Loving this cartoonist roundtable

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From left: Tom Heintjes, Brian Walker, Greg Walker, Jeff Keane, Mason Mastroianni. Photo courtesy of Hogan’s Alley.

I read a really great interview in Hogan’s Alley, where editor Tom Heintjes sat down with some famous cartoonists,who took over the family business from their fathers and grandfathers. Jeff Keane of Family Circus, Mason Mastroianni of B.C. and Brian and Greg Walker who are Mort Walker’s sons, who work primarily on Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois sat around a table and talked.

They bring up the dynasty aspect of cartooning, something that has always bothered me. When a cartoonist dies, should the strip continue? Did it run its course?

Greg Walker says, “We’ve got to do quality work, or papers will drop us like crazy. We did come in with a nice list, but there’s the pressure to maintain it.”

I never really thought of that. It has a leg up being a popular strip with lots of newspaper subscribers but as one of them said in the interview, “When you’re at the top, there is only one way to go.” But on the other hand, newspapers are loath to drop a comic because losing just one subscriber over that is not acceptable, so I do think that some of these older strips just stay there year after year because the newspapers don’t want to make waves by dropping them, even if it’s only a handful of people who read a particular strip.

They all agreed that the older strips mixed with the newer strips make up a complete comics page and there is something for everyone that way. I’ve always agreed with that, I just felt that the older strips should be the original older strips, not an extension by the second, third and sometimes fourth generation of artists. And don’t get me started on those who buy gags. To me a cartoonist writes the strips and draws the strips, sometimes along with someone else, but purchasing gags just makes the cartoonist an artist, not a cartoonist.

Brian Walker says of his dad Mort Walker: “My father has been asked millions of times why he doesn’t retire, and he says, ‘Why should I retire? I’ve got millions of readers who enjoy my strip!’ Why should he retire just because he’s getting old? When he started out, in 1950, he was competing against Pogo, Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie. None of those guys quit to make room for him — he scratched and clawed for every one of those 1,800 papers.”

The roundtable interview is here. It’s really good.

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Women and comics

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Courtesy AP

There’s a new exhibit at the Library of Congress called, “How Women Broke Into the Male-Dominated World of Cartoons and Illustrations.”  I would love to see this next time I’m up north.

This is Dale Messick, who created and wrote and drew the Brenda Starr comic strip. I never knew if Dale was a lady or man as I read the strip while growing up. It seems like it was geared toward women, but I think I read all the strips in the New York Daily News when I was a kid.

I love this photo, I always like to see cartoonists in their environment. It’s sort of like seeing behind the scenes of a movie set.

Smithsonian.com has the whole story of the women and cartooning here.

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I was ghosted by a mentor

hal-paperI was looking over Facebook friends, deciding whether to dump people and I came across this lady who works at one of the major newspaper syndicates. She and I met by accident through social media and she was going to help push me and my comic strip through the syndicate process as she has with others only I screwed it all up. She has ignored me ever since. And I think she would like Hal (shown here) from my new comic strip “Hal and High Water.”

What happened was I did a bunch of 10 With Tom interviews with cartoonists and I happened to interview one of her favorites. She helped get this particular cartoonist published and syndicated and she seems like she is in love with him, at least it appears that way from her Facebook posts, but she did fawn all over him in an online chat.

Well, she saw the interview and asked to befriend me on Facebook. I wondered, “Who the hell is this person wanting to befriend me?” And then I looked her up and saw she worked at the syndicate. I got all excited. I approved her friendship and that was that.

But as I do too often, I’ll approve a friend, someone I have not seen in years, and we don’t interact. We are just there. So I said to myself, “Let me say hello and introduce myself so as not to just have our ‘friendship’ linger.” I sent her a direct message and for the next hour, we had a conversation back and forth on Facebook Messenger.

She asked about my own cartoons and offered to help! She and I spoke about that bitch who works at the syndicate who I told you about before, the one I confronted at ComicCon, and lo and behold, she hates her and she called her every name in the book, using some filthy language! I was shocked and excited. I had an ally. She told me all sorts of gossip about the syndicate and she told me about all the famous cartoonists she has known and I thought, “This is it, I reached my tipping point.” I truly wanted to meet her.

She then told me to send her my comics, printed out in hard copy form. She said she was going on vacation the next day and she would look at them upon her return. So I agreed.

