Sunday, 4 November 2012


Just back from a family trip to Italy, and here's a watercolour sketch taken from a hotel room balcony in Venice.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A new Fisher strip today...

...appears where it belongs, and where future strips will appear, on the "Fisher latest" page of my website.

1812 documentary on CBC

This is a still from the Laura Secord sequence of the new CBC documentary, The War of 1812: Been There, Won That. For the past few months I've been creating some animations for this doc, in a Monty-Pythonish mode (if Terry Gilliam had been able to use AfterEffects). The show airs this Thursday, October 4, at 8 p.m. on CBC, and repeats Saturday, October 13 at 10 p.m. on CBC News Network. (Please verify local times if you plan to watch.)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Daily doodle

Sometimes I work out character poses on scrap paper, and sometimes I even use a purple pencil crayon to do it. Here's a sketch from a couple of years back of Paul enjoying a rainy day.

I expect to post more Fisher strips next week. I've been busy working on animated segments of a CBC documentary about the War of 1812 (I'll post more about that next week too) that airs on Thursday, October 4th.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Fisher: September 19

I'll have to come up with a snappier title for these postings. Anyway, this strip is one that I prepared when it wasn't clear whether Fisher would make the cut on the new Globe comics page... that decision was made just before I had to submit my last batch.

Friday, 14 September 2012

A new Fisher strip

This is, I hope, the first of many Fisher strips created after the strip's departure from The Globe and Mail. If I can I'll post 2 or 3 times a week at regular times. We'll see. Thanks again to all who wrote expressing the wish that Fisher could continue in some way. These new strips will also find their way into the Fisher archive at

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Fisher farewell

Today's strip (above) marks the last appearance of "Fisher" in The Globe and Mail. I heard from the paper on August 10 that, due to a reshuffling of the arts and life sections, the comics page would be dropped. Ultimately the paper (I am told) decided to keep a smaller comics section... but not "Fisher" (or Graham Harrop's "Back Bench", the other comic that was exclusive to the Globe). Normally I wait a week to post strips after they appear in the paper; today I'm making an exception.

These are not good times for newspapers; how could they be good times for newspaper comic strips? Whatever struggles The Globe and Mail (along with all other mass media) are going through, I do thank them for their support of "Fisher" these twenty years — and, in particular, Warren Clements, the former Globe editor who brought "Fisher" on board and was my "editor" for most of its run. (I put "editor" in quotes because he let me get away with almost anything, except for the odd spelling mistake. For more about the early days of the strip, see the second post on this blog.)

Warren is also the publisher of a projected Fisher book to be published, we hope, this fall. Please keep eyes peeled for that, and check this site for developments.

There are no plans at this time to continue Fisher elsewhere, but if that changes you can read about it here. In the meantime I hope to extend the web archive of the strips back to the beginning of the run in 1992.

I want thank family and friends for their support, especially my wife, Vanessa Grant, who has been a supporter and collaborator since the beginning. Above all I want to thank the readers of the strip. I have heard, in person or by email, enough to know that the strip has resonated with many. This has been the most satisfying part of having Tom Fisher lead a public life. Thank you.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

On the Radio

This morning I was on CBC Radio One, interviewed by Mary Ito of Fresh Air. It was a chance to talk — in public, yet — about Fisher. I'm not used to the publicity business, as you can tell from this posting (and from the interview, which you can listen to here, at least for the time being).

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

TAAFI pull

Another weekend, another gathering of cartoon aficionados: this time at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, where the Toronto Animated Arts Festival International was launched from July 6-8. There were good shorts programmes and workshops, and a couple of very special events. One was the screening of Nelvana's ill-fated "Rock and Rule" from 1984, attended by many alumni of the production; another was a Kaj Pindal retrospective, followed by the closing ceremony at which Kaj received a lifetime-achievement award. The whole thing was well done, and the venue is fabulous. Don't miss it next year.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

ACEC gathering in Montreal

This past weekend I was in Montreal for the annual convention of the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists. Fisher is seldom political and I'm not much of a joiner, but I couldn't resist the invitation to join this year and I'm glad I didn't... resist. (Fisher has been keeping company with political cartoons in several editions of Portfoolio, the annual anthology of, naturally, political cartoons. Here's an example of about how political my strip gets:)

Anyhow I had a blast in Montreal and must credit the organizers (primarily Terry Mosher — pen name "Aislin"— and his wife, Mary) for doing a great job. Terry is pictured below at right, holding the bust of himself created by Christian Daigle — pen name "Fleg", who is standing beside him. There is an exhibition of cartoons (Fisher included) at the McCord Museum in Montreal, and that will be up all summer.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Vaudeville, only not as dead

A few things I’ve learned from 20 years of Fisher

The first published Fisher strip, which appeared June 26, 1992

(This post was intended by me to appear in The Globe and Mail today, but it did not get picked up, so I'm putting it here instead.)

