Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 29: Dan Collins



Dan Collins began his cartooning career in 1976. Before that he attended Ohio State University's College of Art for two years followed by a year at Columbus College of Art and Design. Thousands of his cartoons have been published in magazines, newspapers and books in the United States and around the world. He has drawn magazine gag cartoons, newspaper editorial cartoons, comic strips, greeting cards, illustrations and caricatures that have delighted readers of all ages for nearly three decades. He is an on-staff cartoonist for Larry Flynt Publication's Hustler magazine and has been since 1977. From 1996 to 2004 he was the editorial cartoonist for the Delaware Gazette of Delaware, Ohio. Until 2004 the Gazette was the country's oldest daily newspaper continuously owned by a single family for 170 years. Being the artist for this distinguished news daily in it's final years as an American icon is a point of pride for him. Dan is currently working on a comic strip called Funny Paper as well as greeting cards that can be found in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.




CF. Hello, Dan.

DC. Hello.

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

DC. My collection of the Captain Hard-On comic strips just went off to the printers in Singapore they tell me for the book Fantagraphics is doing. I'm working on a stand-alone line of cards for Noble Works Inc. and I want to finally get the Funny Paper strip ready for a submission to the syndicates.




Click image to see larger copy of Funny Paper, by Collins



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

DC. I always wanted to be one but never thought I would actually get the chance. I didn' think I was good enough compared to the artists I saw but I figured I could always mess around with it for my own amusement. Now after 30 years of doing it full time I think I just might be good enough. We'll see.




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

DC. I try to think of something funny and then I draw it. I send it off to the magazine and they call back and tell me I must get funnier or they will fire me. Or they tell me I am a genius but still must be funnier or they will fire me.




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

DC. I use most everything; markers, pens, brushes, pencil, watercolors, computer coloring stuff...I bounce around in styles so I can't really settle on one thing.




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

DC. It has always played second fiddle to the formal arts but people give it so much power that you have to consider it as a bona fide genre. It's an artform for the masses so the upper crust tend to sneer down at us while we look up at them and laugh.

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

DC. It has been my dream to have a newspaper strip ever since I can recall. I don't know why, it just struck me as the thing I would most like to do. I remember laying on the living room floor with the funny pages every night reading the strips from the mid sixties; Peanuts, Lil Abner and so on. They would take you to a special place outside this world for a brief moment and the power to do that took hold of me. I wanted to live there. I wanted to take other people there with me.





CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

DC. All the usual suspects. We're all influenced in some way or other by every one of them. Schulz taught me how to write a strip. Capp taught me what to aspire to in drawing. Crumb ruined me for life in my first year of college in 1972. Searle showed me the art in comics.

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

DC. I can't think of one who displaces the others. They all are a part of my cartoon experience. Sorry.

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.

DC. Not really. You can read a computer screen only so long before eye strain takes over. It's not 'real' either (physically). To hold that thing in your hands makes it yours. You can look as closely as you wish and see even deeper into the cartoon. See it's tiny little dots on the paper, see the fibers of the paper. It's all part of a cartoon. Of course it has affected cartoons and taken them into a new exciting direction which is good. People like to deal in absolutes; this is the way of the future and the old way is dead. It's a natural inclination but nature is never so pure.





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

DC. I would like to be the host of Saturday Night Live. I would suck but don't half the hosts? Or I would like to be a guest to fish with Hank Parker on his Saturday morning fishing show.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

DC. The all powerful master of time and space.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

DC. Thank you for inviting me. Are you suggesting that our time is over and I should go now? Sure...fine...pick my brain and then kick me out the door. If I was the all powerful master of time and space I bet you'd want me to stick around! Yeah. I bet you'd laugh at all my cartoons then! OK I'm going.

Friends of the Fiend 28: Brian Fray





CF. Hello, Brian.

BF. Hey, there, Fiend!

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

BF. I have a lot of on-going work, such as my editorial cartoon for the local paper, a small gag panel I do called Fray's Way and several trade magazines I work on. Something different always seems to be coming in. I do lots of stuff for restaurants and breweries and various government agencies. At the moment I'm working on a series of cartoons for The World Bank. Also, I've just completed two books, DeVil's Riddle and Chef Pierre's Fresh Sheet. Too early to tell how they'll do, but hopefully OK.





I'm Trying to find the time to get a DeVil's Riddle website up and running to create interest in the book.

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

BF. I always wanted to be an artist of some sort from the time I was old enough to hold a pencil. I studied fine art at university and I started out as a painter, but decided the starving artist route wasn't for me. So, I tapped into my humourous side and haven't looked back.



