Tuesday, December 1, 2009

20 Questions with Dan Reynolds

Some cartoonists amaze you with their consistency. Dan Reynolds is one such cartoonist. You can guarantee a laugh with one of Dan’s cartoons.

They’re quirky, offbeat, playful and always, always funny.

I’ve admired Dan’s work for years, especially his cow cartoons. Dan is the master of bovine humor.

Check out REYNOLDS UNWRAPPED and all the other comic goodness on Dan’s website.

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

No. I didn’t want to be a cartoonist. I had “draw-aphobia." I knew people who could draw, but it didn’t look like anything I could do in a million years…well, okay it was almost 30 years before I even began to draw. I’m kind of the Grandma Moses of cartoonists. I spent my years as a youth planning on becoming a major league baseball player. You can see where that got me.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

That’s a tough one. I really don’t know. I spend most of my time wondering what my NEXT paying cartoon job will be.

3. Tell us about REYNOLDS UNWRAPPED.

This December, I will be celebrating 20 years as a cartoonist. For 10 years, my cartoon was called OVER THE EDGE.

Ten years ago, I decided to change the name to make it more personal. REYNOLDS UNWRAPPED is nothing more, nothing less than the visual and semantic musings of my mind. I aim for my cartoon to be a daily exercise of thinking outside of the box. I’ve always thought of my cartoon as being an outward extension of how I think, kind of an opportunity to allow readers to run around in the playground of my mind.

4. You have a degree in psychology. How did you get involved in cartooning?

I like Steve Martin’s take on his being a philosophy major, and I’d like to apply it to my degree in psychology...I learned just enough psychology to screw me up for the rest of my life.

In 1989, my first child was a few months old, and I decided to illustrate a poem I had written years earlier called, “A Christmouse Story." I had absolutely NO experience whatsoever in drawing. I could draw a bath, the covers, and a breath, but that was about the extent of my drawing experience.

Well, I went to work and found the experience very enjoyable. I was always a reader of the Sunday comics and I would often spend my share of time standing and laughing in front of the humorous greeting cards section.

So, one day shortly after completing the “Christmouse Story," I decided to draw a single-panel cartoon. I think I did so because I liked to read single-panel cartoons. The first cartoon was about a caveman holding a spear with a cat tied to the end of it. He was pointing the spear at a prehistoric mouse. Underneath the panel the caption read, “Og Invents the First Functioning Mousetrap." I brought it into my office and everyone got a kick out of it. That was the day I became a cartoonist. I began drawing cartoons non-stop.

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

I once had a development deal with UPS for a cartoon strip I did called LITTLE MONSTERS. It was THIS close to becoming syndicated. It came down to my strip or another and mine wasn’t picked. If I do say so myself, it was a darn good strip. I did about a year’s worth of work. I got addicted to it and couldn’t stop. Finally, I gave up the ghost and buried the characters in my backyard, next to the cartoon editor that rejected it…er…ah… I mean my dog. To take a look at a number of LITTLE MONSTERS cartoons, go here.

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

I’ve heard of people being successful in both mediums. I hink things are changing and change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that with it come growing pains. For some, there’s more pain than others. The nice thing about this profession is there is always various avenues to reinvent yourself.

7. Why is the single panel gag superior to the comic strip?

I don’t know that it’s superior as much as it is just different. I think a good strip writes itself because the characters all have (or should have) a personality which dictates what they say and do. A single panel can be more demanding because it does not rely on recurring characters. Every time a new cartoon is created, it has to stand on its own. A whole new world and character(s) begins anew.

Doing this 365 days a year, years in and out and being consistently funny is a monumental task. Almost anyone can come up with a few good ideas, but do it every day and make a living at it – THAT’S tough.

8. Name five of your favorite comics or cartoonists.

Being a single-panel cartoonist, it won’t be a surprise that my favorite cartoonists are single-panel cartoonists. This list is not all inclusive. I’d need to make a list of 30 to get them all in. In no particular order…

Charles Addams, Sam Gross, Gary Larson, Dave Coverly, and Glenn McCoy.
I have to include Bill Watterson because, well, he’s the greatest cartoonist who’s ever lived, in my opinion.

