want them to experience. All of my writers will tell you horror stories of me rewriting their material to make the ideas clearer and more to the point.

I don't believe in that crap they teach you in highschool that every story has a hidden significance and that the writers themselves don't know what it is.
To me, everything has a purpose.

You know who is a great stickler for story structure? Tex Avery. People think of him as being wild and out of control, but he is completely in control of his material.
He is actually very conservative in his approach.

In almost every cartoon, he spends the first 2 minutes blatantly setting the audience up for what the cartoon is about.
In Deputy Droopy for example, the first couple of minutes is almost pure exposition with the sherrif explaining to Droopy to guard the jailhouse and if any trouble happens, just "make a sound, any sound, and I'll come a runnin'!"
And then the rest of the cartoon is just about 2 outlaws causing trouble and Droopy making louder and louder noises to wake the sherrif.

Tex uses this same structure for almost every one of his cartoons.
His main objective once he's sure the audience knows what the cartoon is about, is to build the gags and make them bigger and crazier and faster.
Uncontrolled random craziness wouldn't be as funny if he wasn't so careful in setting up his premise in the first place.
This is also a formula well executed by Monty Python-think of the "I'd like to register a complaint." bit.

The other important point in story structure is to have the purpose build as the story develops.

In The Barber shop, since there are 2 stories happening simultaneously, this task was really daunting. Ask Richard Pursel (who co-wrote it) and Mike (who drew it)!!
The haircutting jokes had to get funnier and George's and Harvey's conclusions about how vile young people are today had to get angrier and more preposterous.
It was a monstrous logistical problem to have both these stories build at the same time without tripping over each other and I did it just to see if it was possible and whether my artists would live through it. They did, but flinch whenever they see me in the hallway now.

I produced a cartoon that really suffered from poor structure: Black Hole. The premise of the story was simple. Ren and Stimpy get sucked through a black hole into another dimension where the physical laws are different than ours. Thus, they begin to mutate into weirder and weirder forms. Or...they should have. Instead they morph randomly and not in a building progression. The funniest morphs are early on, and then later they are less weird, so I considered that cartoon quite a failure. I've made other crap too, but my goal is always to have good solid structure and momentum.

This comic, I think achieved it while making a funny and sad social statement but maybe you'll disagree-especially if you are manually holding up your pants right now and reading your horoscope.


Ben Williams said...

Really interesting stuff. Love the little Katie Rice Card on the shelf behind you in the photo too.

Anonymous said...

How did the Beatles ruin the world?

JohnK said...

>>How did the Beatles ruin the world?

read the comic and find out!

Anonymous said...

i love it!!

you know you could start a webcomic

you know a few times a week you by 4 pannels up.

fans constantly coming on to check, clicking on your ads.

look at the guys from
they are rolling in it.

Nicolas Martinez said...

Really well put, John. I can stand partaking in some of today's modern stuff, but their style or whatever they have wouldn't be my choice as a career. For instance, I draw my characters in the solid '40s style(sometimes, I would experiment) and I still watch both 30s-40s and the modern cartoons. My barber gives me decent haircuts, too. On an unrelated topic, that's quite a collection of H-B stuff you got.

Was Bob Clampett really good at story structure, too?

JohnK said...

Was Bob Clampett really good at story structure, too?

He was but often he went beyond it into pure art and emotion.

He wasn't trying to tell simple points like Tex Avery. His cartoons were performances like great music.

kingmoss said...

I've been thinking about making a childrens book recently and in the process of research flipped through a couple of books in a store the other day. I was struck by the lack of story in the books I read, it seemed to me just a bunch of cute pictures with sort of comments like 'the sheep likes to play,' and so forth. Do you know if this is common place for most stories directed towards children, to have a very small amount of story?

SamyCat said...

YOU ARE CUTE!!! as always!!

Jorge Garrido said...

John, this is going to sound like I'm kissing your ass and going "I agree with John K!!!" but trust me, I've alwys thought this. Ok, here goes:

I agree EXACTLY with alot of what you said, and it's almsot eerie. And I happen to HATE The Beatles music and classic rock. Not because they ruiend music, but I don't find the music itself appealing. Anything post 1964, in terms of Rock, sucks hard, in my opinion. The Beatles changed music, and they were extremely influential, but to me, that wasn't a good thing. The 50's rock and rockabilly was great! The Beatles introduced crazier styles, girl haircuts, psychedelia and other things like that. Elvis never had his hair that long. He was never a bad boy, he was a decent southern gentlemen. Read ANY of his interviews or read about or his life PRE-army and you'll see this. The Beatles ruined rock music. It didn't recover until the late 80's when thrash metal was invented, which lead to my favourite style of music: Death Metal. (Rock music itself continues to suck. I only like two modern rock bands: Linkin Park & P.O.D) I also agree with you about haircuts, John, and this is a weird coincidence, buy I always hated going to hair cutters or Parlours and things like that. I always go to a Barber shop for MEN with my dad when I was a kid and to this day, and I always get my hair cut extremely short. (#1 razer in the back and sides, sideburns cut off, 1/4 inch on top, spiked into ceaser style) I believe men should have short hair and women should have long hair, I'm old fashioned like that, although I don't think John agrees about that (John isn't George Liquor) Anyway, the thing is, I'm 16, and I'm one of the few kids at my school who think like that. I'm also against all this hippy crap, I hate hippies and touchy feely douche crying music, like emo and stuff. As my best friend Dallin (who is into the hippy scene, actually) once said, "It's funny how everything was way better in the 50's before everyone was on meds and before our views on everything changed" You know why the divorce rate skyrokceted in teh 60's and 70's? It's because feminism started making women see previously normal behaviour as "sexist" Personal responsibility was thrown out the window because nothing was ever anybody's fault. I tell you, If I could choose the year I was born, it'd the 1940. Grow up in the 40's, teenager during the rock n roll years, get a job before the baby boomers took most of them in the 60's & 70's, and retire by 2000. The only good thing tha came out of teh 60's was racial attitudes changed. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the only bad thing about the old days was racism was rampant. As a latino, I would probably not get the same opportunities back then that I do now.

I'm rambling, but that post amazed me with its similarities to things I already though. I gotta go to bed now... will clarify my hazy ramblings later.

P.S. Hip-Hop and Urban style isn't exactly keen on hippy stuff like astrology.

P.P.S. Low rider pants own you.

Chet said...

hey John,

When was this comic made?

I dont think the beatles ruined the world,Their haircuts did not look like womens haircuts anyway.I think that if you replaced ''beatles'' with ''homosexuals'' you would be alot closer.

mitchL said...

Do you feel this trend is irreversible? If The Beatles can royally screw everything up, can The Traumas bring it all back?

Also, I do enjoy the dual-story approach you're going for, and I like that it's visually pure comedy and verbally sending social commentary.

It's funny that you can do two things at once that no one is even doing one of right now.

Anonymous said...

Dude, are you saying that it was better to live in a segregated 1950s world than the post civil rights world? explain

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the comic and have a good time following it. Good job!

I have often felt that I was born in the wrong era, I don't fit in here at all and I definately feel I'm in the wrong place in the country, maybe even wrong continent. I just summed it up to "the grass is always greener" theory. I'm glad that you were able to put you finger on how you feel with the Beatles comment however, I'm still looking. If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

JohnK said...

Hey folks,

my post isn't about the Beatles, it was about story structure...

I'm not going to argue George Liquor's point of view.

I just wrote a comic about it because it's a funny POV.

Why not talk about the damn fine art if the story is too controversial for you?

Your pal,


R2K said...



Mitch K said...

This comic is getting better with every post. I love your theories too.

Chet said...


ok then,John thats some damn fine art,I love that art,its so good,them drawings make me wanna drool over them.I could talk about your drawings forever.I think i will...

I love how the eyes,mouth's,freckles,hair,jaw,ears,lips,nose,eyelashes,spleens,skin,clothing.........look.I could go on and on and on...Man those are some damn fine drawings ya got there john.


mitchL said...


I've got that crazy colored Huckleberry Hound thing in my closet at my parents house. Right above it is my Jimmy the Idiot Boy Cel Painting Kit!

My dad bought me that when I was in like fifth grade, but I hated it because it already came with pictures drawn on it and backgrounds already done. I used the gloves for drawing and then just had the other things laying around for visual pleasure. The thing I liked most was the instructional booklet that came along with it. It's pretty clever and inspirational.
Just thought I'd let you know my retrospective reaction to one of your products.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your insights. They always make for a thoughtful read.

I used to be one of those..types..teasing the world into Armageddon with my Fabio hair. I shave it all now in penance.

Trevour said...

Wow, some of these comments people leave are pure entertainment!

Isn't getting a haircut just an uncomfortable experience? I can't remember my first haircut, but I do always feel a bit awkward sitting in the chair and chatting with my barber (who I've known for the last 7 years), fearing for my earlobes' safety from the blades, feeling bits of hair landing on my shoulders and having that irritating itchy sensation on my neck for the rest of the day.

From what I've seen of the comic so far, it really captures the mood. I can feel the shavings inside my ears right now!

Anonymous said...

As always, the art is fabulous and the story is great. There is never any doubt about that.

p.s. You're going to have to stop posting pictures of yourself, I'm developing a crush... more-so.

Anonymous said...

howigaaaaaa hooowiiigaaaaaaa waaagggaaaa hoooooowiiiiiiiigaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Big Dog said...

Some of you people keep confusing the Art with the Artist!

You guys do realize that George Liquor and John K are not the same person right?

kp said...

Great art and commentary. It's sad how much of that really is true, crazy as the arguments get. The hair issue is hilarious. I don't know how many andro-looking guys I've mistakenly called "ma'am", when I see them at a distance...of only 5 feet and from the side or back.XD

C. A. M. Thompson said...

Great post, John! I also enjoyed the stuff about story structure in your commentary on "A Yard Too Far". There's a lot of stuff out there (not just cartoons, either) that is just random stuff happening and to me isn't very memorable. Seems like a lot of Spumco cartoons start out kind of basic and build up getting funnier and crazier and more spectacular until the insanity can't sustain itself any longer.

Online Degree said...

Cool stuff! Glad I came across your site.

Baron Von Josho said...

Wow, thanks for giving all these theories and crap...I'm learning alot of valuable stuff from you, Mr. K.


PS: I love the barber's disturbing adam's apple/tumor thing on his neck.

nightwing said...

>>I dont think the beatles ruined the world,Their haircuts did not look like womens haircuts anyway.I think that if you replaced ''beatles'' with ''homosexuals'' you would be alot closer.

hmmm...I would say it was more the Yoko Ono influenced Beatles that John is refering too

and on the subject of dual story i am planning something havnt yet decided if i wanna make it a strip or book or what but my take on the dual story line will just be two different views of the same events, the actual story will be in first person and i will explain what and why im am doing something and why i feel the way i do about it, like a noir movie, where as the illustrations will be from a third person view showing the other side of the story, what i dont see or know, the results of my actions that i dont point is to make two stand alone stories one all written one all drawn, both tell completely different stories about the same thing, but when combined they tell a different third story, again about the samething, if that makes any sense, i still havnt decided how i want to integrate text and picture, i also have theories on naming characters or rather not naming them,

anyway onto the george story, i do really enjoy the illustrations

i also thing that the three stooges set up stories well, in each short they had a specific purpose, plumbers, salesmen, etc...they set up the assignment and the hillarity ensued with them trying to fullfil the said task

on the topic of barbers...the last barber in my town closed when i was a kid :(

JohnK said...

hey please stop arguing about the Beatles.

