I started reading “Backstage at the Strips” again, by Mort Walker. I bought the book when I was a kid in the late ’70s and every few years I look at it.
I love that whole idea of the cartoonists being in their own little enclave in and around Westport, Connecticut. I like that life. I’m always tempted to move to New London or Mystic CT, but the cold is too much for a Florida guy. Vanity Fair did a story not too long ago called, ‘When Fairfield County was the Comic Strip Capital of the World“, which describes exactly what Mort does in his book.
It seems like a perfect life – living on the waterfront in Connecticut and waking up in the morning and cartooning. I like the way Mort describes living an 80-year-old house at the time, in a shore community and working in an old barn.
I notice that in the book Mort says that Bob Gustafson handled his fan mail, so that letter I received so many years ago that I wrote about here, probably came from Bob and not Mort.
Backstage at the Strips, written in 1975 describes there being over 300 newspaper syndicates at the time and 1700 daily newspapers in the US, but still describes how hard it was to break into daily newspaper syndication. Now it’s almost impossible.
The book is really a great look at a cartoonist’s life with lots of valuable information about the cartooning industry at that time and before that time. The book is timeless. But it also encapsulates a time back then, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s when things were different and times were simpler. It’s a place you want to go back to and just the fact that I first read the book when I was a boy it sort of does take me back to that time because as I read it, a lot of the passages remind me of the first time I read them back in the ’70s.