The Process

If you’ve read more than 2 of the Basket Case interviews, you’ll know that there’s a specific pattern to them (and by pattern, I mean that the questions are almost always the same).

When I send out requests for interviews, I have two choices. The first is to contact an artist that is already familiar with me, generally because I actively comment on their strips on GoComics. The second is to cold-call them through whatever contact method they have online (facebook, email, or a contact form on their website). The first case is usually pretty straightforward because I don’t have to introduce myself that much. Just say that I have Basket Case, and ask if they want to be interviewed. The second situation requires a lot more politeness, but still has the same goal – asking if they want to give an interview.

After that, if the answer is “yes,” then I send the boilerplate questions (who are you, what do you want your readers to know about your background, how did you get started), along with the caveats that I know they may not want to answer any of these questions, and if not, I can get the information from other sources. In almost all cases, the artists so far have been very good about replying to every single question. Then, I’ll tailor the interview by asking a series of follow-up questions specifically designed around their answers, or what I know about their strip(s). Again, I state up front they can ignore questions they don’t want to answer, or answer questions I didn’t ask. This is followed by formatting the text, adding links to pages they mention, and putting in artwork they want included in the interview, or if they let me, I go through their website and locate artwork I want to use myself.

The last step is proofreading, passing the interview back to the artist for corrections and/or additions, and getting final approval before posting it on the blog. The main thing is that the boilerplate acts as a framework for artists that don’t know me to feel like they know what to expect from the interview up front. It makes for rather predictable results, but as long as it works, I’ll keep using it.

Pressing the pause button

Back at the beginning of the month, I was laid low by a kidney stone for a little over a week. This made working on the interviews difficult, at best. During that time, I used up a lot of my backlog of new interviews, while I was hoping that some of the other artists that had agreed to do their own interviews would send me their answers in the middle of the month. However, everyone got busy, and my backlog continued to shrink. Then, we got into the week leading into Thanksgiving, and I figured there was no point in trying to ask new artists if they wanted to be interviewed, and my backlog just dried up.

Right now, I have the follow-up answers from one remaining artist, but I have to format and proof them, collect sample artwork, and send the file to him for review and approval. So, I may have his interview ready to post by the end of this week, or the beginning of the next. And, I’m going to start sending out invitations again, while also asking past interviewees to post links to their interviews on their websites. But, that means I need to create a logo for this blog site as a click button.

The bottom line is that Basket Case is on pause until I can get interviews to run again. In the meantime, I’ll post some observations on M-W-F, and maybe some photos of commissioned artwork I’ve received in the past.

If you are an artist and want to be interviewed, post a comment on the About page. If you know an artist that you think should be interviewed, have them contact me, too. Thanks.

Melissa DeJesus interview

I’ve read My Cage on GoComics off and on, so I was familiar with the names Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power. When the GoComics editors announced that Ed and Melissa’s graphic novel, Santa versus Dracula was going to run a couple pages a week, I was interested to see what was going to unfold. Eventually, I bought the ebook for SvD, and it’s a good read. The idea is that Dracula wants Santa’s ability to enter people’s houses without needing an invitation, so he collects a bunch of other monsters and makes a raid on the North Pole. The artwork is anime-influenced, but there’s a lot of western cultural references, including Twilight, and Teen Wolf. My Cage is more of a gag-a-day strip where humans have been replaced by anthropomorphic animals that are now doing all the office work. Completely different art styles, but both are good in their own ways. Today I’m pleased to be talking with Melissa, the artist side of the duo.

(from My Cage)

BC: Who are you?
MD: Melissa DeJesus, artist for the My Cage comic strip and the Santa versus Dracula graphic novel.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
MD: I was born and raised in Queens, New York, and I currently live in Brooklyn. I was always an ambitious child. From early on I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I attended Art and Design High School in Manhattan and the School of Visual Arts for my undergrad and graduate degrees, also in Manhattan.

BC: Is there any relation to anime-influenced artist Robert Dejesus?
MD: None at all.

(from My Cage Returns)

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
MD: For as long as I can remember people would ask what I was and it kept changing – artist, cartoonist, comic artist, graphic novelist, animator, illustrator, designer, and educator. I’d like to add writer to that list one day but there are times when I feel more like one than the other. I’ve spent almost two decades doing all these things and I still don’t know what to call myself. It almost feels like an identity crisis for me.

BC: How did you get your start as whatever it is you are?
MD: Artist! I’m going to pick artist. I’ve been drawing since I was 4. I picked up different skills throughout the years through various experiences. Once you learn a new skill, you get work applying those new skill sets. For example, I started comics in high school and animation in college. I did both professionally for years, going back and forth between the two. When I started illustrating for King Features Syndicate, I had to relearn how to tell sequential stories in the newspaper comic strip format. It’s obviously different than comic pages when you first look at it, but the rules are vast and very specific.

(from My Cage Returns)

BC: What were your tasks before KFS bought the rights to My Cage?
MD: I was working on Sokora Refugees for Tokyopop at the time and other freelance gigs. When the editor approached me, he was already working with Ed on the strips. They were looking for an artist and he reached out to me.

BC: How long have you been artisting, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
MD: I’m still at it! Learning new things and working my craft. My biggest break was getting my first freelance gig while still in high school. Since I was a minor, 16 I think, my mother had to sign the contract as well. It’s kind of funny when I think back on it, but it was a great learning experience. I think every major point in my career were big breaks but the one in high school was the first.

BC: What led up to your starting My Cage, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
MD: I was contacted by Jay Kennedy back in 2006/2007. He was an editor at King Features Syndicate. He asked if I wanted to illustrate a newly acquired comic strip for newspapers. I said yes without thinking about it. That was a hard industry to get into and a rare opportunity. I jumped right on it. I spent over 3 years drawing My Cage daily for newspapers. I think I have about 1,200 strips accumulated, more now that we continued the series. Do I have any other pokers in the fire now? I always do.

(excerpt from Fan Art, a YA novel by Sarah Tregay)

BC: Anything you care to promote right now?
MD: I don’t have anything ready to promote since nothing is finished yet, but I am working on a few short stories, a comic and a game. Eventually, I’ll start posting announcements and updates on my projects at, which I need to be updated as well.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
MD: I’m always happy with my work. I learn from each experience and move on. Specifically, the works I’m most proud of were an animated short, Space Chase, I made in college with two of my girlfriends, and a comic strip, Vampire Zombies in Space, that I made for my husband a few years ago. I’m most proud of any original work I do on my own – and finish it.