It's not what the post is about.

It's about story structure.

Email each other to argue about the Beatles...

Maybe I'll just delete the whole post

matt beaudoin said...

As an aspiring animator, this blog was really helpful to me - story and storytelling are my main weaknesses.
Well, I guess I should say that you and the rest of Spumco have always been my main source of inspiration, ever since I saw "Stimpy's Big Day" when I was 7.

Plus, I'm really enjoying the comic!

Keep on keepin' on,

lastangelman said...

The Beatles comment/opinion is a red herring, a flash pointand ared flag so immediately people see nothing else and forget the real point of this blog entry.
Still, if you said The Rolling Stones or even The Ramones, the joke or the story would not have been as effective, watered down, weak. It's a great setup for the conversation between George and Harvey (in my head I hear Michael Pataki and the late Don Knotts, if you ever animate this, hire Jim Carrey for Harvey's voice, he does a great Don Knotts) and you have all this wild haircutting stuff happening around Jimmy, oh the faces and reactions, really different and incredible, really angry stuff, aggression, and this great generational fume between these "Silent Majority" people. It's a conversation you don't see in any other cartoon - well maybe a Brad Bird cartoon, they're funny and they talk like real people. (I'm reminded of a Freakazoid episode where Freakazoid puts the Wolfman in the barberchair and shaves him down while discussing how crappy are the Dallas Mavericks - made my ears perk up, because at the time you didn't expect a cartoon character to talk about a specific lousy NBA team - and being a Dallasite, that had to sting!)
Like your photos, apparently you have youth genes runnin in the blood too (as long as you don't grow any facial hair!) My collection of stuff is Yellow Submarine, for some reason I am obsessed with that film and much of its memorabilia. I don't know if you like or dislike Yellow Submarine but the book about how it was made (Inside The Yellow Submarine by Dr Bob Hieronimus) is pretty fascinating stuff. They literally broke a lot of standard animation rules getting it done, in record time and under a puny budget. I have an extra copy and would be happy to send it your way.

Nico said...

Why is everyone talking about the Beatles?

John -
I always knew that even though Clampett and Avery's work was similar in wackiness and great art, there was always something a tad different that i couldn't put my finger on. But now you've cleared it up... Clampett's cartoons ARE like musical performances, while Avery's are a bit more structured in story.

I love the story structure in REN SEEKS HELP... it opens with Stimpy upset about Ren being an asshole, so Ren decides to get help. From there, we just travel deeper and deeper into Ren's past, with each scene getting crazier than the next. very much in the same structure-vein as Deputy Droopy.

I want to ask though, do you have any other favorite directors/artists who are examples for good story structure?
and, will you eventually have a post on your blog about character development/ACTING?? i can't wait for that one. those are two of the elements i spend the most concentration on in my work.

JohnK said...

>>I always knew that even though Clampett and Avery's work was similar in wackiness and great art, there was always something a tad different that i couldn't put my finger on. But now you've cleared it up... Clampett's cartoons ARE like musical performances, while Avery's are a bit more structured in story.

Hi Nico,

actually Clampett's stories are very structured too but for different goals and not the same goal in every cartoon. He was much more experimental in his work and hated falling into formulas-even the Looney Tunes formula that he helped create.

He made fun off his own conventions in The Big Snooze and Falling Hare and others.

Many of his cartoons are about the characters; he was better than anyone at character and personality, in my opinion.

Some cartoons are just wild sensory experiences of unbridled fun-like Coal Black. Technically it's a parody of the Snow White story but the effect of the film is way beyond that. It's just a phenomenal feel good experience that in its execution, verve, flair and skill completely transcends what it's actually about.

It's the ultimate artistic and entertainment experience. I'm in total awe of Clampett's skill in entertainment.

Most great art far outlives its original literal statement, so ultimately the statement becomes meaningless in comparison to its execution.Who remembers every king, duke and virgin painted in the Renaissance? But the paintings are remembered for their skill and beauty.

In 50 years will Family Guy mean anything to anyone when all its pop culture references are forgotten?
Coal Black still will and so will most 3 Stooges.

They'll remember the Beatles too-for the music, not for their political beliefs.

Vanoni! said...

Great insight and great comic.
Keep posting.

Matt Greenwood said...

More great advice!

I was just wondering, who drew that christmas card in the background of your photo?

JohnK said...

>>was just wondering, who drew that christmas card in the background of your photo?

well Katie of course. You should see the drawing in my music room!

nightwing said...

i just think that the beatles was an interesting aside, thats all

also, in previous posts you mentioned expression, i whole heartedly agree, and i think it relates directly to what you have just said...and is also why i find it necessary in my writing to not name characters, poe was a master of this method.

these classic cartoons have endured, as long as the classic works of the great masters, titian being my favorite, is because one can watch/look at them without pre-existing knowledge of story, plot, etc...and even watched without any audio, one will enjoy and the story is present because of the artistry, the mood is present in the facial expressions of the characters, and the interactions, implied or otherwise, tell the back story as well and what is currently going on and also forcasting to the near future

i carry this thoery on into my writing, or attempt to, i try to not name my characters because when i do i feel as though i am killing them, with a name they, for the most part, will only be remembered by name and all of their actions and inportance will be lost.

and now that i have just reitterated what you said, ill end

nightwing said...

oh...and i remember that freakazoid episode, that was a great cartoon

JohnK said...


I'm going to post about cartoon paintings soon and everyone would benefit greatly from your insights and experience and talent, so I hope you will be free with your ideas!

That's another sad skill that is missing from modern cartoons.

william wray said...

