Saturday, August 14, 2010

‘Cathy’ to Cease

I once saw Cathy Guisewite on a panel in Columbus at one of Ohio State University’s early Festivals of Cartoon Art, oh, back in the 1980s. She was on stage with Tom Batiuk, creator of Funky Winkerbean; Irwin Hasen, whose name topped the Dondi newspaper strip; and Fred Lasswell, whose name ran with the Snuffy Smith strip.

One highlight of the discussion came after an audience member asked how much time was required to produce a daily and Sunday strip. Hasen and Lasswell, who confessed to using an unspecified number of assistants, claimed they only spent a couple hours a day, at most.

Guisewite, pop-eyed and open-mouthed, looked at the audience in comic disbelief. She then banged her forehead repeatedly on the table, much to the amusement of all in attendance … except maybe for Hasen and Lasswell.

She and Batiuk, who each produced their strips solo in those days (and maybe still do), both said their work consumed every waking moment.

The distinction between the old and new guard couldn’t have been clearer.

Guisewite, now 60, has announced she’ll stop her strip, Cathy, Oct. 3 — she wants to spend more time with her family, she said. While over time Cathy has become formulaic — panel 1: statement; panel 2: build on statement; panel 3: increase absurdity of statement; panel 4: Cathy makes a wry observation … or “Aack!” — in its late-1970s heyday it broke ground. The strip addressed everyday silliness of office work and the single life for women. Greeting cards followed.

And Cathy — the cartoon character and the cartoonist — could be very funny.

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