Stripped — The Comic Strip Documentary

Stripped poster by Bill Watterson

A product of love, and a couple of Kickstarters, Stripped is required viewing for anyone interested in comic strips and/or webcomics, since the makers (Dave Kellett, author of the webcomic Sheldon, and Fred Schroeder) managed to get interviews with many big names. The $19.99 DVD contains an hour-and-a-half documentary.

On the traditional newspaper comic side, they talk to Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Jim Davis (Garfield), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Jeff Keane (The Family Circus), Bill Amend (Foxtrot), and even Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes)! (He’s audio only, although he also contributed the poster art.)

From webcomics, contributors include Mike & Jerry (Penny Arcade), Matt Inman (The Oatmeal), Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots), Scott Kurtz (PvP), Dylan Meconis (Family Man), and more. There are even a few people, such as Keith Knight, who’ve done both, navigating the transition from print syndication to handling his own business digitally. And that’s the meat of this movie: exploring, as the ad copy has it, “how [cartooning] survives the shift from print to pixels.”

I don’t know that you’re going to come away with any definitive answer, but clearly, most of these people are thinking about the change, with a whole section of the movie about the demise of newspapers. You’ll likely also come away with a distinct perception of different generations of creators, from those who’ve always had a syndicate handling business for them, to those who took advance of the early days of the web to establish themselves when there wasn’t much out there. One’s even a bit bitter about the changes he’s had to face, but many are reacting to the world the way it is now.

Stripped poster by Bill Watterson

Stripped is a very watchable overview of the field, with some comic strip history, neat glimpses into working habits, and much discussion of how great comics are and fond memories people have of reading them. My favorite part was when the problem of making money as a webcartoonist is illustrated as though it was an 8-bit video game.

You can also buy the movie digitally on iTunes (for $14.99), on DVD from Topatco ($19.99), or digitally worldwide from VHX (with tons of options depending on how much extra unedited interview footage you want to add).

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