All posts by chh01

I'm an electronics engineer and software programmer, currently living in Japan. This gives me access to the Gakken kits as soon as they hit the shelves. I'm not related to Gakken in any way (but if they gave me an offer, I'd be interested). I just like building things and then writing about what I've found.

The Joys of Microsoft – And a New Hiatus

Ok, so I have this little laptop PC that I bought as a discontinued product a little less than 6 years ago. The fan has always been a bit noisy, and for months the system status has said that I should buy a replacement battery. But it’s been a real soldier, acting as both my work machine, my photo touch-up system, and my video editor. So, a few days ago I had to prep the laptop for use on Google Hangouts for a Japanese translation course I’m taking. As I’m going through the Hangouts setup, I notice that the internal microphone on the laptop is permanently on. This is not ideal, because an outsider could hijack it and use it as a listening device. So I go through all the Windows menus for changing the microphone settings, and none of them actually disable the internal mike. By “accident” I click on “advanced settings” on one of the screens and the next thing I know, I’m in the activation screen for Microsoft Voice Recognition.

I don’t want this so I exit out. Unfortunately, Microsoft has other plans. Over the next couple hours, I’m getting random characters showing up in the documents I edit, and corrupting filenames as I try to type them in. I try deactivating the internal mike again, and to find some way to turn off voice recognition. Every time something appears to be working, the noise comes back. I try cutting up a new headset microphone jack and soldering the wires together to ground the input lines to make a dummy jack, and that only works for a short while. The noise comes and goes, with no real pattern. Sometimes it looks like it might be the keyboard burning out, other times an oversensitivity of the touch pad mouse. I don’t use the keyboard, I deactivate the touch pad, and even if the noise subsides for a bit, it still eventually comes back worse than before.

I went online to see if anyone else had the same problem and if there’s a fix for it. I found a few people pleading for help in deactivating Microsoft voice recognition as far back as 2010, and no one had ever gotten a solution that worked for them (a few people turned off their speakers to prevent feedback whistles, and had tried taping over their microphone slots, but Microsoft apparently just voted to ignore the issue).

Bottom line is that I’ve had to wrestle my way through the mess in copying my files off the old laptop and on to a new machine. I don’t know if there’s a point to sending the old laptop to a repair center to have it cleaned up and a fresh copy of Win 7 reinstalled on it. But, I may be willing to pay for that, because I prefer using a smaller keyboard than what I have on the new machine. Thanks a lot, Microsoft!

Anyway, it’s taking time to set up the new machine with all the applications I need, and things have been really slowing down on Basket Case the last couple of months. It’s been getting increasingly harder to get cartoonists to respond back to my requests for interviews, or to give me their answers after I send them the questions. I think I may have to take a hiatus and rethink my approach to how I run Basket Case. In the meantime, thank you, everyone, for your support of the blog so far, and I apologize for wimping out like this. I don’t know about you, but *I* enjoy reading these interviews, at least.

Bill Holbrook interview

I wrote about my interest in Bill Holbrook’s works in March, and I’m happy to say that Basket Case is proud to be a patron of Kevin and Kell. [Edit: Added the strip I appear in.]


(Me, in the KnK universe.)


BC: What personal information do you think is important for readers to know about you?
BH: I grew up in the Space Age atmosphere of Huntsville, Ala. in the 1960s. On graduating from Auburn University I was hired by The Atlanta Constitution as an editorial staff artist. After several attempts at syndication, my office strip On the Fastrack was picked up by King Features and debuted in 150 papers on March 19, 1984. Eleven days before that I’d met Teri Peitso on a blind date. We were married on Pearl Harbor Day, 1985, and now have two daughters. That also gave birth to a second strip about kids called Safe Havens.


(from Safe Havens)

BH: In September 1995 I began a new strip called Kevin & Kell which is now the internet’s longest running daily webcomic. I was named Cartoonist of the Year at the 1998 Pogofest, an annual gathering in Waycross honoring the great Walt Kelly and Pogo. Kevin & Kell was given the Ursa Major Award in 2003 for Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip, and in 2016 it was one of three nominees for the National Cartoonists Society’s Silver Reuben award for Best Online Comic (Short Form).

BH: I also collaborated on the comic book A Duel in the Somme, written by Ben Bova and Rob Balder.

BC: Do you consider yourself an artist, cartoonist, or something else? How did you get started as that?
BH: The term cartoonist best sums up my skill set, so it’s what I’ve always called myself.

BH: As for getting my start, there were a number of crucial moments. In one sense you might say my start was drawing constantly as a two-year-old, but the biggest leap was in July 1983 when King Features responded positively to my submission of On the Fastrack. They flew me to New York to meet the staff, and I signed the contract in December of that year. Fastrack debuted in papers on March 19, 1984.

BC: Which of your works are you happiest with or most proud of?
BH: I’m proud of all of my works, but I’m always trying to improve them. I keep introducing new elements so they stay fresh.

BC: Where can we find your collections?
BH: Readers can find all of my books at the Bill Holbrook Store.

