Thursday, July 30, 2009

20 Questions with Stephanie Piro


Stephaine Piro is queen of the cat cartoons and the Saturday Chick in King Feature’s SIX CHIX daily strip.

Her work is instantly recognizable and appears in books, on T-shirts, greeting cards, and magazines, and, it is rumored, tattooed discreetly on some of her more ardent fans.

Read SIX CHIX daily and be sure to check out all the cartoon goodness at Stephanie's website.



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

Always. Cartoons and comics were always around, growing up. Big collections of NYer cartoons, Charles Addams. I loved Bambi and 101 Dalmatians. My first dream was to be a Disney animator, but later I fell in love with PEANUTS and Ronald Searle.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

It took a while. Well, actually, I sold cartoons to card and calendar companies before I sold one to a publication. Glamour was the first to buy one from me.

3. How did you get involved with the SIX CHIX strip?

Jay Kennedy contacted me, when he noticed FAIR GAME hadn't been renewed by Universal, who had bought it from Chronicle Features. Jay was really a visionary. I was really excited by his concept, and I knew Rina Piccolo and Isabella Bannerman and Kathryn Lemieux's work from our being published in Roz Warren's Women's Glibber series. Margaret Shulock and Ann Telnaes's work were new to me at the time and I thought they were both amazing.

4. You also do gag cartoons. How does that differ from your work on the strip?

I love the punch of a panel. To me, strips were always character driven. For SIX CHIX, we do our work as both a panel and a strip. Another of Jay's great ideas. It was tricky to try to pad a panel to a strip length, so, I switched to drawing the strip first, and then breaking up the panel to tell the story, something Kathryn Lemieux excelled at, so I learned from her that that was an acceptable technique.

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

Waaay back, I did a strip called THE TERRIBLE TEA TIME about two nameless women who lived in a post-apocalyptic society. That had an unseen maid and a cat and dated a lot of unsuitable men. I consider it my greatest work as it was just the kind of thing I'D read if it were in print. It was roundly rejected (one rejection said "Very smart and sexy. Just not for us"), but championed by Joe Bob Briggs. I used to sell a collection at craft shows.

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

As a print person, I have a deep affection for cartoons and comics in print, but you can't deny there's a lot of innovation and great work being done on the web.

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

I got in trouble for using the word "threesome" in a CHIX cartoon. I think it's a pretty sad double standard and maybe one reason the industry has had problems. Of course, you have wonderful grown-up work being done by people like Gary Trudeau, Sandra Bell Lundy and Terri Libenson.

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

First and foremost, my fabulous sister Chix!
Then:
1. Alison Bechdel
2. Joann Sfar
3. Lynda Barry
4. Sandra Bell Lundy
5. Terri Libenson

9. Who’s hotter, Mark Trail or Rex Morgan, MD?

Need you ask? Outdoorsy and manly Mark Trail!

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

I write first. I write and write, then have to stop and draw up everything. Though, sometimes I just draw up an idea when it comes to me.

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

Ack! I hate to even think that way. I never think about that. I believe there are always ideas out there.

12. What’s more important, talent or perseverance?

You have to have talent. It can be rough, but it's got to be there to get noticed. You can persevere forever, but it may not get you anywhere without your own style, voice or insight.

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

I loved Stuart Dodds, my editor at Chronicle Features. He was very hands on. As was Jay Kennedy, when the CHIX got started, but once you know what you're doing, it's great to have the freedom to create and just send it in.

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


Oh no! It's almost impossible to narrow down I have so many favorites in every possible medium.

With TV, as soon as I like something it's inevitably canceled (except Lost!). Currently, I'm in love with No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I've read all the books and seeing the characters brought to life and that music, it's just beautiful. A friend also gave me Joan of Arcadia, which I'd never seen, and I love the teen cast, funny, smart, heartbreaking.

Books, so many. I did enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell and Gordon Dahlquist's Glass Books of the Dream Eaters.

Music, I am crazy about Canadian singer/songwriters David Francey and Geoff Berner. Lately I like Conor Oberst, too. I adore listening to Pandora on the computer while I work.

Movies, also, waaay too many. The Good Baby, I'm Not Scared, Sliding Doors, Duets, Wisconsin Death Trip, and Moby Dick (w Gregory Peck) are all ones I can see over and over.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

I use a Koh-i-noor art pen.

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

Creating your own little world and bringing it to life.

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

Meeting Lynda Barry, Mort Drucker and Jules Feiffer were big moments. All at the Reubens.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

These days? Cartoon because you love it, because you can't NOT do it. And submit, submit, submit. If you have talent, someone will notice, eventually. But, if you're looking to make money, become a doctor or a lawyer.

