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Backstage At The Strip

It’s time for a little look behind the scenes at Zits. Comic strip characters tend to morph and change slowly over the years. Often it’s not a conscious effort, but something that just happens with time. The other day I was writing, just riffing on nothing in particular when I started thinking about Hector’s appearance. He’s arguably the least teenager-y character in the strip (no offense, Pierce), and possibly the strangest looking (sorry again, dude). He was originally conceived as the quiet, reasonable best friend that would contrast with Jeremy’s more exuberant personality, and that worked okay. But over the years, as Jeremy settled into his own skin – or ink – Hector became less and less visible. So the idea of a Hector makeover started to emerge.

An improvement, yeah, but still in need of some updating. So here’s a section of the page from my sketchbook as this idea was taking form (all that scribbly handwriting surrounding random drawings is how I write the strip).

It was interesting enough to me that I sent the sketch to Jim for his opinion, and it turns out that he’s never really been happy with Hector’s appearance and was 100% behind the idea of updating his wardrobe and overall look. The really cool thing about all this is that this change in Hector’s appearance is going to tweak his personality a bit, too, giving a fresh set of conflicts between he and Jeremy.

So keep your eye out for the new Hector in the January 13th strip (yes, we do these that far ahead of publication). Here’s a sneak peek.

Omaha

My buddy Jeff Koterba emailed me the minute this strip hit the comics page of the Omaha World Herald. Jeff's the estimable editorial cartoonist at the OWH and way more. If you haven't read his memoir Inklings, it's fascinating. And beyond that, Jeff heads up the swing band Prairie Cats which does all the music at the annual National Cartoonist Society's Reuben Awards festivities. He may well dance in the Nutcracker, too, for all I know — a true Renaissance Man.

I think this mini-series about Jeremy not being able to get through Wuthering Heights was initiated by me in my coffee shop sketchbook and passed along for Jerry's magic touch. It called for Jeremy to end up somewhere far from home, and since we intentionally never identify Jeremy's home, that place seemed to be Omaha, a place that seems far from almost everyone's home. I Google Image Searched "Omaha skyline", gathered several reference photos, spread them across my screen, and then totally fudged it. Koterba claims he could tell it was Omaha even before he read the punchline. "The building on the left is Woodmen Tower which I wrote about in Inklings." Gracious man.

Jerry Weighs In

I guess it’s my turn to make an appearance here on the new ZITS blog. I’m really loo — hello? Test… test… (tap! tap!) is this thing on? I’m Jerry Scott and the writing half of the ZITS team. We writers are the interior offensive linemen of the comic strip world.

Thick, lumpen brutes whose presence is necessary to the game, but whose efforts are hardly the stuff of highlight films. No, that spot is reserved for the dainty-footed and photogenic artists who bob and duck behind our hulking ideas and clever dialogue, eventually scampering untouched into the end zone. As our artist brothers dance and pirouette for the adoring crowds, we trudge back to the sidelines to re-tape our grainy joints and begin typing all over again.

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