BC: How do you get started when you sit down in front of that blank sheet of paper?
BH: I write every weekday, and the process begins by focusing on the characters of which strip I’m writing for that week. From that point I let my mind wander, imagining scenarios that force the characters to respond. Usually they surprise me.

BC: Your strips have been running on “cartoon” time, so one year strip time isn’t one year of real time. Yet, your characters age and go through various life changes. How do you decide to have a strip leap forward a few years to get to the next stage (Rudy graduating high school, Coney exiting diapers and entering school, the Safe Havens kids growing up, etc.)?
BH: The strips all take place on different time lines. Safe Havens is completely chronological, currently depicting life in April 2017, and the characters age accordingly. In Kevin & Kell the characters age, but slowly; since the strip’s debut in 1995, five years have elapsed. Fastrack takes place in “comic strip time” in which the characters are frozen at specific ages, yet always interacting with current events. This leads to some anomalies, like that in Fastrack Dethany will always be a lowly personal assistant, but in Safe Havens we’ve seen that she has risen to become the project manager for humanity’s first mission to Mars.


(from On the Fastrack)

BC: What was the inspiration for Dethany, and why move the focus of On the Fastrack from a group of functional computer geeks to a death-obsessed goth? Has her reader popularity changed over time? Has she generated any reader push-back? Has anything about her surprised you within, or outside the strip? [Followed by: How popular have the strip-related twitter accounts been? What was the rationale behind setting them up? Have there been any advantages or drawbacks to having the accounts, or having the presence of the strips in so many web outlets?]
BH: Dethany’s arrival in Fastrack was entirely by accident. When I created her I figured I’d get a few gags out of her unusual nature before she moved on, but I was astounded at how easily the material flowed when she interacted with the other characters. That was confirmed when the strips featuring her began appearing, and readers would send me messages simply saying how much they loved her. None of this was part of a master plan, but I went with it.

BH: This naturally leads to the question about social media. It was online interaction with the readers that reinforced my initial feeling that I was on the right track with Dethany.

BC: Are there any real differences between doing a webcomic versus a syndicated newspaper strip? Which format do you prefer? Kevin and Kell seems to offer you the greatest leeway in terms of addressing social issues (trans-species/transgender, mixed marriage, non-traditional family structures, etc.) – Does political commentary belong in a family “comic”?
BH: Webcomics don’t have to follow the same format restrictions that newspaper comics do, but I still work within them for Kevin & Kell since I’m most comfortable inhabiting those structures.


(from Kevin & Kell)

BH: That said, I created Kevin & Kell expressly as an outlet for social commentary that newspaper editors might find uncomfortable. I knew that my stances would generate some hostility in certain quarters, but that was part of the terrain I chose to take. The good news is that the positive comments have outweighed the negative ones by 100 to 1.

BC: I know that this interview is going to be printed too late for this question to be relevant, but are there any plans for any of the characters in the strips to do something for Earth Day (Apr. 22)?
BH: I don’t have anything planned in the strips for Earth Day, but I do plan to personally take part in the March for Science in Atlanta that day.

BC: [Later] How did that go?
BH: The march went very well. I haven’t seen the official numbers, but the crowd was in the thousands. It took about an hour to cover the 2-mile route around Candler Park, which is in a residential neighborhood close to downtown Atlanta. Here’s a picture of me and my sign. 🙂

BC: With Samantha’s current involvement in preparing for the Mars mission in Safe Havens, have you gotten much in the way of a reaction from NASA or any other space program world-wide? Are there any Safe Havens strip clippings on the fridge on the ISS? What’s your reaction to the Trump administration’s plans to cut funding to NASA or any other program?
BH: I grew up in the space program, as my father worked for the company that tested the boosters of the Apollo and Space Shuttle rockets. Obviously I have a personal emotional investment in NASA’s funding. I haven’t gotten any feedback on the Mars mission in Safe Havens, though, but that may change when they launch in January.

BC: Are there any plans for future story lines for any of the strips you’d like to tell your readers about?
BH: I have plans for future stories in Kevin & Kell and Safe Havens, but they’re all surprises. (For the latter all I can say is, yes, they’ll be going to Mars.) For Fastrack, I let trends in technology and cyberspace determine the direction. (It was that intentional openness to improvisation that allowed Dethany to take center stage.)

BC: After going over your bio again, I went back and reread the Duel in the Somme. What was it like working on that? Any high points or challenges? I also follow Erfworld, so, how was it working with Rob Balder? Did you use any reference materials for the planes or battle fields?
BH: I drew Duel in the Somme during the first half of 2010, and I really enjoyed stretching my illustration muscles. The requirement was that the planes would be historically accurate down to every detail, which meant a *lot* of research on Google. I worked directly with Rob Balder, which was a fun collaboration. He’s a true Renaissance man.

BC: Kevin has been kind of a mirror for the progression of computer technology ever since KaK started. Are there any trends you predicted successfully? Any trends that you regret had died out? Any tech trends you’d like to predict now?
BH: I wish I had crystal ball to see tech developments ahead of time, but the industry continues to surprise me.