9. Who would win in a drinking contest, Rex Morgan, MD, or Mary Worth?

Rex Morgan, because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…wasn’t his father Captain Morgan? Despite the rumors, Blood Mary has nothing to do with Mary Worth.

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

The words and the pictures. When I first began to cartoon, the cartoon ideas flooded in. Drawing was the hard part. Then, at some point there was a shift. Once I was really comfortable and could basically draw just about anything out of my head, the ideas started to be harder won. Today, the ideas are the work part (but the most rewarding and hardest to achieve) and the drawing is the fun part.

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

I don’t know a cartoonist who doesn’t. I still surprise myself every day that I can still come up with new ideas.

12. What’s the future of gag cartooning? Print? The Internet? Cranial implants?

I think gag cartooning is a permanent fixture in our daily lives. It’s everywhere. The newspapers are going away in the same way people have chosen to drive cars instead of ride horses. The newspapers cannot compete with the internet. Like the difference in the speed between the car and horse, the newspapers are just too slow. Though the mode of transportation changed, the need for transportation remained. The need for humor is not unlike the need for transportation. It is a need and it will be fulfilled. Gag cartooning, for me personally, exploded with the onset of the internet. Not just online, but also in print forms as a result of the internet.

As I am not syndicated in newspapers, the downsizing of comic features in the newspapers has had no effect on what I do.

As far as cranial implants, I’d like a double-D size.

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

Hands-on, but not too hands-on. I think there should be a happy medium. When you’re a professional cartoonist or a professional anything, you want to be respected enough to have an editor know that you know, for the most part, what you’re doing.

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

Good question…

Books – as a child: Where The Wild Things Are, as an adult: cartoon books

TV Shows: Nature shows, Red Sox games

Films: Udder Terror -- I wrote and acted in this blockbuster film. See it on YouTube.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Uniball Vision (fine), Bristol paper, Pastels, colored pencils, markers, and a secret ingredient.

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

The look on people’s faces when you first meet them and they ask, “Now, what do you do?” They always have one of two facial expressions….a deer in the headlights…or “Wow, you must be, like, rich and famous.” Shows how much they know about being a cartoonist.

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

Face to face, I’d say Sam Gross and Gahan Wilson. We had lunch together with some other New Yorker cartoonists.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

The only advice you can really give it just practice. The ironic thing about being a cartoonist is that people think it’s kind of an easy fun job, and it IS fun, but it is not easy. You’d be surprised how tiring thinking is. I mean 24/7 thinking. If you don’t like working 80 hours a week, you need not apply.

19. How important are awards?

Not at all. A real award for cartooning consists of walking into an office and see one of your cartoons on a cubicle or go to someone’s home and see your cartoon on a refrigerator door or your book on their shelf. That’s a REAL award.

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

There’s a lot of things people don’t know about me as I typically don’t mingle much, but spend my life at home in my studio.

A few tidbits...all true...

1. I rode around the great pyramid of Egypt on a horse, bareback, at full gallop, hanging sideways. I had never been on a horse before. It wasn’t planned. The Egyptian who yelled “YA!” (in Egyptian, of course) thought he had a great sense of humor.

2. I once caught a foul ball in the air at a professional baseball game.

3. I have cartoon work as part of the archives of Cooperstown’s National Baseball of Hall museum.

4. I am left-handed when I sit down and right-handed when I stand up (except for ping pong and pool).

5. When I met my wife, her bank pin code number was the exact number of my birthday – 72660 (it’s not the same now – so don’t bother trying it!) I guess she had my number.

6. I play the guitar. I also play the radio.

7. I helped build my first house from beginning to end. It took 9 months.

8. I once considered being a priest. That was before getting married and having four sons.

9. I knew and was trained how to use a computer while in the Navy by Michael Walker. You may have heard of him.

10. I once saved a child using CPR after he nearly drowned. The child was my third son.

11. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year. For more on this, go here.

12. I had the oldest man in the world do the foreword for my book, How Aging Affects Belt Height.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting interview.