Thanks John,

But I'm not interested in staying in the box you want to keep me in. I want to be treated like an adult, not a child you can control by deleting my comments because your afraid to answer me. If you have so little respect for my opinion or you just can't bear anyone to not be inlock step with your views, lets call it a day. I'm looking to be treated as an equal and a friend not a follower and a dog.

JohnK said...

You can do what I do if you like. Post some stories and I'll send a bunch of folks to help you with them.

lyris said...

I'm loving the gender separation thing, those manly old barbers. "The goddamn BEATLES" thing made me laugh out loud.

I always end up clicking the comic panels and reading your posts after though, they're too much keep off!

Nico said...

John -

Thanks for more of the Clampett info! i went to your old cartoon screening back in late 2004 and i almost crapped my pants when i heard you say that Clampett's whole family was in the audience... the row DIRECTLY in front of me!

i wanted to ask, how did you meet, and even become good friends, with Bob?

mitchL said...

On the topic of cartoon painting...

I just happened to notice while I was watching some of the Looney Tunes Vol. 3 Bugs Bunny cartoons that the holes that Bugs digs and everything are all painted in each frame, and not just brown or black circles on the ground. It's not really a massive detail, yet it adds so much to the scene.

There were some insights on the R&S DVD commentary for Sven Hoek concerning background painting that were quite interesting.
It might make for a good topic!

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

Hey everyone let's start the John K. caricature contest already. Let's show the man how much we appreciate him talking to us and answering our questions with our warped versions of him. I'll get the ball rolling.

My Attempt

Desiree said...

Wow!!! The barber's fingers are AMAZING!! nice drawings, deffinitally!
YEs structure, I'm obsessed with it, almost anal. Whooaaoahah I can't wait to see the next page :D:D it's building so nicely!
As to modern life?? I think ppl have confused arrogance for confidence and there's a general lack of respect.

Peggy said...

I can never quite be sure how much of George Liquor's views are yours, and how much are you caricaturing the sort of Really Straight Repressed White Male he lampoons. Obviously neither can most of the people watching here.

R2K said...

More secrets!

Anonymous said...

When this comic story will end?

David Germain said...

Another aspect of Bob Clampett's cartoons, sometimes he'd introduce story points just to ignore them. One great example is Baby Bottleneck. After we've seen basically how that stork factory runs, down the conveyer belt there's an egg without an address. Porky asks Daffy to sit on the egg so that whatever's inside can be hatched out and its destination could be better determined. Daffy militantly refuses and the chase is on. The chase ends with Daffy and Porky getting sucked into the gears of the factory which fouls up the mechanisms. This causes the machine to squish the two into a half-duck half-pig creature and shipped to a gorilla in Africa. WE NEVER DO FIND OUT WHAT WAS IN THAT EGG. Basically, Clampett started us at point A, showed us point B but then slammed us into point C. Only a genius like Clampett could have pulled that off (or possibly David Lynch).
Another great one is Book Revue. This time, instead of merely telling a story, Clampett teases us with the promise of telling a story.
It starts off with books coming to life gags which quickly evolve into a brassy jazz ensemble, at which point people are wondering "yeah this is nice but where's the story." Then Daffy shows up through Looney Tunes comics with his fingers in his ears. "Aha! There's a familiar character adding some conflict. NOW there'll be a story," is what the audience is now saying. Daffy does halt the jazz session. But, instead off advancing any story, he does an impression of Danny Kaye doing an impression of an old Russian (I'll bet Mel Blanc was exhausted after that one) and sang La Cucaracha and Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Carolina In The Morning for absolutely no reason. Just before the song ends though, Clampett introduces the Little Red Riding Hood scenario with the big bad wolf and everything. Daffy interrupts the proceedings which has the wolf chasing him instead of Red. "Finally a story," the audience shouts with glee. So, the wolf gets vanquished into Dante's Inferno and everyone including Daffy celebrates. But, just before the cartoon ends, the wolfs pops back up from Hell and shouts, "STOP THAT DANCING UP THERE!!!" to which he then adds, "you sillies." Showing us that the wolf is alive and well at the end completely violates the happy endng of the story everyone was watching. "But.... but... we saw conflict. And it was resolved. But then it was unresolved. How did....... huh...... what happened?????"

What happened was, all through the cartoon Bob Clampett was promising us some kind of a story but then yanking the rug out from under us just as we thought we'd see one.

Judging by the way he'd constantly play pranks on everyone at Termite Terrace, I can see why he'd construct a cartoon like that.

Truly a genius. (Oh my God, am I as big a Clampett fan as John K.?) (:O

Anonymous said...

John, do you think its possible to do great visual performance cartoons with today's tv budget reality? Could someone make a cartoon with no plot, just visually interesting stuff happening all the time, with the budget and time limitations pretty much everyone has to live with nowadays? Or is it just not possible, no matter what the amount of passion and skill of the artists?

David Germain said...

Oh, and as far as story writing goes, I do have a comic adventure of sorts on my blog involving my characters the Censor Monkeys. You can check that out and see if it's structurally sound or not. (Clicking my name above in blue should take you there. Scroll down a bit when you get there.)

Courtney said...

You know I liked Black Hole, I mean it wasn't a Space Madness but don't be so hard on yourself about that one. One of my favorite things about Ren and Stimpy was how refeshingly crazy they were.

Anonymous said...

I swear, dude, you need to make a yearbook of this blog of yours. After one year, take every entry you've done, art and all, reformat it for print, bind it and sell it. You'd make a pile and the service to humanity would be incalculable.

Did you ever live on Long Island? Blue Point, maybe?

makinita said...

HELLO there cartoon fans heres a link for Clampett's Coal Black go and check it out its wonderfull

SamyCat said...