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

BF. Pretty basic. For gags, I write, sketch and doodle first and reject the duds. Then I pencil, ink and scan. Clean up and colour on the computer and e-mail. For other more complex illustrations, I sketch in pencil, ink and colour with watercolurs, gouache and coloured pencils, then scan, clean up and send. Then I send the bill...my favourite part.

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

BF. Depends on what I'm working on. I have a couple of different styles. If I'm doing gags, I draw with a Staedtler Permanent Lumocolor marker on sheets of matte coated stock that I purchased from printer. I scan and colour/clean up in Photoshop. If I'm working on an illustration for a story, I work with a Crowquill pen on Bainbridge 80 board and Windsor & Newton India Ink. I colour with gouache, watercolours and coloured pencils. I work on a Mac G4.


click for a larger version

See more of Brian Fray's work here, at BrianFray.com


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

BF. Absolutely! Cartoonists are definitely proper artists. I've been on both sides of the fence, as a cartoonist and "fine artist". Is something any less valid because it is humourous? I know a lot of fine artists, painters and sculptors, who are much less disciplined and skilled than many cartoonists. Cartooning involves not only drawing skills, but in many cases, writing skills, as well. Cartoons have a huge impact on society and culture. "DOH!" is firmly embedded in our modern vocabulary, to give a silly example.The nasty business with Mohammed and the Danish newspapers is anothernot-so-silly example.




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

BF. I'd love to work on an animated film. But more on the character development and creative director side. Leave the repetitive technical stuff to the techies who are way better at it.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

BF. As a kid, I loved Don Martin's off-the-wall work in Mad Magazine. Also Kliban, Walt Kelly, the old Warner Brothers Looney Toons cartoons and a lot of Disney's earlier stuff. I also love Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman and Brian Froud.

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

BF. That's a toughie, because I admire so many of them. I guess I'd have to say Kliban.

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.

BF. Everything changes, but I think the creative process will remain the same. The media through which we preceive things is evolving, and the tools that we create with are evolving, but talent is still talent. Good drawing and writing will still rise to the top. The human touch is still essential. That won't change.

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

BF. I'd like to write and illustrate a series of books based on my DeVil's Riddle characters, which would spin into a movie...on which I would be the creative consultant.



CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

BF. Taller, thinner and younger...with more hair.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

BF. It was my pleasure and honour. Thank you for inviting me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 27: Dave Blazek


Dave Blazek is the creator of Loose Parts, the panel and strip, syndicated by Tribune Media Services. Dave previously wrote for the comic Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, for Comedy Central. Dave came to cartooning later in life after a career as a writer, graphic artist, director and standup comic. He learned to draw in his '40s, just six years ago. Amazingly enough, even to him, he actually has a degree in journalism. Loose Parts is now seen daily in papers all across America, and in one very perceptive Malaysian newspaper. Dave has produced three books compiling his cartoons. The latest, two hundred some odd cartoons came out in 2006. Dave is a ninja. He also lives in Valley Forge, PA, USA with his wife and two teenage daughters. He's just had his large and small intestines removed and replaced with two medium intestines.




CF. Hello, Dave.

DB. By the way, I just had the word 'hello' copyrighted. You owe me $50 just for using it.

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

DB. Well, when you're syndicated, that's pretty much your current project all the time. I'm always working on Loose Parts. It's just part of my life. But I am involved in some other interesting things. The most interesting is an animated TV show I'm co-writing. Some friends and I were approached by a company with an established TV record to create a new animated show. I can't tell you who they are but you'd recognize the name of the show ... and the motion picture that came from it. So I'm spending a lot of my non-cartoon time on this project, and bopping up to New York now and then. The pilot script should be done tomorrow. Funny thing is, I'm certain they have no idea I'm a cartoonist. They think I'm a writer.

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

DB. No, I never wanted to be a cartoonist. I lived my life for forty some odd years with the thought never crossing my mind. I worked as an advertising creative and at newspapers ... specifically The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. The cartoon editor was just strange enough to think I was funny and would run comic submissions from syndicates past me for my opinion. I kept saying, "I could do better than these." He finally said okay, do better. Matter of fact, be bugged me to try for, like two years. Then finally, I wrote about 30 samples and an artist friend drew them up. The editor showed them to a guy he knew at the LA Times Syndicate. The next thing we knew, some VP flies east and signs us to a contract over lunch. I had the fish. So we start Loose Parts. Soon after they ask me to write for Dr. Katz. So things are going cool. The the roof falls in. Dr. Katz is cancelled by Comedy Central to make way for South Park and I lose that gig. Then the guy drawing Loose Parts gets cancer and tells me he's pulling out. So rather than risk losing a toehold in the syndication world, I asked the syndicate if I could take over drawing Loose Parts in addition to writing it. They asked if I could draw. I said, no, but I could learn. They said okay. I went on a crash 30-day effort to learn to draw and six years and two thousand cartoons later, here I am. I know, I know ... someone begging me to get into cartooning ... a contract after 30 samples ... learning to draw in 30 days ... that sound you hear is striving artists hitting the floor. I can't explain it. But, hey, I wasn't a total neophyte. I spent years as a comedy writer, comedian and graphic artist so the form wasn't that strange to me. And since I spent years working at newspapers and in advertising, the deadlines of a syndicated cartoon seem normal to me.





