Portrait of the Cartoonist as Philosopher – Grant Snider

Yes, it’s true, we have a little something extra today…an article about Grant Snider, as opposed to our most recent presentation of his brilliant work, just a little earlier this morning. So glad we found this one:

by Jeffrey Kindley

GRANT SNIDER’S first book, The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity, a compilation of cartoons from his website Incidental Comics, has just been published by Abrams ComicArts. “What do ideas look like? Where do they come from?” asks the jacket copy. Surprisingly, Snider’s beautifully composed cartoons have cogent answers to those questions — or if they don’t, he’s at least an urgent asker. He’s created something unique: a synthesis of comics, philosophy, and poetry: a thoughtful new way of packaging eternal ideas in cartoon boxes.

Snider grew up in Derby, Kansas, outside of Wichita, reading newspaper comics like Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side and drawing with his twin brother Gavin. “Our parents gave us an easel,” Gavin remembers. “Grant would have one side and I’d have the other. We’d tear a big roll of paper and stick it on there and get markers and create these imaginary worlds.” They drew pirates, asteroids, aliens, and Bigfoot, and used the drawings to tell stories to each other.

“I kept drawing past when most people stop,” Snider says, “but I didn’t start seriously cartooning until late in college at the University of Kansas.” Then, while he was in dental school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he won the Charles M. Schulz Award for college cartoonists, which came with a $10,000 prize and a trip to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. That caught the attention of the Kansas City Star, which started running his strip Delayed Karma.

In 2009, Snider launched Incidental Comics, which gave him the freedom to draw whatever he wanted. “When I first started putting it on the internet,” he says, “nobody was reading it, so it didn’t really matter.” Soon, however, thousands of people were reading it and finding new favorites every week. He began drawing smart, fanciful, hilarious literary cartoons forThe New York Times Book Review as well.

I spoke to Grant Snider a few days after the publication of The Shape of Ideas.

JEFFREY KINDLEY: You’ve described your work as “self-help for myself,” but another word for it might be “philosophical.” In creating “An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity,” you’re providing endless images for the mind’s activity — even one called “The Internal Decathlon.” I can’t think of anyone who’s done this before: ideational cartooning.

GRANT SNIDER: I love that term, “ideational cartooning.” It reflects the goal of much of my work: capturing my mental state in graphic form. I’m also trying (and sometimes failing) to find a closer connection between comics and poetry. Both contain condensed language, strong imagery, and ideally leave the reader with a new insight. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Billy Collins’s poems; I’ve tried to emulate his approach of following a line of thought wherever it takes him. He also has a lot of poetry about the writing process, which appeals to me as a writer, but also in the unusual connections he draws between writing and life.

That said, I try not to think of these things as I’m drawing each individual comic. I’ve found that having grand ambitions for my work (planning multiple comics on one theme or plotting the creative arc of my future projects) takes away from the discovery and exploration that should be present in each new piece. Maybe this is the reason I tend to work in small, short bursts of inspiration: I prefer to craft a single page that stands alone, rather than a comic essay or graphic novel. As a reader, I prefer the haiku to the long poem. My mind is impatient.

Many of the cartoonists you admire — Matt Groening, B. Kliban, Roz Chast, Tom Gauld, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes — have a somewhat jaundiced take on things, whereas your perspective is uniquely open and celebratory. Do you feel like an outsider in the world of cartooning?

No, I very much relate to the stereotypical cartoonist persona: grumbling, introverted, slightly misanthropic. It’s my default mode of seeing the world. Maybe it’s due to the lonely hours spent at the drawing table? The celebration that comes through in my drawings is me trying to transcend my normal way of looking at things.

And much of the celebration and joy in my comics follows panels of building frustration. Usually it’s frustration with the creative process. There’s one called “Hitting a Wall” where every introductory panel is some creative wall, and in the following panel I find a way over that wall, including charging at it on horseback and vaulting over it with a spear. In those moments of frustration, I’m always looking for the way out.

I want my comics to be motivational but honest. It’s a fine line; inspirational stuff can easily become sentimental. Sometimes I find the right balance, other times I don’t. Cynicism is easier than sincerity, but for me sincerity is more powerful.

It may come as a surprise to some that you’re an orthodontist in Wichita with a wife and three kids. People tend to imagine artists devoting themselves to their work 24/7. You have a brilliant cartoon, “Day Jobs of the Poets,” which features, among others, William Carlos Williams, pediatrician; Wallace Stevens, insurance executive; Robert Frost, failed agrarian; and T. S. Eliot, bank clerk. Why is it, do you think, that we expect artists to be above the workaday?

A lot of that stems from a misunderstanding about how art is made….

Read it all at L.A. Review of Books

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – September 18, 2017

Good morning! Time for TVWriter™’s  Monday look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

Indie Video: Who Says a Public Service Announcement Can’t Pull Your Heartstrings?