I love the Beatles!
You know.. My aunt is the first collection of the Beatles here in Argentina!
Cool, Isn`t it?
His house is a Beatles`s museum! :)
I will see If I can take some photos to show you! X3
Love ya

Matthew Cruickshank said...


Will Mike Fontanelli be starting a Blog?

Met you once, hope you post the doodles that you do while you are on the phone. I remember seeing some horses with huge appendages at your house. And they weren't even the drawings!

kellywalters said...

I think that the strip was absolutly wonderful.

I've gotten poked in the eye while getting a hair cut and lectured by my mother that I had no idea how to be a productive adult at the same time..

I would have to say that its happened to the majority of us..

dont parents take responsibility anymore?

anyway... Thanks for the tips.. I'll try to be more direct from now on!

Whiggles said...

>> John, do you think its possible to do great visual performance cartoons with today's tv budget reality?

Like Adult Party Cartoon? Yes, it must be possible.

Anonymous said...

Like Adult Party Cartoon? Yes, it must be possible.

No I mean visuals over plot. Like a ballet or something.

Stefano D. said...

Wow---very thought-provoking.
Loved this analysis John.

Duck Dodgers said...

If you want to see screenshots of a real good version of Bob Clampett's " Coal Black" just go to my blog here:

Now, back on topic. Marvellous comics pages, as usual.
I would like to know what do you think of Lantz cartoons,John.
Expecially of the work of Culhane.

Jorge Garrido said...

hmm... I must have been extremely tired when i made my first commment in this post... an incoherent mess... I wish you could edit your own comments.... but i got one thing right: John K is NOT George Liquor, guys!

OK, so in preparation for a potential John K caricature contest, I've gathered all previous caricatures of him:

Wicks for Candlesticks' great attempt at his blog: (2 drawings)

nightwing's realistic caricature: (blog @ )

Peggy's caricature of Johnny boy from memory! (blog @ )

Anonymous said...

So many links, but i just won't visit them. Too lazy to copy and paste, if ony i could click.

Anonymous said...

So many links, but i just won't visit them. Too lazy to copy and paste, if ony i could click.

Sucks to be you then.

Gabriel said...

Sucks to be you then.

I disagree, I think he's got a point. It's annoying to copy and paste. But just so my comment won't be as useless:

Wicks for Candlesticks

nightwing. Also check his blog

Peggy's version, and here's her blog.

Josh Boelter said...

Interesting post. I'm not sure I agree with all of it, but for the most part I think you're right on.

z0mbi said...

Keep the pages coming, John. I love these drawings!

CORKY said...

Christ! Lookit all them's figurines!! One day I'm gonna visit LA, and we need to get our asses over to that big flea market you were telling me about and go hogwild!

LOL Oh yes..the Beatles..I remember that one.. :D


E. Adam Thomas said...


I just found your blog for the first time today, and I really like the fact that you are basically, either directly or through subtext, offering insight to other aspiring artists to help them improve their craft. I first discovered you (as many have) through Ren & Stimpy, and a good part of my friendship with my former bass player (and current co-conspirator in making a sketch comedy series for the web) was in fact forged through watching and rewatching that series for hours together. For that alone, I am a lifelong fan.
I've been doing my own webcomic for three years (actually, I started doodling it about 12 years ago), and although I can admit improvement in my drawing style and consistancy, I'm always in one way or another disappointed with the finished product.

That said, and knowing full well that you will probably not have either the time or the inclination to do so, I was wondering if I could humbly ask you a favor... Would you consider looking over just a few strips on my site, and let me know if you see any spark there? I realise you get pelted with requests for this kind of thing so constantly that it probably irritates you to no end, but I guess it never hurts to try.

And, yes, if you do do this for me and end up having some harsh criticism, I will take it like a man and not start flaming you like a wounded schoolgirl.

The address is

I hope you find some of it funny, at least.

Joel Bryan said...

The "Decent... God-fearing... American... Commie" poster with Elvis cracked me up.

Thanks for the tips, too.

And the barbershop nostalgia. When I was a kid, I got my hair cut at this place that had combs floating in jars of blue liquid, hunting and sports magazines in a big stack on the table... and framed photos of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp on the wall, along with two nickel-plated six-shooters.

That was a damn manly barbershop. My barber even got blown away with a shotgun by his ex-wife!

Wow, I learned a lot from that place!

Eric C. said...

Hey folks,

Did you catch the "Dance for Desire" on the shelf ?

Is that a novel or a how to dance book or something ?

I can see the Lost Episodes test DVD on the shelf too.

HEY JOHN, WHEN'S THE DVD COMIN'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



frankenstein's creature said...

I always consider your opinions very stimulating.

Jorge Garrido said...

How do you post links instead of copy and paste addresses?

Eric C. said...

So, John.

In your opition, What makes a good cartoon. I mean, the story, the animation, the acting, etc.

I think every one of Clampetts and Tex Averys toons are so full of exitment. Your like asking yourself, Oh boy, what's going to happen next ?

John, Should I start writting stories in my blog ? If I do, can you take a look at it if you've got some free time?

I have a fear that If someone steels the story or idea and trashes it, I remember you said in an interview that you didn't beleive in trademarks or copyrighting etc. ?


Anonymous said...


Thank you for this blog and for all of your insights. I've enjoyed your artistic style, espcially the old Ren & Stimpy stuff from the early 1990s.
And yeah, the George Liquor comic is very, good. I like the style of art, the pseudo-retro 1950s look, the contortion of figures, the seamless yet exaggerated stretching of bodies and multiple facial expressions. The Barber Shop comic is very funny; the looking back and bemoaning where the world went wrong, the "feel good" 1960s philosophy versus the logical, practical, duty-bound 1950s philosophy. The story telling is very paced and deliberate.
Thanks again for the blog and when can we expect the Ren & Stimpy Lost Episodes DVD?

