Originally created 04/01/97

The Great Comics Switcheroonie

Sure, it's a massive conspiracy to dupe the American public. But, it's all in good fun.

It's the Great Comics Switcheroonie.

Today, millions of faithful readers are waking up to find a surprise in the morning paper. Many of their favorite comics are drawn by someone other than the usual artist - part of an elaborate April Fools' Day joke that took seed about six years ago in the mind of Jerry Scott.

Mr. Scott and partner Rick Kirkman produce the daily comic strip Baby Blues, which draws its wry humor from their experiences with their young children.

Mr. Scott's idea to trade comic strips with other artists sat on the back burner for years before Mr. Kirkman heard an interview with now-retired Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson.

When asked which other comic strip he would like to draw, his reply was The Family Circus by Bil Keane. That reply inspired their imaginations.

"We thought, `Hey, this might work for an April Fools' joke,' and then we called Bil," said Mr. Scott. Mr. Keane, whose strip is one of the most widely syndicated in the world, lives in Arizona, not far from Mr. Scott, whose home is in Phoenix.

Mr. Keane was happy to aid the two junior cartoonists in their nefarious plans, and from there the Switcheroonie began to take shape.

After months of logistical and legal wrangling, they had 45 other comic strips involved in their conspiracy. All the artists made a list of 10 strips they would most like to have a shot at, and Mr. Scott and Mr. Kirkman worked to make them as happy as possible.

The Baby Blues artists are standing in for Jim Toomey, doing his strip Sherman's Lagoon - a comic not currently carried by The Augusta Chronicle.

"It's your basic fish comic strip," Mr. Scott said.

Still, they managed to cut a wide swath through the comics pantheon with everything from old time favorites such as Beetle Bailey and Snuffy Smith to the newer offbeat strips, including Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead.

Not only that, the current comics rage, Dilbert by Scott Adams, is along for the ride as well. Mr. Adams swapped places with Mr. Keane and imposed his special brand of cynical anti-corporate humor on the terminally cute Family Circus..

While the humor of the two strips may seem to be from different planets,apart,} Mr. Adams said that was the very thing that interested him in the project. In fact, Family Circus was his first choice. Naturally, his motives were a bit subversive.

"You don't get that many chances to tunnel under the fence," Mr. Adams said.

Mr. Scott said that was the reason behind the Switcheroonie, to allow something strange and fun to happen in people's lives on April 1. He just wants to give everyone a nice little surprise with their morning coffee.

"The worst that could happen would be if no one noticed," Mr. Scott said.

Here's a guide to the Great Comics Switcheroonie in today's Augusta Chronicle:

Baby Blues, normally drawn by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. Today's artist: Stephen Bentley, (Herb and Jamaal cartoonist)

Beetle Bailey, normally drawn by Mort Walke. Today's artist: Jeff MacNelly (Shoe cartoonist)

Blondie, normally drawn by Dean Young. Today's artist: Jim Davis (Garfield cartoonist)

Dilbert, normally drawn by Scott Adams. Today's artist: Bil Keane (The Family Circus cartoonist).

The Family Circus, normally drawn by Bil Keane. Today's artist: Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist)

For Better or For Worse, normally drawn by Lynn Johnston. Today's artist: Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm cartoonist)

Fox Trot, normally drawn by Bill Amend. Today's artist: Guy Gilchrist (Nancy cartoonist)

Garfield, normally drawn by Jim Davis. Today's artist: Dean Young (Blondie cartoonist)

Hagar the Horrible, normally drawn by Chris Browne: Today's artist: Wiley (Non Sequitur cartoonist)

Hi and Lois, normally drawn by Brian & Greg Walker and Chance Browne. Today's artist: Greg Evans (Luann cartoonist)

Shoe, normally drawn by Jeff MacNelly. Today's artist: Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey cartoonist)

Snuffy Smith, normally drawn by Fred Lasswell. Today's artist: Hank Ketcham and Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace cartoonists)


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