Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Obscurity of the Day: Elwood
Rarely will you find a comic strip whose creation was quite as bloodless as Elwood. The strip about a high school kid who is also an aspiring rock star was created by the prolific team of Tom Forman (writer) and Ben Templeton (art).
In Cartoonist Profiles #63, Forman explained:
Elwood was not conceived from a creative whimsy or from a sudden inspiration -- Elwood was objectively created to fill a marketing hole which we believe needed to be filled to attract new readers to newspapers when the industry is getting stiff competition from television.
Forman then reels off a laundry list of statistics that prove, with geometric logic, that Elwood is the strip that will bring teenagers back to the newspapers. That didn't happen, of course, but he certainly managed to convince the editors at Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, where the Forman-Templeton team had already placed three other features.
The strip debuted on July 11 1983. Forman says the strip got "a big initial buy" and that the client list, as of the 1984 interview, was still growing. I don't know just how much truth there is to that statement, but he claimed that the strip had created enough buzz that Hollywood had come calling and the team were in the process of adapting the strip into a new Saturday morning cartoon show.
I find the strip about as colorless and too obviously 'targeted' as Forman's explanation of its genesis would indicate. Despite bouncing ideas off of focus groups, and watching their own teenage kids for ideas, the gags seem about as hip as the Lawrence Welk Show. The art is up to Ben Templeton's usual high standard, but the style seems too conventional to strike teens as cool. Teenagers can smell this sort of sham from a mile off. Although the strip lasted until sometime in 1990, it failed to make any real impression on most newspaper readers, teenage or otherwise.
UPDATE 3/31/2018: Ben Ferron found the final dailies of Elwood in the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph; the end date is 9/29/1990. Thanks Ben!