In past polls, I have asked for the webcomics everyone reads, and suggestions for artists to interview. I do read your answers, and I do act on your suggestions, as I also contact artists that know me (and are more likely to answer back right away). One such request was for Garey McKee, creator of Batch Rejection, on Comic Sherpa.
BC: Garey, please introduce yourself.
GM: My name is Garey Mckee and I’m a cartoonist and writer.
BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
GM: I’m from Newark, Delaware. I spent the last 20 years in Philadelphia, PA, and have just recently moved back to Delaware.
BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
GM: I identify as a cartoonist and a writer. Although I think cartooning implies writing.
BC: How did you get your start as a cartoonist?
GM: Starts in cartooning are ambiguous things. I’ve always drawn cartoons on the backs of tests papers in grade school, middle school newspapers, and then underground zines in high school.
BC: How long have you been working as a cartoonist, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
GM: I started drawing a comic strip called Police Limit in 1996 as a sort of cathartic release from a job I had working in the Philadelphia Prison System. The realization that most of the stress in criminal justice jobs comes from top heavy management rather than any sort of criminal element was, and is, the central theme of the strip. The overwhelming response from those working in law enforcement spurred me on to continue the strip. I still draw Police Limit weekly for Praetorian Digital Publishing and their PoliceOne.com website. Writing this now makes me realize I have been drawing the strip for 21 years. Definitely time well spent!
BC: Do you still work in the criminal justice system, did you change fields, or are you now cartooning full-time?
GM: I was a teacher in the Philadelphia Prison System in the 90’s. After that I drifted around all sorts of jobs, usually orbiting around media driven work. Right now my main focus is cartooning.
BC: What led up to your starting Batch Rejection, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
GM: Batch Rejection has its origins in a few different thoughts. I have always loved older newspaper and magazine cartoons from the early to mid 20th century. Accomplished illustrators and humorists like Charles Dana Gibson and H.T. Webster fascinate me. They were the forerunners of cartoonists who shaped magazine cartooning like Helen Hokinson and Peter Arno. I thought how sad it was that we don’t see those types of cartoons anymore. Cartoons that were published in papers like the New York Tribune don’t seem to exist anymore. So I began thinking of a feature expressed in early to mid 20th century style, yet relevant to modern readers.
GM: When first starting Batch Rejection I had to “go back to school” so to speak. It’s not enough to lean on one’s own inherent abilities. I pushed myself with Batch Rejection. I went back and refreshed myself on figure drawing and composition, with a special eye toward dynamic symmetry. I think this effort shows in the end result. I think it’s very important for cartoonists, or any artist, to push themselves beyond what they are comfortable doing.
BC: Who is Philo Calhoun (mentioned in several strips)?
GM: Philo Calhoun was a friend of HT Webster. Webster’s style of cartooning was a starting point for me when first designing the look of Batch Rejection. Frank Casey is another friend of Webster’s whose name also appears a few times in Batch Rejection. Frank Casey was the art director for the old Life Magazine. More importantly, they are names that have a resonate quality of the time period. So that helped me, at least in my own mind, establish the early/mid century spirit I wanted to capture in the feature.
BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
GM: I like everything I’m doing right now with both Batch Rejection and Police Limit. Although I view success as a day to day ebb and flow. If one day I produce something I think is concise and focused then I am very proud. Other days if I produce something that seems forced then I’m not so proud.
BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
GM: There is a book of Police Limit cartoons available entitled Police Limit: The First Cluster. There is also a book of Batch Rejection cartoons available entitled Batch Rejection: New Century Modern. Both are on Amazon.
BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
GM: I can’t stress enough how important writing is. Cartooning is writing. You have to write, write, write! If you sit down at your desk and think, “Hmmm, what am I going to draw?”, then you are unprepared. I spend a lot of time writing ideas. Sentences. Thought fragments. Scenarios. Anything and everything. Listening to other people’s conversations is a good way to write, too. My notepad app is full of little writing files. If you don’t write, you can’t draw.
BC: What is your process for creating both strips? Do you start with pencil on paper, then scan and do touch-up on the computer, or are you strictly digital?
GM: Batch Rejection was built from the start as a digital feature, which I thought ironic given the early magazine/newspaper nature I was trying to obtain. I draw with a stylus and use Photoshop. I even like to use older Adobe software like PhotoDeluxe. That may seem weird but I just really like that software. It turns out there is a whole little community of PhotoDeluxe users out there. Who knew?
GM: I used to draw Police Limit with pencil and ink and then scan the strips and clean them up. But now, like many others, I have moved over to digital production on Police Limit as well.
BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
GM: Batch Rejection’s soundtrack is definitely Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
GM: Again, cartooning is writing so it’s important to read. My reading list includes writers who are particularly good with dialogue. Elmore Leonard, Alice Munro, James Reid Parker, Emily Kimbrough, Anton Chekhov, John Cheever. The list goes on and on.
BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
GM: Well like everyone else, I read Peanuts. I like Richard Thompson’s work. Especially Richard’s Poor Almanac. Those expressive scratchy lines captivate me. I like Stephen Beals’ Adult Children. The idea of adults who are largely unprepared for what the world has to offer is a great concept. I enjoy Dark Side of The Horse by Samson. The visual humor there is universal. I love Theresa Sheppard’s Snow Sez. Her gentle, almost greeting card-style of cartooning makes me smile.
BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
GM: I like character-driven humor. I like the idea of truth in fiction, where a character earnestly believes what he or she is saying at that moment, no matter how ridiculous it is to the reader when taken out of context. Conversely, I DON’T like cheap gags or obvious visual puns. Staged vaudevillian humor does the artform a disservice. I usually skip any features where the words zany, offbeat or crazy appear in the description.
BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
GM: See above! Character driven writing!
BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
GM: I do not use those services. I don’t know how I feel about them. Yes, I want to support artists and their work. But I also don’t want to have a tin can shaken in front of my face, digital or otherwise.
BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
GM: Things are on the horizon but it’s too soon to reveal anything. Cryptic of me, I know. But please feel free to check out Batch Rejection and Police Limit both currently on the Sherpa side of GoComics. And consider giving the books a gander.
BC: Is there anyone you want to give a shout-out to?
GM: YEAAAHYYUUUUUHH!!! HOLLA AT MY CREW!
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Garey McKee © 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: Have you ever been involved with law enforcement?