Sunday, April 30, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 15: Brian Fies.



The Cartoon Fiend is breaking with tradition, again, to say a quick word about Einsner Award winning cartoonist Brian Fies book, Mom's Cancer. Mom's Cancer is, in my opinion, one of the most important comic books, or graphic novels, to be published, ever. It ranks along with the work of Speigleman, Sacco, Burns, Ware, and Pekar, et al, in bringing about a new credibilty to cartoon art, as we enter a period where the 'graphic novel' is being firmly established as a leading form of artistic expression.
If you don't have this book, get it now.



CF. Hello, Brian.

BF: Howdy.

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

BF: Tough question. I'm going to Hawaii in a couple of weeks to research a paper I'm co-authoring on solar photovoltaic R&D breakthroughs for the U.S. Department of Defense, but as excited as I am about that I don't think that's what you meant.

Seriously, what makes the question tough is that I still have a demanding day job and don't know where my cartooning ambitions fit right now. Mom's Cancer is out and I hear doing well, but it'd be irresponsibly reckless to turn aside paying work in anticipation of speculative cartooning income. It's still a spare-time avocation for me. Getting a book published is wonderful but it's not a career.



Despite such unseemly whining, I am pursuing a graphic novel idea I'm very excited about. I have to do some research and will know within a couple of months whether that idea will fly. If not, I have others. I've said before that Mom's Cancer and the Eisner Award have opened doors I've been knocking on my whole life. I don't intend to waste the opportunity.

CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

BF. Always always always. Drawing brought me great hypnotic transcendent joy as far back as I can remember. I clearly recall being a child, maybe age 5 or so, drawing and redrawing the abstract shape of the Superman symbol trying to get it right when it suddenly clicked in my mind that it was a stylized letter "S." The light bulb over my head blazed at 300 watts that day, I assure you! I think I submitted my first comic strip to a syndicate at age 14. One rejection slip came back with an editor's handwritten note that read, "Pogo-like strip," which I never knew to take as a rebuke or a compliment.

Unfortunately, I also wanted to be a lot of other things and I spent about the first 25 years of my life trying to realize them all simultaneously and none very well. I must confess I grew up loving writing and science (particularly astronomy) as much as I loved cartooning. My career and life since have been about balancing left-brain/right-brain interests that are about equally important to me. Cartooning exercises both sides pretty well.

CF.
The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

BF: Mom's Cancer was based on copious notes I took as my family went through the experience of my mother's diagnosis and treatment. Anything that struck me as interesting, surprising, or meaningful I tried to capture in a note or sketch. Weeks later I sorted through them to figure out what contributed to the story and what didn't.



This was the sculpting and shaping part, finding threads that ran through a hundred unrelated incidents and weaving them into a story. I was a brutal editor: if it didn't advance the story, it was out. You have to remember that when I began working on Mom's Cancer I had no idea how it was going to end, so there was also some improvisation involved. It was tough.

The notes became a script with thumbnails that I then sat down and drew with the tools I use in the format I work to.

CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, butwhat tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

BF: Glad you asked! I'm very traditional. Based on rough thumbnails, I pencil on two-ply Bristol board, letter with Speedball nibs B5 and B6, then apply Higgins ink with a small assortment of brushes and crow-quills. I have a fountain pen I like to use for borders and some linework, but I try to minimize my use of technical pens, felt-tips, or anything that lays down a line of unvarying weight. I find them lifeless. I gently erase the pencil and scan the pages into Photoshop, where I do whatever clean-up, editing, shading and coloring are needed. Anything I once would have done with white paint or razor blades I am very happy to handle in the computer.



When I started Mom's Cancer I knew I wanted to put it online as a Webcomic, so I deliberately laid out each page's aspect ratio to equal that of a typical computer monitor screen. This proportion turned out to be pretty hard to break into conveniently sized panels; I stuck with it, but don't think I'd do it again. When it came time to publish as a book, the horizontal layout was actually one thing my editor like about it. The shape makes it a little different.

CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some otherartforms, in your opinion?

BF: I think cartoonists are certainly "proper artists," but I also think we have to acknowledge and maybe embrace the profession's disrepute as well. It's part of the deal. Bill Watterson did a "Calvin and Hobbes" strip pointing out that a cartoon is bourgeois, a Lichtenstein painting of a cartoon is Art, while a cartoon of a Lichtenstein painting of a cartoon circles back to bourgeois. It does seem like we just can't win, but at the same time cartoons and comics have a kind of outlaw lumpen legitimacy that gallery art lacks.



I compare cartooning to popular music. Each combines two artistic media--words and drawings versus words and music--to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Dissect any song to look at the lyrics and melody separately, and they're invariably awful. The lyrics are poor poetry and the tunes are simplistic and repetitious. The music to "Louie Louie" is nothing special and the words are indecipherable, but put 'em together and you've got a great cultural touchstone. Same with cartooning.

If Woody Guthrie, Billie Holiday, and Jimi Hendrix are artists, then so are Charles Schulz, Will Eisner, and Robert Crumb. I think it's about that simple. On the other hand, Sturgeon's Law ("90 percent of everything is crap") applies to cartooning as much as it does anything else.


CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

BF: I'm pretty sure my autobiographical comics career is over. I believe everyone's life contains one good story and I told mine. Unless you happen to be an exile from revolutionary Iran, I think writing two or more stories about yourself is probably a bad idea. You're not that interesting.

Having said that, I'd like to explore an area I'd call "speculative non-fiction," bringing a journalistic approach to cartooning that might include a first-person point of view. Not quite a Joe Sacco globe-trotting journalism, but maybe more of a what-if gee-whiz journalism. I don't know, I haven't figured that out yet, and I haven't seen anyone doing quite what I have in mind. Maybe it's not possible.

I just re-read that and realized I am an enormous wheezy bag of hot gas. Sorry.


I would love to do a daily comic strip. I think I'd do a bang-up job developing characters, situations and themes, and I know I have the discipline to work alone and meet deadlines because I've done it as a writer for seven years. My only shortcoming, as I had one syndicate editor suggest, is that I may simply not be funny. Small handicap. I'm working on it.

Until I was in my early twenties I also had ambitions to draw superhero comics. I would still love to do an eight-page filler story like they used to put in the back of those 64-page summer spectaculars. Alas, I don't think that type of story exists anymore, and Marvel and DC have both moved too far away from anything I recognize as super or heroic.


CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

BF: I found this question so disturbing that I wrote a long blog entry of my own about it on my Mom's Cancer blog. Short answer: No one and everyone. Slightly more detailed answer: E.B. White and Chesley Bonestell. Satisfied?

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

BF: It's as hard to name a favorite cartoonist as it is to name a favorite food or most beautiful woman. You like different things for different reasons. I'm afraid my preferences are also sadly America-centric, but that's how I grew up. Of course my list includes Charles Schulz, George Herriman, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, the usual. I find myself remembering Gus Arriola's work extremely fondly; "Gordo" was a graceful, clever strip that was beautifully drawn.

I also have a very special place in my pantheon for Winsor McCay. The first thing I did with the advance money I earned for Mom's Cancer was buy an original McCay cel from his "Gertie the Dinosaur" film, which had been a lifetime goal of mine. I could have afforded it before, but it was very important to me that I buy my McCay with "cartooning money." Otherwise, I didn't deserve to have it.

But since you asked a direct question I'll give you a direct answer: Walt Kelly. In my opinion he was simply the complete cartoonist who could do it all, including rip your heart out.

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning, at some point.

BF: It already has, hasn't it? I've been in bulletin-board discussions in which I've been mocked as a dinosaur for my pathetic devotion to paper, ink, and those other tired relics of the 15th-century. We're probably a decade away from a time when it's all electrons for everyone, start to finish, and more's the pity for us.

But I don't really think newspapers, magazines and books are going anywhere for a long time, any more than radio disappeared when television was invented or painting went extinct with photography. I do expect them to evolve. I know that reading on paper taps into different parts of my brain than does reading on a computer, and the former is an experience that I and a lot of other people find greatly more engrossing and enjoyable. Eventually, I suppose we'll all carry around a flexible electronic screen and the media will become indistinguishable. And then I guess it won't matter much. Because I will be dead.

CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?

BF: Put me in charge of redesigning Tomorrowland in Disneyland. It used to be cool. In my spare time I'll produce a new "Star Trek" television series.

Among comics, "For Better or For Worse" has a rich universe it would be fun to play in. I've never told anyone this, but Lynn Johnston was an indirect inspiration to me while I did Mom's Cancer. In the 1970s, before she began For Better or For Worse, she did a book titled David, We're Pregnant. People have asked if I was thinking about Pekar or Spiegelman when I did Mom's Cancer, but what I really had way in the back of my mind was Johnston, who preceded both of them. I kind of thought of Mom's Cancer as "David, We've Got Cancer and This Time It's Not Funny."

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

BF: Well, I'd really like to be a full-time cartoonist. I have no confidence that I could pull that off now and still feed my family. Maybe after another project or two. I also would have made a fine astronaut or middle-school science and art teacher. But I'm pretty happy with how things are working out, keeping in mind that I'd trade all of my recent success for my mother's life and health. I never forget where this is all coming from.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

BF: You're welcome. It beats working.

Friends of the Fiend 14: Nik Scott




Nik Scott's bio at the NCS


CF. Hello, Nik.

NS. Hello Mr Fiend

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

NS. I've just published a collection of my strips at lulu called Web Junkie, so i'm attempting to market that. I'm working on a couple of book projects. I don't want to talk about them as the more I talk about my projects the sillier they sound.


There some nice samples from Nik Scott's new book here.



CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

NS. I fell in love with cartooning from seeing my father add little sketches to his letters. I started to draw cartoons at the age of eight when i did a weekly strip at school. I always managed to sit next to other cartoonists or artists in class and spent most of my schooldays 'duelling toons'. I spent many years self-publishing a series of angry raw mini-comix that I hawked around to bookshops. One bookshop used to stick my weekly editorial cartoon in its front window (often upside down) and a magazine editor waiting for a bus outside noticed my it and offered me a regular job. That was the beginning of my professional career. I'd never realised i could get paid for doing something that i did compulsively anyway. I then spent several years working part time, and going to art school before becoming a full-time cartoonist.




CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

NS. I have 'think' days and 'draw' days. Mornings are fresher. If i have time i like to have a think the night before and allow my subconscious to come up with the gags while i sleep. On a 'think' day i doodle in silence on a cheap A4 Layout pad, with a rotring artpen while slumped in an ergonomically unsound armchair. Sometimes the doodles guide the gag. I draw and render all my cartoons directly on the computer via my wacom tablet and Painter/Photoshop software. I love drawing with the computer. I don't miss having inky fingers, and I don't miss waiting for scanners to warm up.




CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?

NS. Cartoons are more 'throw away' than the Mona Lisa, but they're just as valid in their own way. They are also funnier than the Mona Lisa, but arguably not as funny as Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe.





CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

NS. Part of me wants to learn to animate but the lazy part of me says, 'No way, are you nuts, you freak?!'

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

NS. My father initially, and then I discovered his Feiffer collection, which opened up a major cartoon addiction. Bill Tidy, Larry, Gahan Wilson, Kurtzman, Crumb, Shelton, Michael Leunig, Mary Leunig, S.Gross, Mary Wilshire, Lee Marrs, Justin Green, Frank Stack, Nicolas Bentley, Searle, Jenny Coopes, Steadman, Quentin Blake, Frank Dickens, Leo Baxendale, Kliban, McGill and Poelsma, Posy Simmonds, Bretecher, Sempe, Groening, Eisner,Aragones,Trudeau are just some of the many hundreds of cartoonists i continue to worship and that immediately spring to mind.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

NS. That'd have to be Larry (Terence Parkes). He nails the issue in the simplest, funniest, and kindest manner possible.



Nik Scott's blog



CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'newdigital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning,at some point.

NS. People like cartoons, rather than the material that cartoons are drawn on. There will always be a place for cartoons in, or on, whatever the new medium happens to be.

CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?

NS. I'd like to do something for kids TV - Something for toddlers. I'd loved to have worked on Sesame Street. I could think of nothing cooler than writing for The Count.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

NS. I'd like to be the kind of cartoonist who doesn't have to pay attention to the business side. I love cartooning, and i've got millions of ideas i want to work on, but I loathe marketing as it's time consuming, and takes me away from the creative process.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

NS. Thanks for having me.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 13: Patricia Storms.

It's hard to believe she can find the time to do so, but in addition to the cartoons, the illustrations, the book illustrations, the greetings cards, etc, etc, Patricia Storms also blogs the very popular Book Lust.



CF. Hello, Patricia.

PS: Hey there!

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

PS: Hmmmm... well any kind of work is exciting for me, because, well.... it's work! I find getting paid to be very exciting. But if you want specifics...I recently finished some greeting card projects and am in the middle of working on some spot illustrations for a kid's mag that is published by Scholastic Canada. Lately I've been getting some work illustrating articles for The National Post, one of Canada's national newspapers, which is nice. I also just signed a contract with John Wiley & Sons to illustrate a small gift book about dogs; I'm very excited about that. Last year I wrote and illustrated a little gift book of my own, and I've got a NY literary agent who is out looking for a publisher for the project; I would be thrilled to bits if it got accepted by a publisher, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much.




CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

PS: It was definitely a gradual process for me. I always loved to draw cartoons, but it really didn't occur to me that one could earn a living doing this until I was in my mid 20s. My art teachers in highschool didn't really encourage the cartooning stuff; they kept wanting me to turn my energies to 'finer forms of art'. And I haven't mentioned this too much before, but it really had a major impact on me regarding my artistic career: as a teenager I dated a guy who was also a cartoonist, and for whatever reason he continually criticized my talent, in both writing and drawing. It really affected me and for a couple of years in my late teens and early 20s I pretty much gave up art completely. I had zero confidence in myself. It was a cartoonist instructor that I met in my mid 20s who really helped me out; he had so much faith in me, gave me the push I needed to get my work out there. And I cannot say enough about how the people I met on the Wiesenheimer helped and encouraged me as well. I'm still utterly amazed that I earn my living doing this. And I still struggle with the confidence thing, every day.

You can see more of Patricia Storms cartoons and illustrations at her website.


CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

PS: I hate showing my roughs, because they really are such a mess. I'm a very messy worker. I tend to push my pencil much too hard on the paper, and there's always lots of eraser bits all over my drawing table. It's very embarrassing. If I have a good window of time for a project, I will do a fair amount of pencil roughs, and then use tracing paper to transfer the final image for inking and colouring (I know, I really should get a light table!). The work I've been doing for the National Post does not really afford me the luxury of doing too many roughs and using tracing paper; I usually get 1.5 - 2 hours in which to read the article, get an idea, send the rough for approval and then do the final. It's very stressful, but I love the challenge of working under such a tight deadline.




CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

PS: Very basic stuff. HB pencils, bond paper for most projects, Winsor & Newton ink, and a #2 Cotman Winsor & Newton brush. I colour a lot of my work in Photoshop, but I do use watercolours for some illustrations, mostly children's books. But I still have a lot to learn about using watercolours.



CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?

PS: I actually get a bit fed up with this argument, to be honest. There will always be people out there who will consider cartooning and commercial art to be grunt work done by hacks, and no amount of discussion will change their minds. Of course cartooning has just as much cultural impact as some other artforms; that's why graphic novels are gaining in popularity, not just in bookstores but in schools and libraries as well. Not to mention that there have been quite a few movies made from graphic novels. And cartoonists like Schulz and Seth have had their work displayed in art galleries. Personally, I do think a cartoonist is a proper artist, we just also happen to make money from our art. When I go on cartoonist forums and read the discussions about whether cartooning is 'art' or not, I just get exhausted. Let those intellectuals argue the point; I'm too busy drawing.

CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

PS: I would love the write and illustrate a graphic novel one day. And definitely write and illustrate my own childrens' books. And I really want to get back to my comic strip Tart; I miss doing it. It really is just a question of finding the time.

Find out more about Tart here.



CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

PS: I was influenced a great deal by British cartoonists like Ronald Searle, Gerard Hoffnung, Thelwell, Giles, and David Langdon. My mom had a very British upbringing growing up in Jamaica, and so her tastes in humour tended to be British. That influence me a lot. I also loved all the old New Yorker cartoonists; I used to go to my local library and sign out all the New Yorker collections and read them religiously until I could afford to buy my own copies. Of course Schulz influenced me a great deal. And as a teenager I was a big fan of the early Doonesbury, and I just loved the work of Kliban and Edward Gorey.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

PS: Oy. That's really hard to answer. I simply could not name just one. I think Ronald Searle is bloody brilliant. As well as Saul Steinberg and Sempé. And I adore the work of Posey Simmonds.

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning, at some point.

PS: Yes, I do, and not all for the good, I think. The more people work in a simply digital format, the less we are going to see beautiful amazing cartoon originals. Can you imagine not having any original Schulz cartoons, or Bill Watterson drawings? There is a lot to be said for drawing the old-fashioned way; I'm a bit of a luddite and prefer hand-drawn work. BUT, I do use Photoshop for a lot of my colouring work, so I can't deny the benefits of working digitally. And the internet is becoming a great market for cartoonists. So it is a double-edged sword, I think.



CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?

PS: I'd love to do an animated cartoon of my creation Tart. It wold only be shown on HBO, of course!

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

PS: No way.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

P: Thanks, Fiend! It was a blast!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 12: Dave Parker.



The Fiend would like to break with tradition here and add a personal note about Dave Parker. When I started out trying to become a cartoonist, I would pour over the cartoons in the many publications that ran gag cartoons, in Britain, in the 1970s. I would buy Reveille, Weekend Magazine, Titbits, She Magazine, the Weekly News, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, the Sun, and almost invariably, I'd come across a 'Parker' cartoon. Dave's cartoons caught my eye because the drawings had a sort of angular quality that I liked. Also, he used the space really well, and even his signature looked cool. I'm very happy to know Dave Parker, a cartoonist I've admired for as long as I've been a cartoonist myself. He's 72 years young now, but you'd never guess that looking at those lines he draws. They are as striking today, as they were back then.


CF. Hello, Dave.

DP. Hello Fiend.

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

DP. I am doing nothing exciting these days. I am now 72, and more or less semi retired. I just do the occasional Wisenheimer cartoon and a couple for the Jester(Cartoonist Club of Great Britain mag). I pop a couple into the Weekly News just to keep my hand in.


CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

DP. I've been drawing for ever-my first cartoons were in the Daily Sketch in the early fifties.



CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

DP. I'm enjoying resting - just drawing one or two gags a week nowadays. All good things come to an end and the cartoons markets in this country are almost ended - despite what others may say!

CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, butwhat tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

DP. I've tried all sorts of pens in the past. In the fifties it was always nibs and india ink. Nowadays I'm quite happy with Faber Castell Pitt artists pens (thanks to you!). I draw in pencil, then use my home made light box ( a converted scanner), to ink them, then I scan them into my computer, print them off, and send them off. For colour work I use Painter, mainly using colour and gradient tools. It's simple but effective.



Buy original Dave Parker art here.



CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?

DP. I suppose cartooning is art,the editorial cartoonist in particular probably has some sort of cultural impact, but I'm only a gag cartoonist, bottom of the heap!