BC: I know you have collections on the market – where can readers find them?
MD: You can find everything on Amazon. Haha.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper?
MD: It all starts in the head for me. Whether it’s my own idea or drawing from scripts Ed provides me, I picture it in my head first. Once I visualize it, I sketch it on paper. Easier said than done, right? Hah. You also have to be in the right mind set, too. You need that drive or spark that motivates you into working out that idea or comic, and how you want others to see that vision. Comics I draw for myself come out very differently than other freelance works I have done for various people and companies. It’s how I tell a story versus how the other person tells a story even though I’m the same person drawing it.

BC: Why use an anime-influenced character style? Is there anything that attracts you to that style over others? How do you pick a style to match a project you’re developing?
MD: I was originally attracted to the anime style through video games when I started high school. It was fun and unique and it fit how I wanted to express my art at the time. Over the years I tried to change and develop my style but with animation (at the time), it was a little hard to maintain the same look for hundreds of frames. I think with comics there’s a little more room for artistic development. Eventually your art becomes your signature and people will recognize it’s yours. Sometimes a job will request work based on a specific illustration I did in the past. Like with My Cage, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something different but the editor specifically wanted an anime style for the strip. We went back and forth with designs and that’s how Norm got his crazy hair. Half bald and half spiky anime hair. When working on my own projects I take into account what format I’m going to work in; the best way to tell my story, whether it be traditional, digital, comics, or animation. I then decide what style will work best; something colorful and cartoony for a younger audience or something more serious drawn in black and white.

BC: Can you talk about the process for working with Ed? How do the two of you go from idea to finished strip, and do you always agree as to what works and what doesn’t? How is this different from doing your own works from scratch?
MD: With Ed, he writes a script. Every once in a while he’ll make a note if the character is doing something specific in a panel. All other times, I have the freedom to illustrate how the panels look. Sometimes I draw the characters doing something in the background or while they talk to each other. I think it helps add my signature to the strip.

BC: What’s the easiest and hardest parts about working on My Cage, and SvD?
MD: The easiest thing about working on My Cage is probably the repetition. Drawing the same characters and locations over and over again becomes easy and takes less time to draw. The hardest thing about My Cage is referencing specific characters or drawing celebrities as anthro characters. That becomes time consuming. SvD is the same. Drawing new characters, even if I designed them, I still need to reference them until I remember every detail. Consistency is important. Oh, and drawing groups of characters, that’s always a pain. Haha.

(from Santa versus Dracula)

BC: If you were to go back and start SvD from scratch, is there anything you’d change?
MD: I drew a few pages out of sequence, I wish I could go back and change them a bit, maybe some backgrounds too. But anything else I’d change? No, not really. I might have been more aggressive about getting the word out there but I’m pretty happy with it overall.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
MD: For My Cage? Silence.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
MD: I have many favorite artists and writers. My husband is a personal favorite of mine. Yes, I’m being biased but his art has always been a motivation and inspiration for me. When we’re drawing together, I’ll look over and think “Hmm, he drew that better than me. Let me try and draw it better.” Ha ha. In all honesty though, it’s not a competition as much as I like his vision or portrayal of something more than my own. It motivates me to try harder and explore my skills more.

(from Vampire Zombies in Space)

MD: But as an artist you’re always looking for new inspiration, whether it be new talent or old masters. Like anything else, your tastes change over the years and you find new favorites, so I try to find inspiration from everywhere. Yes, I have met and known a few artists and writers, and no, I don’t have dirt on them. I only have nice things to say.

BC: Do you follow any other strips right now?
MD: I don’t follow any comic strips right now. When you’re constantly working it’s hard to follow things. I always come across comics and animations though. When I do, I try to absorb as much as possible before I have to put it down again. I did recently read 6 volumes of Last Man, a French comic, and saw an animated short on youtube called I, Pet Goat II.

(from Sokora Refugees)

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
MD: Art always catches my attention first, but I do look for good writing and good storytelling. Unique content and subject matter will grab my attention, too. When I have time, I try to give everything a chance. Many times I pass up things I’m not interested in at first glance but end up really liking later.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
MD: The storytelling, writing and pacing. Without it, you have pretty pictures that make no sense. I mean, you can have pretty pictures perfectly drawn with no words, but if you can tell a story sequentially without words, then I’m impressed.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
MD: We used Kickstarter for Santa versus Dracula. It helped a lot at the time. We’re currently using Patreon for the new My Cage comic strips as well.

(from Sokora Refugees)

BC: How do you think they are changing the face of webcartooning?
MD: I love drawing, and I love creating things. I could do it forever but I have bills and debt just like everyone else. We all need money to live and any artist would love to live off their craft. Sometimes an artist’s creative output doesn’t equal the income they need or deserve. Crowdfunding sites are giving creative people a chance to work on their craft and make it available to everyone. I really appreciate the opportunity they provide but I also have to thank the fans that understand this and help support the creative talent out there.

BC: Do you want to plug your site?
MD: Okay!

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
MD: I don’t have any scheduled appearances at cons at the moment but I will be attending PAX. I’m focusing on a handful of projects right now and they need to be completed before I start showing my face again.

(example digital sketch)

BC: Anything else you want to expound upon?
MD: I find it interesting that fans of Sokora are not necessarily fans of My Cage and fans of My Cage aren’t necessarily fans of Santa versus Dracula. My fans over the years don’t follow every project I do. Either they don’t realize I’ve moved onto something completely different or they’re not interested in it. In the past, I’ve shown my youngest students my various artworks; some children will say one thing is ugly and the other really cute. I keep trying new things all the time and never really settled on anything. It’s hard to keep an audience like that. In the last few years I had to take a step back and really think what I was going to stick with. Hopefully the projects I’m working on now will reflect a little of everything about me and what I can do.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Melissa DeJesus © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Poll: Who would win in a fair fight – Santa or Dracula?


Nicholas Gurewitch interview

I love the Perry Bible Fellowship, by Nicholas Gurewitch. The artwork is fantastic, the jokes are completely off the wall, and the humor is blacker than the way I take my coffee. I’ve been following PBF since it first started running on GoComics on November, 7, 2014.

(The first PBF to run on GoComics)

But, you know how when you’re interviewing someone, you sometimes have to just stop asking questions and let the other person do the talking for you? Yeah, that’s why I’m ripping off Nicholas’ GoComics blurbs: “The PBF (for short) first started publishing in Syracuse University’s The Daily Orange in 2001. In the following years, it ran in a number of alternative weeklies, including The New York Press, The Ottawa Xpress, The Portland Mercury, as well as the G2 section of The Guardian. After 3 years of weekly production, Gurewitch disappointed his fans by switching to an irregular schedule, citing mental and physical strain.” And, “Ever since he was little, Nicholas Gurewitch has been told that he holds his drawing utensils in an uncommon way.” Finally, “The origin of the comic strip’s name is completely uninteresting.”