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

DB. I write for an hour or two, two or three nights after work. Then I draw and ink Saturdays and Sundays. I always, absolutely positively, don't go a week without having drawn and inked seven cartoons. Then once a month I crush a few long nights to scan and color and do separations and all. Then I repeat. Oh, and there's beer in there somewhere. But I work way ahead. Right now, my syndicate has all the Loose Parts for three months from now. And I have another 40 drawn but not put together. And I have another 20 or so written but not drawn.






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

DB. Pretty basic tools. I draw using a simple mechanical pencil. I work on 8.5 x 11 copy paper I buy at Staples. Then I ink the lines using Pigma Micron pens. Then I erase. That's my weakness. I'm a really bad eraser. If you look closely at Loose Parts cartoons, you can see lines I missed all the time. Then I scan the images into my Mac G4. I then use Photoshop to add tones and shading. I've worked hard to use some pretty harsh shadings on the edges of my people. It gives them a roundness and depth I find pleasing. I do have an office at home but I prefer to draw at the dining room table. That puts me in the midst of my family and makes me feel like I'm not locked away from life. I also like drawing outside on a wooden board I haul out to a table on my deck. I live in the woods so it's quite peaceful and lovely doing it that way.



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

DB. I honestly don't know. I think I haven't been part of it long enough to say. I will tell you that the cartoon world was so much more than I thought before I got to be a part of it. For instance, I thought that a comic should be funny and that's it. I was stunned to see the impact of serial strips, comic novels and other forms of comics and the strong bond between those comics and their fans. But I still remain stubbornly biased. I think a comic should be funny. I don't think there's enough of it on the comics pages these days. Don't get me wrong. I think there are good comics in the comics; I just don't think there are enough that fall into the joke-a-day category. That's hard: writing a good joke a day. I'm proud to take on the challenge. I want my cultural impact to be that I made people laugh. That's it.



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

DB. I'd love to give that New Yorker white whale a harpoon one of these days. I'd love to submit panels for that baby. But you know what? I'm not ready. I'm not good enough yet. I need a few more years. This cartooning thing is much much harder than it appears. The first level might be easy to hit. The small inceremental steps to get to the top just take time. I need to hone.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

DB. Well, a lot of my influences come from other corners of the comedy world. Your Woody Allen's, your Robert Kleins, your Monty Python boys, your Christopher Guest movies. Right now, I'm positively immersed in the stuff of a comic named Mitch Hedberg. Sadly, he died about a year ago but I urge everybody to go get his CD Strategic Grill Locations. That cat thinks like nobody else. Of course, there's Gary Larsen and the Far Side and before him, Kliban and Gahan Wilson. Lately, I'm spending of of time looking at New Yorker anthologies and just bathing in how much better all those people are than I am.



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

DB. Gotta be Larsen. Our brains seem to be wired the same way.

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.

DB. Oh yeah, absolutely. In that playroom in the back of my brain, I'm always wondering how you could easily turn a daily panel into a daily little animated thing that would stream over a phone or welcome someone to a website. And for any advertising media people out there, I'm open to product placement in Loose Parts. Just remember, I hate to draw cars, but I think I could manage a Jaguar.

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?

DB. Well, I work on a lot of different things in my day job. As a matter of fact, twelve hours after I write this I'll be on a soundstage directing three TV commercials. I've worked on short films and on radio shows so I've had a taste of most everything. There's a whole world of people out there who only know me as an ad guy or a director or a writer. They have no clue I'm a syndicated cartoonist. I remember once shocking a particlarly prickly newspaper columnist who told me I had no idea how hard her job was by informing her I had, like, ten times as many daily readers as she did. That was satisfying. But I'd like to try writing for TV. In fact, I am trying that right now. And I do have a comic novel in my head. Check out some of Streve Martin's novellas. I think I could grow into doing something like that. Then I wake up and realize I'm an idiot ,and that puts a damper on things.


CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

DB. I'd love to do standup comedy again. I dabbled in it for about five years but quit just as I was getting good. Raising young kids and going to comedy clubs didn't mesh well. Like cartooning, standup is way harder and more nuanced than it appears. I find the instant feedback rewarding. In fact, I count the lack of instant feedback, or feedback of any sort ­ as the thing I like least about cartooning.


CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

DB. Visiting? Heck, I'm moving in. Where do you keep the chips?