The next morning, she checks in on Facebook in Islamorada, one of the Florida Keys, which is basically in my neighborhood! What should I do? Invite her and her husband for drinks? Coffee? Lunch? I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I had only “met her” online the night before and anything I did or said would obviously look like me reaching out to use her influence. Should I bother her on her vacation or what? I wanted to, but I respected her privacy.

I decided to not say anything. And all that week she posted her adventures on Facebook, she was in my neighborhood for lunch, she went to a museum, they went fishing, they really did it all and me, I stayed silent. I didn’t even “like” her posts. I just stayed silent.

I guess that was not the thing to do because she has never said a word to me again. I did reach out and ask if she received my comics and I got silence back. I was ghosted by her, a potential mentor.  To this day, which is almost a year later, she has not said a word to me on Facebook and we do comment on common posts. We agree with things politically and we enjoy the same comic artists and we have so much in common.

I do see from her posts that she travels often and likes to get together with people. I didn’t know. I honestly didn’t mean to offend her. I truly wanted to meet with her and pick her brain, but I guess I wanted to respect her privacy, too and therein lies the rub, I ruined my chance of what could have been something so great. Now I’m on my own again, pushing my comics and trying to get noticed.

How to publish Hal & High Water

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Here is Hal from my new comic strip “Hal & High Water.”

I would like to start publishing in January or February of 2018. I sent in the strip to the five major syndicates and received two rejections.

To be honest, I don’t really feel I need the syndicates to get Hal up and running. I don’t want to be confined to editors or a newspaper schedule and I notice that even on the syndicates’ websites, features don’t always have a large following. So the way to go is to self publish.

And while I intend to publish on social media, mostly Facebook and Instagram,  I need a comic-based website to publish to daily. I’m debating on which one and how to go about it. I’m totally confused at this point.

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Getting inspiration at Boston Harbor

I spent a drizzly morning at Boston Harbor the other day and I got inspiration for my new comic called “Hal and High Water,” which takes place in and around the water.

That’s the comic I told you about sending in to the syndicates. Well, I sent the comic in to the five main syndicates – all on 11/11 at 11:11 am, as I said I would. But maybe that wasn’t so special because I already got one rejection back in less than a week! That’s the fastest I’ve ever gotten a rejection, usually it takes a month or more.

This is the syndicate, where I am sure the acquisitions editor hates me because of our meeting that time. I swear she just sees my name and rejects the work without even looking at it.

To be honest, I want and I don’t want syndication. The only reason I want it is because overnight I’ll receive thousands of readers. But in all reality, this is the digital age of art, music and everything else, where you do your own thing without syndicates and agents. And that is the best way. So I am torn.

I do have the other four syndicates in the wings, let’s see what they say.

This new strip, “Hal and High Water” really is some of my best work ever. I simplified the art, since that seems to be the thing these days and I enjoy the characters, I don’t get bored with them as I have with other strips in the past.

I guess we’ll just let this play out and see how it goes, but in the end, “Hal and High Water” will see the light of day and I’ll get an audience that appreciates it.

George Booth’s original art

I had seen this story on CBS Sunday Morning about George Booth, the cartoonist, so I headed to the Society of Illustrators in NYC to check out his original cartoon art.

There were a few dozen images on the walls, I do wish they had more in the way of  showing his art, like having photos of him working perhaps, more on the tools he used, maybe a set up of his drawing table, etc. But still, it was quite enjoyable. I love his line work and seeing it up close really makes you appreciate it.

My comics and that homeless guy

Two updates on blog stories I posted recently.

1) I sent my new comic strip in to the syndicates on 11/11. One of them I mailed and four of them I managed to electronically send on 11/11 at 11:11 am. Two were email and two on their websites, so I filled in all the info and wrote the emails and at 11:11 am, I just clicked the send buttons one at a time. I had a minute to do it, so it was easy enough.

2) That homeless guy at McDonald’s. Well, I went back Sunday morning to get coffee and there he was again, only he wasn’t hiding in the bushes, he was standing at the exit to the drive-thru. An excellent place to be if you are panhandling. I had seen him chase him away from there but he was there Sunday. I gave him five bucks for ingenuity. I liked his Halloween comment last time. I think there’s a future for this guy.