The comic strip is like vaudeville, I often say, only not as dead. That’s like a punch line, only not as funny. Still, a comic strip doesn’t always have to be funny; it just needs to have a point. A grain of truth trumps mere cleverness every time.
   That’s one of the things I’ve learned in the course of writing and drawing Fisher for The Globe and Mail for 20 years, as of today. Another is that the deadline is my friend. In fact, you could say that the deadline made Fisher possible. Without that weekly target, it’s unlikely that I would have produced more than 6,000 strips by now. I’ve learned to trust that, since I’ve met that deadline several hundred times in a row, I can probably do it again this week.
   But in the beginning I wasn’t thinking about that. I just wanted to write and draw a daily strip, having grown up reading Peanuts and admiring Charles Schulz’s ability to invest his simple drawings with real feeling. So, in 1989, I drew up a sample of strips about an underemployed English major — write what you know, they say — and sent copies to all the major newspaper syndicates and to The Globe and Mail. (The Globe was already publishing Graham Harrop’s Back Bench as an exclusive, so I knew the paper was a supporter of Canadian cartooning.)
   That sample, and the next, were universally rejected, but Warren Clements at The Globe ultimately reconsidered. We met in the spring of 1992, he offered me a spot on the comics page, and that hapless underemployed young man debuted on June 26, 1992. At first Fisher ran four days a week, alternating with Warren’s strip, Nestlings. A year and a half later it began running six days a week, and hasn’t missed an edition of The Globe since.
   At that first meeting Warren talked me out of my working title, Idiot Mittens. (I still like that title. Funeral Sandwiches is another you should feel free to use.) It didn’t take long to settle on Fisher instead. I didn’t mind. I had a comic strip, exclusive to The Globe and Mail! Published coast to coast! Fortune, or at least fame, was mine!
   Actually, what I gained instead was that deadline, and the opportunity to hone my craft in public. Learning what works and doesn’t usually involves making mistakes, but making mistakes in public wasn’t frightening to me. I had already made plenty drawing caricatures at Ontario Place over several summers.
   And the mistakes in Fisher weren’t fatal. They were just gags that in retrospect could have been funnier or better drawn, or dead-end situations or characters that never panned out. Writing straight ahead for a comic strip means that going back and rewriting it later is impossible. So if the whole run of the strip has any coherence at all, it must be an organic one, a consistency of outlook and character.
   Some strips, like Peanuts, are set in an endless Now, in which characters may change and evolve but without growing older. (Some strips have no discernible evolution at all.) After the first 200 strips or so, I had used up all of my initial ideas and had to discover what Fisher would be about.
   When the strip started, I was already married and in my thirties, but Tom Fisher was single, in his mid-twenties, and trying to get his life moving again. (In today’s parlance, he was having a quarter-life crisis.) He moved into a shared household in Toronto (like one of several I had lived in) and eventually got a job, fell in love with Alison, got married, bought a house, and had a child. His life began to catch up with mine.
   Naturally, some people think the strip is a window into my life. (Others have told me I must have a window into theirs.) Tom is certainly my alter ego, but everything that happens to him has been filtered through my imagination. I’ve never worked in advertising, nor do I have a Bixby 800 robot. So the strip is not exactly a diary but rather a portrait of the inside of my head, with most of the nasty and boring bits left out.
   People usually want to know where my ideas come from. I have thought a lot about it, since I’m at least as curious to know as they are. The best answer I have is this: They come out of the dark. More specifically, they wander out of the woods, passing mere feet away from where my picnic table sits under a lamp. Then I watch them waddle back into the dark, and if I don’t write them down they’re gone.
   Some ideas show themselves in conversation. Often my wife will pause at a point in our dialogue and say, “That’s a Fisher strip. Write it down.” As a fine collaborator and critic, Vanessa has contributed more to the strip than I can readily admit — as she well knows.
   Although repetition (with variation) is a time-honoured and even necessary dodge for a comic strip — think of Charlie Brown and the football  — every once in a while I find myself entering new territory. Earlier this month I invited a write-in campaign for the first time, asking readers to suggest names for Ruth and Eugene’s puppy. I was thrilled to get dozens of replies. The winner is revealed in today’s anniversary strip.
   So to those who wrote in, and to all those who have read Fisher over the years, I thank you. You — and the deadline — have given me the chance to practise this oddball art.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A word about the title of this blog

As you will read in a later post, this was the original title of the comic strip that became "Fisher". Although I was easily talked out of it I have remained fond of this expression and I think I've found a fitting place for it. This blog is intended to be eclectic, as a reflection of my interests. In short, the string holding the various mittens together is me. Thanks for reading.