Tim Rickard interview

An interview years in the making! You’re seeing the future right in front of your very own eyes! Today, I’m overwhelmed to present… … …

BC: Who are you?
TR: Tim Rickard, cartoonist, creator of the syndicated comic strip “Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!” Also I’m the newsroom artist for the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, NC.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
TR: I’m from Kentucky originally, I have a short attention span and I … Oh! Shiny object! 

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
TR: I consider myself a cartoonist first. I am, by profession, a cartoonist, illustrator, graphic artist, designer and writer. 

BC: How did you get your start as that thing you just said?
TR: Drawing in school when I should’ve been listening. Started working professionally as a newspaper artist out of college.

BC: How long have you been at that, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
TR: Too long. My biggest break came when Tribune Media became interested in syndicating “Brewster Rockit” in 2004.

BC: What led up to your starting Brewster Rockit, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
TR: I always wanted to do a comic strip and I tried almost every kind of strip – unsuccessfully. I tried doing strips that I thought would sell. But I decided if I was going to do a strip every day, I’d better do one that I’d enjoy doing, so I developed a sci-fi strip – which are a very hard sell. And whatta-ya-know? That’s the one that got picked up.
I’m working on developing other ideas, but nothing to show yet.

BC: Do you have a favorite Brewster strip character, and why?
TR: Probably Dr. Mel. I just like the fact that – because of his mad scientist status – he can do about anything: Time travel, teleport, build robots. I also like to have fun with Brewster’s stupidity. 

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
TR: Brewster – of course. I like how it’s been embraced by the actual space community. I’ve had requests for strips by people who have headed major space missions and had my strips included in books about science.

BC: How did your relationship with NASA get started with the Sunday Rockit Science strips? Do any of the NASA guys have Brewster or Pam artwork taped to their monitors? Have any of your strips made it to the ISS?
TR: I started getting some fan mail from NASA-types, some asking for reprints of certain strips. One of those correspondences was from Dr. Marc Rayman, mission leader of the Dawn Spacecraft. I had the audacity to ask him to help me with my science strips. He agreed, and that was several years ago, and he has been helping me ever since. The beauty of Dr. Marc – as I call him – is that he has a wonderful sense of humor also. Which isn’t fair, if you think about it – a rockit Scientist AND a keen sense of humor. “Hey, Dr. Marc – don’t be greedy – pick one or the other!” Don’t know if any of my strips made it to the space station, but a Brewster strip was one of many messages beamed to Mars a few years back in a publicity stunt.

BC: How do you decide which science topics to run with for the Sunday Rockit Science strips, and how much help do you need in getting the details right?
TR: Mostly my topics are whatever I find interesting myself. I surprisingly need only mostly minor adjustments and tweaks to my research from Dr. Marc to nudge it to accuracy. Sometimes he provides the research for me.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
TR: Paperback: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind on Amazon.com
ebooks: Dork Side of the Moon, Rockit Like It’s Hot!, both available on iTunes.

BC: Does Dr. Mel really come closest to who you are in real life, and if so, which of you has the most killbots?
TR: I wish. Unfortunately, I’m most like Brewster (with Cliff a close second) A lot of my strip ideas simply come from – “What would I do in this situation?”
BC: So… Dr. Mel wins.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
TR: In a state of sheer panic. Sometimes I’m lucky and an idea comes easily. But that almost never happens. Usually, it’s off to the internet and news sites and sometimes TV until I find a subject matter that interests me. Then I start brainstorming ideas on that subject.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
TR: Yakety Sax.

BC: Do you have any idea as to which of the characters in the strip are the most popular with your readers? Any guesses as to why?
TR: Probably Winky. For some reason, people love it when he loses his spleen. “AAHHH! MY spleen” has become my strip’s best-known catch-phrase.