Exhume Yourself

BC: If your strips had soundtracks, what would they be?
BH: It’s hard to say what kind of soundtrack would accompany my strips, since they all involve a wide emotional range. It would depend on the situation, and be fairly eclectic. That said, there’ve been three songs for which I wrote the lyrics:
Dethany- Exhume Yourself
Bambi- Free Range Love
Kevin and Kell- Underneath the Fur
BH: The voice on the songs “Exhume Yourself” and “Free Range Love” is my sister, Susan Holbrook Ridarick. She’s a professional singer. “Underneath the Fur” was created by Tom Smith.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
BH: I’m a fan of any comic that’s created with personal honesty and possesses a unique perspective.


Underneath the Fur

BC: Any appearances scheduled for conventions?
BH: I have three appearances coming up this year:
June 30-July 2 Anthrocon, Pittsburgh PA
Aug. 10-12 Otakon, Washington DC
Sept 1-4 Dragoncon, Atlanta GA

BC: If Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or anyone similar ever succeeds in establishing a commercial tourist business for space travel, would you buy a ticket (for yourself or for someone else?)
BH: While I’d love to go, I’m afraid my skill set wouldn’t be much use on an interplanetary voyage, even as a tourist. 🙂 I’ll just leave that to the professionals who know what they’re doing. Like Samantha.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Fastrack and Safe Havens (c) 2017, King Features Syndicate, World rights reserved. Kevin & Kell (c) 2017, Bill Holbrook, World rights reserved)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Nate Fakes interview

Ever read Break of Day? It’s good stuff. Ever meet Nate Fakes? Here’s your chance.

BC: Who are you?
NF: Nathanael Fakes – aka Nate Fakes (I’ve been known as The Frustrated Cartoonist as well). I am the creator of the syndicated series, Break of Day. I also have cartoons in MAD, Parade magazine and numerous other publications. I’m also the owner of Nate Fakes Studios, that has divisions such as www.natefakescartoons.com, www.bizcomics.club, and www.vettoons.com that all specialize in creating custom cartoons for clients and companies.

BC: How is your last name pronounced? Are you tired of “are you drawing under a fake name” jokes yet?
NF: I’m one of the last of the Mohicans; I like to say, in regards to my last name. There aren’t many Fakes’ out there. But it’s pronounced like it sounds. “Nate fakes out the defense.”

NF: I get asked all the time, “Is that your REAL name?” I haven’t come up with a snappy answer yet, so I give the lame response of, “Yes.” Then the person usually walks away disappointed that there wasn’t any funny story behind it. All this being said, I like being a Fakes. I just hope it’s my real last name, and not Fake.


(from Break of Day)

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
NF: I was born and raised in Ohio. I attended Wright State University where I majored in Fine Art. I could always draw, but thought art might be fun to major in and I might pick-up a few tips along the way. As a student, I became the graphic artist and staff cartoonist for the school newspaper, The Guardian.

NF: The Guardian job landed me an internship with MAD Magazine in New York City. I spent a crazy summer hanging out with “The Usual Gang of Idiots” and then became one myself when I started getting articles and cartoons published in the magazine. I believe the MAD experience has helped tremendously with my current work – which is syndication, corporate clients and other publications.


(from Break of Day)

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
NF: I always thought it would sound more sophisticated to say I was an artist, but really, I’m definitely a cartoonist.

BC: How did you get your start as a cartoonist then?
NF: I started drawing when I was in diapers and never stopped. Crayons were used constantly as a child drawing on anything and everything. I was really influenced growing up with old Disney cartoons, Garfield, and people like Mozart. Mozart you say? Well, anyone that could “make it” and really be good at something was inspiring. I watched the movie Amadeus and that sort of creativity really blew me away.


(from Break of Day)

NF: I was your typical young cartoonist. I drew things I saw out of the newspaper, drew in class instead of paying attention and loved getting comic books from the library. And it just never stopped.

BC: How long have you been at this, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
NF: I’ve been drawing my whole life, so I guess you can say I’ve always been at it. That being said, I’ve had NUMEROUS day jobs along the way as I grew as a cartoonist. And admittedly, I slacked off a bit in my mid-20’s when I was more focused on having fun than drawing (I say to this day I’m about ten years behind). So, it has taken me awhile to become professional. I was lucky and got some honest (and brutal) critiques along the way that really helped me grow. One mistake many people make is listening to friends and family tell you how good you are at something. You really need honest feedback from a professional to get better. I thought I was really great at cartooning until I learned that I had a ways to go and my drawing actually stunk on a professional level.


(Roy Doty correspondence.)

BC: Can you share some examples of those critiques, and the changes you made to address them?
NF: “Gross”- Roy Doty.
Roy Doty was my biggest, toughest critic of all time. He passed away awhile back. This post talks a lot about the critiques and how it helped me improve. Quoting: “However, he liked the material and was glad I developed a style. Yes, he let me know it wasn’t up to his standards. And it wasn’t. But he was hoping to see my work go somewhere. Roy really helped my career.”