'Bottom of the heap'? Not quite, at around about the age of 70, Dave broke into the highly competitive US market when he sold a cartoon to Readers Digest USA. A magazine that in 2004, reached an estimated 44 million readers every month.


CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

DP. When I left school in 1949 my first job was in a cartoon film studio as a colourist and then a tracer.We made films for the Ministry of Information and a cinema commercial for Andrews Liver Salts! If the firm hadn't gone bust a year later, who knows I might have become an animator!

CDP. Who were your major artistic influences?

DP. The cartoonists I most admire are or were; Ed MaLachlan, Larry, Handelsman, Mike Williams, Saxon, Dedini, Trog, Gary Larsen, Albert, Chic Jacob, Gross, Sax, George Price, Sempe, Booth, Chas Addams, and there are loads more who I will probably remember later.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

DP. I can't pick any one favourite, but I did like Dedini. For some reason a cartoon of his depicting a judge (towering over a little arty type) saying "A poet ? What kind of racket's that?" or words to that effect, still makes me laugh now! I don't know why!

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning, at some point.

DP. The computer has, so yes.

CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?

DP. I don't have the time now in my 73rd. year!

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

DP. A lottery winner, so I can spread a little more happiness!


CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

DP. You're welcome.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 11: Rick Kirkman.




CF. Hello,


RK. Hi. I just realized that when I agreed to do this, I thought it was "Cartoon Friend." Now I'm worried.

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?


RK. Actually, nothing I'm at liberty to discuss. (That sounds more intriguing than "nope.")


CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?


RK. I've drawn cartoons as long as I can remember, which these days, isn't very far back. There's evidence that I was drawing cartoons in kindergarten. I didn't really set out to be one, I just always was one, some way or another. It was more of a gradual process becoming a professional cartoonist. I went from drawing TVs and refrigerators for an appliance company ad department to doing Yellow Pages ads, then Art Director at a large local ad agency, followed by freelance graphic designer, freelance illustrator, freelance humorous illustrator, then finally syndicated comic strip artist...all the while dabbling in various disciplines of cartooning. At times I wanted to be an astronaut and and architect - though not at the same time.



CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

RK. This may be long and boring, so if you have a short attention span, you may want to skip over this part.

I work with a partner, Jerry Scott, who writes Baby Blues. In the beginning, a lot of material was culled from my life, and Jerry magically changed it into something funny. These days, he has plenty of firsthand experience to draw upon. Still, occasionally, I'll feed him ideas (germs for gags, really) from things I remember, or have observed, or that I've been told by friends. I recently spent some pretty productive time in an airport, a great place for ideas.
The actual process is that Jerry usually works up two weeks of gags at a time, and emails them to me. They're typewritten descriptions, numbered for each panel, with dialogue and stage direction if needed. I've recently changed my process for dailies (it's a work in progress). Before, I used to draw pretty tight "roughs" and fax them to Jerry. Now I do a very loose pencil sketch directly on the preprinted boards (strip size--approx. 12 x 3.75 inches, similar to 2-ply Bristol), and fax to Jerry.




We have a great collaboration, and a good deal of that success comes from having been friends for about 30 years. We know each other so well that sometimes it makes us wonder if we were separated at birth. If I feel I have any suggestions, I either make them in the margins or draw them, and point them out, or in the case of more serious concerns, we talk on the phone. Jerry looks at my drawings, and being the truly talented cartoonist he is, he makes suggestions about the drawings--expressions, layout, pointing out things I've forgotten to draw or dialogue I've accidentally left out. We basically edit each other. Nothing makes it out the door unless we agree upon it.



Visit the Baby Blues Store for goodies.


After that, I leave the boards on my drawing table overnight for the cartoon elves to finish, and they're waiting for me in the morning to approve. (Okay, that's wishful thinking.) I used to photocopy the tight roughs and trace them on a light box with colored pencil (Faber-Castell Polychromos)--the reason being that you can't erase the sketch lines under colored pencil...it smears. Unfortunately, using pencil has proved to be a painful work method. I was always much more comfortable drawing in pencil, but it is much harder on your hands because of the pressure it takes to make a line and hold the pencil, as opposed to a brush or pen. So now, the dailies (because they're drawn smaller than the Sundays) are drawn directly over the light sketches on the boards with Faber-Castell PITT Artist pens. I still use a little colored pencil for some shading and hair edges. The Sundays are still drawn in colored pencil (at approx. 21.75 x 7.25 inches on Strathmore 500 series Bristol) because the line quality of the pencil is so noticeable at that size.

I scan and add screens in Photoshop and email them to the syndicate. The Sundays are scanned, and I create a file on which I draw my instructions on a separate layer, and send them to my colorist, who follows the instructions, and does a fantastic job. When I get it back, I may make some tweaks to the color or add any special effects, then email the finished files to the syndicate.


Click to see larger image


CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?


