Starting today, the "Far Side"-style comic strip "Close to Home" by John McPherson will hit a little farther from Daily Herald readers — the comics page veteran is being replaced. On the other hand, our funnies newcomer, rookie strip "Oh, Brother!" will be keeping its humor, well, close to home.
"Oh, Brother!" takes an all-in-the-family approach to making readers laugh, focusing on mischievous Bud, who's probably 6 or 7 years old, and his long-suffering big sister, Lily. There's affection between Bud and Lily, but, as with all sibling relationships, getting along is a continually evolving process.
The cartoonists who created "Oh, Brother!" Bob Weber Jr. and Jay Stephens, are both known for doing work aimed at kids. Weber is the creator of the daily newspaper strip "Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids," while Stephens is probably best known for the TV cartoons "Tutenstein" (on NBC) and "The Secret Saturdays" (on Cartoon Network).
That doesn't mean, however, that "Oh, Brother!" is strictly for younger Herald readers. "We believe 'Oh, Brother!' is for everyone," said Brendan Burford, comics editor at King Features, which is syndicating the new strip. Burford said that many successful comics appeal to readers of all ages, and he thinks that parents, as well as anyone who's at least occasionally nostalgic about their childhood, will also enjoy following Bud and Lily's everyday adventures.
Stephens said that Weber created the big sister/little brother formula, but that both men are fathers and both have parented a responsible big sister forced to put up with a rowdy little brother. Both of them, Stephens said, are "most definitely inspired by that experience."
"Oh, Brother!" won't focus on Bud and Lily exclusively. Weber said that the strip will have other semi-regular characters, including a best friend for each sibling. "Bradford is Bud's best friend and Lily has a best friend called Becky," Weber said.
Weber is the writer for "Oh, Brother!" and Stephens handles its illustrations, but the partnership is versatile. "Both of us can write and draw," Stephens said, "which helps us fine-tune the strips together."
Stephens's illustrations have a decidedly "classic" look, which is partly a reflection of his influences. A self-described "comic nerd," Stephens said he thinks "Oh, Brother!" owes a specific visual debt to John Stanley's "Little Lulu," Ernie Bushmiller's "Nancy," Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes," Cliff Sterrett's "Polly and Her Pals" and Charles Schulz's "Peanuts," as well as the work of MAD Magazine cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman.
"I like to think our comic isn't so much retro as it is 'old school' — a new strip done with the same heart and soul as those older classics," Stephens said.
Weber said that he thinks a good comic strip should have characters readers can relate to. Even more importantly, however, it should be funny. "I like comic strips that make me laugh, like 'Zits' or 'Pearls Before Swine,' " said Weber. "My goal is to write funny.
"If I bring a smile or a laugh to a reader, then I've done my job."