(from Break of Day)

NF: My big break was drawing the yearbook cover for my elementary school when I was in 5th grade. I was paid a whopping five dollars – but boy, that made me more determined than ever to become a cartoonist. And then MAD Magazine was definitely my BIGGEST break. I grew up with MAD, so it’s a cool factor in my life to say that I interned with them and have that connection. Those guys are the greatest.

NF: Last year I was accepted into the NCS (National Cartoonists Society) and I feel on some level that was a major break as well. All my colleagues that I admire are members, so it feels like a real accomplishment to be there as well.

BC: What would you say you learned the most from interning at Mad?
NF: MAD was great (and – of course – still is). As an example, there was nothing like having a serous meeting discussing what word was funnier: bra or panty? At MAD, there again I learned a lot about improving. I showcased a lot of my art, and at that time, it was very mediocre. It was years later after my internship until I got a cartoon actually printed. But I began to notice how much further I needed to develop before I could ever become “professional”. Sam Viviano (MAD’s art director) was extremely honest and helpful. He even loaned me some books during my internship that showcased cartoonists’ artistic styles to pay attention to.

NF: All this being said, the writing process was what I focused on more than the art while interning. I spent most of the time with the editorial department, so it was really great to see how a magazine all came together and everything behind the scenes. There’s a ton that goes into each issue.

NF: The one thing I regret about my internship was I tried too hard. I really wanted to stay in NYC, work with MAD at the office and not head home after the internship. I didn’t have a return ticket home. It was NYC or nothing. I felt like I kind of wasn’t myself because I wasn’t relaxed. I was too focused on, “Okay, gotta make an impression.” I wish I would’ve chilled out more and just thought of the internship as it was – an internship.

NF: Naturally, when the internship was over – it was over! As you know, I continued a relationship with MAD (and still have one to this day), but I wasn’t hired to work in the office. So, I ended up a few days later waiting tables at a pizza restaurant in Jersey to make ends meet. Several months later, it dawned on me that I should head back home to Ohio, focus on my work, improving, etc. and get back to what I needed to do. There was no point staying on the east coast as a career move (even though the pizza was delicious).


(from Break of Day)

BC: What led up to your starting Nate Fakes Cartoons, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
NF: Nate Fakes Cartoons is part of Nate Fakes Studios. It’s the home base for everything I do. I wanted a site where people can check out my work and – if I’m a good fit – hire me. It’s important to have a website with a showcase of work if you’re in this field and you’re looking for clients. They need a place to go.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
NF: My syndicated series Break of Day I’m proud of because I worked very hard to get that series in the newspaper and syndicated online. That being said, anytime a cartoon is picked-up for MAD is always a proud moment. There’s nothing like opening up a magazine and seeing your work on the pages there.


(from Break of Day)

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet? Where can readers find them?
NF: I just self-published a small collection of cat cartoons called Laser Pointers, Hairballs, and Other Cat Stuff. Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, actually has a blurb on the front about it. It’s now currently available on Amazon.com and Nate Fakes Cartoons.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
NF: I’ve always written ideas first before drawing them. Typically, I try to write every day in the morning. Sometimes, a whole week of ideas pour out of me. Other days – nothing. Reading a lot of other comics does help sometimes. But, I always try to be as original as possible so I try not to do that too much and just put down on paper whatever comes to mind. Sometimes they’re hits – sometimes misses. If I think it’s decent though, I’ll usually end up drawing it.


(from Break of Day)

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
NF: That would be a mix between The Doors, Mozart and Pink Floyd: A bit weird, with some unexpected moments.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them?
NF: I’ve always been a fan of Garfield, so Jim Davis. I actually got a chance to visit his studio last January. It was amazing. Jim wasn’t available to meet, but we have corresponded via email (and he gave me that great mention of my book). The MAD Magazine artists are fantastic. Sam Viviano (art director for MAD) is one of the nicest guys out there. He helped me get into the NCS also (National Cartoonists Society). Roy Doty was a great help in offering constructive criticism. I was also influenced a lot by Walt Disney, Edward Gorey, Robert Crumb and Chas Addams. Since becoming a member of the NCS last December, I’m anxious and excited to start hanging out with more cartoonists.

BC: What do you like most about the works of Gorey, Crumb and Addams (the artists, not the law firm)?
NF: I really love the details they all add and their originality. I cherish cartoon art with lots of little details and elements to it, and their work really stands out. I used to really try to over-do-it and have since not added as much detail to my cartoons. But, if you really look at my comics, there are bits and pieces of all three of these guys.


(from Break of Day)

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
NF: I honestly don’t follow any specific comics anymore, really. I read a lot of them, but that’s it. I think there’s some good cartoons out there these days and others that I can’t believe are as popular as they are. It’s an interesting time in cartooning. I’m always amazed at what does well and what doesn’t.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
NF: I believe the writing is about 75% of what makes a good comic and the drawing is just 25% these days. It used to be the opposite (somewhat). I like good art. Some comics seem just thrown together, and I’m not a huge fan of that (unless the writing is spectacular). I like off-the-wall, odd and bizarre material that you don’t see much of. That’s one thing about writing a gag comic like I do. I feel like a lot of my material has been done before, so I try to separate it all as much as possible. I love writing and drawing really new ideas and I’m working on them constantly. A graphic novel is in my future, along with some kid books. I’m hoping to take the ideas for those and create something extremely new.


(from Break of Day)

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
NF: I tried a Kickstarter once for a graphic novel concept. It failed miserably. That being said, I went about it completely wrong. I asked for way too much money and had no clue what I was doing with it. I think Kickstarter and Patreon are a good idea for some, and not others. I found it kind of a frustrating experience and I didn’t like the hustle involved in it all. I think I have a Patreon account that I opened years ago, but I never did anything with it and it’s just sitting there. Maybe I should check it? There might be supporters on there unbeknownst to me.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
NF: I am excited about some new projects with BizComics and Vet Toons. There is great opportunity in the custom cartoon market these days, so those are all coming together this month and in the near future. I’m really anxious to write more books and produce a graphic novel. Kids books as well. I have dozens of books written and ready to go – just need to actually do them! My big goal as well is finding a literary agent and publisher to help with all of this. That part, I’m finding out, is not easy at all.

BC: What is involved with drawing custom cartons? Is the process any different from doing something like Break of Day?
NF: The custom cartoon market is an area that is really growing. I love working with clients and delivering them unique comics to use in marketing, promotions, social media, etc. I’ve worked with numerous corporate clients, and they all love cartoons.

NF: I make the process easy for clients. I get an idea of what they want by having a phone conversation – and take their ideas and run with them. I’ll come up with 3-5 ideas (or more, if I have them) and then they help decide what idea is best. From there, I’ll send them out a rough. Once approved, I move on to the final. I help with letting a client know what I think works best, and they tell me what they think works best. I try to research their company as much as possible before diving in.

NF: At the end of the day, there’s a finalized cartoon that (as far as I know) they’re happy with. I have a lot of clients that return, so it’s nice to have the regular work. I’m currently branching out to specific industries. An example is Vet Toons that caters specifically to veterinarians. Custom work is different than my syndicated work because I have more of a direction to base ideas on. With my daily gag comics, they’re kind of a free-for-all and I just create whatever comes to mind.


(from Break of Day)

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright of Nate Fakes (c) 2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Alex Norris interview

Alex Norris’ Dorris McComics is one of the strips on Doug Savage’s reading list. I’m please to present Alex here today.


(from Dorris McComics)

BC: Who are you?
AN: I am Alex Norris. I am from the UK. I was born in Swansea in Wales, went to university in Bristol and now I am based in London. I studied English Literature at university, and I suppose that my literary side is definitely lurking in my comics but I think I hide it well. I think growing up in Swansea, a grim seaside city (in the words of Dylan Thomas, an “ugly, lovely town”) formed my love of celebrating crap things.


(from Dorris McComics)

BC: Do you consider yourself an artist, an illustrator, or something else?
AN: I have tried all the names for what I do: when you say “comic writer” people think you write funny articles, if you say “I make comics” people assume you mean superheroes, and if you say “artist” people assume you put a dirty cup in the corner of a gallery and title it “Society’s Womb” or something like that. I’ve started saying “cartoonist” because people tend to understand that right away.


(from Webcomic Name)

BC: How did you get started, and what were your biggest breaks?
AN: I drew my first comics when I was 10, I made a full issue of a comic like The Beano called “Bommynokka“, with all my own characters. One was “Dippy the Bus Kangaroo”, a kangaroo who did bus tours and the bus always crashed in various ways, and one was “The Friendly Bacteria” which was about two cool bacteria with backwards caps and sunglasses, based on an advert I saw for a probiotic yoghurt. I drew compulsively all the way through school, and then did comics for my university newspaper. When I graduated I didn’t want to do anything else so I started updating Dorris McComics regularly and building an audience while working at a science centre. After two years, I quit my job and went full time!

AN: My biggest breaks were probably getting a deal with Webtoon. I have done two series for them: “How to Love“, a love advice comic, and “Hello World” (ongoing) which is a photo-collage travel series. That meant I could do comics full time. Most other things have been more of a slow grind rather than a “break”!


(from Dorris McComics)

AN: Dorris McComics was just a place to dump all the ideas I had, playing with the format of comics and doing visual gags. It was a bit of a mish-mash. There was a joke that I put lots of effort into every comic and updated sporadically, so for April Fools one year I did 8 updates in one day, all very simple relatable humor ending with “oh no”. I was sitting on that idea for over a year before I decided I should make it a bigger project, so I started Webcomic Name.

BC: Which of your works are you happiest with or proudest of?
AN: I am very happy with Webcomic Name– I enjoy making a big solid series that has a strong concept all the way through! That has always been a struggle for me in the past. There are lots of individual Dorris McComics strips that I am also very proud of, because I worked on them one at a time, each one as a separate work, and some of my earlier ones are still very good I think.


(from Dorris McComics)

BC: What do you look for in a comic? Have you met any of the artists? Do you have any dirt on them?
AN: There isn’t one thing I look for in webcomics- I tend to love so many for their own reasons. With both Dorris McComics and Webcomic Name I was trying to improve the webcomic landscape a bit, but I still love the things out there. Just picking a few out of the hat, I love Julia Kaye‘s autobio strips, I love Olivia Walch’s wild threads of logic in Imogen Quest (most underrated webcomic imo), and currently enjoying Poorly Drawn Lines, you never know where the punchline will land! There are so many more I love, and I have met a lot of other artists at conventions. I do have dirt: they are all disgustingly lovely people.


(from Webcomic Name)

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
AN: I don’t consider myself just a webcomic artist although that is what I do now- I want to make plays, television, movies, animation, sculpture, painting, poetry, novels, anything I can! But webcomics are one of the most accessible and small and inexpensive things you can make, so they suit me now. So I get inspiration from lots of places: At the moment I love the silly, cartoonish (yet literary) poetry of William Blake and Emily Dickinson and Ogden Nash, and also silly, cartoonish (yet dark) books by Kurt Vonnegut and Roald Dahl and Oscar Wilde. And this week I am into movies that have a very strong emotional core that let you get away with a wild storyline, like Mrs Doubtfire and Ghost.


(from Webcomic Name)

BC: Have you used Kickstarter or Patreon?
AN: I do have a patreon and it is getting going slowly! It is nice to actually get money for the thing I spend most of my time on, rather than relying on other side-projects for income. It’s at: www.patreon.com/dorrismccomics

BC: Do you have any upcoming appearances or conventions?
AN: I will be at Planet Comic Con in Kansas City (Apr. 28-30), and MCM London (May 26-28).


(from Webcomic Name)

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Alex Norris (c) 2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Eric Salinas interview

Several readers have recommended Something About Celeste, which is also on Amanda El-Dweek’s reading list. I’m happy to present here the man behind Celeste.

BC: Who are you?
ES: I am Eric Salinas, webcartoonist for Something about Celeste. I have been drawing Celeste in some sort of fashion since 1997, but I have only been publishing the strip online since 2015.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
ES: I was born and raised in Texas. During college I was published in my university publication, my hometown newspaper, and surprisingly also in the University of Hawai’i paper. That was the height of my professional reach. Over the next few years I was rejected by every syndication multiple of times. Eventually I became a school teacher. From 2010-2015 I taught English abroad. I have lived in the Czech Republic for two years and Turkey for three during that time. I am constantly torn between wanting to stay at home & work long hours on my comic strip and between my wanderlust (which never really goes away).

BC: Where are you now?
ES: I am currently in Texas, in a suburb near Austin. I am going back to Turkey soon. I was supposed to be back there last summer, but I had visa problems (The failed coup may have had a hand in making everything so topsy-turvy). In a way, it was kind of good that I stayed a little longer, as I had my best year to date drawing my comics.

BC: Have your travels had much effect on the humor or settings in SaC?
ES: Not really. I wanted to add more traveling stories into my comics, maybe make Celeste and Paige ex-pats in another country, but I have had no ideas as up to yet. However, I do think living in other places has helped me decide to translate my comics into other languages. I get my friends to help me with the translations. I started with Turkish, but then I also made Dutch and Czech translations as well. Right now, it is just a fun side project that I do with them.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
ES: I guess I would call myself a cartoonist and a digital designer. I am not much of an artist; I don’t draw any better than my peers. However, I am able to use my skills on Photoshop to hide the limitations of my art (I have even taught myself how to make ‘oil paintings’ on Photoshop). I think I have an eye for layout design. I studied Advertising Portfolio as an undergraduate. Therefore, I am very conscious of the visual elements and I try to make my comic as visually appealing as possible. I consider the overall layout just as important to the comic as the artwork and wordplay.

BC: How did you get your start as a cartoonist? How long have you been at this, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
ES: I started drawing comics when I was eleven after I stole my brother’s Calvin & Hobbes book. It was a birthday gift he didn’t really care for, so he didn’t notice me pilfer it. After that, I made it a Christmas tradition that I would buy myself a Calvin & Hobbes book. I would even wrap it and sign it to myself. My first comic was about a bratty, spiky-haired kid named Kevin (even then I wasn’t very original). I would show friends and family my ‘Kevin’ comics and even had an exhibit at the local children’s museum my sophomore year. Besides that, I didn’t really do much with that comic.

BC: What led up to your starting Something About Celeste?
ES: I created a new comic strip my freshman year in college, Common Ground, to try to develop my skill as a cartoonist and broaden my appeal. Common Ground was from a feminine viewpoint and had a more popular appeal than my high school comic. It was in this comic strip that I developed Celeste. Early on, I created her as an overly-imaginative person harassed by monsters under the bed, skeletons in the closet, drawings of stickmen coming to life, and talking viruses. Throughout my career I have been very much influenced by Bill Watterson’s work.

ES: After graduation, I knew that of all my characters that I had created, it would be Celeste that I would try to syndicate. So from 2001-2005 I tried to syndicate Something about Celeste. I don’t know if I would call it “my biggest break” but I would certainly say a pivotal moment was when I sent a packet of my comics to Lynn Johnston of For Better or For Worse in the fall 2001. She absolutely hated it, and told me in detail why. After a period of nursing my wounds, I came to see what Lynn saw and was in complete agreement. I restarted my comic from the ground up. I am grateful to her because without her honesty, I would have been stuck on that mediocrity plateau for a very long time. No one likes critiques, but it was the thing that I needed to hear in order to improve.

BC: How would you describe SaC in a way intended to draw in new readers?
ES: SaC is a light-hearted strip about a young 20-something woman who has retained her childlike sense of wonder. Celeste loses herself in elaborate fantasies and daydreams. Sometimes these fantasy stories even surprise me, and her palindrome mirror reflection, Seles, has unexpectedly become one of Celeste’s biggest ‘frenemies’ in the strip. There is a balance between word play, slighty sexual innuendo jokes, colorful pictures, and just plain silliness in the strip.

ES: Lately, I have been using another main character, Paige, to draw more serious introspective strips. Recently, a friend of mine, who I show most of my work before publishing, has said there is a certain ‘yin and yang’ thing with Celeste and Paige. Celeste strips are the silly and light-hearted ones, while Paige strips are more introspective, serious, and sometimes morose. I use Celeste to get rid of all the weird ideas swirling in my head, and I use Paige to help me in my own mental state.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
ES: Besides Something about Celeste, I also dabble with the webcomics Pennylicious and Celeste International on Tapastic.com. However, I work almost exclusively on SaC, and it is easy to say that it is SaC which I am most proud of.

BC: What can you tell us about Pennylicious?
ES: A Turkish friend of mine has showed an interest in comics. She fell in love with Calvin and Hobbes after I introduced her to the strip (They don’t have C&H in Turkey). I even mailed all my old C&H books to her for her birthday. Pennylicious is her comic that I help collaborate on. So far it is about a group of 20-something year-old friends who are in love with the concept of ‘love’ but have no idea how to have a real relationship. Unfortunately, my friend has been real busy with grad school, so we haven’t done too much on it on Tapastic.

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
ES: Not yet, even though I have been harassed by a few family members to publish a book. I guess I am waiting to build a larger audience on the various websites that I publish on. I hope to publish a book soon, that’s all I can say for now.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
ES: I usually get my ideas from hot showers, long walks, or surfing Facebook to look at silly memes that people post up. I jot every weird idea into my notebook. When I am ready to make a strip, I start with the text first. Again, I make sure it is visually appealing with the text being justified and not spilling into the adjacent panels. Besides making sure the text is symmetrical, I make sure I leave enough space in each panel to show the most optimal amount of artwork. I am conscious of the economy of words, or ‘brevity’, and try to tell my story in the least amount of text as possible without losing the meaning or humor. After that, I am ready to add the artwork. I could spend hours scouring Pinterest, Google Images, or other webcomics to give me inspiration or guidance to help me illustrate my strip. I used to physically draw my panels on separate pieces of paper, scan them in, and then digitally connect the separate pieces of art into a single comic strip. However, as of the past two years, I just do everything in Photoshop; I draw directly with my computer mouse.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
ES: Since SaC is a comic strip about a young, naive woman straight out of college, I would think that No Doubt’s ‘Just a Girl’ would be a great song on Celeste’s soundtrack. However, lately I have been drawn to the performer Grimes. I think her song “Kill v Maim” perfectly captures the erratic energy of Celeste and her daydreams.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
ES: I am a fan of the artwork by Tom Bancroft and Gisele Lagace. I study their sketches and character poses when I draw my own characters.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
ES: Besides Bill Watterson and Lynn Johnston, the few newspaper comics I read are Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and her Unicorn, Rick Detorie’s One Big Happy and Bill Amend’s Foxtrot to name a few. But I spend more of my time reading webcomics than the ones in the newspaper. I follow almost all of the Sherpa cartoonists like Amanda El-Dweek, Jordan Smith, Francis Bonnet, Jose Sepi, Jason Platt, Bob Murphy, Alan Archer, Andrew Pilcher, Ed Owens, and Val Wares. I am also a fan of DrawWritePlay, C. Cassandra and Lunarbaboon found on various places on the internet.

ES: I like C. Cassandra as the only slice-of-life comic which I don’t find trite and IS well-drawn. I also like Christopher Grady’s work Lunarbaboon in that it is a comic that isn’t always trying to tell a ‘joke’. Humor isn’t the only emotional response that a cartoonist should strive for and we shouldn’t limit ourselves by always trying to be funny.