19. How important are awards?

I've won a couple for different things. It hasn't made for great leaps in income.
I doubt I'll ever get a Reuben, so I'm not sure if that boosts your sales presence.

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

In the 80's, I once made a classic cult film (though still unedited) called Invasion of the Zucchini People. The stars had to hold zucchini on sticks over their heads with Mr. Potato Head faces.

Monday, July 27, 2009

20 Questions with Carla Ventresca and Henry Beckett

Husband-and-wife team Carla Ventresca and Henry Beckett produce the very funny Creators Syndicate strip ON A CLAIRE DAY.

Carla also creates humorous greeting cards for several publishers and was formerly one of the SIX CHIX.

Check out ON A CLAIRE DAY at GoComics and enjoy the interview, which has twice as much fun – and twice as many answers – as the regular 20 Questions.




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

C: I always knew I wanted to do something with art and writing. I started off in advertising, then did greeting cards (which I still do) and then sometime in there Henry and I started talking about doing a comic strip.

1. Henry, did you always want to be a writer?

H: Yup - of some sort or another.

2. Carla, you also do a lot of greeting cards. How did you get involved in that field?

C: When I worked in advertising I was pretty broke, so I made my own greeting cards. People seemed to like them (though they were to my friends and family so maybe they were just being nice). So I started making them by hand and went around to stores to sell them. Gradually I started getting more store clients. Then I got laid off from my advertising job, so I had to make my greeting card business work!

3. Describe the process you went through to get ON A CLAIRE DAY syndicated.

C: We spent a couple years working on the idea, and then in 2004 we did our first submission. We got rejection letters from just about everyone (others just simply ignored us). Then we regrouped and made some changes to the strip. It must've been a big improvement because when we submitted again in 2005 we had interest from three syndicates. (King, Creators, and Washington Post).

Creators was the most enthusiastic and liked the strip as is, whereas King and WP wanted to see some changes. We eventually signed with Creators, worked on the launch for several months, and then officially launched in summer of 2006.

4. What’s it like working with your spouse?

C: Kinda hard at first. Always talking about work all the time... breakfast... dinner... bedtime...

But now it's really good. We get along great and Henry is just an awesome person all around. (OK, H-you better say something nice about me!)

H: Carla's well...how can I put it? Just an awesome person all around. No other way to say it. But seriously, the most important thing is realizing that as important as it is that you be right, it's a million times more important that you be able to work together again tomorrow. So we have a rule: if either of us wants to, we can "win" the argument just by saying we want to. Kind of like a positive "veto."

In other words, if Carla feels strongly enough about something, she can simply say, "Well I want to exercise my right to win this one," and she wins. The reason it works is that most creative disagreements don't boil down to "right" or "wrong," but just different ways of seeing things. So if Carla feels that strongly about something, I can be confident that there'll be lots of people who see things her way who'll be entertained too. Hence, in the end, we both "win."

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

C: I did a card once that showed a girl in a boat surrounded by great white sharks, and it said something like "When I'm thinking of you, I could be happy anywhere."

It, um, bombed.

H: One of my favorites was an old couple sitting out on the porch of a modest house, on the mailbox reads: "Fannie and Freddie Smith". The old guy's reading a newspaper, and comments, "Well, lookie here. Guv’mint’s gonna send us 50 Billion dollars. ‘Bout time, I say."

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

C: I don't understand why it has to be a debate. If you're creating a strip and people are enjoying it who cares whether it's in print or on the web. For us I think it's more a question of are we getting paid for our work? What frustrates us is we get paid literally pennies for having our stuff on GoComics and Comics.com sites. It's not the readers' faults -- it's just the insane way the web works that gives content away for free.

H: The medium isn't the issue. It's paying people for their work. No one cares if people get paid for anything creative anymore. Everyone steals music, video, news copy, comics. No one seems to give a whit. If we don't stop this somehow, art is going to suck from this date forward. But for the rare genius who does it for fun. But the truth is that most great art doesn't come from some magic genius, but from someone working really hard. In order for artists to have the time to work really hard, they need to be paid.

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

C: I don't really mind that we have to be tame. There's so much crassness everywhere else anyway. But it would be nice to see Claire belt out a few good swear words one of these days.

H: (See Carla's answer.) But truth be told, there's a lot of storytelling and jokes to be derived from the tamer parts of life too.