(from the Perry Bible Fellowship.)

BC: So, sir, what personal information do you think readers should know about you?
NG: Having an audience sometimes means you learn to take a step back and see how other people see you or your work. Sometimes this means stepping so far away that you lose your footing. Sometimes you never regain your footing and start to go mad.

BC: How did you get started cartooning and what have been your biggest breaks?
NG: My biggest break was probably having a wild imagination in a boring town as a kid. Keeping things interesting was kinda like weight-training in high altitudes. By the time I eventually encountered genuinely interesting things, I was prepared to deal with them.

BC: What’s your artistic background?
NG: I went to Syracuse University for film-making.

(from the Perry Bible Fellowship.)

BC: What artists/writers do you follow and why?
NG: I follow my friend Jackie’s (Evangelisti) webcomic, “Underpants and Overbites“. She started doing comics kinda recently, and it’s fun to see her growth.

BC: What do you look for in someone else’s cartoons?
NG: Strong visual information about a specific topic.

BC: What makes for a good cartoon?
NG: Perhaps the above.

BC: What were your biggest influences?
NG: Artistically, probably Gary Larson, Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you start a new panel or strip?
NG: I think a blank sheet of paper is practically the last thing I approach. There are shit loads of ideas typed, scrawled, drawn, and sketched in various places. Clean sheet of paper only after those messy pages are seasoned, shaved, primed and timed.

(The “Masculator,” from the Perry Bible Fellowship.)

BC: You seem to have a variety of art styles in PBF (comparing the Happy Birthday Miggs strip to the Masculator); What is your approach for matching a style or “look” to a particular gag?

(“Happy Birthday, Miggs,” from the Perry Bible Fellowship.)

NG: If a gag allows me to journey into a genre, it’s fun to go there. I usually just consider what images I’ve seen associated with the tropes I’m utilizing. Or I’ll just opt for that basic colorless-person style I often use as a default.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Nicholas Gurewitch © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Poll: Did you buy a Masculator when you were a kid?


Georgia Dunn interview

I like cats. I had three young cats living with me at one point, and they were some of the smartest, trickiest creatures I’ve ever met (one loved to play fetch with a rabbit’s foot keychain, another enjoyed tapping people on the shoulder from behind and then running away before the victim could turn around to see what was behind them, and both had figured out how to open doors). So, I have been eagerly following Breaking Cat News because I can easily see exactly this kind of thing happening with the three cats I knew, although my three would have been more likely to run an underground pirate radio station. Georgia?

BC: Who are you?
GD: I’m Georgia Dunn, the cartoonist behind ‘Breaking Cat News.’ I like to think of myself as the head of the world’s most adorable media network.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
GD: I was born and raised in a small town by the sea in Rhode Island. It was filled with forests and I spent a lot of my childhood playing in the woods and writing stories. I loved comics, and read them voraciously. I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Rhode Island. These days I live outside of Seattle, WA, with my husband, our three year-old son, one year-old daughter, and three cats. During the day I’m home with our children, and at night I work on Breaking Cat News.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
GD: My background was originally in illustrating, but I’ve been working on one comic strip or another since I was a kid. I was always trying to break into illustrating children’s books and slowly comics took over, which has been a pretty terrific turn of events. A lot of readers often comment that the art in BCN looks like the pages of a storybook, and that’s not far from the truth. So… A little bit of an illustrator, a little bit of a cartoonist, and a little bit of a writer, too. The writing part is crucial, I don’t think my strip would be the same if I hadn’t spent a lot of years churning out stories.

(from Swan Eaters)

BC: How did you get your start as an illustooner?
GD: I started writing stories with a group of friends in sixth grade, and that took over the rest of my life pretty quick. High school turned into trying to get into the best English classes I could and doubling up on extra art classes instead of having study hall breaks. College started off with me getting into the URI journalism program (ironic, right?) for writing, and then switching to art and illustrating by the end of my freshman year. From middle school, to high school, to college, and beyond, my nightly schedule has been fairly consistent. I begin working on whatever current project I have on my plate around 7 pm and wrap up work around 1-2am. Sometimes it is writing, sometimes it’s painting, or an outline, maybe a series of jokes–the work changes and it stays interesting, thankfully! Since having children, I’ve tried to roll my bedtime back to 11:30-midnight, with mixed results. I’m incredibly lucky that both of my little kiddos are good sleepers and my husband supports my work and gets up with the kids at night when I am against deadlines.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: How long have you been at this, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
GD: My first webcomic ‘The Quote Book’ started in 2007, and my second comic ‘Swan Eaters’ came along in 2011. Neither was very successful, but they each earned a small loyal following. When ‘Breaking Cat News’ began in 2014, readers from both of these comics immediately shared the first few strips. They tweeted, they posted on Reddit. ThinkGeek ended up retweeting the BCN strip about bacon, and my editor at GoComics found BCN on Reddit. These were huge breaks for me, and I’m very grateful to the people who have followed my work all these years and took the time to share it with others. Getting syndicated at GoComics in October, 2014, was the biggest break I’ve had so far. They offered me a development deal with newspapers and a book deal shortly after. They have been incredibly helpful; they made a lot of good things happen very quickly. I worked mostly alone at night–every night–for about 20 years, and once ‘Breaking Cat News’ began to take off, so many things fell into place. Syndication was a big part of that.

BC: What led up to your starting Breaking Cat News, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
GD: Total disaster, haha! My husband lost his job, we had to sell our house, we were preparing to move 3,000 miles back to our hometown to start over, and one night in the middle of the whole mess our cat Lupin knocked everything off a shelf. When our cats Elvis and Puck rushed over to tell us/supervise the clean up in that way that cats do, I started cracking jokes that they were old timey reporters. It was the worst possible time to start a new webcomic, but the more I shared sketches of the jokes, the more people responded positively. It felt like a really fun idea, and I couldn’t stop coming up with headlines. I checked if the domain name was available, and I let that make the decision for me. It was, so despite all the upheaval going on in our lives, I was just honest with readers and put the comic on pause whenever we had to move, as we chased work back and forth across the country for a couple of years. Now, recently, we’re back in Washington and things are more stable, thank goodness.

