I did my first interview for the new 10 With Tom site. I had the chance to interview Tauhid Bondia who is the cartoonist of one of my favorite comic strips called Crabgrass. I had written about them in 2020 here.
The comic is about two young friends in the 1980s. I felt it relevant now because Crabgrass is starting newspaper syndication in March. It will be online as well as published in daily newspapers starting then.
Over the years, I had these published in the Huffington Post, my own blog, Medium and other publications. I’ve interviewed, cartoonists and featured cartoons and comics and artists, comic strip creators including Jason Chatfield, Rina Piccolo and Scott Adams, among so many others. . But I’ve also interviewed authors, designers like Betsey Johnson and even Ryan Holt from Naked and Afraid.
I was was planning on doing more interviews for the Huffington Post, but I thought these columns should have a home of their own, rather than be at other websites. They live on forever and are always being seen and read.
Some of these stories have hundreds of thousands of readers, The Stephan Pastis article has over 1 million views! So why not have people read them on my own site, rather than other places? I wouldn’t mind 1 million hits! Huffington Post, Medium, and various newspapers didn’t promote the stories, people found them by doing searches, so why not have readers find the articles on my own site, right?
I now have 10 With Tom here, where you can find some of the past interviews and where I’ll add new ones shortly.
You can subscribe to 10 With Tom, and you’ll only receive 10 With Tom interviews (not this Tomversation blog, that’s a separate subscription), but I’m not sure if all the past stories I added will come up as one big email for your first email that you receive after subscribing. So if that happens, forgive me. You’ll usually just receive one interview after it is published.
Bored Panda featured me a couple of weeks ago. I had forgotten that they contacted me about an interview a few weeks back, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this.
The feature came out great and I love what Hidrėlėy, the author, wrote about me, he really gets me:
“This artist creates old-school, one-panel comics. They are filled with absurd humor and unexpected twists, weird characters, and situations that not many of us run into.
“The style that this artist uses is very reminiscent of newspaper comics and there’s something very nostalgic about them. The comics are very simple, but at the same time have quite a lot of detail and expression. The artist enjoys puns and wordplay. He sometimes even includes a little dark humor in his comics.”
Bored Panda has 116 million readers a month and 15 million Facebook followers. Not a bad place to be promoted!
One of my favorite comics is “Off the Leash” by London-based cartoonist Rupert Fawcett. I first saw the comic on Facebook, where Rupert has almost 1 million followers. The comic can also be seen on Instagram and on its own website. But Rupert is also known for other comics work including Fred, a single panel comic which, like Off the Leash, has has been published all over from newspapers, to books and greeting cards.
TOM: Regarding “Off the Leash,” You seem to get into the dogs’ heads, do you study them? Tell me about your own pets.
RUPERT: I’ve never consciously studied dogs but I am a watcher by nature, a people watcher and I suppose, a dog watcher too. I’m someone who is never phased by delays at airports or anywhere else as I know I will be happily entertained watching the people around me, although I have to be careful not to get caught staring too intensely at anyone. We currently have a two year old whippet and two Burmese cats.
TOM: How often do you publish Off the Leash? Do you draw up a bunch at one time or post them as they are completed?
RUPERT: I had a very productive three years of producing Off the Leash cartoons at the beginning but as I have other commitments I now only draw new ones sporadically. As soon as I have finished one I post it which is the great thing about social media for a cartoonist, it is so instant, from the drawing board to the worldwide audience in seconds!
TOM: I totally agree with that, I almost feel social media was made for art and cartooning. I noticed you work in black and white, why that and not color?
RUPERT: Black and white line gives enough visual information for a cartoon. Coloring would be time consuming and add nothing to the joke.
TOM: I like the clean look of your black and white work, too. Who are your cartooning influences?
RUPERT: don’t have any specific ones but I’m probably influenced by everything I see.
TOM: What medium do you use? Digital? Pen and ink?
RUPERT: I use old fashioned ink pens – I’m a bit of a technophobe.
TOM: What was the first thing you would seriously draw? I mean, I would draw Fred Flintstone, I always remember as a young child doing that. Did you draw a character or have a favorite subject at a young age?
RUPERT: As a boy growing up in the sixties I used to draw footballers quite a lot and soldiers. The comics I read as a child featured regular strips based on the war which was still very recent history. I also used to create my own strange characters. I used to get very absorbed and doodle for hours.
TOM: How did you begin your career as a cartoonist? When did you start cartooning? Tell me about Fred
RUPERT: Speaking of strange characters! I created Fred in 1989 and received over 80 rejection letters from publishers and newspapers. But when I had the greeting card range published by Paperlink it suddenly took off and became a big thing. Fred kept me fully occupied for about twelve years.
Fred was a combination of surrealism and suburban Englishness
TOM: Tell us about your studio or workspace.
RUPERT: I work in a fairly small room at home in South West London, it’s my ‘garden shed’ and i have to be prised out of it by my family sometimes. I’m happiest when I’m drawing and in my private dreamworld, just as I was at six years old.
TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?
RUPERT: Lucien Freud (with my clothes on)
TOM: What comics/cartoons do you read/follow today?
RUPERT: I probably don’t look at cartoons any more than anyone else but I always appreciate a good one. Gary Larson is brilliant.
I interviewed one of my favorite cartoonists, Jason Chatfield, who incidentally helped me immensely with my own cartooning, as I live by one of his statements: “Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.” I live (and create) by that now.
I was interested in Jason’s schedule, technique and so much of his cartoons and comics work and work ethic.
TOM: You seem to do so much, TV, New Yorker cartoonist, daily comic strip (Ginger Meggs) and President of the National Cartoonists’ Society (NCS). What is the schedule like, for instance, when do you do the comic strip? When do you do New Yorker cartoons?
JASON: I have a pretty regular schedule — I work from a calendar instead of a to-do list — I tend to do 6 daily strips at-a-time, then the Sundays (weekend paper strips) on separate days.
I pitch a batch of 10 New Yorker cartoons each Tuesday; some roughs and some finished, and some of them re-submissions with new captions. 99% are rejected. Those are done in a 10-step process that I outline here.
The TV work is usually just a one or two-day shoot somewhere, then the show or commercial runs for years, so that’s not very time-heavy, and my NCS work is just constantly streaming in every day. Some days there is a lot to do, other days less so. Cartoonists are my favorite people, but trying to organize them can be like herding cats. ☺️
It sounds like a lot, but I manage to sleep somewhere in there and take weekends off with my wife and pup.
TOM: I see that Ginger Meggs recently turned 100 — that’s quite a weight to bear — taking over such a well-known strip. How did that come about? How were you chosen to do this?
JASON: When I was a 23 year-old editorial cartoonist in my hometown of Perth, the fourth cartoonist on the strip, James Kemsley, asked me to take it over. That was few days before he died of ALS. He was a dear friend and mentor so it was a very bittersweet honor to inherit. I’d give up the strip tomorrow it it meant having Kems back; he was an impressive guy, always way ahead of his time and always helping other cartoonists. I’m glad I could carry the baton and keep Ginger going past 100 years. (Details on the centenary are at gingermeggs.com )
TOM: As President of the National Cartoonists Society, what is your take on webcomics or comics only published online? They seem to be the most read today, yet I have heard that cartoonists have a problem joining the society.
JASON: We have many webcomic cartoonists in the NCS, and under past President Tom Richmond’s tenure (around 2010/11) the NCS introduced two webcomic categories into our Divisional Reuben awards. (Long form and Short form).
Webcomics are a rich and diverse artform we’re really proud to promote — comics in newspapers are only a fraction of the make-up of NCS membership. Our biggest numbers of entries for the 2020 Reuben awards were for both webcomics categories.
I think I read about 70% of my favorite comics online (the rest in magazines and printed book collections.)
TOM: Do you work digitally or with pen and paper?
JASON: I use both. I learned to draw traditionally before I learned to draw digitally, so the transition was very natural. I use a Wacom Cintiq with an Ergo Arm for most of my work, but I often spin around to my drawing board and use a Hunt 101 Imperial nib on my dip pen for a lot of my New Yorker finishes. (Mainly because people request to purchase the originals… And I like to get inky fingers so my wife thinks I’m doing actual work.)
TOM: What does your studio, workspace look like?
JASON: It changes all the time. I’ve moved so many times the past 15 years my studio has been every kind of room imaginable. You can get a glimpse of my current studio (June 2021) in this video just shot by Wacom for the production of a series of coins I designed for the Royal Australian Mint. They cut the part where my dog sits under my desk while I’m working and farts. Almost constantly.
TOM: What comics/cartoonists influenced you?
JASON: I was a big fan of MAD growing up, so all the Usual Gang of Idiots were my teachers — Sergio Aragonés was my favorite for his pantomime marginals, but Mort Drucker’s hand gestures and caricatured likenesses, Jack Davis’ movement, brushwork and shoes, Al Jaffee’s inventiveness (and snark) all contributed to my weird brain. And then the “newer” guys like Tom Richmond, Mark Frederickson and a slew of other talented idiots followed suit.
TOM: If you could crawl into any strip or panel for the day, other than your own, which would it be, and why?
JASON: Cul de Sac. I would want to sit down and just pick the brain of Alice Otterloop. What a brilliant mind Richard Thompson had, to bring her into this universe. Wildly inventive, funny and smart character writing.
TOM: At what point did you realize you were famous?
JASON: Ha! I don’t think that’s true. I know it sounds silly considering all the things I do being so public-facing, but I now totally get people having a pseudonym. Fame isn’t something I aspire to — I just like to do my work and hopefully have people enjoy reading it. I think ‘actual’ fame comes with more downsides than upsides… unless we’re talking about my local diner naming a roast beef sandwich after me. That’s all upside. (And topside).
I was excited to interview Dr. Chris Naunton, Egyptologist, who I see all over tv. I tend to watch a lot of shows based on ancient Egypt, I guess that’s why that subject appears in a lot of my cartoons.
TOM: Hi Chris, thank you for doing this.
I see you have a new book out, “King Tutankamun Tells All,” I noticed the great cover right away. It looks like it’s a book for children. Is this the case?
CHRIS: It is a book for children! I have an academic grounding in Egyptology and most people making a living from the subject are academics, but that kind of work is very serious and doesn’t allow much room for jokes or light-heartedness. I had, for quite a long time, been bugged by this idea that, if the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs were right, then Tutankhamun’s spirit might still be around, dying to tell his own story and to tell us how wrong we had got everything! Writing for children allowed me to give Tutankhamun a voice (that of a slightly perturbed teenager), and to imagine his life, death and afterlife from his perspective, and also to make a few jokes too (as a serious Egyptologist I’m not really supposed to make light of the fact that his underpants were found in the tomb but come on…). It’s not a very serious book in that way, but actually, I think the process has helped me to try to get inside the mind of an Egyptian pharaoh and that’s a very interesting and helpful exercise and one I’d recommend to my colleagues!
TOM: You were appointed president of Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society recently, what is that all about?
CHRIS: We’re very lucky in the UK that there’s a rich culture of ‘local societies’ — groups around the country run by volunteers who invite people like along to give talks about heir research for local enthusiasts. It provides us with a platform and an opportunity to engage directly with audiences beyond our academic colleagues. Communicating with wider audiences is crucially important for any science, and every opportunity like this helps us to sharpen our skills, hear the very good questions that people want answered etc. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now and last year I was invited to become the President of one of the largest and best such groups — the Thames Valley group which serves a wide area to the west of London.
TOM: How did you begin your career as an Egyptologist?
CHRIS: Well, I went to university to study Ancient History and Archaeology — I was more interested in football and rock music than anything else at school but it was pretty obvious by then that I wasn’t going to become a professional athlete, and the bands I was in at school didn’t seem to be going anywhere. So I had no better ideas as to what to do at 18 than to get a degree and this seems like the most interesting way to do it. Once I got there I realized I loved it and my grades were good so I decided to have a go at making a career out of it — fully expecting it wouldn’t happen. After two degrees I started applying for every job and other opportunity going and to my great surprise I got a lowly admin job at the Egypt Exploration Society. I left 16 years later having been CEO for five years.
TOM: Are you just handed the keys to locked tombs and simply walk in with a cameraman?
CHRIS: Ha ha, not quite! All archaeological sites and monuments in Egypt are the responsibility of the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism (MoTA) and they make sure all visits are closely controlled. TV work has taken me to lots of places that are not usually open to the public but months of application beforehand are required and we are then accompanied by MoTA officials and the local guardians who actually have the keys, and Egyptian facilitators who ensure we know exactly what we can and cannot do, what we can / cannot film etc, and how long we’ve got (usually not long enough!). Still, I feel incredibly lucky thatches line of work has taken me to the places it has. Be there at the moment the burial chamber of the pyramid is opened for the first time in 4,000 years? YES PLEASE.
TOM: Do you not fear the curse of Tut’s tomb when you enter?
CHRIS: I don’t know how many times I’ve been into the tomb now, behind the barriers, in the closed rooms, gurning for the cameras while standing next to the king’s mummy, and it’s all been OK… And having had a chance to imagine how the king himself feels about all this, I reckon I’ll be OK — he quite likes the publicity!