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

C: Patrick McDonnell above all. I also love Jean-Jacques Sempe--French artist who used to be on the cover of The New Yorker all the time. Also really like Tony Murphy's strip IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU and THE OTHER COAST by Adrian Raeside.

H: To the above I'd add anyone who's had anything to do with the Simpsons or Pixar.

9. Is it true that Claire’s dog, Bradley, has a thing for Cathy’s dog, Electra?

C: Bradley asked us not to discuss it.H: His publicist hereby neither confirms not denies said allegation. And if you print it, his lawyers Growl, Bitem and Bark, will be calling soon.

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

C: We first talk about where the story is going and how we want to approach a subject. Then we both just start jotting down notes. So I guess the words come first, but that's after deciding on a direction.

H: It's always story first, then trying to work out the gag, then refining it. Though (in my biased opinion) Carla is one of the best expression drawers in the business, so if we can work in a place for a good facial expression, we try.

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

C: Not anymore — used to all the time. But now we have some good systems in place for coming up with ideas. You can't just sit there waiting for inspiration. You could be waiting all day.

H: What she said. As Charles Schulz said (to paraphrase), "What me, writer's block? HECK, no! I've got a dang deadline! I don't have time for writer's block."

12. Who do you want to play Sammi in the ON A CLAIRE DAY live-action movie?

C: Hmmm. I guess someone who plays bitchy really well. Someone like that British girl Keira Knightley.

H: Yes, Keira would be great. Could you get me her number? (Don't worry, I'll handle this, Carla...)

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

C: Somewhere in between. When they're laissez-faire it's like they couldn't care less about you. When they're too hands on and editing every single comma you want to strangle them.

H: Ditto. It's great to have someone overseeing the process so we diminish our chances of irritating people. Though we know it's neither possible nor desirable to avoid irritating people completely!

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

C: Rushmore.

H: Don Quixote, The Lost Steps, The Simpsons, Most things Spielberg has done, and the best songwriter in history, Jacques Brel.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

C: Wacom tablet; my pen-and -nk days are thankfully over.

H: Wacom tablet, the Adobe Suite, the Internet!

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

C: It's very fulfilling to be doing what you love.

H: When someone writes in letting us know we've touched them/amused them in some way. For me, that's what it's all about. Doing something, however tiny or ephemeral, to make the world a happier place for someone.

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

C: Patrick McDonnell — I'm sure I scared him the first time I met him at a Reubens because I went off about how much I admired him. When we were trying to get our strip syndicated we got up the guts to show him samples and he actually liked it. He was very supportive and helpful to us during the submission process. We have enormous admiration and respect for him.

H: Ditto. Patrick is an idol not just as a cartoonist, but as a human being. He's one of the greatest people I've met. My cats (and all animals) second the opinion.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

C: Work towards a style of writing and drawing that is true to you. If you try to copy others you'll make yourself crazy. Be yourself in your work. Sounds corny, but it will make your work unique and memorable.

H: If you want to do it for a living, make sure other people are genuinely responding to your work. Make sure you can find a way to keep up the schedule working at a high enough level. But if you want to do it for yourself, just have fun! Anything you can do to bring happiness into your life is worth every effort to do so.

19. How important are awards?

C: Not very, as far as I can tell. When I won the Greeting Card Division award a few years ago, it's not like people started lining up to offer me contracts or bags of money. Right now it's collecting dust on my shelf.

H: I can't think of a single newspaper editor who's said, "This cartoonist won an award, we'd better run his/her strip."

But if recognition by your peers is important to you psychically, then it could be a big deal.

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

C: That I really, really need a shower right now.

H: I'm not sure. If I knew of such a thing, then, of course, someone would know it, no?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Now That's Just WRONG...

This rejected strip led to an upcoming project. More info as it becomes available...

My 3 Cats

Actually, we have 8 cats(!), but I'm doing a monthly cat cartoon for the MyThreeCats website, specifically their blog.

Check it out! Click here now.

Don't question it. Just do it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

20 Questions with Ralph Hagen

Who knew a sarcastic bull and a dumb sheep could be so funny? Ralph Hagen, that’s who. His comic strip, THE BARN debuted in October 2008 and is syndicated by Creators.

THE BARN features Ralph’s offbeat humor and excellent draftsmanship and given new meaning to the words “animal husbandry.” (What does that mean? I have no idea.)

Check out THE BARN online at the Creators site and GoComics.