GD: I always have a few projects simmering on the back burner. I’d love to go back and wrap up my web comic ‘Swan Eaters’ one day. It was about witches and monsters and a traveling gypsy family in the 1940s, and it paused on a cliff hanger when my son was born in 2013. A friend and I have been drafting a children’s book this year. And my husband, our friends, and I staged a Halloween-themed video game marathon in 2012 and 2013 to raise money for cancer research, and we’re working to bring it back in 2017. It’s called Nightmarathon.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: Which of your works are you most proud of?
GD: Breaking Cat News, without a doubt. It’s not easy to write all-ages humor, and I try very hard to make the comic genuinely, unexpectedly laugh out-loud funny. I want children and old people to love it. I want your cheery co-worker and your most cynical friend from college to love it. And it’s a very warm, positive comic. I’m happy that of everything I’ve worked on, this is the thing that caught on. When I think about working on it for years to come, I can’t wait. It’s a lot of fun to write and it’s forced me to focus on good things and find humor during bad times, whatever is happening in the world or in my life, and that’s a good job to have.

BC: BCN is in re-runs on GoComics now. Is that going to change in the future with new strips? What can we expect in terms of new storylines?
GD: We’re still working on what that will look like, but right now we’re thinking that we’re going to leave the web archives up on GoComics and the original site, with new strips beginning around the newspaper launch in March. Readers have been so patient, and I hate to say there won’t be new strips until March, but it really helps me to build a backlog behind the scenes. I never had that before, I was painting 95% of the strips the night before and scrambling to post them in the middle of the night. So, the wait until March will really be helpful to ensure BCN continues strong… Plus, I may have a couple of surprises planned before then, too…

(from Breaking Cat News)

GD: In terms of new storylines, we’ll be expanding the world a bit from the beginning. I have a chance to go back and add things I wanted before that somehow did not happen. For example, I always meant for the vacuum and the mysterious red dot to be more of villains, but the strips got away from me and I wasn’t able to establish them as repeat characters as much as I wanted. We’ll be introducing the comic to new readers, and so in the beginning there will be a lot of strips we revisit. The art is updated and in a few places I’ve elaborated. For instance, in the first six weeks of the newspaper strips readers will see the first time any of the cats spotted Tommy in the backyard. We started off in another apartment in the original comic, and we do this time, too. Readers will be there when the Man and the Woman find out they got the apartment in “The Big Pink House,” and I’m hoping the move will have more meaning for long-time readers this time around. New folks will have the strips about box forts and riding in the car, and long-time readers will have strips describing the setting a little more. The Big Pink House has become a character in its own way, and long-time readers will see more of it in the beginning than I gave them before. That’s a good example of how the comic will come together at first. As we continue, there will be a visit to the BCN archives to see Lupin’s job interview with the station when he first started out. We’ll learn more about Sir Figaro Newton (who really, readers don’t know a lot about yet, even after all this time) and I hope to go into Natasha’s history and how she came to be in the Robber Mice gang. She hinted this summer that “her mice are not of these fields,” and that’s very true. As well as hard-hitting investigative reports about milk cap rings, sun prisms, bathroom countertops, and Elvis’ new nemesis–the Moon.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: Where can readers find your book?
GD: In many bookstores across the country, particularly Barnes & Noble on the humor shelf, and on Amazon and Indiebound.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next headline?
GD: If people see me out on the streets, I look like a crazy person. I’m one of those people who is usually muttering and laughing to myself. I approach 80% of the strips by just bouncing dialogue around in my head and imagining the characters talking to each other. When a line strikes me, I scribble it down or I type it into my phone. If a strip or storyline is action heavy vs talking, I let my mind wander while listening to music. Playing pretend is a big part of my writing/drawing process; I’m usually thinking of the characters reacting to things. And of course, it helps that the characters are all based on real cats and I can observe new stories and headlines play out in real life, too.

BC: In what media?
GD: I work in ink and watercolor on paper and then scan my work.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
GD: A lot of classic rock, probably, cut with the usual nightly news sounds and jingles. The Robber Mice causing trouble to ‘Thin Lizzy’, Elvis angrily investigating an empty food bowl to The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ Tommy running through the backyard to ELO, Lupin adventuring under the cabinets to ‘Queen’ and ‘Frank Zappa’, Puck climbing a laundry pile to David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, etc.

(from Breaking Cat News)

GD: I write a lot of the BCN specials to music. This summer I wrote a special about the Robber Mice and an old owl, and most of the special was written while listening to Peter Gabriel’s ‘San Jacinto’ and Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ over and over. A lot of the characters or their relationships to each other have songs in my head. Kit Chase, the star of the cat soap opera in the comic, is written to a lot of Childish Gambino tracks. ‘Watch Me Impress You’ by Hot Dad is a song I listen to when I write Tommy and Sophie storylines, because he is so happy and so hopeful to win her friendship whatever apathy she throws his way. Music is a huge part of writing for me.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them?
GD: It’s hard to narrow it down… Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, Sam Kieth, Tony DiTerlizzi, Jim Henson, and Frank Frazetta for sure. And James Howe (as I pulled on my Bunnicula tee-shirt this morning, I realized he is definitely up there too). I’ve never met any of them (sadly two obviously have passed on) but I sent Tony DiTerlizzi a letter once when I was right out of college and experiencing a lot of rejection from publishers. It was sort of a “do you have any advice for young illustrators?” kind of letter, I think I sounded a little sad writing it because he wrote me back a very warm, encouraging reply. I still have it. I’ve read that Gary Larson lives in Washington, too, and I’m always hoping we’ll somehow run into each other randomly. Like, I’ll come around an aisle at the grocery store covered in cats and see a man dressed like a cow wheeling a shopping cart full of bugs. …That’s pretty close to what I hope for, really.

(from Swan Eaters)

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
GD: I enjoy Nedroid, Poorly Drawn Lines, Perry Bible Fellowship, Sarah’s Scribbles, Catbeard the Pirate (Matt Nelson just invited me to write the intro for his first book, actually!) and Phoebe and Her Unicorn! My kids are pretty crazy for Phoebe and Her Unicorn, too, which is kind of extra amazing because Dana and I met this summer and she’s become a fast friend and great comfort as I’ve been getting BCN ready for papers. She gets what I’ve been going through and can offer me insight and kind words. She is just as magical in real life as you would hope Marigold’s creator would be!

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
GD: It depends, but if the humor sort of catches you completely off-guard or has an unusual pacing, that seems to strike my fancy a lot. And then with some comics like ‘Calvin and Hobbes’, ‘Cul de Sac,’ ‘Foxtrot,’ or ‘Phoebe and her Unicorn,’ it’s very much the characters and watching how they interact with one another. A great comic feels like visiting an old friend.

BC: I’ve asked a couple other artists about Cul de Sac before. Richard Thompson seems to be a very polarizing artist. Readers either hate him or love him. What attracts you to his strips?
GD: I’m in the love category. I’m new to his work, admittedly. My editor, who also happened to be his editor, introduced me to his work a couple of years back. For someone who works in inks and watercolors it was love at first sight. His line work, the energy in his sketches, and the warmth in his storylines and dialogue are all amazing. One of the unexpected perks of working with GoComics–and really, my editor–is that I’ve been lucky enough to be introduced to some of my comics heroes. I’ve met Nick Galifianakis, Bill Amend, and Dana Simpson and they have all been terrifically kind and welcoming to a new cartoonist, and answered my questions and given me advice. And thinking of that, I will always be saddened that I did not have a chance to somehow meet Richard, from what I hear he was as amazing as his work.

(from Swan Eaters)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
GD: Characters draw me in the most, but the cartoonist’s personality interests me a lot, too. I think the best comics reflect the person working on them. It’s a really intimate medium; you’re doing your best to show someone what you are thinking as it plays out in your head and relying on their imagination to follow your cues. However sophisticated it gets, I think the best comics always still very much feel like they started in a notebook somewhere, be it paper or laptop.

BC: If you went back and started BCN over again, is there anything you’d want to change? Any advice you’d give yourself?
GD: It’s tough to say… It all took off so fast, and I was lucky to have it get as popular as it did when it did. So, I hesitate to wish I could have changed the timing–but if I could have known, say, a year in advance, I would have loved a backlog or a buffer of maybe six months of strips. I had that with ‘The Quote Book’ and ‘Swan Eaters,’ and ‘Breaking Cat News’ just rocketed out of nowhere and there was no time to prepare a buffer, especially with two tiny kids. The advice I’d give myself came later from Dana, and that was to let negative comments online fall away and give the good ones more weight.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: How close are the personalities of the BCN cast to that of their real-world inspirations?
GD: Very close! That helps me when writing them, because if I get stuck I can try to imagine how the real cat would actually react in a similar situation. I get asked a lot if Elvis really is that intense, and any of our house guests can tell you… Yes. Tabitha is a bit more of a sweetheart in real life. I mixed her personality with a couple of Alpha females I had as a child. And readers may be bummed to know that Puck is a little more rough and tumble in real life–he is a sensitive, sweet kitty, but he is the first to defend our home from any outsiders (spiders, flies, etc). Although, that comes out in the comic sometimes when he is the first to fight the electric razor to save the Man, so maybe they already sensed that….

GD: Tommy is even nicer in real life. Tommy is an outstanding cat. Though, in real life–and anyone who has seen a photo of him knows this–he looks a lot like an angry owl! Ha!! He is a total sweetie puff, though.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: Do you really have a Mexican cat crew living above you? Do they really have better production values than the BCN guys?
GD: Tabitha and Figaro are a mix of fact and fiction! The truth: They really did live in the Big Pink House (which is a real house in Rhode Island) in another apartment. They are good buddies, and awesome cats. Tabitha is clever and loves to drink cereal milk. Figaro is very friendly (he made our son’s day by gently head butting him once, ha!) he is incredibly sweet. The fiction: They lived below us, in real life Elvis, Puck, and Lupin were the ceiling cats. And their household is not Mexican in real life. For some time I had wanted to create a rival Spanish channel with a very capable lead lady anchor. I wanted it to be kind of like when you’re flipping through channels and happening upon another broadcast in a different language. They would sometimes be reporting on the same story, but from slightly different perspectives. When my friend moved into the apartment building and brought Tabitha and Figaro, I asked her if she would mind me basing a couple of BCN characters on her kitties, and she was kind enough to let me. When you see the Gatos de Noticias news crew and their People in the comic, my reasoning is that Tabitha and Figaro are two Spanish-speaking kitties who have been adopted by English-speaking People. They’re a blended family in the comic, and Tabitha is the only one in the household who understands everyone. The GN news team is meant to have nicer production values in part because Tabitha is very detail-oriented and one way I can show that to the reader at a glance is for their station to be managed just a little bit better. She is definitely making sure things run smooth and possibly taking on a little too much, but while Elvis would melt down under stress, Tabitha thrives on it.

BC: Who is running the cameras when all three cats are in front of the lens?
GD: Until Burt, the boys just have cameras running on self-timers, and the production value is pretty low at CN News. Once Burt comes into the story (and I’ve seen a reader refer to older strips as “BB–before Burt–strips,” and this is an excellent way to think of it) the station quality overall really improves. This was a way for me to explain why I was getting better at making the stories look more “news-y” and why things were starting to look better overall. Originally, I tried to write BCN like three cats inside an apartment who are secretly broadcasting news online–through the actual BCN website to the “viewers” who are of course, the readers. There’s an element of playing pretend for all of us; me writing it and viewers ‘watching’ it, or at least, that’s what I hoped for. Things sometimes went wrong on purpose; the teleprompter was an old model that only picked up vocals but didn’t explain tone and so Lupin (who is deaf) is occasionally left out of the loop, as the cricket strip finally explained. An unspoken piece to this is that my husband (the Man) is a video editor in real life; that’s his career. And so we often have weird old pieces of AV equipment around that he is in the middle of refurbishing (a hobby of his). We have a green screen kit. We have multiple microphones and a simple sound board. These are things the cats are really around a lot, and so I didn’t have to stretch my imagination much to think that when we weren’t paying attention they were live-streaming the news to cats all over the world.

GD: And readers ask all the time who “Camera One” is, and that will be revealed in the new strips at some point.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: Is it true that one of the cats is missing a leg? Is this ever going to turn into a Breaking Story itself?
GD: Yes, Puck is missing his hind foot. I debate going into it too much in the comic; in real life it is a sad-but-awesome story. Basically there were two neighbors; one (neighbor A) had a litter of kittens in their backyard and one (neighbor B) would sometimes watch the kittens play over their fence. One day, neighbor B noticed that one of them was terribly injured (the theory from our vet is that a predator bird attacked him). They waited for neighbor A to take the kitten to the vet, but it became clear they had decided to “let nature take its course” and were doing nothing to help the injured kitten. When neighbor B checked again a day or so later, the kitten was laying in the grass, not moving. And so neighbor B catnapped the kitten and took him to the vet. Puck’s leg was half torn off, and from the neglect an infection had spread. His leg had to be amputated to the hip. A shelter here in Washington called ‘Purrfect Pals’ has a special fund for cats in need of surgery, and they saved him. He recovered with a loving foster Mom named Sue and we were lucky enough to adopt him when he was 12 weeks old. Now–that’s a pretty great story about someone stepping in to do the right thing, and that’s why I try to tell it as often as I can… but I’m not sure if it will ever make its way into the comic. Maybe as a special report about bringing animals to receive vet care. It would be a hard thing to write, I think about drawing baby Puck laying in the grass and I pretty much never want to stop crying. I won’t say never though. In the comic, I may possibly find a different explanation for Puck’s leg, too; you never know.

BC: Some of the stories have revolved around cat rescues. Is this something you’re active in yourself?
GD: In so much that I try to encourage folks to adopt from shelters, and to give thought to adopting older cats, black cats, and cats with special needs in particular. I wrote a special report on this, which can be found on the original BCN site here, and there’s a poster of it over on Topataco. My husband and I have dreams of adopting an older kitty or two every few years to live their lives out in spoiled comfort, one day when we own a house and know we will not be moving for a long time. Puck and Lupin were both rescues and special needs kitties, (Puck with his missing foot and Lupin is deaf) and they’re awesome cats. Tommy’s real life Woman works with animal shelters as a manager, and I hate to say the amazing shelter she was working with recently had to close due to lack of funding. If you’re in the Massachusetts or Rhode Island area and you are looking to hire the best dang animal shelter manager ever, she’s looking for her next place to work her magic!

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: How did you come about obtaining your three real-world cats? Are there any stories behind that, or anything the three cats have done in real-life that make for good stories?
GD: Elvis was adopted from a man in Massachusetts, and a friend of mine owns his very mellow brother, Merlin, and his very clever sister, Hazel. From the start, he was an intense cat. My sister and I were told he bit most of the other people who came to look at the kittens. Yet, when I picked him up, he touched my face, settled onto my chest, and fell asleep with a relieved sigh. I’ve had him since. He dislikes most people (it took my husband about a year to fully win him over) but somehow he is very loyal to me, which I am thankful for and humbled by. I like to say, “he’s a great cat, if you’re me.” He is endlessly patient and very good with our children, too, which was a pleasant surprise. Puck and Lupin were both rescues from Purrfect Pals in Washington state. They both had rough starts, and yet they’re tremendously friendly, sweet cats. Lupin was found by a realtor with his siblings locked in a closet in an empty apartment. They were all only a few weeks old. From the conditions, Lupin had a fever that cost him the tip of his tail and his hearing. (While many white cats are born deaf, Lupin has green eyes, not blue, and all of his siblings could hear. So it is believed by our vet that he lost his hearing from this terrible fever, rather than it being genetic). He survived, thanks to the love and care from his foster Mom Ruth, and we adopted him when he was about 10-12 weeks old. Before we adopted him, Lupin participated in a program at the shelter where he went out to area schools and events to raise awareness about adoption, and we credit his SUPER outgoing, travel-loving personality to this. He greets every house guest, handy man, and mail carrier as a life long friend. It’s a big reason why he is the anchor cat on BCN.

(from Swan Eaters)

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? How do you think they are changing the face of webcartooning? Do you want to plug your site?
GD: We’re working on a Patreon right now, actually, this week! Readers have been requesting one almost daily for the last six months, I’m grateful that they’ve been patient! I have not used Kickstarter yet, but sometimes I think maybe I will one day if I ever want to possibly fund plushies, fancier prints, etc. I think they’re terrific for webcartooning. The more that someone can get their work out to the world and in front of an audience, the better. I really think there is an audience for everyone, the tricky bit is just to find them. That’s one of the nicest things about the online world; however odd you think you may be, there are a bunch of awesome people ready to embrace your oddness. I didn’t think my job would one day be writing the daily broadcasts of a cat news station. I’m so happy this is something people wanted, because it’s so much fun to create. And the audience for something like that is everything. Patreon and Kickstarter connect a creator and an audience and give everyone a chance to be a part of creating the work. It’s awesome.

(from Breaking Cat News)

GD: And sure! My site is, but it has been crashing a lot lately, sadly. It’s easier to see the comic on GoComics, so that link might work better!

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
GD: We only moved back to Washington in August, so I have been laying low for a bit and helping my kiddos and the cats adjust. I would love to start scheduling some appearances soon though; I enjoyed the ones I made in California this summer.

(from Breaking Cat News)

BC: If Elvis, Puck and Lupin got into a karaoke contest, who would win?
GD: Lupin, paws down. He is a VERY loud cat, and he loves to serenade us in the middle of the night. His personality is really outgoing and entertaining, too; he would work the crowd. Puck might come in a close second, he has a sweet sing-songy meow, especially if food is up for grabs. Poor Elvis would probably get a hot mic; he has a very strange, raspy not-quite-an-actual-meow-more-like-a-yell meow.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Georgia Dunn © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Poll: Do you have a cat news network in your home?


Harley Schwadron interview

I like business and financial cartoons. I’ve worked in the offices of a number of companies, both big and small, and I’ve witnessed a number of situations where management seemed to be out of their depth, and tried to cover that up in different ways. Business cartoons often reveal these mess-ups in glaring, hilarious detail. One cartoonist that’s been at this for a while is Harley Schwadron, creator of 9 to 5 on GoComics. He sent me his biog, which I’m taking the liberty of changing to “first person.”

BC: Harley, can you tell us about yourself?
HS: I draw cartoons for many publications, large and small, and I specialize in business and topical cartoons. My daily “9 to 5” business panel is syndicated by Tribune Content Agency, and my freelance cartoons appear in Barrons, Wall Street Journal, AARP Bulletin, Readers Digest, Harvard Business Review, Prospect, the Oldie, and many others.

HS: I’m based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but I previously worked as a reporter for the Hartford Times in Connecticut, as a weekly newspaper editor in Michigan, and for many years as an editor at University of Michigan News Service in Ann Arbor. While working at the university, I began freelancing cartoons to many publications and had most luck with business cartoons. When I left the U-M I had time to begin a syndicated panel. Originally titled ‘Big Biz‘, my business panel was first distributed by a small syndicate, Davey Associates. It was picked up by Los Angeles Times Syndicate in 1994 and since 2001 has been with Tribune Content Agency. Having done business cartoons for many years, it is easy for me to come up with ideas in this area. I also have a group of characters who appear in the strip.

(from 9 to 5)

HS: I also supply topical and investment cartoons directly to several newspapers, including business publications, as well as investment newsletters. They have appeared in many cartoon collections, including Punch Magazine diaries, “Barrons Book of Cartoons,” “Wall Street Journal Portfolio of Business Cartoons“, “Best Cartoons from the National Business Employment Weekly“, several Readers Digest “Laughter is the Best Medicine” collections, and many more.

