The company I keep; or hope to keep

interviewI’ve  been interviewing a lot of cartoonists lately for my 10 With Tom series. I’ve interviewed many people over the years from “real housewives” to authors, news reporters, fashionistas and actors.  But I think I enjoy the cartoonists the most since that’s what I do and I learn from the interviews. I ask questions that I’m curious about, mostly their influences and their techniques.

An interesting thing about most people and especially the cartoonists is how humble they are. They are all very appreciative of me asking for the interview and they seem to enjoy doing it. I like that about them, they are a great group, I like associating myself with them. I’ve interviewed “the greats” and those starting out, and they all are the same – nice, appreciative and kind.

There are some interviews I’ve tried to get but I either get the runaround or no answer at all. I like to think the email went to the spam folder on those, rather than the fact that they just plain ignored me.

But my point is that I am always amazed at the humbleness and gratefulness of these people I admire, who I am interviewing because I admire. Some become friends or friendly and we run into each other at places like Comic Cons and such and I like that. I like being part of that company.

I do all of the interviews for the Huffington Post but I’ve posted many of them after they run in the HuffPost, right here in my blog. You can see them here.

I had to laugh at one major cartoonist who said he didn’t like the HuffPost and didn’t want to have his interview there. When I asked if I could post it in my Tomversation blog, right here, he agreed. So I got that interview with him. That was gracious of him to to ahead with the interview anyway for the few thousand that read Tomversation rather than the millions who read the HuffPost. Just another example of why I like cartoonists.

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?

‘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!

Wallace the Brave is a little taste of classic comics from the past

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

I’m a big fan of Will Henry Wilson’s comic strip, “Wallace The Brave” comic strip which is published at GoComics daily. It’s not only clever, but I love the drawing style. It reminds me a lot of Calvin and Hobbes and Cul de Sac. There’s not usually a gag each day, it’s more of a slice of life. I recently interviewed Will about Wallace the Brave.

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Will Henry Wilson in his liquor store/studio.

TOM: You have two comic strips, Wallace The Brave and Ordinary Bill. Ordinary Bill was simple line drawing and black and white, Wallace is a masterpiece of art and color. How did that come about? The change in look, I mean?

WILL: Ha, “masterpiece”… made me laugh. I created Ordinary Bill when I was in college. It was an incredibly limiting strip and my style and ideas were still developing. Throughout the years I was writing Ordinary Bill I felt it was important to keep the original look, even though my style developed. Eventually I ended Ordinary Bill and thought I’d start a new comic that better represented where I was. That’s where Wallace came from.

TOM: How far ahead do you work before a comic is published?

WILL: Legitimate year, maybe more. I even have two years of unpublished Wallace Sunday strips….slacker.

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Wallace the Brave, courtesy GoComics

TOM: Do you draw digitally or the old fashioned way – pen and ink?

WILL: I’m a 32 year old dinosaur, it’s all pen, paper, ink and watercolor. I do color the comics digitally for the web, though…so yeah I’m hip.

TOM: Wallace is a “little maniac,” your words. Is he based on you?

WILL: I don’t believe I was THAT rambunctious as a kid. My mother may disagree.

TOM: There’s a lot of Cul de Sac and Calvin and Hobbes in your work, do you realize that?

WILL: Absolutely! I crafted Ordinary Bill to resemble the line work of Calvin and Hobbes and my original Submission to syndicates for Wallace the Brave had a heavy Cul de Sac influence. I’ve been drawing Wallace for a couple years and I think I’m just now developing a look that is distinctly me.

TOM: Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall?

WILL: Nothing beats summer in Rhode Island.

TOM: Friends or Seinfeld?

WILL: Honestly, neither. Arrested Development.

TOM: Other than cartooning, what talent would you like to have?

WILL: I’d love to be able to juggle. Not just balls, but chainsaws and torches.

TOM: What living person do you most admire?

WILL: Grandma Betty. You don’t know her, but she rocks.

TOM: What is your motto?

WILL: “Hold my beer”

Thanks, Will!

Amanda the Great

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

I’m a big fan of Amanda El-Dweek’s daily comic strip, “Amanda the Great.” It started appearing on the GoComics website in November, that’s when I first noticed it.

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Amanda El-Dweek

TOM: I noticed all the strips are in black and white, in this age of full color webcomics, why black and white? (which I like, just asking).

AMANDA: Two reasons: I like the look of the black and white contrast (I also use an ink wash for gray tones). The other thing is, coloring is kind of piddly work, and I’m unsure I’d ever get done with the strips if I had to color them!

The comics I read growing up were black and white (newspaper comics), and I always thought they were so singularly beautiful that way.

TOM: Are all the stories/adventures true to life? Did they all happen to you or are some fiction and just there for the enjoyment of readers?

AMANDA: The story is my real life, and the timeline starts about a year before my husband and I were married. (I drew the comics this past year, but they are set in late 2012/early 2013 so far.)

Most of the things I draw did actually happen – sometimes I have to paraphrase things, and sometimes I have to kind of re-format how things happened in order for it to make sense in a three-or-four-panel comic strip format. Some of it is verbatim because if it was something funny, I wrote it down in a notebook, which is fortunate because sometimes I am a poor historian.

But – all of the events are real, and the characters are real. (Except the alter-egos, natch.)

TOM: Is “Amanda the Great” created digitally? Or do you draw with pen and ink?

AMANDA: I create Amanda the Great using smooth Bristol paper, a pencil, ink, brushes, and a Kuretake brush pen for the letters. I use an ink wash for the gray scale. Then I dust off the cat hair and scan them in.

TOM: Who were/are your comic/cartoon influences?

AMANDA: My first comic book was a Garfield book, and I also read a lot of Archie comics – I really tried to emulate these two when I first started drawing (I was pretty young). When I was old enough to pay attention to the newspaper, my favorites were Cathy, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Foxtrot. My grandma always had those Peanuts, B.C., and Wizard of Id paperbacks around, which I enjoyed. I think Luann was in a girls’ teen magazine when I was young, which is the first place I had seen it.

All of these different comics kind of shaped how I wanted to do things, and how I wrote comics when I was younger. They still do, to some degree.

I enjoy character development – I always liked how the characters aged in For Better or For Worse.  They experienced things as we do – the circle of life, death of charcters (Farley!), et cetera.

I have read here and there that some cartoonists won’t read other comics because maybe they don’t want the impact on their own stuff, but I don’t know – I think we were all inspired early on by someone’s work.

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

AMANDA: I’d love to be in a Cul de Sac or Wallace the Brave comic strip – they have such beautiful backgrounds! My comics lack this feature, usually – haha!  They are so beautifully drawn and colored. I want big curly hair like Viola’s (Cul de Sac) – mine isn’t big enough.

TOM: How far ahead do you work?

AMANDA: I should be further along, but right now I have strips drawn through March, and possibly into April? I need to hustle more!

TOM: Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

AMANDA: If you mean in real life, I met Ron Campbell at an art gallery in Bismarck, North Dakota – he was an animator for the Yellow Submarine movie. I don’t have much opportunity to see famous folks where I live, so that was cool!

TOM: What song would be the theme of your life?

AMANDA: Oh boy, Tom. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I don’t know that I can come up with one. I think my themes sometimes change.

TOM: Biggest fear?

AMANDA: I think it’s a tie between spiders, and everything else.

TOM: Superpower if you had one?

AMANDA: It’s hard to pick just one, isn’t it? I’d like something akin to the Force, but I’d just be tempted to use it Dark Side-style once in a while, so I probably shouldn’t have it.

Thank you Amanda!

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Images courtesy GoComics

Interviewing cartoonists

I’m getting ready for daily publication of my Tomversation panel. I am sorry for the delay, I know I was going to start January 1, but along with my daily updates on Facebook, I will start publishing at my old page on GoComics.

Speaking of GoComics, I reached out to a few of the newer cartoonists, whose work I really enjoy and I asked them to do 10 With Tom and they all agreed. And they were all so humble and nice. They have such great talent and such humility to go with it. A nice combo.

I’ll publish the columns in the Huffington Post first and then link to them here all at once so that one post here has them all and you can just link to the original columns in the Huff Post if you care to read them.

When I think about it, the cartoonists are really a very nice crowd. When I interviewed Dilbert’s Scott Adams and Pearls With Swine’s Stephan Pastis, they being the top of the top in the field were still just as nice.

I guess when you’re surrounded by comics and comedy all day, how can you not be in a good mood and be friendly?