Studying cartoonists – in person

stephan
I was talking about the humbleness of cartoonists I’ve interviewed or met. I find it quite interesting. Other than interviewing them, I’ve seen many at Comic Cons. I like to watch them, study them. I usually don’t go up to them, but I stand back and just watch. I don’t know if I’m absorbing the scene or what. I mostly see them at the GoComics booth.

I’ve watched Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine. Not stalking, by the way, just happened to be there a couple of times, a year or so after our 10 With Tom interview. I didn’t approach him, I just happened to be at the GoComics booth when he arrived a couple of times.

One time he was a few minutes late, the line of people waiting to meet him and get his autograph was long. I wanted to see how he would be when he got there. He is one of the top cartoonists today, would he act it? Would he arrive and be big, you know, like be a presence. So he arrived, had on his usual baseball cap, jeans and a t-shirt and a backpack. I wondered what he possibly could be carrying around New York City in a large backpack. Anyway, he arrived at the booth, smiled, threw the backpack down and sat down and started his thing – meeting and greeting his fans, one by one, making small chit chat with each of them, signing their books and just being humble. What I love about cartoonists. The humbleness.

I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I thought he would come in big and say, “Here I am, the great Stephan Pastis!” And act like he was all that. Which he is. But it was the total opposite. I loved that.

I know he likes beer. I would love to go with him for a beer some time. But I’m to shy to ask or to even approach him, even though I feel like I know him because of the 10 With Tom interview a couple of years ago. He’s a friend in my head.

Fred Flintstone

I think the first character I ever drew was Fred Flintstone. Why? Who knows? You would think as a child I would be more into Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry, but I was always a Hanna-Barbera fan and for some reason, I would draw Fred all the time. I wish I had some of those original drawings, maybe my mother has them stashed away somewhere, you know how mothers save all that stuff.

I loved the tv show The Flintstones and also so many of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons – Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Magilla Gorilla, Peter Potomus, Touche Turtle and so on. I vaguely remember them being on tv early evenings, something like 7:30 pm and each night was another show – Mondays was Huckleberry, Tuesday was Quickdraw McGraw and so on.

One of my earliest memories was maybe when I was two or three years old, I remember my mother chasing me around our Brooklyn apartment, trying to get me into the bathtub and I remember Huckleberry Hound coming on tv. The theme song was playing as I was running around, trying to get away from taking a bath!

But even with that early memory, it was all about Fred Flintstone. And did I become a Hanna-Barbera fan because of my mother? I mean, I’m assuming she put those shows on tv for me, so she chose them rather than other things like Bugs Bunny. I remember our house was full of Hanna-Barbera toys – I remember life sized cut outs (at least for a three or four year old they were life sized), I remember a Dino mechanical toy. I remember that at my grandmothers’s house. I can literally see that in my mind, walking on her kitchen floor. I looked it up on Ebay and found this. This is it. It’s going for over $800! I saw one cheaper, about $44, but it isn’t in mint condition like this one.

dino

He’s blue and he’s awkward, and oh yes, he’s a Yeti!

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

I’m a big fan of Nick Seluk and his daily comic strip, “The Awkward Yeti.” The comic is often a clever commentary on the struggle between our hearts and our brains – it always hits home and many times provokes a belly laugh. The Yeti has a running dialogue many of his body’s organs. You can read The Awkward Yeti at GoComics.com here.

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Nick Seluk and friends.

TOM: Heart and Brain seem to have their own spin-off from “The Awkward Yeti” how did that come about?

NICK: Brain first joined Lars (the Yeti) to help me get deeper into the anxiety-driven inner dialogue of an introvert, but it wasn’t long before Heart joined as a counterbalance. Heart and Brain found a dynamic that worked well for me and for my audience, and before too long Lars was on the sidelines (although he stars in his own self-titled series online at Webtoons and still makes cameos). I found that through Heart and Brain I could express myself better, and in a way that many people could relate.

TOM: What did you do before you became a full time cartoonist?

NICK: Before going full time as a cartoonist I was a sort of graphic designer / art director type for several years. I worked in corporate America with tons of huge brands, a job I ended up hating enough to want to start my own business instead. I needed to do things my own way, but more than anything needed to escape the constant meaningless small talk.

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Lars, the Awkward Yeti, courtesy GoComics.com 


TOM:
At what point did you first realize you were famous?