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

Yes and yes. From as early as I can remember I drew. I can remember cutting up grocery bags and using them for paper. After awhile my mother realized I liked to draw and started buying me drawing pads. My first character was the “one-eyed monster” from Lost in Space. I’d always tell people I wanted to be a jet pilot or a cartoonist. Luckily my inner ear problem didn’t affect my cartooning.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

I was 16, so 1975. I was hired to do the weekly editorials for two local papers. Made $8 a cartoon! Looking at it now, prices haven’t changed much.

3. Describe the process you went through to get THE BARN syndicated.

I can’t remember the number of submissions I’ve made over the years. Strips about Vikings, nerds, toddlers, hockey players, etc, etc., and all of them had been carefully drawn, inked and meticulously scrutinized. Four weeks of dailies, two colored Sundays, cover letter, etc. Never had a bite, though.

THE BARN just happened in a bunch of scribbles one morning. Never planned it, just started drawing a sarcastic bull and a dumb sheep and the ideas started coming out. After a couple hours of scribbling, I had about twenty roughs. Put them in an envelope and mailed it out as-is. Three week later, got a call from Creators. They liked what they saw and sent me a contract. I started thinking, maybe I had always been spending too much time on the artwork, and not enough attention to the writing. I worked with John Newcombe for about 6 months. He was great and he helped me a lot, defining the two main characters and putting a kit together.

In July I got a call that the release date had been bumped up and in October 2008, a year after I got the phone call, it was launched. It was definitely a crazy year. I was born and raised on a farm so I had done “animal” cartoons since day one, just never submitted any until then.


4. You’re also a gag cartoonist. How do you approach gag cartooning vs. the comic strip
.

Pretty much the same; except, of course, with gags, you don’t have to worry about character development or what a character would or wouldn’t say. Just make the reader laugh in a single frame. I think keeping track of which ones you sent to which magazine, and what rights were sold, etc. is harder than the drawing part. At least for me. A bookkeeper I ain't!

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

Haven’t had a BARN rejected yet, too early. With gag cartooning, though, anything that doesn’t sell could be considered rejected I suppose. I did one aimed at Father’s Day and it has never sold. Probably never will.

Adolescent deer talking to the father deer. “You’ve always been there for me Dad, except for the time I was hit by a mini-van and you left me in the ditch for dead.”

Must be country humor.

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

I’m too busy to do much debating. There are lots of great cartoonists running their work off the web and making some good money and my hat is off to them. Whatever works — retail syndication, web comics, door-to-door — cartooning is all about diversifying and finding homes for your work. You do it your way and I'll do it mine.

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

Yes, Family Guy is on four times a night and I can’t say “booger” in my strip. Go figure, eh? It doesn’t bother me. It’s not like if they changed the rules tomorrow, Rory would start spouting expletives. Those that follow the comics pages do so because they enjoy them the way they are. I do think it’s more challenging in producing clean humor rather than depending on the shock factor.

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

I’m going to list from my youth. PEANUTS, WIZARD OF ID, B.C, FAR SIDE, HERMAN.

9. Is it true that Cow from COW AND BOY has been romantically linked with Stan the bull?

I’ve heard that rumor, too. A tussled bed of straw; that “working late in the pasture” excuse. Methinks it won’t be long before it’s COW AND BOY AND CALF!

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

Like most cartoonists will tell you, the ideas just happen. I’ll pick a scene in my head, let the movie roll and try to pick out the funny parts. I’m an early riser and I start at about 7:00 a.m. in the studio. I scribble out ideas in the morning and spend the afternoon drawing. For the most part, the idea comes first. There are times, though, I just start drawing and an idea will pop out. Sometimes those are the best ones.

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

Well not until NOW, Scott! Thanks a lot! ;)

12. In THE BARN live-action movie, what actor would you want to put in a sheep suit to play Rory?

Michael Cera would make a perfect Rory. Should I call him, or will you?

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

Laissez-faire. My wife handles the controlling part. (Insert rimshot here.) I have a wonderful editor at Creators, Jessica, who lets me do what I do, but helps me and offers advice when I need it.

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

Books: Sorry, don’t read. Not unless it’s the words under a picture.

TV shows: Anything with a Trek, or a “prime directive” in it. I love anything sci-fi, old or new; also comedies like Seinfeld, Everyone Loves Raymond, Malcolm in the Middle. Not into reality.

Songs: AC/DC, Eagles, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Fleetwood Mac, John Lennon

Movies: Same thing, comedies, sci-fi. Love the new Trek movie! Not into horror or crime stuff.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Nothing special. I draw on grocery bags, ink with a Micron 08 pen and color in Photoshop. Do they still make Zipatone??

