With the opening of the Gertrude show in Washington D.C. at the National Portrait Gallery, I thought it worth celebrating our relationship with Tom Hachtman, the cartoonist who has developed the strip Gertrude and Alice and who has some pieces in this D.C. exhibit. Hence, I’m re-posting the tale of our animated journey.
- Back in the late ’70s, there was a local newspaper that competed with the Village Voice for the alternative audience. The Soho News was smaller and thinner, but had its own treasures. Some good writing and listings, and many excellent alternative comic strips. (Bill Plympton had a weekly strip in this paper before he started animating.)
I fell in love with one comic strip called Gertrude’s Follies to the point where I waited each week for the new issue and the new strip to hit to market. It was about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and all the crazies that came into their lives – particularly Picasso, Hemingway and other iconic art types. It didn’t matter that Matisse and Capote didn’t meet; they were both available for the strip – as was everyone else.
Finally, after enjoying it for so long, I decided to locate the cartoonist behind it, and see whether he was interested in developing a storyboard and script for a feature. Maybe we could get some low-budget financing.
Tom Hachtman was the cartoonist, and he was a brilliant artist. His wife, Joey Epstein, was another fine artist. The two entered my life at this point, and some interesting things developed.
Gertrude’s Follies was an ongoing project. Tom worked with Maxine Fisher, who has been my writing partner through all the years of my studio. The two of them developed a couple of themes from the mass of strips that had been done and started to weave a storyboard. Tom left 4 or 5 panels of each 6 panel page empty, and I constructed and reconstructed story around them. Sometimes I would draw more material, sometimes I would take some away. It was real fun.
The Soho News folded, and no one really picked up the strip. It ran for a short time in The Advocate. Tom was able to publish a collected book (see the cover above.) You can still locate a rare copy on line.
The movie never went into production. I couldn’t raise the funds – my inexperience. We did make one short segment – a two minute piece that was the most hilarious strip. Sheldon Cohen, an animator I met at the Ottawa 76 festival, came to NY when I offered him a job on Raggedy Ann. Sheldon, ultimately, did a number of films for the National Film Board which you can watch on-line if you click on his name.
Sheldon animated this particularly funny strip. It took a while for him to animate it, and by the time he was finished, the feature had died and I had lost some interest. Years later I inked and painted it and had it shot. The short piece was never finished, though I still think about doing that.
Tom also recently gave me a funny strip about Pablo Picasso sculpture for which I’ve finished a storyboard and animatic. Hopefully, I’ll get the energy to animate it.
Aside from Gertrude, both Tom & Joey worked on a number of my films and still infrequently do. The two have painted many murals on the Jersey Coast, where they currently live. Tom has been a political cartoonist for the NY Daily News, has done lots of airbrush work for Bob Blechman when the Ink Tank was in operation. He also has done quite a few cartoons for The New Yorker magazine.
Here are a few of the strips to give you the flavor. Perhaps next week I’ll give a sample of our storyboard, comparing it with some of the actual strips. Enjoy.
We did ultimately complete the short film, called “Pabs’ First Burger.”
Tom Hachtman did the backgrounds and Matthew Clinton did the animation.
Here’s a small QT view of that short: