Tuesday, November 17, 2009

20 Questions with Alex Hallatt

Alex Hallatt is the cartoonist behind the delightful comic strip, ARCTIC CIRCLE, syndicated by King Features.

Check out the daily strip and get fully Hallattized at her website.

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

Yes. I wanted to be a cartoonist since I was given a PEANUTS book at the age of six. I think all kids enjoy drawing. It's lucky for those of us who make a living out of it hat most people stop and we just kept on going.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

I got fifty quid to design a bookplate at University - ooh, I thought - the road to riches...ahem.

3. Describe the process you went through to get ARCTIC CIRCLE syndicated.

I first came up with the concept when I was living in New Jersey, in 1992. It nearly got into the Morristown paper, but didn't and I stopped pushing it when I got a "proper job" in the pharmaceutical industry. It was resurrected in 2005 for a short run in the Australian Regional Press and that gave me enough new strips to have another go. I sent it to five syndicates and got four rejections and no answer from King Features.

The late, great Aussie cartoonist, James Kemsley suggested I send it to his syndicate contact and shortly after that I got an answer and a development contract from King in 2006.

I didn't have to make too many changes, so I was a few months ahead on strips when I launched in 2007. Boy, I wish I had that lead now (I'm exactly on deadline for dailies, which are about five weeks ahead of publication date).

4. You’ve done single-panel cartoons, too. How is creating a gag cartoon different from a comic strip?

The timing is different, obviously, but I can't put my finger on how I write differently for each. Because you get to control the set up of the gag for a strip, I find it more straightforward. That said, if I were doing a single panel every day, I'm sure my gag joke brain neurons would get into better shape.

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

A series about a flying carpet, which was deemed too "out in left field.” I'm keeping hold of it until my editor stops paying attention.

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

It is the height of daftness. People should be judged on the quality of the work and not the medium of distribution.

How you make that judgement is the issue. In the print world, we have editors and in the web world, it seems to be eyeballs, though there are some eyeballs that are respected more than others (e.g., Tom Spurgeon and Fleen's Gary Tyrell).

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

Given that my strip has always been family-friendly, it rarely bothers me, but sometimes, when you are reaching for a really good expletive, "DARN!" doesn't cut it, and I get really tired of drawing the cartoon swearing.

I got away with "bloody" the other day and was amazed, as that is still quite a rude modifier in the UK. At least I think I did - it hasn't gone to print yet.

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

OLLIE AND QUENTIN (Piers Baker), CUL DE SAC (Richard Thompson), SWAMP (Gary Clark), PEARLS BEFORE SWINE (Stephan Pastis), TINA'S GROOVE (Rina Piccolo)... but five is really limiting! Now I've pissed off some of the other cartoonists whose work I love. I hate that kind of question...

9. Who’s more likely to under-tip, Scrooge McDuck or Daddy Warbucks?

I don't know because I'm too lazy to look up who Daddy Warbucks is on the he something to do with LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE? Will my cartooning license be revoked if he's not?

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

Words usually, pictures sometimes. I have one or two days a week where I make time to putz around, get in the right headspace, walk to the beach, daydream in cafes and doodle, but the best ideas come out of nowhere.

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

I only worry about running out of good, printable ones.

12. Who do you want to play the voice of Oscar in the ARCTIC CIRCLE animated movie?

He hasn't been born yet, I'm sure.

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

I love the one I have at King Features. Brendan Burford is the perfect sounding board. He doesn't interfere unless he thinks the strip isn't funny, will be misunderstood or someone will sue us.

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

Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy (radio show and book), To Kill A Mockingbird (book and film), Beautiful Girls (film), Star Wars IV to VI, State of Play (TV show and film), Seinfeld, Sky Blue and Black (Jackson Browne song), Andrew Bird's latest album, half of Josh Rouse's stuff and just about anything by Beck.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Dip pen and Windsor & Newton India Ink on cartridge paper that I can put through the printer for blue-lining roughs and fit on an A4 scanner. So I work small. Then colour in PhotoShop.

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

It's mid morning and I'm about to down tools to see my cartooning buddy Jason Chatfield (GINGER MEGGS) for coffee before a walk along the beach and I don't have to get permission from anyone to leave the studio for a few hours.

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

Paul Gilligan (POOCH CAFE) spent three months here in Melbourne and we got to be good drinking buddies.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

Draw a lot. Put your stuff on the web. Don't give up when you aren't an overnight success.

19. How important are awards?

Trivial until you get one.

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

I was really trying to answer this honestly and that was delaying me sending this off to you. I'm ashamed to say that I'm an open book.

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