NICK: There are over six billion people who have never even seen my work, so fame is pretty relative. But, having a line of people waiting, actually WAITING for me write my name on a book is very humbling. I guess you could say I was humbled first at San Diego comic con a couple years ago, when I was signing books with my publisher and they had to close off the line. But other than that, it’s not like people recognize me on the street or anything.

TOM: What bores you?

Collecting comics stamps

A friend just posted Wonder Woman postage stamps. They have been out since last fall to commemorate her 75th anniversary. I didn’t know that. I got some today! I don’t snail mail many things, so luckily I can just save them and not use them!

wonderwoman

I am going to start collecting them. You can get some old issues on Amazon, Ebay and auction sites, but the USPS has some for sale like Batman Forever and Charlie Brown and some others like the Sunday Funnies series which includes Calvin and Hobbes, Beetle Bailey and Dennis the Menace.

‘Next Door Neighbors’ comic strip reminds me of ‘70s sitcoms

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

The drawing is what first caught my attention when I saw Next Door Neighbors, the comic strip by Pat Sandy published at GoComics. From there, you can’t help but enjoy the writing and the Dewey family. It reminds me so much of All in the Family or Sanford and Son and sitcoms from that era. I had the opportunity to interview Pat.

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Pat Sandy in his studio.

TOM: I notice that the first strips were just a few times a week, what made you start publishing daily (Monday thru Friday)?

PAT: I had a lot of story arc material backing up that on a 3 times a week cadence would have dragged out way too long – so once I got up to 3 times it was a moderate jump to 5. Sometimes I question that decision, though!

TOM: The strips have a 1970s tv sitcom feel to them. Did you realize this? What tv shows are your influences if any?

PAT: Nice – I’ve never heard that before but I love it…I did indeed grow up watching TV in that era though, so something must have rubbed off. I had tons of favorites – Mary Tyler Moore, The Brady Bunch, All In The Family, The Partridge Family, The Odd Couple…what a great era for TV.

TOM: Is “Next Door Neighbors” created digitally? Or do you draw with pen and ink? If digitally, what do you use to create?

PAT: Well, I handle NDN pretty old-school – I rough it up, go to a light table and ink and letter it on bristol board, and scan it into photoshop where I make corrections – no fonts, and no digital drawing. I like tactile. I like having something tangible to hold, but having said that, would I want to try a Cintiq or an iPad Pro? That would be a yes. I’m a bit behind the curve, but I do love having originals.

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Next Door Neighbors, courtesy GoComics

TOM: What’s the last thing you took a picture of?

PAT: An instagram photo of my guitar at a gig with my band, The Rhythm Syndicate. We do blues, swing and soul music and we’ve played all over northeast Ohio for about 18 years.

TOM: Which comic strip, other than your own would you like to crawl into and visit for the day?

PAT: Great question! Probably a toss-up between Peanuts or Doonesbury. I’d like to hang out with Mike, Mark and Zonker, circa 1974…an amazing period for that strip. With Peanuts, there was such a comfort in reading it when i was a kid…I’d love to play on Charlie Brown’s team, although I’d be worse than any of them.

TOM: Something or someone you miss most from childhood?

PAT: Both my parents, really. There were always 1000% encouraging. They would have LOVED Next Door Neighbors. As an aside many of the names used in the strip are family names, including ‘Dewey’, which was my grandfather’s nickname.

TOM: What’s something you always wanted to do as a child but never got to do?

PAT: The Soap Box Derby! My brother did it a couple of times, but I never got around to it, as I’m somewhat mechanically challenged. It was a huge event (still is, really) when I was a kid…the highlight of the summer for kids in my neighborhood.

TOM: Your main character Norm Dewey loves his beer. What is your favorite beer/cocktail?

PAT: A perfect Manhattan. I like beer too, so I’ll have to put in a plug for Cleveland’s beer scene, which is fabulous.

TOM: Norm’s house looks beat up, yet he has a new flat screen tv. Why?

PAT: The Deweys aren’t poor – they’re slobs…well, Norm and the kids are…Jan is simply trying to keep the place in order. Norm has no common sense so naturally, while the lawn needs mowed, the house needs painted, and the couch is falling apart, he’s the kind of guy that goes out and gets a flat screen TV…although, anymore, flat screens aren’t very pricey.

TOM: What car does Norm drive?

PAT: Funny you ask – I finally showed the whole car recently in a strip, and I have absolutely no idea what model I drew – I think it’s a fairly beat up mid-late 90’s/early 00’s something-or-other.

Thanks, Pat! Hope to be enjoying Next Door Neighbors for many years to come!