Sunday, June 28, 2009

20 Questions with Kevin Fagan

Kevin Fagan’s comic strip DRABBLE debuted in 1979. Thirty years later, it’s still as funny – if not funnier—than when it launched.

Just 21 when DRABBLE started, Kevin became the nation’s youngest syndicated cartoonist.

DRABBLE appears in more than 200 newspapers worldwide. If it’s not in yours, you can follow the antics of Norman, Dad Ralph, Mom June, siblings Patrick and Penny, and Weiner Dog Wally every day at

1. When you were a kid, did you want to be a cartoonist? Did you draw?

I always drew when I was a kid. When I was about 10, my dad suggested I become a comic strip artist.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

When I was at Cal State University Sacramento, I was the cartoonist for the school paper. They offered to pay me $5 per cartoon. Although I was broke, I said no thanks because I didn't want them to not run my work if they didn't have the money that week. It was exposure and experience I needed. I think the first time I got paid was when the Sacramento Union asked if they could run my cartoons now and then. They gave me $5 per cartoon. Then they went out of business. I've always felt guilty.

3. Describe the process you went through to get DRABBLE syndicated.

While in college, I sent a letter to Charles M. Schulz asking how to become syndicated. To my astonishment, he sent a reply, and included a list of newspaper syndicates. United Feature Syndicate was on that list, and nine months after my first submission, they flew out an executive with a contract. I was 21 and scared to death. But I signed it. So far, so good.

4. How much are you like Norman Drabble?

When DRABBLE started, I was exactly like Norman Drabble, except Norman had more going for him. Now that I'm older, I'm more like his dad Ralph.

5. What’s your favorite rejected strip or gag?

I did a gag where Norman tried to lick the beaters that his mom was using to make a cake. Unfortunately, he didn't turn the beaters off first. My editor called to say it was too dangerous an idea, and might cause some of my readers (the incredibly stupid ones, I guess) to try it. She refused to let it go out. Less than a year later, Garfield did the same gag, coincidentally. Our editor must have thought Jim handled it more responsibly!

6. Where do you stand in the print comics vs. web comics debate?

I don't really know what the debate is. I don't get out much.

7. Newspaper comics are considered pretty tame compared to TV and other media. Do you find this limiting or do you welcome the challenge?

It is more of a challenge, I believe, to be funny and family-friendly at the same time. It's not my nature to be over the top, anyway.

8. Name five of your favorite comic strips or cartoonists.

In no particular order, Schulz (PEANUTS) because he inspired me so much. I've always admired Bil Keane's FAMILY CIRCUS because a FAMILY CIRCUS book is much cheaper than going to family therapy. He makes those little things that drive parents crazy seem sweet and funny, which can be very helpful to stressed-out parents.

I love Mell Lazarus (MOMMA and MISS PEACH) because I don't know how one guy can draw and write two great strips all by himself. I loved the wild humor of Jim Unger's HERMAN. Completely hilarious. I admire the consistency of PICKLES by Brian Crane. There are several others I could mention, but you only asked for five.

9. Who would win in a donut-eating contest, Ralph Drabble or Homer Simpson?

I didn't watch TV much in the 90's when my kids were little, and I guess I still don't watch much now. When I realized that Homer was also a donut lover, I backed off a little with Ralph, lest anyone think I was imitating Homer.

10. How do you develop ideas? Which comes first, words or pictures?

Ideas come in a variety of ways. I try to remember that this is a visual medium and funny pictures are always good.

11. Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?

I remember the first time I felt like I had done every gag possible. I was a sophomore in college. I've learned since that it is impossible to run out of ideas. The problem is that we don't always recognize good ones when they come.

12. Mall cops are hot now. Who do you want to play Ralph in the live-action film?

The term "mall cop" originated in the DRABBLE strip. I can't think of a good live-action Ralph, off the top of my head.

13. What kind of editor do you prefer, hands-on or laissez-faire?

I actually prefer the hands-on editors. I like to talk about my ideas sometimes.

14. What are your favorite books, TV shows, songs and films? (Yes, that counts as one question.)

Wow, that answer would require too much thinking.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Paper, pencils, a B-6 speedball pen, and some fine-line technical pens. And lots of White-Out.

16. What’s the best part about being a cartoonist?

The best part about being a cartoonist is being home for my kids. They might not agree, but I liked it. It's also neat to be kind of a celebrity, but being able to go anywhere because no one knows what I look like.

17. Have you met any of your cartoonist idols? Under what circumstances?

I have met many of them at various cartoonist functions. I got to know Sparky pretty well. That was neat.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Submit your work and hope for the best, and don't get discouraged easily.

19. How important are awards?

Awards are meaningless to me. Of course, if I ever win one, my opinions on the subject might change.

20. What’s something that nobody knows about you?

I don't know, either!


Anonymous said...

Years ago The Huntsville Times asked readers to vote on which comic strip they preferred. It was so close, that they took both - Great! We love both, & not a day goes by, that I don't clip them and send them to friends & relatives. Personally, I'm a nut on words...& the latest bit about Drabble receiving a BARBEQUE for a gift bugs me no end. He received a GRILL, and his favorite way to cook is to BARBEQUE. This is something I read constantly & would love to correct EVERYBODY! Thanks a bunch, and continued GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

Anonymous said...

Drabble is consistantly hilarious!