Saturday, December 14, 2019

Indiana Cartoon News 2019-Part One

A roundup of news stories from 2019:

25 Years of Speed Bump

Cartoonist Dave Coverly celebrated a quarter century at the helm of the syndicated single-panel cartoon Speed Bump this year. Born in 1964, Mr. Coverly grew up in Plainwell, Michigan, and received degrees from Eastern Michigan University and Indiana University. He cartooned for the Bloomington, Indiana, Herald-Times, and has also sold cartoons to Esquire, the New York TimesThe Saturday Evening Post, and USA Today.

Speed Bump went into syndication in April 1994 and by 1995 was well enough on its way that Dave Coverly was able to leave the Herald-Times to devote himself to his new creation. In the time since, he has drawn by his estimation about 9,000 cartoons. He has also won four awards from the National Cartoonists Society (NCS), including the society's highest, the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, in 2008.

Dave Coverly lives in Michigan now. On May 26, 2019, Michigan News Live posted a long article, a dozen images, and a three-minute video on the artist. It's called "After 25 years, Speed Bump creator finds cartooning remains a funny business," and you will find it by clicking here.

Congratulations to Dave Coverly.

Gary Varvel Retires

Born in 1957 in Indianapolis, Gary Varvel cartooned for the Indianapolis News and Indianapolis Star for forty-one years, beginning in 1978. His last drawing for the Star came on January 2, 2019, the same day on which he publicly announced his retirement with an article called "Varvel: IndyStar’s cartoonist says thank you and farewell," which you can read by clicking here. Like Dave Coverly, Mr. Varvel has been extremely prolific as an artist. He estimated that in his twenty-four years drawing for the Indianapolis Star, he created nearly 8,000 cartoons. After having reached this major milestone in his career, he continues drawing and, like Dave Coverly, is now with Creators Syndicate.

Known for his teaching and community service, Gary Varvel put on two cartooning workshops at Taylor University, located in Upland, Indiana, in June 2019. The workshops were part of the Summer Clubhouse Program, sponsored by the Foellinger Foundation of Fort Wayne and designed to encourage "positive social, emotional, and academic development" in the youth of Fort Wayne and Allen County. You can read more about Mr. Varvel and the program in an article called "Cartoonist Gary Varvel to Conduct Two Workshops on Taylor Campus Next Week," on the website of the Hartford City News-Times, dated June 19, 2019, here. You can see his own website at this URL: 

Congratulations, too, to Gary Varvel on his retirement.

Jim Davis' Paws, Incorporated, Sells to Nickelodeon

In August, Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, became a third Hoosier cartoonist to reach a milestone during 2019 when it was announced that Viacom, through its subsidiary Nickelodeon, had acquired Mr. Davis' company Paws, Incorporated. This followed several other big changes in his life and in the life of his company. 

Born in 1945 in Marion, Indiana, Jim Davis is one of the most successful cartoonists of all time. He is the creator of the daily and Sunday comic strip Garfield, which first went into syndication in 1978 and eventually became the world's most widely distributed comic feature. Mr. Davis established Paws in 1981 to manage his Garfield property and the publishing and licensing that go with it. There probably isn't a living American who has not seen a Garfield comic strip, book collection, storybook, toy, puzzle, game, figurine, poster, stuffed animal, or other product during the last forty years. Garfield's creator has had a great run. Now that he is nearing the three-quarter century mark himself, I suspect that Mr. Davis is looking towards transition in his life. Beyond that, times, as they say, have changed, and a business model from thirty or forty years ago may not work very well this late into the twenty-first century.

Paws was located on Jim Davis' farm about halfway between Muncie and Albany, Indiana. Its current headquarters, built in 1989, once employed on site forty-five to fifty people. In January 2019, it was announced that Paws would transition to a work-from-home model. This came after the gift shop at Paws closed in late December 2018, and the property itself was acquired, also in December 2018, by Cardinal Properties, Inc., of Muncie, which "accepts and manages real estate, interests in real estate, & tangible & intangible personal property for the benefit of Ball State University Foundation." Jim Davis is an alumnus of that university. Incidentally, there has always seemed to be a secret as to the location of Paws, Incorporated. I'm sure that locals always knew about it. Now I can tell you that the property is located at 5440 East County Road 450 North, Albany, Indiana 47320, or, for surveyors, foresters, and other people engaged in arcane work, on County Road 450 North, just to the east of County Road 320 East, almost exactly in the center of Section 19, Township 21 North, Range 11 East, in Delaware Township, Delaware County. Not that knowing any of that will get you anywhere, for Paws has pretty well stopped being a place and is now mostly, simply, a concept. There must be some sadness in that for past and present employees.

So, the story thus far can be told in a series of articles:

  • "On the prowl: Behind the scenes at Garfield HQ" by Mickey Shuey, dated August 29, 2015, on the website of the Indianapolis Starhere.
  • "Garfield’s Moving; but Muncie Remains Home" by Mary Eber, dated January 29, 2019, at the website of the Ball State Daily News, here.
  • "Garfield Home Studio Paws, Inc. Moving Out Of Albany," dated January 31, 2019, on the website of WFYI, here.
  • "Paws Inc. Closing Indiana Headquarters," dated February 4, 2019, on the website of Licensing International, here.
  • "Viacom Acquires Comic-Strip Cat Garfield" by Brian Steinburg, dated August 6, 2019, on the website of Variety, here.
  • "New 'Garfield' Series Set at Nickelodeon" by Rick Porter, dated August 6, 2019, on the website of The Hollywood Reporter, here.
  • "Viacom Puts Its Paws On 'Garfield' For Nickelodeon Portfolio," dated August 7, 2019, on the website of Forbes, here. (I am not able to access this article, but I'll provide the link anyway.)
  • "Viacom, Hungry for Hits, Gobbles Up Garfield," dated August 12, 2019, at the website of the Wall Street Journal, here. (Again, I'm not able to access this article.)

According to Wikipedia, Jim Davis will continue to draw the Garfield comic strip. I hope that his gang of artists (which has included Scott Nickel, about whom I wrote the other day) are able to go on working for Paws, now that it's owned by Viacom. If not, I hope that they will have success in their next endeavors.

Original text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment