The Comics Kingdom Blog

Ask A Cartoonist: Will Roberts Edition!

Will Roberts says: "Since I created the segment with King Features, “Comics Kingdom.com” on my radio show, I've talked with a lot of amazing comic artists. On top of being a humorist myself, I learned a lot about the daily workings of being a syndicated cartoonist. What surprised me is that most of the cartoonists I spoke to still spent time with ink. They love the technology, but inking is still in their blood, ( the need to use that thing we call a pen or pencil). However, from conversations with these folks on my show and bringing up the past, you can definitely sense a true dedication to the original art form, minus technology. Being someone who creates cartoons only recently with technology, it was fun to be able to take a step back in time and hear the great stories from some of these wonderful syndicated cartoonists. Here are several questions I decided to throw at them to see what they came up with. Get your pen or pencil out, if you still know how to use them, cause here we go!"

Benita Epstein, Friday cartoonist of SIX CHIX, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

Much much easier.  I sketch, ink and color (Sundays only) on a Wacom tablet and have done that for more than five years.  It saves so much time over sketching, inking, then scanning, tidying up lines in Photoshop and sending files.  I'd say it saves over an hour per cartoon.

Attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

It's hard to tell.  Once a cartoon file gets sent into cyberspace I have no idea who reads them or how many read them or if the majority like them. I sometimes get negative comments when the poster doesn't give their real name, but positive comments on Facebook where I know all the posters.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

I hope so.

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

Yes

--Benita Epstein, Six Chix



Bill Griffith, cartoonist of ZIPPY THE PINHEAD, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

A: I still mail hard copy to King Features every week. I also still do a color guide with markers and colored pencils (showing exactly how to color the strip using a number system King gave me in 1986) for the Sunday Zippy. I could email scans and do my own color in Photoshop, but it all seems like more work for me, so why?

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

A: Zippy was a pioneer in shrinking the attention span of the American public going back decades---people are now finally catching up to him!

In general,one-row daily comic strips are ideal for fractured attention spans. EZ in, EZ out.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

A: Sure. Of course, there will always be the humor/irony challenged, but I'm assuming they won't be reading comics. Actually, now that Google is a keyboard tap away, my readers can look up any obscure reference I make and have it quickly explained!

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

A: Much more. I used to get a handful of fan letters via snail mail years ago--today I get dozens every day. Some of them even get what I'm doing!

--Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead



Isabella Bannerman, Monday cartoonist of SIX CHIX, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

It makes it much easier.

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

You get more immediate feedback through facebook , and comments sections, so you get both. You get more good comments, and more bad comments.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

Yes, I think it’s great that people share funny you tube videos and jokes on facebook and tumblr and pinterest, and so the average person has more of an ability to create and share jokes. But at the same time, we are also being informed almost constantly about terrible incidents and important issues around the globe, and I think it is something that is sometimes overwhelming to people.

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

Yes, I definitely have found more fans - and it’s fun and surprising to discover what topics appeal to people.

--Isabella Bannerman, Six Chix


 

Stephanie Piro, Saturday cartoonist of SIX CHIX, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

So much easier, Will! It used to cost almost $5.00 to send that big envelope to the syndicate. Since doing it via e-mail it goes right out and you get verification and can ask questions or whatever without having to wait a week or more for the mail.

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

I think so. At least, they seem to get their fair share of "likes"!

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

I believe they do. Everyone has their worries or problems but who doesn't enjoy a laugh even if it's just a distraction from the every day.

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

I think "Six Chix" has acquired quite a variety of fans between us! We have some very loyal fans, and sometimes, when I post my cartoon on Saturday, I'll see many new names that aren't just your friends being supportive!

--Stephanie Piro, Six Chix

MORT WALKER, cartoonist of BEETLE BAILEY, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

Modern technology has made it easier to send my work in. I used to send my originals. Now I just send copies over the internet.

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

I think Beetle Bailey has always been well received. I keep the dialogue short and the drawing simple, nothing confusing.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

I feel readers have a better sense of humor these days because they see more humor on TV and the movies, They're more humor-oriented.

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

 Over the 63 years I've been doing Beetle I've kept adding readers till they estimate I have 200 million readers every day in 52 countries and I'm still adding them.