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

It’s warm. I worked outside in the oilfield for 25 years, prior to calling it quits and going cartooning full time. I’m happy to say that since then, I have never experienced frostbite or cold toes and fingers. When it’s 40 below, I make a pot of coffee and sharpen my pencil. Life is good. Of course on top of this, it’s always fun making a living doing something you want to do, rather than something you have to.

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

Living where I do, in northern Alberta, it’s not easy to get to conventions, or meetings. There is a twice-a-year gathering of local cartoonists and illustrators here, where I have met and keep in touch with Gerry Rasmussen (BETTY), who lives in Edmonton. Great guy!

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Artwork is important, but the writing is more important. Aside from this, I'd say if you’re just in it for the money, find another job. If you cartoon because you love it and it makes you happy, you don’t need any advice. You’ll keep drawing until the lady at the nursing home takes your sharp pencils away.

19. How important are awards?

Not that I’ve ever received one, but I think awards are wonderful! Preferably large ones over four feet tall with colored gems and a small light that illuminates its splendor!

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

A distant relative of mine was the golfing legend, Walter Hagen. With this illustrious figure in the family tree, it was always assumed I would go into…cartooning?

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?

Liquor.
(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.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday's Toon


Let's kick off the weekend!




Tuesday, July 14, 2009

20 Questions with Stephan Pastis

To newspaper comics fans, Stephan Pastis, the creator of the popular strip PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, needs no introduction.

PBS, which features Rat and Pig, is a certified hit. Syndicated in 600 papers, the strip has spawned numerous best-selling compilation books. Here’s hoping it becomes a licensing bonanza, too. I’d love to have a little plush Rat suction-cupped to my car window.

Stephan was gracious enough to answer my questions via phone a few weeks back, especially so because my cheap microphone/headphone setup made it difficult for him to hear me (curse you, Best Buy!).

Nominated four times for best newspaper comic strip by the National Cartoonist Society, Pearls has won the award twice, in 2003 and 2006.

My favorite PBS strips are from the weeklong arc in June 2005 featuring Osama Bin Laden and the Family Circus. Truly inspired!

Check out PBS daily, buy the books, read more about Stephan at his web site, and follow his blog, which is updated far more frequently (and humorously) than this one .

20 QUESTIONS WITH STEPHAN PASTIS

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

Oh, yes. When I came home from school, my mom would provide me with paper and it gave me something to do.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

I submitted a cartoon when I was 11 to the Pasadena Star News for the little children’s section of the comics page. They bought it and they paid me two dollars.

3. Describe the process you went through to get PEARLS BEFORE SWINE syndicated.

I submitted three different strips to the syndicates, maybe four, before PEARLS. They rejected all of them. And then I submitted PEARLS in 1999 and both United and King were interested and I went with United. Then Scott Adams endorsed the strip and told all his fans to read it. And that’s when it sort of took off.

4. Why doesn’t rat smile more?

Maybe I should use that Johnny Cash answer. When people asked, "Why do you wear black?" Johnny said, "When the world’s a better place, I’ll stop wearing black." Maybe that’s the answer.

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

I once had Rat and Pig at a funeral, and they had the giggles. Rat was trying to make Pig stop giggling, so he said the name of a comic strip and immediately everyone stopped laughing. The implication being that the comic was so unfunny, it could actually make people stop laughing. No I can’t tell you the name of the strip, but that’s why they nixed it. They said, "Oh, the creator is such a nice guy, you’d really hurt his feelings."

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

I think it’s an artificial distinction. To me there are two kinds of strips: funny strips and not-funny strips. I don’t really care how it gets transmitted to the world; I lump them into those two categories.

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

I think the challenge probably makes you a better writer, but it’s very limiting. I would much rather have the whole keyboard of comedy open to me rather than just the black notes on the piano. It’s like we have just one set of keys and everyone else gets the whole keyboard. So sure, that’s limiting.

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

THE FAR SIDE, 1960s-era PEANUTS, GET FUZZY, DILBERT, PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP — that’s a great one.

9. Do you think Ziggy shaves his head or was he born without hair?

Bigger question: Why doesn’t he wear pants?

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

Sometimes pictures, but almost always words. I’m much more a verbal cartoonist than a visual one – out of necessity.

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

No, I really don’t. I mean there are days when I don’t have anything, but there’s always stuff to make fun of. And if there’s not, I’ll just do a FAMILY CIRCUS joke.

12. Who do you want to play YOU in the PEARLS BEFORE SWINE live-action film?

Oh, I think there’s only one person who could play me: Brad Pitt.

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

None, so I guess that would be laissez-faire.

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

Books: Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole, funniest book ever. Then the ones I re-read every couple of years…Death of a Salesman, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Great Gatsby, and Hemingway’s short stories.

TV: The British version of The Office, the other Ricky Gervais show, Extras, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Flight of the Concords.

Songs: I’m a big U2 fan with my favorite song ever being "Bad" from the Unforgettable Fire.

Films: Kill Bill is probably my favorite single film, followed closely by 8 ½ by Fellini, Ran by Kurosawa, and Lawrence of Arabia.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Physically how I create the strip? A pen and paper. Does anyone really care about this stuff? (laughing) Does anyone really care what type of pen I use? I’ll tell ‘em. It’s a Kuretake pen and just Strathmore Bristol board. I’m very simple. If you looked at my desk you’d see pen, pencil, eraser, and paper. I use the computer to clean up the strips and add the grayscale.

16. What’s the worst job you ever had?

Well, I didn’t like being an attorney, so I’ll say that.

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

I‘ve been really lucky there. Schulz, just by stalking him and showing up where he ate breakfast; Berke Breathed, just by being on a panel with him in New Orleans; Scott Adams, because he lives not too far from me. Never met Watterson; never met Larson. I would love to meet Larson. Two people on earth I want to meet more than anybody else: I want to meet Bob Dylan and Gary Larson, neither of which will probably ever happen, but a man can dream.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Entertain yourself. Sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s much harder than it looks. You think you are, but more often than not, you’re playing to an audience, trying to entertain others. When you try to do that, you entertain no one. Just try and make yourself laugh. I once asked Scott Adams that question. I said, "You’re so funny when you write; how do you do that?" He said, "I write to my brother. I imagine my brother reading it."

19. How important are awards?

When I lose, not very important. When I win, they’re everything.

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

I’m afraid of dogs. If there’s a barking dog in someone’s house, I won’t visit them. That’s the first question I ask. When someone invites me over I ask, "Do you have a dog?" If they say, "Yeah," I don’t go.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

20 Questions with Tom Cheney

Tom Cheney is one of America’s premiere gag cartoonists.

Let’s see what Wikipedia says about Tom:

“His work has appeared in over 500 publications in the United States and other countries, including National Lampoon, The Harvard Business Review, Mad Magazine, Hustler, Penthouse, The Wall Street Journal, Punch, Barron’s Magazine, and the “Commies From Mars” comic book series. He was the 1985 winner of the Charles M. Schulz Outstanding Cartoonist Award for his work in magazine cartooning, and his work has been spotlighted on ABC Nightline, CNN, and NBC News. Tom is presently living with a harem of nubile young women on an uncharted isle.”

Apparently that last line was added by some prankster. Damn that peer-edited site.

You can check out Tom’s hilarious New Yorker cartoons here.


20 Questions with Tom Cheney


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

Now that I think about it, I've probably always been a cartoonist. I've been drawing ever since I can remember, and it's been a deeply ingrained pastime my whole life. Some days, after I'm done drawing for a living, I draw to relax. I'd spend hours as a kid, filing my drawing tablets with stick figure characters doing unspeakable things to each other.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

First cartoon sale was to Easy Riders Magazine, back in 1976. I didn't expect to find a check in my batch of rejects, and I nearly fainted when I saw it. I was expecting a rejection slip.

3. You’ve done cartoons for magazines, greeting cards, books. How did you get into the gag cartoon field?

I like all forms of cartooning, but the gag cartoon presents the biggest challenge for me. Also, there was a hot market for the gag cartoon when I was breaking into the business, and that's where some of the big money was, especially with the men's magazines. The cartoonists who inspired me the most at that time were gag cartoonists, and I felt it was something I could do well.

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

The single panel gag cartoon is a bomb that goes off in your face. There's no set-up or warning, as with a comic strip. A comic strip gives the reader time to take cover. A gag cartoon sucker punches you, and it takes a lot of wit and cleverness to do that.

5. You’re incredibly prolific. How many cartoons do you draw on an average day?

These days I try for 10 really strong cartoons per week, but I used to create 7 per day; 3 per day if I was doing full page color gags for the men’s magazines. Keeping the same pace now that I did as a younger cartoonist would probably kill me.

6. What’s your favorite rejected cartoon?

An earless Vincent Van Gogh sitting in the emergency room waiting area with a bloody bandage over his groin. He says to the guy next to him. "When she said I was a bad listener, I cut off my ear...last night, she said I was a lousy lay."

