I’ve been drawing almost since birth. Lots of people draw at a young age, but I just never stopped. My main interest was in the comic strips in the newspapers, especially Peanuts. Charles Schulz was my gateway.
I cartooned all through high school and college, becoming the Art Director of the student paper at Auburn University. A few months after graduation I was hired by The Atlanta Constitution as a staff artist.
After several attempts at newspaper syndication my office strip “On the Fastrack” was picked up by King Features and debuted in 150 papers. Meanwhile, I’d met Teri Peitso on a blind date and we were soon married. We now have two daughters, Chandler and Haviland. We also gave birth to a second strip about kids called “Safe Havens.”
In September 1995 I began a new strip called “Kevin & Kell” to take advantage of the narrative possibilities of the online medium. It’s now the internet’s longest running daily webcomic.
I mainly gravitated toward storytellers such as Spielberg and Hitchcock whose abilities to create fiction though image are unparalleled. I wouldn’t say they were role models since that was never going to be my medium, but they certainly influenced me as I studied them and adapted their techniques to comics.
As I mentioned, that would be Charles Schulz. It happened that my aunt and uncle lived in Santa Rosa CA, and when I was 23 I traveled out there for a visit. When I arrived they surprised me with the news that I would be meeting him. This was while I was working at the paper, and uncertain of my direction. He was very inspiring. He said to sit down and draw fifty strips. Of those, maybe five will be funny. Build on those and throw out the rest. Do fifty more. Now perhaps ten will be usable. Repeat this process again and again.
While I was an art major at Auburn, I didn’t have any formal cartooning instruction. I learned the basics of perspective, typography, graphic design, etc., plus oil painting, acrylics and watercolor, but as for cartooning I was taught by example from Schulz, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker and many others.
“On the Fastrck” takes place in an office setting and focuses on the impact of technology on the people who work there. The main character is a young woman named Dethany who is kind, smart, cheerfully helpful…and Goth.
“Safe Havens” is a fantasy strip featuring Samantha who has cracked the genetic code. There are frequent transformations, time travel paradoxes and mermaids. Right now the cast is completing a three-year voyage to Mars.
Kevin & Kell” is an anthropomorphic strip starring Kevin, a burly rabbit and Kell, a petite she-wolf. They met on an online chat site and fell in love before discovering they were on opposite ends of the food chain. They now have a very blended family including children from previous marriages, plus their own offspring, a carnivorous bunny. It’s all about people overcoming differences and coming together.
It’s hard to say about the situation of comics/strips, since I mainly focus on newspaper comics and that medium is facing all kinds of challenges right now. I can say that the syndicate I draw for, King Features, has a number of excellent strips created by overseas cartoonists, such as “Macanudo” by Liniers and “Arctic Circle” by Alex Hallatt.
-Comics may have an impact, but it would occur in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. It would be in regard to nudging attitudes one reader at a time.
For newcomers, I say that advice that Charles Schulz gave me is one I always pass on. I will also add the importance of staying up to date on technology, which is always moving forward whether in terms of creation devices such as Wacom tablets, or delivery mediums.
My daughter Haviland (who goes by the pen name H.H. Glynn) and I have created a 120-page graphic novel featuring my “Fastrack” character Dethany as a 12-year-old middle school student. It’s called “Dethany and the Other Clique” and will debut soon from Hermes Press, showing how she navigated the clique system of an unusually oppressive social structure.