RK. I told you it was boring...you must have nodded off during my last answer.



Visit the official Baby Blues sitefor details about the latest Baby Blues Collection.


CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?


RK. Yes, I think a cartoonist is a proper artist. I think it takes as much creativity and focus as any other art. Maybe because the materials are so cheap, cartoons get a bad rap as real art. It certainly has cultural impact. Look at how various comic strips have influenced culture in my generation: Peanuts with Snoopy, Doonesbury with Nixon, Larson putting the spotlight on science, Dilbert's impact on the way people look at business.... I would venture to say that cartoons have MORE cultural impact than any other art form besides music. Other art forms tend to have more impact ON "culture" than have cultural impact, if you get my drift.


CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?


RK. Not really. I started out doing magazine gag cartoons. I've done the comic strip, animation, greeting cards, advertising humorous illustration, magazine illustration, even a little editorial cartooning (if you could call it that). I suppose if there was anything, and I had the talent and opportunity, I love the idea of being an editorial cartoonist. But maybe my idea of it is more romantic than the real thing.


From Your Only Friend.



CF. Who were your major artistic influences?


RK. That's a big list: Charles Schulz, Walt Kelly, Jules Feiffer, Mad Magazine (especially, Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, Paul Coker, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis), the Nine Old Men of Disney, Jay Ward, Johnny Hart, Berke Breathed, Jerry Scott, Jim Berry, Hap Kliban, New Yorker cartoonists Weber, Arno, Addams, Booth, Zeigler, Chast, advertising illustrators Elwood Smith, Bill Mayer, Jared Lee, the painter Wayne Theibaud, Norman Rockwell...I'm sure there are many others.


CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?


RK. Cartoonist - Sparky Schulz, simply because he had it all, the drawing, the humanity...he could be goofy, poignant, esoteric, tragic. He used the widest palette of any cartoonist I can think of, and mastered it all. Strictly as an artist, I have tremendous admiration for Robert Crumb.

Writers...that's a hard one. I don't really have a favorite. I have favorites at various times for various reasons: John Irving sometimes, Alan King, the comedian, David Sedaris, Steve Martin, Joseph Heller, Harper Lee, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury....


CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning,at some point.


RK. My contention is that until digital content is easily accessible in the bathroom, newspapers will still be around. But I agree with Garry Trudeau's theory that cartoon content is going to have to change in its method of presentation at some point. He's experimented with live animation where an actor wears a suit with a number of sensors that detect his/her movement, then a computer translates that to movement to a CGI model of the character in real time. Once that sort of technology becomes cheap, and the ability to deliver it at high speed is ubiquitous, then comics as we know it will be changed forever. Luckily, like Garry, I don't believe that will happen during my career. But a generation or two of cartoonists down the road will have to deal with that sea change. I also think before that, electronic paper will come to fruition as a method of content delivery (remember "Minority Report"?). News, comics, video, etc, will be wirelessly updated live to a thin electronic page that will be almost as portable as today's newspaper. Comics won't necessarily have to change at that point, but it won't be long after that.


Baby Blues Daily Ink


CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?


RK. Assuming that I'd know what I was doing, I think it would be terrific to work on a Pixar project. It would combine my love of great acting and storytelling in animation with my computer-nerd side.


CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?


RK. Besides independently wealthy and having a full head of hair...maybe a more talented musician and tennis player.


CF. Thank you for visiting with us.


RK. Thanks for letting me blab on about stuff. I don't get to talk to people very often as you can probably tell. You weren't so fiendish after all.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 10: Peter Bagge.


CF. Hello,

PB. What a fiendish question!

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

PB. A new issue of my mini-series APOCALYPSE NERD is due out very soon,as well as a new HATE ANNUAL shortly after that.

You can get posters of some Hate titles at the Pod Gallery



CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

PB. That was always one of my pipe dreams when I was a lazy kid, along with being a rock star or baseball star. As it turns out it was the only dream that was remotely do-able.

CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

PB. Sheesh! Just the usual: I write my stories out in script form first, then rough it out, then pencil, ink, etc.



CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

PB. I use brushes and technical pens on smooth bristol paper.



The Cartoon Fiend had to get a Bat Boy strip in here. The Fiend tried to buy an early piece of original Bat Boy art but couldn't work Paypal. Bat Boy, by Peter Bagge, was as funny as Heck. You can find original Peter Bagge art at the Comic Art Collective.



CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?

PB. It has more of a cultural impact than so called highh art or "real" art, precisely because its so ephemeral, and part of the ebb and flow of everyday life.

"Real" "Art" is actually the name of one of Peter Bagge's brilliantly funny pieces for Reason's Online magazine. Click here to see the Reason archive of Peter Bagge art.


CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

PB. Other than having my own animated TV show, no.



CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

PB. Charles Schulz, Robert Crumb, Richard Scary, many of the MAD artists from the 1960s and early 70s.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

PB. Robert Crumb.