HS: I have illustrated many books, including “101 President Jokes” (Scholastic), “l0l Cat and Dog Jokes” (Scholastic), “No Husband Should Be Without A Wife” (with humorist Dick Emmons), “The Money is the Gravy: Finding a Career that Nourishes You” (Times Warner), “Win By Not Losing” (with Dean Harman), two investment books with Edelman Financial Services, and many others.

(from 9 to 5)

BC: Are there any other cartoonists you like?
HS: I admire all cartoonists who can stick it out in this ruthlessly competitive field.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper?
HS: I am low tech. I use India ink on paper, and sometimes gray watercolor wash. For color I use watercolors. I scan both color and black and white cartoons for emailing.

(from 9 to 5)

BC: You are very well-versed in business, management and investment practices. What kind of research do you do before tackling a new business topic?
HS: I have done business and investment cartoons for many years, so I guess I have picked up a lot of information. I also read business newspapers and magazines regularly to follow business events and the stock market.

BC: Obviously, you’ve seen various business fads come and go. What fads have you seen?
HS: Cartoons on the Federal Reserve always seem humorous. When Greenspan, Bernanke, and Yellen were chairpersons of the Fed, I had done many cartoons on them. Government dysfunction is a good topic, as well as taxes and budget deficits. When Bill Clinton was President, there was a budget surplus— a good topic for cartoons.

(from 9 to 5)

BC: What factor(s) would you attribute to your longevity as a business cartoonist?
HS: In the cartoon business, perseverance seems to be the important thing. And I really enjoy doing business cartoons.

BC: Have you received any push-back from business or investment executives that were offended by a specific panel or group of panels?
HS: If a cartoon is offensive, probably an editor wouldn’t buy it. I’ve done a lot of cartoons for Wall street Journal and sold the original art to many government officials, so I think some people have enjoyed my cartoons over the years.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Harley Schwadron © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Poll: Do you follow any business or investment cartoons?


Laurie Triefeldt interview

Even as an adult, I like glancing over the children’s activities sections in the newspapers. In part because I may pick up new vocabulary that I can use in my English teaching, partly because I just like to learn new things (which also helps in teaching English to Japanese adults), and a lot because I like word games and things like sudoku. About one year ago, I found World of Wonder on GoComics, and I’ve slowly been working my way through the archives. These are great introductions to a wide variety of different topics, and can be just as entertaining to adults as to children. The illustrations accompanying the information in the topics are clean and easy to understand visually, even as page space shrinks in the newspapers. Laurie?

BC: Who are you?
LT: Laurie Triefeldt, Creator of the Sunday Educational Feature ‘World of Wonder’. World of Wonder is a fun educational feature created for newspapers and enjoyed by kids of all ages. Since 1999, WOW has run in more than 100 papers.

(World of Wonder for Aug. 14, 2016)

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
LT: I was born and educated in Canada.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
LT: I consider myself to be an illustrator, designer, researcher, writer, author and crazy cat lady. I am not a cartoonist, but I hang out with plenty of them, and cartoonists seem to accept me as one of their own – I think this is because I draw my feature and it runs on Sundays. Another thing I have in common with the cartoonists – I have strict deadlines and it’s lonely work.

BC: How did you get your start as a crazy research illustrator?
LT: I have been drawing since I was a little kid. My mother bought me a chalk board, because she couldn’t afford to keep me in the amount of paper I would go through.

LT: I began a career in newspaper at the Windsor Star in Canada. I was an artist in the classified department, was promoted to retail advertising artist and eventually to editorial art director. I loved editorial work, and telling stories with pictures was exactly what I enjoyed most. After creating a illustrated time line on a grizzly murder I was hooked.

BC: How long have you been at that, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
LT: I enjoyed a newspaper career for about 20 years, until 2008 when the economy tanked. World of Wonder has been syndicated for 16 years and I recently renewed my syndication contract, so we can look forward to a few more years yet.

BC: What led up to your starting World of Wonder, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
LT: Way back… when I was an Art Director and Graphic Artist at the Courier Post in Cherry Hill (c1990) I was wishing for a way that I could draw more cool things than maps and icons. I knew I had to have a sellable niche and thought that an Education Page might be just the thing. I was able to sell the idea to my editors and the paper began to run a weekly Educational Feature called ‘BrainStorm’. BrainStorm was a hit with readers of all ages and regularly brought the paper additional ad revenue. However when I joined the Courier Post I signed an agreement that all properties I created belonged to them. When I went to work with Gannett News Service in Arlington, Va., I was not allowed to bring BrainStorm with me. (Boo-Hiss)

LT: So I created a new Educational Feature called ‘World of Wonder’. (Yaaa!) For a year, I made the page weekly and tried to self-syndicate with little success. When asked who else was running the feature, I was able to tell ‘WoW’s’ first paper (The Springfield Union News) that at the moment… ‘they had an exclusive’. (LOL)

LT: Friends and family began to question my sanity… Why was I working so hard on something that was not selling… They started to tease me, nicknaming my feature “World of Blunder“. (Big meanies.) But I was not to be deterred and was convinced WoW was a great feature.

LT: The big break came when I went to work for the Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ. Lisa Klem Wilson, VP of the United Media syndicate was visiting the Star-Ledger office one day, saw the WoW page and loved it. She invited me to a meeting in NY later that week and I signed a very long (and cruel) contract. Suddenly WoW was running in about 100 newspapers around the world. United Media syndicated the page for about 10 years and then passed the feature (and its contract) onto Universal Uclick. I recently signed a much kinder contract with Universal Uclick. (Thank you guys!)

BC: Which of your works are you most proud of?
LT: I am probably most proud of my National Cartoonist Society – best of – illustration award. It means a lot to have your peers judge your work to be great. I also get a hoot that World of Wonder has been published in Macau for many years (the gambling mecca near Hong Kong – what’s with that!)

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
LT: There are 3 World of Wonder printed books out there. One was published by The Star Ledger and Kean University and is called World of Wonder – this book is rare and hard to come by, it was a small edition, mostly available only in NJ. Plants and Animals, and People and Places by Quill Driver Press are World of Wonder compilations. I think you can still order them on Amazon.

LT: I also have 2 coloring books just out. The Elegant Tea Party and Boudoirs by Quill Driver Press. These books are definitely available from bookstores, gift shops and Amazon. (They make Great Gifts, Everybody!)

LT: People can find my work at Facebook, GoComics, and my website.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next WoW?
LT: I usually make the entire WoW topic list for the year ahead of time. I choose topics based on reader requests, teacher requests and curriculum, and my own interests. My nephews like to play a game where they try to think of a topic that World of Wonder has not covered… It’s not as easy as it sounds… I have covered more than 700 topics, but sometimes they come up with some great unique ideas. And because I have been making WoW for so long, I can revisit topics with fresh facts for another generation. I love it when readers ask me for a topic and I can accommodate them. Just this year a reader asked for a page on the Ninja…. I had never done one and it was great fun.

