'Stripped': A documentary examines the American comic strip

In addition to interviews with other artists, 'Stripped' directors Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder managed to track down elusive 'Calvin and Hobbes' creator Bill Watterson for their new film. Here's a review.

Small Fish Studios
'Stripped' is directed by Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder.

"Stripped," the new documentary by cartoonist Dave Kellett and filmmaker Frederick Schroeder, delves into the past, present and future of the art form of the comic strip.

The movie follows the growth of the comic strip as a cornerstone of newspapers and how, in its heyday, some cartoonists were as popular as their creations. But in recent years, the comic strip business has been hit hard as newspapers began to fold across the country, leaving new cartoonists to seek a new place for their strips – the Internet.

The filmmakers use the cartoonists themselves to discuss the history of their strips along with their own personal journeys, including successes, failures, and their lifelong love of the medium – a wise decision. Participants include Mort Walker of "Beetle Bailey," Jim Davis of "Garfield," Lynn Johnston of "For Better or For Worse," Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of "Penny Arcade," Kate Beaton of "Hark! A Vagrant," and the elusive Bill Watterson of "Calvin and Hobbes." This film is the first time Watterson has ever allowed his voice to recorded.  

Although the film relies primarily on interviews, the visuals are not just talking heads. There's a constant stream of comic strips on screen and often, in a clever move, an artist appears inside a panel of a comic strip.

In addition to the history, the film explores the business side of comic strips, from how comic syndicates work to how online cartoonists earn a living.

The film is so absorbing that its run time of an hour and twenty-five minutes flies by.

While there have been several documentaries on comic books, "Stripped" is an overdue peek into this medium. The movie is a celebration of the joy and fun that comic strips bring to not only readers but to the artists that create them. 

The film is now available on iTunes.

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