Business of Cartooning Ramblings & Reviews

Comic Strip Contemplation

Comic strips reigned supreme back in the 1930s. The Sunday sections were printed much larger than they are today and were a thing of beauty to behold.

Prince Valiant 1/29/1939 by Hal Foster

Adventure strips thrived during these years as there was room to tell a story. To see how much things have changed, just compare these two Sunday pages below from 1934 and 2002.

On the left – Flash Gordon 2/25/1934 by Alex Raymond.
On the right – Flash Gordon 9/1/2002 by Jim Keefe.

Jump ahead from 2002 to now and the comic strip Sunday pages have regrettably shrunken even smaller.

Here’s an example of my hometown paper the Star Tribune (my hand shown on the bottom left for scale). Unless you have a jewelers loupe you’re at a loss to see – much less read – what’s going on.

Here’s a comic page artist Terry Beatty (Ms. Tree, Rex Morgan M.D.) wrote and drew for Big Funny back in 2009 that really drives the point home.

Big Funny – Terry Beatty

Granted all is not doom and gloom – whereas comic strips in the newspaper may be on life support, we’re in a golden age as far as comic strip collections that are being published. Check out the Library of American Comics and Fantagraphics to name just a few.

I also feel like comic strips are being given a renewed life and readership online as fans of the medium now have the ability to binge weeks worth at a time. The big two comic strip sites being King Feature’s Comics Kingdom and AMU’s GoComics.

As times changes, so does the comics biz. Another example of this is that even though comic book sales have shrunk over the years, graphic novels have increased in popularity.

From an article in Publishers Weekly;
“Over the past five years, the North American graphic novel market has welcomed a wave of new readers and grown from about $805 million in sales in 2012 to more than $1 billion in 2017.”

From the Comics Beat;
“Overall, graphic novel sales in 2021 were up 65% from 2020…The growth was led by adult graphic novels, up 107%, but it’s important to note that this category includes manga which led the charge, up 17 million units.”

To sum up…

In the early 1900s onwards comic strips reigned supreme. By the 1940s comic books had taken off. In the 1960s indie comics/undergrounds entered the fray. In the 1980s self-published/alternative comics joined in at the same time graphic novels were just getting their sea legs. In the 1990s online content joined the mix. And now in the 21st century graphic novels and manga have taken flight.

And that’s not to say comic strips and comic books have been replaced and have gone away, it’s just that they aren’t the only game in town anymore.

Cartoons, comics, graphic novels – whatever you want to call it – the packaging keeps changing, but sequential art is just as popular now as it’s ever been. And as long as the stories are strong and the artwork delivers, the art form will continue to have an audience.

And that’s my two cents. See you in the funny papers…

-Jim Keefe

Ramblings & Reviews

Minneapolis Strong

Minneapolis is going through some crap right now (and what big city isn’t). People outside the city say they’re staying away – the same people who never had a desire to go into the city in the first place.

Just a heads up that there isn’t any place in Minnesota right now I’d rather be. There’s a ton of people here who are working hard to make things better in the face of adversity. And I like being a part of that.

Ramblings & Reviews

Comic Piracy

Pet peeve:
People substituting their own joke over someone else’s cartoon.

As a meme it’s lazy, and adds the insult of disregarding the original artist as they always crop out their signature.

-Jim Keefe

Ramblings & Reviews

Intro to Anime

When I was in my 20s the groundbreaking anime film buy neurontin 100mg Akira was released here in the States. It pretty much blew any American made animation that was being produced at the time out of the water.

That said – this got me to thinking about how woefully ignorant I am in regards to anime, so I put together the following as a tutorial…

For this first part I deferred to my daughter Tessa (who was thirteen at the time this post was originally written). She loves manga and took Japanese as a language in Middle School.


Note: Tessa wouldn’t let me include a photo, so I posted a manga style drawing instead. And yes, her volleyball team was district champions.

As far as a kid-friendly intro goes, Tessa gave Shawna Howson’s intro to anime videos a thumbs up, and ads that her explanation of Shōjo in the following installment is especially dead on.

And for those who slam Shōjo,
here’s Howson’s rebuttal…


An American animated series (with definite anime roots) that Tessa recommended highly is Avatar: The Last Airbender.


This is NOT to be confused with the movie by M. Night Shyamalan. The strengths of the animated series are actually best made in this episode where the Nostalgia Critic compares the animated series to the movie.

The following recommendations are from MCAD alum Allison O’Brien. In addition to being a fantastic artist she was also President of the MCAD Anime Club back in the day.


From here on in, all comments in italics are from Allison.

These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but it seems about right.

Princess Mononoke

Ghost in the Shell

Spirited Away

Grave of the Fireflies

Perfect Blue – Personal preference.

Tokyo Godfathers


Redline – For sheer style ALONE.

Kid-friendly picks. Spirited Away (listed above) was one.
Here’s more…

Castle in the Sky

The Cat Returns

My Neighbor Totoro

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Really just anything Ghibli are quite good.

Maybe add Summer Wars, though it might be pushing it.

The ones listed in my previous list are pretty violent/psychological in nature (ESPECIALLY avoid Perfect Blue and Grave of the Fireflies).
Princess Mononoke may also cut it, but it does have some decapitations/similar violent imagery.

Manga Recommendations:
Note: Among Westerners, “manga” refers to Japanese comics.

Most of what I gave you previously were movies, so here’s a few series that are great to get into. I mean clearly I could give more, but I figured some series to balance out the movies would be good.

Monster – Psychological drama, very intense.


Mushi-shi – Cerebral/spiritual, emotional experience.


Hunter x Hunter – My preference is the 2011 version, but the ’99 one is still great, incredibly smart and influential.


Baccano – Colorful cast, unique storytelling.


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Known as one of the best shounen series, for good reasons.


Mononoke – Insanely gorgeous.


This is the default chart that tends to get sent around when people ask for recommendations.


-Allison O’Brien

So there you go. This at leasts gives you a starting point if you’re new to all this. And if you’re not new to it, titles you may be unfamiliar with to look out for.

Before signing off I’d like to thank Allison for her recommendations. To see more of her work, check out her portfolio at

Also check out her progress blog at
Fun stuff!

Ramblings & Reviews

COVID-109 Info at

For comprehensive info go to

Also the New York Times has free coverage at
The Coronavirus Outbreak.

Wishing you and yours all the best during these difficult times.

-Jim Keefe