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Kelly Jo Brick: Mastering the TV Writing Meeting

Web Series: ‘SIBS’ Goes Hollywood

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Another Day, On The Pueblo’

And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages are, also in order:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Contest

The Outline/Story

The Logline


Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Words That Seem Related, But Aren’t

Yeppers, kids, this is just what you suspected, the second marvelous analysis of that wonderful language called, erm, “English” by Arika Okrent that we’re posting today. (The first was HERE.)

And why, you ask, are we doing this, when we usually only show one of Akira’s beauties each week? Well, it’s like this…we screwed up. Forgot to post for a few weeks. So it’s Make Amends Time, peeps!

And you thought we didn’t love you…ha!

(What’s that? You really always assumed we did? In that case, turn in your WGA card, you phony. Who ever heard of a real writer who wasn’t insecure?

More about Akira, YouTube’s Patron Saint of Writers

Why Does Q (Almost) Always Go With U?

And now, from the wonderful world of Arika Okrent to the equally wonderful world of TVWriter™’s key demo: Writers!

More about Akira, YouTube’s Patron Saint of Writers

Time to Enter the 2018 Writers Guild of America Awards

The good news: Winning one of these babies can make your career.

The not so good news: You have to be a member of the WGA West or WGA East, and your script has to have been written for – and used on – a show covered by the two sister Guilds.

Oh, and don’t forget the call for judges that’s included here.

In solidarity!

A clickable version is HERE

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – September 11, 2017

Good morning! Time for TVWriter™’s  Monday look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

Kelly Jo Brick: Mastering the TV Writing Meeting

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

John Ostrander: Should This Man Be Considered A Role Model?

David Perlis: COVER LETTER TIME – Yikes!!!

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Another Day, On The Pueblo’

And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages are, also in order:

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Contest

Writing the Dreaded Outline


The Logline

The Outline/Story

Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Herbie J Pilato Remembers Richard Anderson – The Bionic Boss

by Herbie J Pilato

It was all style and all substance for actor Richard Anderson, who passed away from natural causes at age 91 on August 31, 2017.

When Anderson delivered a line, you believed him; it was like you were in the room with him, and not watching from any distance one of his countless performances on television, the big screen, or the stage.

Best known to TV viewers as Oscar Goldman, the government supervising official for the O.S.I. (“Office of Strategic Intelligence” – a.k.a. “Information”) on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Anderson’s staple role on those two sci-fi superhero series of the ‘70s became signature for several reasons.

It is Anderson’s distinctive voice heard in the now-legendary narrative of the opening credit sequences for Man with the pulsating phrasing accented by the show’s heart-beat medical sound effects: “A man barely alive…we have the technology.  We can rebuild him…make it stronger…faster…better.”

Lee Majors played that man, Col. Steve Austin, an astronaut turned test-pilot whose body is shattered in a near-fatal accident, and then rebuilt into a secret service cyborg (the latter word of which was the title of Martin Caidin’s original sci-fi novel that spawned the series).

Lindsay Wagner portrayed former-tennis pro Jaime Sommers, a first love to Austin who is injured in a sky-diving accident.  She, too, like Austin, is rebuilt – under Goldman’s watchful eye and budget (her parts were smaller, clocking in at $5 million).

Both Man and Woman were born and originally aired on ABC, but when the latter switched to NBC in its third and final season, Anderson benchmarked his performance as one of the first actors to play the same character on two different shows on two opposing networks.

Although his performance as Goldman was consistent on both shows, Anderson delivered a twin but unique interpretation of the character opposite Austin and Sommers.

Goldman was the protective older brother-type boss in each case, but alongside Majors as Austin it was more business than casual as when appearing next to Wagner as Sommers.  Minus any sexist stigma, Oscar referred to Steve as his “Pal,” and Jaime as “Babe,” and all was well, and safe and good in the Bionic world.

Today, the “Babe” reference in some circles may be considered politically incorrect, but according to what Anderson relayed in The Bionic Book, during Woman’s initial reign, “Oscar was attaching it to a person for whom he cared a great deal.”

As Anderson further explained of the bionic dichotomy between Man and Woman, “When we did Six Mill, we concentrated on the Washington scene.  It was more of a straight adventure show.

The Bionic Woman did more emotional stories.  It was funnier, looser [than Six] because Lindsay has a relaxed, humorous quality. Jaime allowed me to add some colors.  Oscar was firm and brotherly with Steve, and had to constantly reestablish that he, not Steve, was the boss.  With Jaime, he was lenient and fatherly, almost overly protective, and only argued with her out of concern for her health and safety.”

Producer/director Kenneth Johnson, who guided both shows (and created Woman), remembered when he first saw Anderson playing Oscar on the Man set.  The actor was sunning himself with an aluminum reflector, off-stage, looking somewhat austere.

