Thursday, July 2, 2009

20 Questions with Andrew Feinstein

GIRLS & SPORTS is a true comic-strip phenomenon.

Created by Justin Borus and Andrew Feinstein, the strip was self-syndicated in over 100 newspapers when Creators approached the duo with a contract. If getting your strip syndicated sounds hard, try doing it all yourself—mailing sales kits, making calls, sending out material, following up – all while producing a consistently funny daily comic strip.

The G&S empire has grown even bigger, with animated shorts, greeting cards, and publishing.

I don’t know how Andrew and Justin do it. Maybe they’re juiced. But don’t worry, I won’t ask for any urine tests. However these guys produce GIRLS & SPORTS, I hope they keep it up for a long time to come.

You can read the strip online here, or in finer newspapers across the country.

Be sure to check out the G&S book, too.

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

I've wanted to be a cartoonist for as long as I can remember. My mother claims that I was drawing cartoons and comics on napkins and paper place mats at restaurants from the day I could hold a crayon.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

Technically it was when I was in middle school drawing comics for fellow students. I'd make copies at my dad's office and sell them to my classmates. As a semi-adult, my first paying cartoon job was when I was in college and we syndicated GIRLS & SPORTS to other college newspapers.

3. Describe the process you went through to get GIRLS & SPORTS syndicated.

Like most comics, GIRLS & SPORTS was unceremoniously rejected by all the syndicates upon first and second submission. But rather than wait for another round of rejections, we self-syndicated GIRLS & SPORTS to college and mainstream newspapers ourselves. After GIRLS & SPORTS appeared in over 100 non-college newspapers in addition to over 75 college newspapers, Creators Syndicate reached out to us and offered us a deal.

4. How tough is self-syndication (and will it make you go blind)?

It's very difficult, obviously. And while it may not make you go blind, it will make you exhausted for the rest of your life! I'm still recovering from the days when I had to draw seven comics a week AND work the phones hustling my comic strip into newspapers. If I could give prospective self-syndicators some advice, it would be to have a dedicated salesman selling the comic so that you — as the cartoonist — can focus on the creative side of the comic strip.

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

See below!

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

I'm unclear as to what the debate is. I think web comics are great. The fact that any cartoonist anywhere can bypass newspaper editors and syndicates and get their work exposed directly to prospective readers is incredibly positive. I also think it's great that syndicated comic strips are now available to be read by anyone, anytime and in any place. And that's the way it should be.

That being said, the syndicates collectively dropped the ball by giving away their content for free years ago — just as newspapers are paying the price (literally) by giving their content away for free.

Anyone can do a web comic, but very few can produce a quality web comic that's profitable just as very few can produce a quality syndicated comic strip that's profitable. In an ideal world, syndicated comic strips that appear on the web would get paid for the amount of eyeballs they attract, rather than some tiny percentage of ad revenue.

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

Very limiting. Especially when you do a comic strip about dating, drinking and sex like we do. On the one hand, we're often "too edgy" for the newspapers, but on the other hand, we're not considered edgy enough for a web comic. So we're stuck in the middle and yes, it's a welcome challenge to make both audiences happy.

This Sunday comic strip got us in trouble in Arkansas with conservatives who lashed out about us showing a pre-married couple in bed together. This should give you an idea of the limitations out there.

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

In no particular order: THE LOCKHORNS (comic strip), PEARLS BEFORE SWINE (comic strip), Drew Litton (editorial sports cartoonist), Mike Peters and Jerry Scott (BABY BLUES and ZITS). My all-time favorite is THE FAR SIDE and I also love New Yorker cartoons.

9. How old do you think Mary Worth really is, and do you think she’s had some work done?

In the world of GIRLS & SPORTS, she's what you'd call a "cougar"!

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

Justin and I write jokes and pitch them to each other. If they meet our stringent (being sarcastic) internal review process, then I draw them. Justin then gives me edits based on the drawings or we argue about why they're drawn a certain way until we come to a consensus.

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

All the time. But fortunately for us, there's always something happening in sports that we can tackle or relate to dating and relationships.

12. Who do you want to play Harris in the live-action GIRLS AND SPORTS movie?

Ooooh...tough question. Maybe Jonah Hill?

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

Laissez-faire -- and to give my editors at Creators Syndicate credit, they really let us do our thing.

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

Books: historical non-fiction. TV Shows: Mad Men (if you read our comic strip closely, you'll understand why), The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld re-runs, any NBA game, but preferably featuring the Denver Nuggets. Films: Hoosiers, Caddyshack, Shawshank Redemption and Dumbo. How's that for a combination?

15. What are your tools of the trade?

I don't quite get the question. I'm admittedly one of the least talented syndicated cartoonists in terms of my drawing ability. But if there's one thing I believe we do well, we keep the drawing simple and consistent and the drawing never gets in the way of the jokes.

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

Since our comic strip centers on dating and relationships, there's no such thing as a bad date, a bad relationship or a bad rejection in a bar. All of that is great research for GIRLS & SPORTS (and probably a write-off, too)!

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

I've several of my cartoonist idols. I met Drew Litton when I was 10 at his desk at the Rocky Mountain News (my dad arranged it). And I met him again later in life and keep in touch to this day. I also had the privilege of meeting Jerry Scott over 10 years ago because we shared the same agent. And most recently, I got to meet the New Yorker's Bob Mankoff at his office a few years ago and met Mike Peters at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Have a multiple set of skills. You need to be able to draw, animate and be very tech-savvy. The days of drawing a comic strip on paper, mailing your submission to the syndicates and making a living by appearing in 200 newspapers are either over or are coming to an end.

If you like drawing and storytelling, I'd encourage you to get into CGI production and/or video game development and production. This way, you can make money doing something creative while developing your own ideas on nights/weekends. I can't in good conscience encourage an aspiring cartoonist to devote all of his/her time/money to developing a comic strip. In 2009, there are so many opportunities to be creative beyond comic strips.

19. How important are awards?

I don't think they mean much to the public, but certainly mean something among fellow cartoonists. I must confess that I don't even know who won this year's Reuben Awards. Even though the Reubens weekend took place in my backyard in Hollywood, I was in Denver following my beloved Nuggets make their first Western Conference Finals appearance in 24 years. Can you blame me?!

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

I have the best jump shot of all professional cartoonists sans Bob Mankoff, the New Yorker cartoon editor. But I bet I'm the only syndicated cartoonist who can dunk!

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