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning, at some point?

PB. It already has, since people read comics on line more and more often, and there's no reason that trend won't continue.

Get these Peter Bagge designed toys at Kid Robot.



CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?

PB. See the answer I gave 4 questions ago!

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

PB. Not really.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

PB. Thank you!




Friends of the Fiend 9: Mike Lynch.


Mike Lynch's site


CF. Hello, Mike.

ML: Greetings, Fiendish One.

CF. May I call you Mike? Mikey? Little Mikey?

ML: I bet you didn't goof around like this with Glasbergen!

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

ML: Well, right now I'm waiting to hear back from a couple of major markets that are having their cartoon meetings right around now. I want to finish up some new gags for a visit to The New Yorker next week. I have a cartoon in Forbes, as well as a couple coming up in the Wall Street Journal. Oh, I was just rejected by THE REJECTION BOOK. All this is at my new Mike Lynch Cartoons blog.

Next week, I'm teaching some cartooning classes to 10 year olds, attending a couple of National Cartoonists Society get-togethers in NYC and Long Island, and having lunch with a New Yorker cartoonist. Then, off to North Carolina for the weekend to see some relatives and buy a new car. On top of all this, I really have to draw and come up with some new cartoons! A busy week!

In addition to being a prolific cartoonist and illustrator, whose work is published in publications as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, Reader's Digest, Prospect, the Spectator and the Oldie, Mike, somehow, also finds the energy, and time to Chair the National Cartoonists Society's Long Island Chapter, the "Berndt Toast gang."


Mike's commited to raising the profile of cartoonists, and helped to orchestrate The Overlook Lounge's (formerly Costello's) Cartoon Mural Event where, in exchange for some food and beer, some of America's finest cartoonists, including New Yorker cartoonists Mort Gerberg, John Caldwell, and Sam Gross, Mort(Beetle Bailey)Walker, Howard Huge, Lockhorn's John Reiner, Playboy's Don Orehek, and New York Daily News legend Bill Gallo, drew a gigantic cartoon mural.


(From left: Sam Norkin, Mort Walker, and Mike Lynch, November 20, 2005, beside the famous mural. If you're ever in New York, make a point of stopping by 225 East 44th Street, and dropping into The Overlook, some of your favourite cartoon characters will be there waiting.


CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

ML: I always wanted to be a cartoonist, ever since I was a kid. My dad was instrumental since he had some old Pogo books and a Barnaby book that he passed along. My mom would buy me a lot of art supplies as well. My relatives were all artistic; with jazz musicians, vaudeville acts, playwrights, fine artists in the family.

CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

ML: I write and draw doodles in my pad. Most of what I draw is useless. More than half is not useful. But out of the many ideas come a few good ones. I have little insight into the process. This is sad, but true. I draw in a pad so I can easily flip through months of ideas. Sometimes I'll see an old idea and know a better way to make it into a gag.



CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

ML: A Micron pen on letter-size typing paper. Maybe an ink wash. If you'd asked me 5 years ago, I was using pen and ink, as well as charcoal and wash. But that took too much time. I don't pencil very much at all. Sometimes I don't pencil at all. I thought this was "cheating," but I've since read that Patrick McDonnell has drawn his Mutts strip with no pencilling. It keeps the drawing process interesting to me and I think that the tension - of actually drawing on the paper instead of tracing - keeps the visual dynamic.




CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other art forms, in your opinion?

ML: Impact? You bet. Like I mentioned, I sometimes teach cartooning to kids. These 10 year olds are into the same stuff I was: Peanuts, Batman, etc. Cartoons are iconic. Love of cartoons endures for generations. Whether or not "us cartoonists" are "real artists" I can't answer.

I'm helping to plan a large gallery show of professional cartoonists' work that will open this summer. There's been maybe a half dozen gallery shows I've been involved in the past four years, so art galleries see cartoons as a draw. Whether an art critic would think we're "artists," I doubt it. But we're a big part of the Western culture.

CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

ML: I'd like to try a longer form, like a strip or graphic novel.


CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

ML: Sempe, Crockett Johnson, Percy Crosby. These are just off the top of my head. I love Don Orehek's work. I'm honored to call him a friend. We're all part of the Berndt Toast Gang, that legendary chapter of the National Cartoonists Society.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

ML: Walt Kelly. I love his inky line. I read his POGO books over and over when I was little. I even sweet talked a babysitter to read them as a bedtime story. You can read about this on my Mike Lynch Cartoons blog.




Like Watterson said, "It was the last of the 'enjoy the ride' strips." It was about the distinct personalties that lived in the swamp. The punchline was there -- but it wasn't always a joke. It could be an ironic comment or a subtle jab. A lot of fun to read and look at.

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning, at some point.