“I didn’t know really what he was going to be like,” Johnson admitted.  “Then I walked past him, and he said, ‘You’re Kenny, aren’t you.  I just want to tell you big guy, that you write really great love stories.  Why can’t you write one for me.  Why can’t I be in love with The Bionic Woman?'”

From that point on, Johnson was on to Anderson’s humor, and the two became “very good friends.”

But what about the assumption by some fans of both shows that Oscar was in love with Jaime?

“I won’t try to hide behind that,” Anderson mused.  “I think he was in love with her, and I tried to convey that in very subtle ways.  He couldn’t help himself.”  [As with the wedding scene in the 1994’s TV-reunion movie, Bionic Ever After, when a smile momentarily disappears from Oscar’s face as if ultimately realizes that Steve is the one who finally weds Jaime.]

As to Anderson’s twin-performance as Goldman, he says, ABC was initially apprehensive about having him appear on Woman when the show switched to NBC in the fall of 1978.  ABC didn’t want their advertisers to move any of their accounts over to the newly-ordained NBC edition of Woman on a rival network.

“They didn’t like that idea at all,” Anderson said.  “In fact, they tried kill it.  They were quite adamant about it, and made a big deal.  They didn’t want me appearing on the competition in any manner, much less one of their own born and bred characters.”

Frank Price, the executive for Universal Studio, proprietor of both series, then stepped up to the plate for Anderson, believing that the role of Oscar was intrinsically pertinent to both shows.

In the end, Anderson stayed put on both networks and both shows, an experience he described in total as “enjoyable.”

“It was a very happy time, and a unique experience,” he explained.  “I had the chance to play a very respectable character, who was involved privately and on a business level with two very special people.  As Steve and Jaime grew and developed, Oscar did as well.”

Bionic writer/producer Arthur Rowe (father to actress Misty Rowe) praised Anderson’s performance as “Oscar-winning.” He liked working with the actor and later employed him on Fantasy Island, on which Rowe served as supervising producer.

“Richard is an extremely decent individual,” Rowe intoned.  “He played Oscar about as perfect as the character could be played.  You had the ultimate head of this secret government organization who, despite his heady position, expressed sympathy in his dealings with Steve and Jaime.”

Anderson’s performance legacy, however, extends beyond his Bionic brood.

Born Richard Norman Anderson on August 8, 1926 in New Jersey, Anderson began his career in the mailroom at MGM, where he soon transitioned into a contract player on-screen with feature films The Magnificent Yankee (1950), Scaramouche (1952), Escape From Fort Bravo (1953; opposite William Holden) and Forbidden Planet (1956), and in Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war classic Paths of Glory (1957).

In 1958, he moved to Fox and portrayed Allan Stuart, the subservient boyfriend to Joanne Woodward in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), juxtaposed to his usual commanding presence, which was later re-ignited in more military movies, including the Rod Serling-penned screenplay for John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (1964), and with a second Frankenheimer film, a science-fiction movie called Seconds (1966), playing opposite Rock Hudson.

On television, he guest-starred on shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Daniel Boone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Hawaii Five-O, Ironside, Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty, The A-Team, and Murder, She Wrote, as well as in the highly-rated, final two-part segment of ABC’s 1960s series, The Fugitive, a development that ultimately went on to set the precedent for series finale scenario utilized by various shows ever since.

Additionally, Anderson, who authored Richard Anderson: At Last…A Memoir, had played police Lt. Steve Drumm on the final season of CBS’ Perry Mason and Santa Luisa Police Chief George Untermeyer on ABC’s Dan August, starring Burt Reynolds, and in TV-movies like The Night Strangler, a sequel to The Night Stalker movie that lead to the pre-X-Files weekly supernatural series starring Darren McGavin.

As fate would have it, McGavin had appeared in a similarly-supervisory role to Oscar Goldman in the 1973 90-minute pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man.

But as Lee Majors recently assessed to Deadline.com, once Anderson was cast as Goldman, he became irreplaceable.

“I met Richard in 1967 when he first guest starred on The Big Valley – we worked together on five episodes,” Majors said. “In 1974, he joined me as my boss, Oscar Goldman, in The Six Million Dollar Man. Richard became a dear and loyal friend, and I have never met a man like him.

“I called him ‘Old Money.’ His always stylish attire, his class, calmness and knowledge never faltered in his 91 years. He loved his daughters, tennis and his work as an actor. He was still the sweet, charming man when I spoke to him a few weeks ago. I will miss you, my friend.”

Lindsay Wagner joined in Major’s sentiment, defining Anderson’s legacy and, in the process, subtly expressing the measure of loss that will resonate with his fans for years to come:

“I can’t begin to say how much I have always admired and have been grateful for the elegance and loving friendship I was blessed to have with Richard Anderson. He will be greatly missed.”

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. This article first appeared at Emmys.Com. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.