7. What’s the future of gag cartooning? Magazines? The Internet?

The future of gag cartooning is grim. It's getting too expensive for magazines and newspapers to keep publishing. Getting published on the internet is like getting noticed for peeing in the pool. There's just no challenge there, because anybody can stick up a cartoon without having to deal with rejection or the editing process. Hopefully, if publications go digital, they'll continue to buy and use the gag cartoon and pay cartoonists enough to make it worth their best efforts.

8. Name five of your favorite cartoonists.

John Caldwell, Eric Decetis, Sam Gross, Charles Addams, and Charles Rodgrigues. All of these guys have walked out to the edge and given us a good look at how powerful the gag cartoon can be.

9. Who would win in a cage match, James Thurber or Charles Addams?

Charles Addams, because James Thurber only had one good eye. He'd never see those left hooks coming.

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

I usually start my writing sessions with a few doodles, then try to develop concepts by putting two things together that don't belong together...such as a prehistoric scene with a limo driving through it, and one of the cave men saying something like, "Well, I guess some of us just can't appreciate the Pleistocene era." I wish I had a set formula for coming up with gags. What it really boils down to is thinking, thinking, thinking. Drawing is fun...gagwriting is torture.

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

I always worry about running out of ideas, but I just keep reminding myself that times are always changing, and with these changes come new annoying cliches that drive us crazy until a cartoonist relieves the tension.

12. You’re a staff cartoonist at The New Yorker. That sounds like a dream gig. How did that come about?

I submitted a batch of cartoons to The New Yorker each week for 18 years, non-stop, and they finally offered me a contract. It's been the most challenging and rewarding gig of my career, and I consider myself lucky to be with them. It's hard work, and they expect nothing less than my best efforts, but the results are always worth it. The best fan mail I get is from New Yorker readers who liked a particular cartoon I did.

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

Ideally, the more laissez-faire the better, but a good hands-on editor can actually have a positive influence on a cartoonist's work. Lee Lorenz helped me a great deal when asking for particular drawing changes, and I learned a lot from his his editing. On the other hand, I've worked with editors who weren't qualified to compose grocery lists, let alone work with professional cartoonists.

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

Favorite books: Tattoo by Earl Thompson.
Favorite TV show: COPS
Favorite Songs: Anything Blues or Jazz
Favorite Movie: The Last Detail

15. What are your tools of the trade?

I've gone through quite a few pens. My favorite for the longest time was the Pelikan 120 medium point, but it's become a dinosaur and I can't find replacement nibs for it. Lately I'm using a filed down Crow Quill (Hunt 108.) Pencil is a 2 mm lead holder with B grade lead, and my favorite brush is the Windsor and Newton Series 7, #7 round. I used Dr. Martins for color work, along with transparent watercolors. I avoid using a computer for color, simply because I don't want my work looking like everyone else’s.

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

I don't own an alarm clock, there's no commute, I can live anywhere I want (Hawaii,) and I get paid to draw pictures of every idiotic thought that pops into my head. How can it possibly get better than that?

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

I've met Lee Lorenz and Randy Glasbergen, but they're the only two cartoonists I've ever had the honor of meeting.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Stay with it. Even though it may seem fruitless and hopeless right now, it will be worth it in the long run. Every drawing you do, no matter how complex or simple, teaches you how to do the next drawing and how to be better at what you do. Remember that you're not just telling jokes or making cute drawings...you're also in possession of a very powerful weapon. You'll be able to reach people and change minds the way no politician, clergyman, or poet could ever dream of.

19. How important are awards?

If you're a pro, then awards that offer cash are very important. If you're just getting a little statue or a plaque, hell, you can do that by baking pies for the county fair. I've seen awards go to some of the worst hacks and dullards in the business, while the greatest cartoonists I've ever known continue to quietly amaze and dazzle their readers in relative obscurity. An award that doesn't help you pay your bills or beat a deadline isn't worth that much.

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

If I told you that, we'd BOTH get arrested.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

20 Questions with Mark Buford

As a lover of all things monstrous and macabre, I’m a big fan of Mark Buford’s comic strip SCARY GARY.

SCARY GARY chronicles the adventures of Gary, a suburbanized vampire, and his demonic sidekick, Leopold. One of my favorite characters, of course, is Travis, the severed head in a jar.

Mark’s strip is consistently funny, wonderfully drawn and terrifically twisted.

You can read SCARY GARY in finer newspapers and online daily at GoComics.



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

Yes and yes. Like a lot of cartoonists, the day I was introduced to PEANUTS, I picked up a pen and haven't put it down since. Beyond that, I guess I'm fortunate to have artistic ability (and inclination) as part of my genetic make-up (my Mom and sister are both very talented artists).