Thanks for your

Eric C. said...

sorry again about my spelling errors, I ment excitement in my last post.

Vanoni! said...

Comic question:
It seems pretty straight forward - but I'm interested in how you guys approach laying out the panels.
Does the story dictate the panels, a la "I wrote this gag for three panels" or "I want to spend a full page driving this point home"
or does the page layout sometimes dictate the story?
A la "we need gag 'B' to start on the next page so drag gag 'A' out for 2 more panels to fill for space"

Anonymous said...

jorge garrido, here's an explanation on linking.

Eric C. said...

Oh, I see the story structue thing on the blog. Sorry, I just get so excited on posting and stuff.

Jorge Garrido said...

^Thanks, anon! Visit the Motlos forums! I post as Toonami and Daffy_Duck! Also visit Golden Age Cartoons!

You noow what I noticed was the difference between Clampett and Avery's cartoons? Clampett's are much freer and looser and deal with the emotions of the characters, while Averys were more about the outrageous gags that are being pulled on his "nameless cats and dogs" I guess the simplest I can boil it down to is, Clampeet's gags come from the cartoon, and Avery's gags are the cartoon.

theKirkness said...

thats all fine but I just like to read and laugh. isnt that the point?

if i laugh, you did something right.

its like not playing with toys because they will be worth money in the box still.


Anonymous said...

Mr. K,

Thanks for the advice on writing for cartoons.Also,I wanted to know what's your opinion about the other Looney Tunes directors such as Chuck Jones or my personal favorite,Friz Freleng.

Jorge Garrido said...

Two more John K's:

Mez's great caricatures!

Jason Malloy's sketch

akira said...

dear john,
thanks for the top secret advice! i will study it frame by frame!

i wonder what you would think of my story structuring.. i've tried to get writing jobs but have had no success, so i just make my own comics when i have the time...

here's a link to one of my comics if you are bored:

Buck Masters Game Warden #3

Aimee Nester said...

I think a big seller would be katie and her magic hair. I'm really not kidding. ;0 Oh what you could do with that storyline...

Here's my attempt at Katie's magic hair: or clik pik

bab2600 said...

The comic looks really good. I especially love how in the end of the 2nd page and the beginning of the 3rd page you can see the barber taking out his "hate" for the beatles on Jimmys hair. Jimmys facial expressions are classic.

For me, animation could not get better then Tex Averys cartoons done at MGM. They came across as having no restraints. Their was nothing holding his cartoons back, Stories were rock solid. I liked the formula of a solid simple story that is loaded with a progression of gags. Also Tex Averys work (especially at MGM) always had this loose "swing" element. The characters to me seemed to be very tight in design and animation but still very loose. Like in rock a Bye bear, if you take a still of the bear character you would probably picture a stiff rigid burly bear, but animated he is very loose but still has the stiff rigidness. Hard to explain. Also Tex Avery has in my opinion an amazing skill for speeding up and slowing down the animation time for gags. Another example of this is the slower exagerated poses the bear makes while shouting in Rock a bye bear one minute, then the extremely fast snoring the bear makes after a long lumbering walk to his bed. I won't even detail how each character in Rock a bye bear moves to its own timing and stiff/tightness in design.

I noticed what seems to be a similar "timing" and "tightness" with your characters in this comic. George liquor is the most stiff and rigid with his motions except for some panels. The barber comes across as an inbetween both stiff and loose, while Jimmy is entirely loose in his art and motions. Jimmy makes the most motions in the comic and the loosest while the barber jumps from what seems to be loose in Jimmys "world" while tight when he goes back to Georges "world". Was this a look you were going for or did it jsut happen to come out this way?

Also for some reason europe got a real Tex Avery DVD collection release while the US got nothing. If you have a region free DVD player the DVD's are being imported by people and sold on ebay.

Anonymous said...

Irv Spence was one skilled cat. What he could do in one hour most skilled animators of today couldn't accomplish in eight or more.

Eric C. said...

John, please tell us a story when you and Eddie were with the late Bob Clampett and the crazy things he done, the places you guys went to.


bab2600 said...

Irv Spence indeed was an amazing animator. His work for Tom and Jerry was great as well as his animation for Bakshi in Wizards.

Mike P said...

Hey John!

Another insightful post which made me think. The Barber Shop comic is wicked funny too!

I just have a quick off topic question. A while ago, i remember reading that you were doing a short for Oh Yeah! Cartoons new season. I'm dying to know what exactly you are doing for it!

junior said...

I can't believe John K and Bill Wray are fighting. I feel like little Anthony watching Ren taking a dump! :(

David Germain said...

Also for some reason europe got a real Tex Avery DVD collection release while the US got nothing. If you have a region free DVD player the DVD's are being imported by people and sold on ebay.

No, do NOT purchase the European Tex Avery dvd set. Many of the cartoons are editted such as Garden Gopher and Droopy's Good Deed while others are completely omitted altogether like Half Pint Pygmy.
WHV is working on a Tex Avery dvd set for region 1. Unless the same special interest censor monkey terrorists who loused up the first Tom & Jerry dvds are still around, this new Tex Avery dvd should be the complete package. I recommend that people get that one.

Nicolas Martinez said...

I also remember you saying in a book that another important aspect of writing is the dialogue. The lines have to be simple and clear to read, otherwise the actor stumbles over the words. You still live by that rule, right?

E. Adam Thomas said...

Unless the same special interest censor monkey terrorists who loused up the first Tom & Jerry dvds are still around, this new Tex Avery dvd should be the complete package.

I have a horrible feeling those monkeys are in control of the majority of the DVD industry. I have heard of edits showing up on several of the [adult swim] series' DVD sets where stuff that passed through the broadcast censors got cut on the home video market. It's a frustrating situation, and I think it's going to take a mass consumer revolt (which is never going to happen) to get the special interest Nazis to back off.

bab2600 said...