TOM: What song is the theme of your life?
Oh my goodness… It depends one my mood, what’s going on in life… Generally speaking I respond to music more than lyrics I think and a lot of my favorite songs have lyrics that don’t really fit. The lyricists that have — in the 25 years I’ve been listening to music quite intensely — given expression to what I’m thinking and feeling the best are probably Morrissey, who seemed like a disgruntled teenager as I was when I fist started listening to The Smiths, and more recently Matt Berninger of The National, who seems more like a disgruntled 40-something like I am now! (‘I wish that I believed in fate, I wish I didn’t sleep so late’ … ‘Goodbyes always take us half an hour, can’t we just go home’)
CHRIS: I’m not easily bored. I found out a few years, a little to my surprise, that I’m very much an introvert and part of that is that I don’t need a lot of external stimulation to occupy me, and internal thoughts come easily. Pointless meetings are boring and I’ve been in plenty of those!
TOM: Who is your favorite superhero?
CHRIS: This is not something I often think about. Maybe Bananaman? This was a cartoon on British TV in the 80s, which began: This is 29 Acacia Road, and this is Eric, an ordinary little boy. But when Eric eats a banana, an extraordinary transformation occurs: Eric… is, BANANAMAN! Ever alert to the call to action!”
TOM: Winter, spring, summer or fall?
CHRIS: Spring and Fall — the light is beautiful — gentle and raking — at these times of year. Winter in England is far too dar and gloomy, and summer is too hot. If I had to choose one, I’d perhaps choose Spring as it’s the time when all the time when nature reawakens and everywhere explodes with green. Autumn (Fall!) is tinged with melancholy, as we all know the gloom is coming…
TOM: Who would you like to hang out with for the day — Akhenaten, Tutankhamun or Cleopatra? And why?
CHRIS: Wow, great question! I think Akhenaten. Although we don’t know to what extent it was his project, his reign was one of the most interesting times in Egyptian history, when so much of Egyptian culture was reinvented. I’d love to know if he really was this great, driven intellectual with the imagination to envision an entirely new Egypt, or if he just had revolutionary advisors. And I’d love to know what he really looked like. I’d meet any of them though, especially if I could bunk off for an hour or so and just take a look round!
TOM: Thanks, Chris! Hoping to take one of your tours soon. Until then, I’ll look for you on tv!
They had seen my Ten With Tom feature in the Huffington Post and turned that back on me and did 10 questions with me.
I hadn’t done the 10 With Tom feature for awhile, but the feature is still popular. I guess when people Google certain celebs, my column comes up, so it’s always got some traction. I may bring it back, I’m in talks with the Huff Post. I have a bunch of the 10 With Tom columns here in tact in this blog.
Anyway, I see from a few of my recent press articles, that I need some new pics. Because of the pandemic, they aren’t sending people out to take pictures and I have to send the pictures in myself. I guess this European publication would not have sent anyone, but the Miami Herald and others would have when they did stories.
I’ve been watching “Pretend It’s a City,” on Netflix. I’m probably done with it by the time you read this.
It’s a seven part show featuring author (although she hasn’t published a book in 30 years, but I guess it’s like being an Oscar winner. You’re always an Oscar winner) and humorist Fran Lebowitz. Each episode is about 30 minutes long.
Martin Scorsese directed the series and is shown as he interviews Fran in many scenes, which fade in and out of various locations, from a quite club called Players, which was founded in the 1800s by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, to being on stage in front of an audience.
The title “Pretend It’s a City” refers to Fran’s frequent mantra mostly to tourists who stop in the middle of sidewalks or do other annoying things, who she says need to realize, you are in a city – act like it! Fran is the female Larry David to me.
Some of the funniest things she talks about are New York City itself. Like, why are lawn chairs needed in the middle of Times Square? One interesting thing she says is that when she got to NYC in the 1970s, it was rough and gritty. But that’s how she knew New York since it was her New York at the time. She had nothing to compare it to. People who arrive today expect to see the lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway and that’s their New York.
She hates the no smoking inside rule. She says that artists and creative people meet and mingle over drinks, music and smoking. What if Picaso had to run out to smoke a cigarette every once in awhile, “Think of all the things he would have missed,” she says.
It’s all funnier and hits home when Fran tells it. Try the first episode, I think you’ll stick around for all seven.
Fran talks about so many famous people she has known. About her dislike for Warhol, her lifelong friendship with Toni Morrison and so much more.
There are lots of old scenes of “old New York” in the shows. She is really great to listen to.