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

In the early 90's, the late Jay Kennedy bought one of my single panels for his NEW BREED feature.

3. Newspapers haven’t run many horror-themed comics. Now, along with SCARY GARY, there’s LIO. Describe the process you went through to get SCARY GARY syndicated.

After I had the idea in mind, I went about the business of putting together about six weeks of dailies to submit to the syndicates. That part of the submission process always takes the longest for me, as I'm working with brand new characters. After I submitted to all the major syndicates I waited. One day about three months (and three rejection notes) later, Creators called. With past submissions I was used to being subjected to a development period before a final decision was made.

With SCARY GARY, however, Creator's was prepared to launch the strip as it was, offering to overnight a contract to me the day they called. I felt very fortunate (and flattered) that they had such faith in the material. About six months later the strip was officially launched.









4. Tell us a little bit about MEATLOAF NIGHT.

Ah, yes. MEATLOAF NIGHT was my first syndicated strip. It was about a bunch of kids and their pets growing up in the suburbs. Handled by United Media, the strip ran from 1997 to 2000. It was a great learning experience for me with regard to gag writing, character development and how the syndication business works in general. Ultimately, the subject matter wasn't quite right for me (I feel much more at home with acerbic, hateful monsters than with cute kids and animals), but working with U.M. was a great experience.

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

Years ago I submitted a strip called LOUNGE LIZARDS, about a couple of cheesy, sleazy lounge singers. It didn't fly with any of the syndicates, but I really liked it.

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

I think web comics have huge potential, at least with regard to the material. There's just so much more one can do with it. One of my favorite web comics is THE PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP. I don't think it would fly in newspapers, but it's perfect for the web. I guess there are several debate points concerning web vs. print comics. I hope I got within range of one of them with my response.

7. Newspaper comics are considered pretty tame compared to TV and other mediums. SCARY GARY features a vampire, his demonic sidekick, and a disembodied head in the jar. Have you had any trouble with newspaper editors or readers objecting to the “dark” humor?

Fortunately, and surprisingly, no. I've had no issues with anything that could be regarded as too harsh or horrifying with any of our markets.









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

GILL (Norm Feuti), THE PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP (Nicholas Gurewitch), DILBERT, LIO and IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU (Tony Murphy).

9. Who’s scarier, the Mother-in-Law of Frankenstein or the Teenage Daughter of Frankenstein?

Mother-in-Law. Frankenstein would have to constantly listen to her say, "You're not good enough for my undead child."

10. How do you develop ideas?

Which comes first, words or pictures? Always the words first. Cartooning is more satisfying to me if I'm able to find the funny through words rather that site gags.

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

All the time. That fear is like a snarling, feral dog just outside the door of my brain. I guess it'll finally claw its way in one day.

12. Who do you want to play Leopold in the SCARY GARY live-action film?

I've never thought about SCARY GARY as a live-action film, but for an animated version, I think John C. McGinley would be perfect for Leopold. He was so wonderfully vicious and sarcastic on Scrubs.

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

Hands on at first, then laissez-faire when the cartoonist and the strip are firing on all cylinders. Luckily, Creator's (my syndicate) feels the same way, so we've worked well together.

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

My favorite TV show is 30 Rock. One of my favorite books is The Education of Little Tree by Asa Earl Carter (under the pseudonym Forrest Carter). I don't really have a favorite song, but I like Beck a lot. And I like Yo La Tengo.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

On 400 series Strathmore Bristol Board I use a mechanical pencil, a crow quill (dip ink) pen and Staedtler Mars Pigment liners for nits and nats. Then Adobe PhotoShop for zipatone patterns, lettering and coloring.

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

Getting paid for doing something I'm passionate about.

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

I got to meet Charles Schulz at a Reubens convention years ago. That was amazing. I also hoisted a couple of beers with Scott Adams at the same convention. Scott's work is the reason SCARY GARY is a three-panel strip. For me, his gag writing ability (and structure) is unparalleled.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Never give up. Be humble enough to realize that if you're just starting out, you've got a lot to learn. Don't take rejection personally. With each rejection note (I have a drawer full of them), figure out the things that may be wrong with your material and don't do those things any more.

19. How important are awards?

Since I never won one, not very. I'm sure my answer will change if I'm ever nominated for one.

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

As I'm writing these responses, I'm wearing my underclothes. I just finished eating some organic hemp waffles topped with fresh berries, and there's a big blackberry stain on my undershirt. I'm slightly distressed that the stain will not completely come out. Oh, also, I have a gigantic crush on Laura Linney.

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!