The Woodrows Christmas Card
The Woodrow comic strip was a collection of 13 installments published in The Adirondack Monthly from October 1998 to November 1999. I wrote the comic under the nom de plume of K. J. Miller. The K and J were for my sisters Karen and Janet and Miller was a sort of common name that I liked the sound of. I probably never would have done the strip if Judi Latt hadn’t let me trade the strip for advertising in the magazine. Judi was/is a graphic designer who pretty much single handedly wrote, designed, edited and published this short lived but unique monthly magazine about the Adirondacks. The subtitle was “The North Country’s Official Arts and Entertainment Guide”. It had a calendar of monthly events that started as a center page pull out and became a 9 to 11 page section in the later issues. The calendar of events were listed by town which included AuSable Forks, Bloomingdale, Blue Mountain Lake, Elizabethtown, Essex, Indian Lake, Jay, Keene Valley, Keeseville, Lake Clear, Lake George, Lake Placid, Long Lake, Loon Lake, Newcomb, North Creek, North Elba, Peru, Plattsburgh, Saranac, Saranac Lake, Schroon Lake, Tupper Lake, Upper Jay, Upper Saranac Lake, Wadhams, Westport, Willsboro and Wilmington (were Judi lived).
The Adirondack Monthly had regular features which included directories of advertisers, churches, libraries and Visitors Bureau information. Other regular features were “On the Light Side” which was the place to submit jokes and funny stories and “Daves Pick” which was Adirondack Guide David L. Walkers monthly choice of pond to fish or hunt, complete with iso map and wild life info and often a recipe to cook game. Some of the recipes included Barbecued Bear Ribs, Venison Jerky and Sweet and Spicy Rabbit. Other regular features were Larry Ivy with Adirondack “Ghost Stories by the Campfire”, Hunting Update by Bob Collins and of course “ the Woodrow’s” by me. Story and article contributors of note were Marian DeSnyder, Jessica Maher, William Coolidge the 3rd, Fran Betters, Ann Ruzow Holland, Rich O’Neil and Sam Hendren. The publication often featured articles about town history and many articles about fishing, hunting, hiking, climbing, canoeing, rafting, biking, skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The magazines were 8 inch by 10 3/4 inch with an average of 38 pages not including the cover. It was printed on news print with the cover in a heavier paper and staple bound.
Judi Latt specialized in graphic design under the name Creative Grafx and did a very clever logo design for one of my mug clients. She really knew her craft and worked tirelessly to put this magazine together often writing and selling advertising as well as laying out the entire publication. The arts calendar alone would drive most people crazy and to put one together every month was impressive. The Adirondack Monthly was a free publication but if you sent in $10 you could get a years subscription mailed to you. The distribution was 15,000 issues throughout Essex, Franklin and Clinton Counties. Judi published from September 1998 (volume 1, number 1) to November 1999 (volume 2, number 3) at which time she got a job offer she couldn’t refuse as The Adirondack Monthly was not a money maker. A local paper (Adirondack Daily Enterprise?) was to reap the benefits of the talented Judi Latt.
I met Judi when she was selling advertising for the first issue of the magazine. In high school I had toyed with a cartoon character and ever since had thought it would be fun to do a comic strip. I asked Judi if we could trade the comic strip for advertising and she was game. I set out on developing characters using the adult version of the teenage cartoon I did in high school. What came about was Pete Woodrow, his wife Fran and 11 year old daughter Ashley.
The name Pete came from Don Peterson who was a dear family friend but with characteristics of my Dad, Terry, brother Dale and Dagwood. The name Fran came from a college roommate who was sweet and clueless but Frans personality was an amalgamation of the Burdick women; my mother, my sisters and sister-in-law and me. Ashley came from my niece Ashley with personality traits of the name sake and my daughters Corrine and Emily. Those three characters were all I felt I could deal with so set out doing lots of sketches to get the cartoon style down for each person.
The premise starts with the Woodrow’s visiting and then immediately moving to the Adirondacks. Many of the ideas came directly from my families daily life and stories. After the first few comic strips it became evident how challenging it was to come up with a good story line with some comical element in three or four frames. Terry was a good sounding board for ideas and his personality and looks probably show up most in Pete. My daughters definitely show up a lot in Ashley, esp where the mother Fran is left exasperated. In one of the later strips for the October issue it is an exact re-enactment of my brother Dale during our families annual pumpkin carving gathering. Many of the strips revolved around the seasons and upcoming events such as the Ironman.
What brought this story to light is that I was thinking about our annual Christmas card for 2018 and remembered the December 1998 issue had a Christmas theme so decided to use that as this years Christmas card. I just realized it was 20 years ago I drew that comic strip!
This visit to the past is encouraging me to get my face away from the iPad screen and pick up the comic strip again. Who knows?