ML: It will increase the markets. Hard to beat the portability of paper, and the fact it doesn't need batteries, WiFi, etc. The mere fact there are 6 volumes of hardcover Jack Cole Plastic Man stories tells me that there is an appreciative market for high-end books. There will be a new volume of Gasoline Alley dailies in June as well. What worries me is that there is not tolerance for new comic strip features that don't catch on quickly. And cutting edge humor, like Ted Rall or Aaron McGruder, gets labelled as troublesome by editors. We can only hope that the editor-less Internet will continue in the West.

I remember talking about cartoons at length with fellow cartoonist Nick Downes. He lives near me in Brooklyn, NY. It was a typical cartoonist bitch session: the markets are shrinking, harder to make a living, etc. And at the end we both sighed, and he pointed out, "Oh, well. Everyone loves cartoons." And it's true. Everyone still has cartoons in their cubicles, on the fridges. People will cut them out of papers and magazines and they become part of the family. That hasn't changed. As long as the love is there, the market - electronic, paper, whatever - will endure.



CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character,
book, show, what would you like to work on?

ML: It would interesting to tell stories in another medium, like television. There are shows that look like they would be challenging to write, like Battlestar Galactica (the new one) and Homicide:Life on the Streets. It would be interesting to get a group of talented people together and tell a series of stories. But, honestly, now that I've said that, I realize that a cartoonist is a solo effort. That's real comfy. Not having to coordinate schedules and egos with a lot of people to produce a final product is so damn attractive.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

ML: Nothing occurs to me!

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

ML: Thank you, cartoon fiend, you've been considerably less fiendish than Stephanie Piro told me you were!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 8: Mike Baldwin.



CF. Hello, Mike.

MB. Hi. I've enjoyed reading your blog, good job.

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

MB. This month marked Cornered's tenth anniversary, so that's kind of cool. I marked the occasion by taking a nap. I put a few books together on LULU which took some work. I hope to add to the collection later this year.



Buy the Cornered collections here.



CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

MB. I've always loved art and do tend to see the absurdities of life. Humour is a way of coping. In addition to 'fight or flight' we also have the 'funny' response. I drew cartoons for local papers since I was in my teens, and was fortunate to find full-time work, in other creative fields like the Visual Merchandising department at Sears. I was able to use cartooning in displays, signage, and later in newspaper advertising and editorial work. It's all been good – working, learning and surrounding yourself with other creative people. I understand the advice: don't get hung-up on newspaper syndication. There are so many other really rewarding ways to express yourself – and get paid for it.

CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?

MB. I spend the mornings going through the newspaper, looking for ideas. These are rarely gags, but a turn of phase or words that act as stepping-stones to an idea. Later, I lock myself away for a few hours and try to come up with something. I sketch out a few and once I have something I think works, I draw it up. Another thing I should mention is the value of down-time. I find the creative process challenging, and find that if I can forget about cartooning for a few days each week, I come back recharged. I mostly turn down all extra projects for that reason. It costs in terms of revenue, but it pays off in other ways.


Shop for Cornered goodies, here.


CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

MB. I use 8.5"x11" copy paper and pencil to do a rough what ever size feels comfortable, usually portrait. Then onion skin and a black felt-tip pen to redraw it to scan into the computer. There, I clean it up further, auto-trace to get vector art and bring it into Freehand to crop, colour and caption. I then file it away until the end of the month.
When it's time to ship a batch to the syndicate, I choose the cartoons to run and add the date copywrite title etc, and send them along. About a week later I have a nice chat with my editor at Universal and she tells me what changes they need. Usually a spelling, hyphen, comma or some other grammatical thing.


CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?

MB. They can be. Just like in any other 'entertainment' art field, be it music, writing or acting, etc. The question is, am I creating something that can touch, influence, enlighten, solicit viewer/reader reaction? Once created, how will it be interpreted, what can the viewer/reader bring to it? I'd like to think that at least half the time I'm doing work that gets there. The rest of the time I'll settle for silly.


Speaking of cultural impact, The Cartoon Fiend discovered that Mike, gets a mention in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Historica) in the excellent Cartoons and Comic strips article (along with Sandra Bell-Lundy, and other some other notable cartoonists.



CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

MB. I'd like to see Cornered animated, but given the lack of story line, I'm not sure what form it would take. Maybe shorts. But not too short. I see someone else doing the animation, with me shoveling cash into a vault.


CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

MB. Major Burns. And the whole cast of MASH.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

MB. I don't have just one. There are so many... Jim Unger, Gary Larson, Dave Coverly, Dan Piraro, Wiley Miller and of course, Roderick McKie to name the obvious.

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning, at some point.

MB. It's a marketing issue. Designing your cartoon so it can work well on other media platforms is a good idea. It is happening. Newspaper markets are drying up so this offers some hope. Content is still the main deal. Finding your voice and having something to say; wherever.



CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character, book, show, what would you like to work on?

MB. I'd like to work on the Dr. Phil show, serving laced koolaid in the
greenroom.


CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

MB. A cat. My cat has no sense of humour and she gets along just dandy.


CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

MB. Thank you, and keep up the terrific work!