LT: One of the biggest considerations a WoW topic has to take into account is how visual is it. Every now and then I find myself struggling with a topic. I once did a page on sound… which did not lend itself easily to visuals. I also try to keep WoW happy and upbeat, I rarely approach topics that are sad or may be distressing to young readers. The feature is called World of Wonder after all.

(World of Wonder for Jan. 10, 2016)

BC: Have you done Wow pages on the National Cartoonist Society, the illustration award, the city of Macau or on gambling?
LT: No, I have never done a WoW page on the National Cartoonist Society (wouldn’t know where to start). No, I have never done a WoW page on the NCS illustration award (not much good at blowing my own horn). And… No, I have never done a WoW page on the city of Macau or on gambling. I don’t think gambling would be a very good topic for my younger readers – I wouldn’t want to encourage potentially bad behavior. I have however done a page on Hong Kong, billiards, cards and chess (those topics are kind of close).

BC: Are there differences in how you approach the drawings for the coloring books compared to WoW? Do you think the work you’ve done on WoW had an influence (positive or negative) on the pictures for the coloring books? Why do you think adult coloring books are so popular now, and does it tie in to your own emotional responses as an illustrator?
LT: My black and white coloring book art is probably heavily influenced by years of creating line art for WoW. Although WoW art is created in color, it does rely on clean outlines. The coloring book art reflects a love of detail and design that is also present in World of Wonder illustration.

LT: I think coloring books are so popular now because people have given themselves permission to get lost in a hobby that allows them to relax and make creative decisions. They have discovered that playing with colors is fun, it is not difficult and the final artwork can be very beautiful. For many, coloring allows them to achieve a Zen-like meditative state. I know that when I draw, hours can go by in what seems like minutes, while I happily focus on the drawing at hand.

BC: Do you have a tracking system for WoW? When your nephews try to pick a new topic, how long does it take to determine if it is new?
LT: I do have all the years, topics, and dates recorded and I update the list annually. However, I usually remember making a page, although not necessarily when I made it. So when a nephew asks have I done a page on tulips, I can respond no, but I have done a page on the poetic language of flowers and on wildflowers, and on poisonous plants, and on carnivorous plants, and on trees. (You get the idea).

LT: However, when Universal Uclick asks have I done a page on South America and when… I can tell them I have done several South American countries, but not the continent itself. I would have to look up the dates.

BC: Do you have any WoW horror stories?
LT: There was a time when I was a good six months ahead of my deadlines (because I had been making WoW for so long before syndication). Then, one night, working late, and overly tired…. I managed to delete all of my finished, unpublished World of Wonder pages… They were irretrievable and I was heartbroken. I have been working pretty much on deadline ever since. (Sigh.)

LT: I also lost a few finished and published pages while I was transferring files to secondary drives during a job change. Something went wrong and quite a few pages did not make it into my archives. I like to think that the syndicate has copies of these, but it is possible that someone might ask for an old page and I would not be able to provide it. (So sad!)

BC: If readers want to locate a specific topic that you have covered, is there a way to do a search for it?
LT: Nope, if a reader wants a specific topic they will have to find me and ask. I am always impressed by readers who go out of their way to contact me for one reason or another. Some folks want to point out an error or to disagree with a statement. Others missed a topic and want a copy to share with a friend or loved one. I value my readers and will always take the time to listen to them and address any concern or request they might have.

BC: Could you walk us through the process of making a WoW page? Say I suggest a new topic that you decide to use, like “large array telescopes and the Hubble Deep Field Survey.” How would you do the research? Do you have knowledge experts you regularly go to? What do you use for informational and illustrative references? How do you ensure that the information is factually accurate? etc.
LT: In the old days, if I wanted to do a page on ‘large array telescopes’, I would have headed to the library. Today the Internet is the source of much of my material. I have a subscription to the Online World Book Encyclopedia, and that helps me double check a lot of facts. The Internet also provides photo references for many of my illustrations – I have to know what a Bermuda Blue Angelfish looks like before I can draw it. Sometimes, but not always, I will contact a specialist for a particular topic. For example, when I did the page on (WASPs) “Women’s Army Service Pilots” I was able to find a WWII member who was happy to provide details and help fact check. When I did a page on collecting sports cards, I contacted several sports card manufacturers for their assistance. Pages on the Red Cross, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts also required contacting those organizations for information and permission to use some images. United Media and Universal Uclick have editors that check for grammar and spelling, and fact checking. But despite our best efforts errors do occasionally find their way onto a WoW page. Usually it’s a reader who points out the problem, and then we correct the fact for future reference.

LT: The process: First I research the facts and decide what is most interesting or important about a topic (I condense topics into a page that entire books have been written about) then I write a bit, and research some art. This process repeats itself as I design the page around the facts and illustrations. I am often forced to edit out a lot of facts, but a finished illustration is rarely omitted (they take too much time and effort to be left off).

(World of Wonder for Jan. 10, 2016)

BC: If your strip had a sound track, what would it sound like?
LT: Mmmmm… A whale song maybe (UOOOHYYYHEE-OOOOOHHHUUUU)
I usually have the TV news on in the background when I work, it seems to keep me company.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
LT: As a member of the National Cartoonist Society I have the opportunity to meet and hang out with many cartoon greats. I have had drinks with Stan Lee (Spiderman), Patrick McDonald (Mutts), Lynn Johnson (for Better or Worse) and so many more it is impossible to list them all. (I dare not share any dirt, in case they in turn, share dirt on me… LOL)

LT: When I was little, my sister and I pretended we were the dynamic duo (Batman and Robin) for years. Imagine my excitement when I had the great fortune to meet Jerry Robinson, who played a large role in creating Robin and the Joker characters. Jerry grew up in Trenton, NJ, (where I live now). I had dinner with him several times and he was always great to hang with. He passed away a couple of years ago and I still think of him and miss him very much.

BC: Do you have any stories (non-dirt ones) about Jerry Robinson that you’d like to pass on to your readers?
LT: Jerry liked to talk about the old days in Trenton. His father owned several movie theaters, you know the gorgeous huge ones with lots of gilding.

LT: Additional thoughts:
It has been a great joy and incredibly rewarding to share my love of art and learning with curious minds of all ages.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright © Laurie Triefeldt 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Poll: Do you like reading the educational, or “kids'” pages in the paper?