Monday, July 20, 2009

20 Questions with Tim Rickard

Conventional wisdom said that science-fiction themed comic strips wouldn’t sell because editors wouldn’t buy them.

Luckily, Tim Rickard came along with the unconventional BREWSTER ROCKIT and proved that a consistently funny, well drawn comic strip with a science-fiction theme could be a success.

I’m a big fan of Tim’s strip, which manages to hit all the right sci-fi geek buttons for fans of the genre, yet still remain accessible for "civilians."

BREWSTER ROCKIT appears daily in a host of papers, including the Chicago Tribune, and online at GoComics.

Read it. Learn it. Love it!

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

The answer to both: Always. I drew everywhere on anything. My parents love to tell the story about how, when I was little, I'd draw these large murals in the condensation on the windows of restaurants while waiting in line to order. That story became less cute when I did it as an adult.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

Hmmm ... as a staff artist for a newspaper I drew cartoons. Freelance-wise, my first cartoon sales were to First for Women magazine.

3. Syndicates have said that newspapers won’t buy a science-fiction strip. But you’ve bucked the system with the successful BREWSTER ROCKIT. Describe the process you went through to get syndicated.

The key was, I think, that the people at TMS who flagged my strip for syndication weren't sci-fi fans. At all. They just liked the goofy humor. I think they thought that if they liked it, then other non-sci-fi fans could too. It helps that I mostly stay away from esoteric sci-fi themes and stick to everyday events in a sci-fi environment.

4. Is it true that you’re a member of Mensa?

I let my membership lapse, but my wife made me rejoin. She says it's the only interesting thing about me. Sadly, she's right.

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

Funny you should ask. I just had one shot down this week I really liked that hinted that a character should stick their head up their own rear. It's amazing what I can't get away with. Also rejected was a cartoon that featured a dog scooting his butt across the floor, a hint about monkeys throwing poo, flatulence in a space suit and the phrase (from a carnivorous alien trying to impress women) "I once pooped a live rabbit."

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

Well, for reasons outlined in question 5, webcomics have already eclipsed newspaper comics creatively because of all the restraints put on newspaper comics. Basically, we have to pass the blue-haired-old-lady test. If our comic might offend some grandmother somewhere, then we can't do it. I think my syndicate, Tribune, is more sensitive than other syndicates (seeing what other strips get away with) because its parent company actually owns newspapers and knows first-hand how sensitive newspaper comic readers are. Webcomics have no restraints. (By the way, my spell check’s recommended alternate word for webcomics was "lobotomies." Seemed relevant.)

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

See questions 5 and 6. The challenge, unfortunately, is often how tame you can make a strip to get it published.

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

Wow. If you asked me this when I was younger you would have gotten a completely different answer. But, at the risk of leaving out some very worthy names, my biggest influences are: FAR SIDE, CALVIN AND HOBBES, DILBERT, Matt Groening (Simpsons) and Richard Thompson (whose RICHARD'S POOR ALMANAC is a comic clinic).

9. Who’s hotter, Princess Leia or an Orion Slave Girl?

Why choose? There's enough of me to go around.

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

(kidding! Almost always words.)

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

I did run out of ideas -- Two minutes after Brewster became syndicated. Don't tell anyone.

12. Who do you want to play Dr. Mel Practice in the BREWSTER ROCKIT live-action movie?

Me, but only for the money. An over-the-top actor like Jim Carrey would be fun. You listening, Jim? Call me.

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

My editor is a little of both in the right amounts. Mostly, it's hands-off, but occasionally -- being a sci-fi fan himself -- he'll make a suggestion that usually makes a strip a little better.

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

Books: The kind that you can color.

TV: 30 Rock, The Office, MXC, Flight of the Concords, Simpsons.

Songs: Bach, Handel, Green Day

Films: Anything by Pixar

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Computer. I do less and less traditionally. I used to do fairly complete drawings, scan them in and then assemble them with text, panels, copyright info, color, etc., in the computer. Then my drawings I scanned in became more and more rough - finishing them up in the computer using Photoshop and a Waacom tablet. Now, I do most of my drawings directly in Photoshop using the tablet.

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

Is there a best part about being a cartoonist?

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

No, however I did get to talk to Stephan Pastis (PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, another top influence of mine) on the phone several times and exchange e-mails. I even conned him into writing the intro to my book.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Don't. Newspapers are imploding. Look into animation or gaming.

19. How important are awards?

I'll let you know when I win one.

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

I'm actually just a group of squirrels in human clothes. Shhhh.

No comments: