The following is a guest blog by Adam Koford, current curator (if you believe his tale) and/or creator (if you believe John Hodgman and everyone else) of the Laugh-Out-Loud Cat comic strip and the The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out book
Alex has graciously asked if I would write a post about the comic strip I help create and curate entitled the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats. You may have seen it featured here from time to time on Neatorama. If not, and you don't know what I'm talking about, feel free to visit the archive of the comic, which contains well over 1000 installments.
Here's a very short version of the history of the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats comic strip (which you may or may not believe): in 1912, my great-grandfather Aloysius Koford created a short-lived comic strip featuring two hobo cats, Kitteh (the big one) and Pip (the small one). In spite of it's quick disappearance from the few newspapers that ran it, the world and words of the two filthy felines he drew somehow made their way into the cultural subconscious of America, and ultimately the internet. Though long dormant, Aloysius' influence finally resurfaced sometime within the past few years, in a much-transmogrified form, as LOLCats. If you are unfamiliar with standard-issue internet LOLCats, I am both shocked and somehow very happy for you.
As I mentioned, some have chosen not to believe this origin of the webcomic I've been saddled with for the past 21 months. That is their right. John Hodgman, in his introduction to my new collection of comics (the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out, available now from Abrams ComicArts), makes a valiant attempt to disprove my tale. I leave it to you, the reader, to weigh the evidence and be the judge. But let's leave that debate for another time (I myself am not sure whom to believe anymore).
Several cultural touchstones show evidence of being influenced by my great-grandfather's handiwork. Or, if you don't believe my great-grandfather actually existed: I, Adam Koford (coincidentally also a cartoonist) have looked to several influences in the creation of the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats comics. I'll list a few of the less obvious examples, without mentioning the LOLspeak we've all learned to love and hate.
Peter Bogdonovich's wonderful road movie about a traveling con-man and the young girl who may or may not be his daughter was released on the day I was born. The two aren't technically hoboes, but they are petty thieves, and by the end of the film you'll love them both.
Preston Sturges' 1941 film starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake is a movie about hoboes. John L. Sullivan (McCrea) is a movie director tired of making popular comedies. To research his career-shifting epic of the common man, entitled O Brother Where Art Thou?, he decides to hit the road as a hobo to see how the down and out live. Hilarity ensues, plots are twisted, lessons are learned, and Veronica Lake makes the best looking tramp you ever saw.
Old Doc Yak
I first read the adventures of Sidney Smith's anthropomorphic talking yak on the Barnacle Press website, which has several months of the strip archived. It's not his most significant creation, and not particularly monumental in the history of comics, but it is fun to read.
I've since learned (with the help of the essential Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics and several wonderful blogs) that most early 20th Century comic strips still retain their charm if you're willing to invest some time to get to know the characters.
Dennis the Menace was never my favorite character growing up: in his 50 year history, you can count the number of times his parents smiled on one hand, and I he didn't use that slingshot nearly enough. But it was certainly fun to look at. Hank Ketcham and his ghost artist Al Wiseman crafted a charming world that any cartoonist would be wise to learn from.
You'll likely recognize his trademark cat, especially if you have any memories of the 1970s, but Bernard Kliban created many more strange and hilarious drawings. To me, he's the quintessential cartoonist: his work can be cryptic and impenetrable on one hand, and timelessly funny on the other.
My very own children
They say you should write what you know, and I don't think I could have created Pip before I had kids of my own. Pip's inexplicable fascination with leaves has it's genesis in my own son's early obsession with any and every tiny rock we'd come across in our meanderings. Kitteh's anger at the mere mention of ducks has it's roots in one of my kid's early perception that ducks only existed to be chased (he's since learned otherwise).
Finally, the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats wouldn't exist without people like you. That may sound trite, but it's true. I started the project as a way to make money, one drawing at a time. Nearly 1,100 drawings (only a few of which I still own), 600 or so fan club members, and a hardcover book later, you've helped me create a little world of hoboes and bindle sticks I've grown to love exploring. Thank you.
A. Koford is the cartoonist behind such web gems as the 700 Hoboes Project, Order-a-Monkey (the origins of our collaborative Caption Monkey series), Alphabet of Monsters, Onomatopedia, and oh yes, the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats as well as the Neatoramabot and Neatoramanaut.
Definitely check out Adam's new book The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out ( with introduction by John Hodgman.)
Are you an author and would like your book featured on Neatorama? Please email me about a possible guest blog post just like this one!