Running Time: 1:25
Review by JG Robertson
Stripped, a documentary released in 2014, features interviews with over 70 comic creators. The goal of filmmakers Dave Kellet and Fred Schroeder was to show the transition of comics from the endangered world of newspapers to the growing, wild frontier of the online world.
According to their Kickstarter campaign page, “Even more than comics, this movie’s about pursuing art in an age when the business of art is changing constantly.” And to that end, the filmmakers succeeded. However, the film lacks the depth of a more focused documentary. We never get a chance to delve too deeply into the works or lives of the many cartoonists featured throughout the short running time. The film is a scant 85 minutes with over 10 of those minutes dedicated to the end credits.
However, there is one major reason to watch Stripped, especially if you’re a fan of the beloved strip Calvin and Hobbes: Bill Watterson.
Unlike the recent film Dear. Mr. Watterson (2013), which focused on one fan’s unsuccessful quest to meet and interview the notoriously reclusive artist, the makers of Stripped managed to actually get an interview with him. Watterson shares his views on cartooning during the audioonly interview, giving insight as to why he may have left the profession. And not only does the film contains the only known spoken-word interview with Watterson, but he also created the film’s poster art, making it his first publicly shared artwork since retiring Calvin and Hobbes in 1995.
Crowdfunded through Kickstarter, Stripped is a quality production. It plays out with the fanbased enthusiasm one might expect from such a grass roots effort. With polished camera and sound work, the filmmakers make the most out of their modest budget.
Even though this is a talking head-style film, it’s never boring. There are several funny moments where the narrative breaks away from the traditional, real world interview format, transforming into animated sequences. These visual asides demonstrate how certain aspects of comic strip history happened or how the industry operates, like the relationship between artists and syndicates.
Throughout Stripped we are given the viewpoints of a wide-range of comic strip creators. They include many luminaries from the “funny papers,” like Jim Davis (Garfield), Cathy Guisewhite (Cathy), Greg Evans (Luann), Patrick McDonnell (Mutts), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), and others. From the webcomic world, we get to hear from artists as varied as Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Penny Arcade), Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary), and Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics).
The core of this documentary resides in the question, “What is the future of the comic strip?” This applies to both the business and the art. While many from the old print world seem unwilling to acknowledge the impact digital technologies have had on the market, other cartoonists realize that depending on the old guard (i.e. the syndicates) may prove more of a hindrance than a help as their readerships’ gaze shifts from newspapers to glowing screens.
Despite its short running time and thus its inability to go in depth with any one cartoonist, Stripped is well-worth your time if you grew up reading the “funny pages”. It will also appeal to you if you care about the future of cartooning, or you simply appreciate watching passionate artists talk about their passion and craft.
Author Bio: A father of three boys and married to his high school sweetheart, Joel works as a full-time podcaster, writer, and stay-at-home dad. He’s loved movies since forever and still thinks Night of the Comet is cinematic genius. You can find more from Joel at ForgottenFlix.com