"WHV is working on a Tex Avery dvd set for region 1."

Thank you for the heads up! I wasn't able to find any information about a US release. All I found were the wacky world of Tex Avery DVD's. I was just about to order a copy of the European ones this weekend. It's a shame that a lot of great animation still isn't being considered for DVD release.

Brett W. Thompson said...

Thank you for your amazing posts, John :) These drawings are beautiful and I found your insight about story structure fascinating. And of course Tex's cartoons are top notch; I love "King Sized Canary"! :)

Thomas said...

I believe its time for the cartoon revolution. Cartoons need to get smart and savvy like they were in the 30's and 40's. Those writers were brilliant. Bugs Bunny was not intended to be an icon for children. I think its time we bring that back!

p.s. Where do you buy all those cool shirts?

Jonstantenople said...

I really enjoy your blog posts. Always a treat to see the new art, and your comments on cartoons and comics are really interesting and helpful for a wannabe artist like me.

Really dig this posts commentary on story structure!

lastangelman said...

"At 4:29 PM, junior said...I can't believe John K and Bill Wray are fighting. I feel like little Anthony watching Ren taking a dump! :("

Don't hyperventilate junior, I lost my smelling salts, dang, he's out cold on the carpet ...

It's OK that such stuff gets aired out in the open, conflicts get resolved quicker.

Anonymous said...

Tex Avery R1 DVD Box Set, I sure hope that is true, can someone provide a link to that bit of news?

Now if soemone could release a complete Popeye collection.

Mish said...

You're crazy.
Beatles ruined the world? Maybe so, but if it wasn't the Beatles and that specific hairstyle, it would've been someone else. I think things have their own way of developing and change is inevitable.
I respect the fact that you have this whole macho-man fetish, hell, even I think it's cool the way things developed back in the 30's. That's what a real man looked like - a model of a 30's man. (At least the movie stereotype)

Thanks for the useful info.

WIL said...

"Now if soemone could release a complete Popeye collection."

AMEN, brother!


Ringo said...

I would like to thank all my fans (like Evan, and Anonymous---). I'm so glad to receive this award especially cause it come from the people. I didn't start making music to change the world or to ruin it---All I wanted was to make great music and I go a little lazy when it came to haircuts. And most of all I wanted to be accepted in the band---I'd like to thank God for giving me this opportunity, and thanks to my mammy who always used to say----WHAT? I HAVEN'T WON ANYTHING?! John K's blog? Who is John K and what's a bloody blog?

bab2600 said...

Their was a Popeye Original Classics From the Flescher Studio DVD. It is only one disc with only 10 cartoons. Their are some decent extras on it like interviews with voice actors, galleries, etc. Nothing like the Looney Tunes Gold Collection. I found the DVD in a bargain bin for 7 bucks. Their are also tons of random DVD sets that collect old cartoons and usually contain Popeye cartoons. These sets are cheap since the quality and transfer is horrendous. You could always search for guys selling VHS or DVD self made collections.

benj said...

The best "comicbook" post ever JOHN!!!!

the drawings are breathtaking and the info is never ending...:)
Benjamin A.

Ted said...

With the George Liquor character, you have someone who is not only out of step with the present, but also out of step with the past. The type is so consumed with itself that it can't accept anything that isn't, essentially, itself. Take the haircut: the obvious thing to talk about is revolutionary America. Wigs and ponytails all around. Moving onwards, Lincoln had about the shortest hair of any president to his time, and it was none too short.
That kind of navel gazing makes GL inherently antagonistic, not just to characters in the story, but to the audience as well, except of course for people with the same haircut and lack of awareness of things that aren't them; in other words, an unsympathetic villain is the center of the story. That personality trait also has to affect the stories around a character. This story is an explicit outgrowth of that trait.
The thing about that story (and stories based on that trait generally) is that it is obnoxious. Because of that, it tends to overpower anything else that may be going on. And for people who aren't easily distracted by bendy drawings, that certainly includes any Jimmy "story" that may be going on (Jimmy being an empty McGuffin, whose only role is to move the visual gags along with nothing underlying him). So the two stories here are one obnoxious story told primarily verbally, and one set of visual gags that are supposed to constitute a story. But as the comments to the post have shown, the obnoxious story completely stole the thunder of the visual story (and the strongest visual element in the comic is the barber, a secondary character).
So what exactly is the lesson about story structure? You say everything has to have a purpose, and the purpose should build as the story progresses. So here it manifested itself as being more obnoxious and more gaggy as the story goes on? Do you think always going crescendo is really a good idea? Don't you think that leads to a poor abruptness at times (c.f., Firedogs II)?

JohnK said...

We have a psychic among us. Ted can predict the future. He knows the point of a 36 page story after only 8 pages.

Maybe I'll create a "smart award" for the most brilliant comments.

Ted said...

Did I give away the point of the story? I was talking about established characters (so those comments are more conclusory) and the story as given to us. You were talking about the two stories being used together, so please view my comments as about the story so far, and not as spoilery...

(Holds envelope to head)
Thomas Edison, W. C. Fields, John K...

bab2600 said...

The main thing I almost always look for is simply the art. I think any type of cartoon or comic is a real success if the story can simply be told by the pictures. In this comic you could take out the text bubbles and still know whats gonig on (well maybe not the beatles ruining the world). The basic premise through the character design can be told with out the text. You can tell what George Liquor and the Barber are talking about simply by their character design as well as facial expressions. Also George Liquor reading a newspaper and his reactions to the porn magazine give it away. You look at the characters and you can tell George and the barber are complaining about current times while remembering the good old days. Jimmy's story is the easiest one to get without any text since it is told through his reactions and facial expressions.