BC: Any idea what’s going on with Comic Sherpa now? Has GoComics been keeping the artists in the loop in any way, shape or form?
ES: I’ve gotten one or two emails since January. Who would have thought it would be so hard to add a Sherpa page to the GoComics website. Unfortunately, I don’t know what is going on there, so I have been focusing on my reach with other websites.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
ES: Initially, I look for something short and sweet; something I can read in 30 seconds or less. I don’t want to read a whole novel when I view my comics. If there is too much text, I skip it. I want a comic strip to be clean and simple without too much text or overly busy artwork. I am very impatient so I look at the layout to see if it is visually clean and symmetrical before I continue reading. After I’ve invested in a comic strip for years (like with C&H), I am willing to spend more time looking at every detail and nuance in it.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
ES: I prefer character-driven comics more than simple visual gags. The thing that makes a great comic is Honesty. Sure they are silly characters in silly situations, but they have to be as real as possible for the reader to get emotionally invested in them. A comic must be more than a funny pun or silly picture; it must tell a truth in a way that we had never thought about but we can all agree with. A good stand-up comedian does the same thing; show us a mirror to our own follies and faults.

ES: What makes a very good comic strip? Be really funny. Simple as that. What makes a great comic strip? Be really, really sad so that the reader has no choice but to laugh. I have seen comics that I would put in that ‘great’ category. The cartoonist does not have to make the whole comic strip in this way but just have certain individual strips that are honest and profound (remember the dead bird in the Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes?) But, this should be done carefully. A cartoonist shouldn’t try to be melodramatic and try to pull the emotional heart strings. If the reader feels they are being emotionally manipulated, it would backfire.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
ES: No, not yet.

BC: Do you want to plug your site?
ES: My website is www.somethingceleste.com. Besides having all my SaC comics in the archives section, I have also included every other comic I have made since 1997, so there is a lot of content to see there that a reader couldn’t find anywhere else. I am also a Sherpa cartoonist, but unfortunately the Sherpa page is down on GoComics.com. I am on Tapastic, BeComics, and Comx Box Syndicate.

BC: Do you have any other projects you are working on?
ES: My Celeste International comic on Tapastic is a multi-lingual comic strip featured there. I have some of my old SaC comics translated into Greek, Turkish, Arabic, French, Czech, German, and Dutch. I have my comics translated for no other reason than ‘why not?” Right now, it is more a conversation piece than an actual draw to attract new readers. Despite its lack of numerous subscribers, I am constantly looking for new translators who would help me with that side project.

BC: If Celeste were here, what would she say are her best and worst features? What else would she want to add to the interview?
ES: Haha…what a fun question! Let’s see, I would think her best and worst feature would be the same thing. Her bubbly personality brightens everyone’s day, but that same ‘bubbliness’ is the reason no one takes her seriously. She would say “I am not just a dumb blonde. I read books. I know Isaac Newton invented the fig newton.” Whether she was joking or not, even I don’t know, but she is fun to have around.

BC: Anything else you’d like to add?
ES: I just want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk about my comic. Even though I have been drawing for decades, I am only a recent entry to the world of webcomics. I’m pretty much a small fry in a business that is very crowded with many talented artists and writers. Hopefully, as many people as possible would become aware of Celeste and see the same thing that I see in her. This interview has been fun for me.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Eric Salinas (c) 2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Congrats to Greg Cravens!

Reprinted from the Hubris site with permission from the artist.

Memphis Cartoonist Named to Board of National Cartoonist Society (NCS)
Memphis, TN: The National Cartoonist Society (NCS), formed just after WWII by cartoonists returning from USO tours to entertain U.S. troops overseas, has named Memphis-based cartoonist Greg Cravens to their incoming board of directors. The decision comes after Greg was the local coordinator of an NCS/St. Jude event last May. The event brought more than 200 internationally known cartoonists to Memphis to draw for St. Jude patients and to fundraise through a series of cartoon art auctions and live events.

Greg’s artwork is familiar to residents of the Memphis area over the past twenty-five years. He has illustrated advertising for FedEx, The Memphis Flyer, The Peabody, Rock 103, The Grizzlies, Redbirds, Shoney’s, Perkins, The Memphis Zoo, Jack Pirtle’s Chicken, Keras Chevrolet, and hundreds more businesses. Because of his work on the syndicated comic strip The Buckets, he was allowed to join the NCS in 2002, and shortly after was nominated for a Silver Reuben award for his work on the Memphis Flyer.

His duties for the NCS will involve screening new member applications. He will also take on duties for the NCSFoundation, which will involve more work with their children’s hospital program and their “Cartooning For Kids” events. He says, “I’m looking forward to more NCS events at St. Jude, and other children’s hospitals throughout the Southeast. Also, since I’m the only NCS member for a couple of hundred miles in any direction, I’m especially looking forward to seeing more members come here more often.”

Steve McGarry, president of the NCSFoundation, said, “He did a really great job with (NCS/St. Jude) logistics in Memphis and I’m sure we (the NCSF) will keep him busy.”

Information about the National Cartoonist Society can be found at www.reuben.org.
Greg’s syndicated comic strip can be seen in newspapers in the U.S., Thailand, Australia, and at www.gocomics.com/thebuckets.
Webcomic Hubris! is at www.hubriscomics.com.
Advertising portfolio is at www.cravenscartoonist.com.