BC: Do you have one (or two) strips that you think represent the “best of class”? What makes them stand out?
TR: I liked the one where Brewster got his tongue stuck on an At-At Walker. Also one where Pam sends Brewster out to battle a space squid with a few simple instructions: “Rescue Winky, defeat the monster, and come back alive.” And like me when I go to the grocery store for just a few items – Brewster has to write them down. These two strips – I think – capture both Brewster’s cluelessness and the strip’s goofiness in general.

BC: What’s the dumbest, or most ingenious way Ensign Kenny has been offed?
TR: My favorite way is always the one that I did last. For example, I just finished a strip where ensign Kenny gets offed again, but it won’t run until sometime in February. Hint: it has to do with Kenny being a “red shirt.”
BC: It’s always with the red shirts with you guys, isn’t it…

BC: How many papers is Brewster running in now?
TR: I have no idea. I do not keep up with that – honestly. I don’t want those type of details to start to influence how I create my strips.

BC: Do you get much reader mail, and is it mostly positive, negative or neutral? How do you (or your killbots) respond to the negative mail?
TR: Not a lot of email now, but when I do get one, it’s almost always positive. So I haven’t had to deploy my killbots to any critics (lately.)

BC: Have you gotten any reactions from George Lucas, Disney, or any other copyright holders over your use of their characters in the strip?
TR: Not from them, but I did have to change the appearance of Oldbot, my elderly robot character. I designed him after retro robot designs from “The Forbidden Planet” and “Lost in Space.” Apparently, he was a little too close to the robot from “Lost in Space” because I heard from their lawyers telling me to change him. Hmmm … me versus a large corporation? I changed Oldbot’s looks.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
TR: I’ve met – by phone and e-mail – Stephan Pastis of “Pearls Before Swine”. He likes my strip (he has good taste). He was gracious enough to write the forward for my book “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind.” Also a fan – then friend of – Scott Meyer of “Basic Instructions” before he quit doing the strip to pursue writing novels. I met another one of my big influences, Richard Thompson, at a comic con. I’ve heard he’s a polarizing figure, but for my money, he’s a cartoon genius. I especially love his “Richard’s Poor Almanac” feature. Other influences include Gary Larson, Bill Watterson, Scott Adams and Mad Magazine. I have contacted other cartoonists whose strips I like to tell them I’m a fan. Surprisingly, most of them claim to also like “Brewster Rockit.” Maybe they’re just humoring me, thinking I might be a stalker.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
TR: Pearls Before Swine, Speed Bump, Basic Instructions, Dilbert and many others …

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
TR: Ideas I can steal. Nah, seriously, if it’s a strip I really like, I analyze it – try to see why it works. I also look at the subject matter they write about and think about how I’d translate that into my strip.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
TR: For me, it’s originality and something a bit off-beat. I’m bored by traditional comic strips.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
TR: I don’t use Patreon or Kickstarter. Maybe I should look into those. I did do an arc on a Kickstarter for mad scientists that my character Dr. Mel was using to try and get funding for his latest world-conquering project.
To read Brewster, go to GoComics.com/brewsterrockit.

BC: In a battle between Dr. Mel and Prof. Farnsworth, who would win with the most number of doomsday devices, and how many spleens would be lost during the counting?
TR: Professional courtesy would prevent Dr. Mel from battling Prof. Farnsworth. That and a 1000-year time gap. There’d be more doomsday devices than you could shake a disintegration ray at, though. And oh, but the spleens that would be destroyed in that conflict – all of them Winky’s.

BC: How would you describe Brewster Rockit: Spaceguy to new readers to get them to start reading the strip?
TR: I like to describe it as “Flash Gordon” written by someone with brain damage.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
TR: Nope. I do HeroesCon in Charlotte in June about every year.

(“All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright (c)2018 Tim Rickard, Tribune Content Agency, LLC, All rights reserved.)

TR: How’s that? Where do we go from here?
BC:  Infinity. And/or Bed, Bath and beyond.

TR: Rockit-On!

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