A good test for us would be some comics done without the text, let us try and determine the story through the images first, then give us the text to see this in action. That is also if you are telling this story about Jimmy using this story telling style.

junior said...

Haha, Ted, you LOST!! Lost, in italics, bold and with caps lock!

Toren Q Atkinson said...

John K wrote "He knows the point of a 36 page story after only 8 pages."

I guess that is the pitfall of doling out piecemeal portions of a larger picture. It is difficult to judge with any kind of insight. That may work against you sometimes. Other times it may work precisely the way you want!

Jorge Garrido said...

Thomas Edison, W. C. Fields, John K?

Citizen Drummond said...

I've read several screenwriting books, taken a college creative writing class, but the best info I get comes from comicbook guys and animators. Thanks John. Since George is such a parody of the right, think you'll parody the left, too?

C. A. M. Thompson said...

I don't see why people bash the Jimmy character. I've always felt like he could be great in cartoons all by himself. Maybe in cartoons that are similar in structure to the Goofy cartoon where he teaches you how to ski, only with much better gags. A retard's guide to fishing or something. Slapstick is what always makes me laugh the hardest anyway.

Rachel said...

What I'm wondering, John, is how to apply these principles to the typical four-panel strip, as opposed to the comic-book story you're doing. Is it even possible?

Anonymous said...

Now, John; I wouldn't call "Black Hole" a "failure." I see what you mean by the progression of their weird shapes and they way they would morph. But think of it as an experiment (not a cheap one, but a good, different experiment).
Anyway, that's my two cents (for lack of a better cliche).

Looking forward to more!


Anonymous said...

John speaks the truth. Everyone else is lying. All I hear in animation is this garbage that ultimately destroys solid structure and refuses to deliberately entertain. That's what I like about what John is saying, he deliberately entertains.

A lot of writers/artists keep trying to make their art forms some mystical experience, so the idea of structure will automatically revile the post-modernist.

John, the sad thing is that the collective arts are so far gone that to present sold story-telling is like speaking a different language. You're holding back the ocean with a broom but God bless you for it.

-Doug TenNapel

the heart of the world said...

Best post yet. Very funny and informative - like how god should be.

And Avery's "King-Size Canary" is quite possibly the greatest cartoon ever.

I guess I need a haircut - my Mom said I'm looking like John Lennon. I thought it was a compliment...

Ted said...

That's right, Ed. Thomas Edison, W.C. Fields, and John K...
(rips open envelope)

Ted said...

"Name a tinker, a drinker, and a stinker."

Happy Ides of March!

Anonymous said...

the story isn't controversial at all, it's just a standard conservative point of view. the beatles didnt even change anything, at the start they were like the back street boys of their time, after the hippy mpovement caught on they got into it and became one of its (many) public faces. 50's america sucked, just listen to all that old time rock and roll stuff, it's horrible, I literally have more musical talent in my little toes. as for the two stories at once thing, when was this written? and have you never read any calvin and hobbes? all of the sledging strips waterson did are a much better developed version of this idea (despite the majority only being 4 frames long), and more to the point they generally have some kind of worthwhile social commentary, unlike here, where you're just repeating the kind of xenophobic rhetoric that can be found in any old folks home or NRA meeting.

mj said...

im sorta speechless but gezz-it im gonna say somethin and try n mean it: damn it john - the first time i saw ren n stimp on the tube i was stunned. having been "ruined"/"altered"/"influence"/"raised" by cartoons from the earliest of my existence i was suddenly hit with the warmest of sensations (not unlike peeing in ones diaper or that warm spot at the pool) - you had and have captured the animation of old with the attitude of a shakin baby. i've wanted to thank you for so many years and now as if my devine (not the fat transvestite) intervention i finally can... space permitting... thanks.

Dick P. said...

Wow, this blog finally caught my eye and I had to post a comment, even though I'm generally horrified by the scattershot nature of blogs and resist jumping into the cesspool of WWWeb opinion. I mean, sheesh, John posts a breakdown of how a specific cartoon comic story came to be, and folks jump down his throat to defend the Beatles! Is everyone a reactionary @hole? Read deeper; pay attention -- this is good on-line cartoon writing school. I love this story; it was quite a challenge to write and so rewarding to see it come to life with such amazing drawing. We had never written such a story before and it helped to define the George and Jimmy characters, underscoring their traits by detailing George’s beliefs and Jimmy’s idiotic reactions. I even added some crappy drawings of my own with the Cathy and Drabble parody page -- so bad they made poor Jimmy cry! Sure would love to see it in print and in color. A complete Spumco Comic Book collection would be mighty swell!

Grant Hutchins said...

Thanks for reminding me of Deputy Droopy. My mother and my brothers and I would celebrate every time it would come on TV. We never laughed so hard at a cartoon. I can steel hear the screeching as they run and stop, run and stop.

Andy J. Latham said...

It seems to me that there are a lot of people looking back at the 'golden age' of everything and wishing it hadn't been ruined. Some of you go as far as to watch or draw only cartoons from the 40s.

Come on people, animation is never going to get back on its feet unless the artists work on a new style, based on, and improving on everything that has worked before.

Make it the 2010s style!

Sig said...

Well, your Black Hole episode actually gave me nightmares for a week..... I was very young when I saw it, and being young also very impressionable!
It wasn't a failure to many that saw it, and some people consider it one of the best (my dad, and a friend)
Almost Japanese, too; the ending can be stated as "it was all a dream/everything vanishes", which is very common in anime.

Return said...

why is short hair so good.. again? seems like an arbitrary preference.

getchauffeured said...

I've read several screenwriting books, taken a college creative writing class, but the best info I get comes from comicbook guys and animators. Thanks John. Since George is such a parody of the right, think you'll parody the left, too?
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