--Mort Walker, Beetle Bailey


 

Bill Holbrook, cartoonist of ON THE FASTRACK and SAFE HAVENS, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

It's vastly easier.  Pre-Internet, I would mail original "Fastrack" art to King Features, crossing my fingers that the batch wouldn't become lost.  That only happened once, and fortunately that was after the quality of photocopies had increased to the point where they could be a viable backup before mailing.  Now, I upload TIFF files, and the original art never leaves my house.

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

Attention spans may be shorter, but having strips online make longer stories more possible due to the existence of archives. Previously readers would have only that day's strip in front of them, and maybe the previous day's in the recycling bin.  Now readers can go back weeks or months to get caught up on a story, enabling them to become more invested in the lives of the characters.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

I'm sure every cartoonist would say that *their* readers do!

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

Absolutely. One thing that's helped is having the characters in "Fastrack" and "Safe Havens" interact. (Dethany meets Samantha below) Also, "Fastrack's" Dethany has her own Facebook, Twitter, Tumbr and Pinterest presence, and "Safe Havens" has a weekly blog recapping and adding extra details to that week's events. All of these things has gained new readers.

--Bill Holbrook, On the Fastrack and Safe Havens


 

David Reddick, cartoonist of INTELLIGENT LIFE, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

Easier for sure!

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

I actually think in the age of super-short attention spans in the digital world, paradoxically, attention spans are longer online for comics readers in my opinion, as new and established readers enjoy being able to reach back into the archives and explore and get to know the characters, and really invest into the world I'm creating, which includes hanging around my site and checking out the extras. I totally do this myself with other cartoonist's comics in the same way. So yes, I believe the ability for them to be received well in the ever-evolving landscape of publishing in a variety of forms is as strong as ever.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

Yes, but it has changed, as it always does, as the times continue to change.

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

Absolutely. It allows me to really reach out there and interact with my own world and readers alike, which brings it all to life even more, and allows the characters to do the same, as they can step outside the panels and live and breathe even further.

--David Reddick, Intelligent Life

Alex Hallatt, cartoonist of ARCTIC CIRCLE, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

So much easier. Although I work in pen and ink, photoshop lets me correct any mistakes and batch process certain actions (preparing the cartoons for print, for example). I can email my work, rather than mailing it, which means I can live anywhere in the world.

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

You're right and no, it is harder to get people's attention than when people used to get their information and entertainment from far fewer sources. I try to edit my cartoons so that they aren't too wordy. And draw funny.

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?
For sure! What has changed is that a lot more has become permissible online. Web comics can get away with far more than newspaper comics, which can only get away with the kind of thing you see in 1950s TV sitcoms. Except zaniness: we're allowed a bit more zaniness.

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?
Definitely. I have lots of fans who can join in discussions at my Arctic Circle page, facebook.com/arcticcirclecartoons - please come and say hi, or tweet to me @arcticcircle. Cheers!

--Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle


 

Rina Piccolo, cartoonist of TINA's GROOVE and Wednesday SIX CHIX cartoonist, answers:

With modern technology, does it make your job to deliver your cartoons easier or harder?

Technology has definitely made the job of delivering cartoons faster and more convenient for me. I remember the days of pre scanning and email. I had to set aside an entire afternoon (!) every week to take my strips to Kinkos, get copies made, and then schlep them over to the post office to mail them….UGH..I’d never go back to that!

With modern technology, attention spans have become shorter. Do you feel as though your cartoons are received as well as they used to be?

When talking about comic strips, and humor in general, I believe that brevity is a plus whether there are short attention spans or not. I like to think that I have more readers now simply because I’ve made my comics easy quick reads!

Do people still have a good sense of humor these days?

Do people still have a good sense of humor? I think that while society changes, people don’t really change all that much fundamentally. So, yeah— I think people still have good senses of humor. Humor, and laughing at stuff, is part of being human. Then again, having said that, I’ve gotten some comments on my cartoons that would suggest that not EVERY human has a sense of humor, ha ha… ugh…

Have you acquired more fans now that social media has come along?

Social media has really helped to get my stuff in front of more readers. Sometimes I feel that I’m not the best self-promoter, but I like the idea of having a community of people who like my work well enough to tell others about it. When Twitter was born, I thought it was stupid, and that it was a waste of time—  I even did a Tina’s Groove comic making fun of it! But I’ve learned what a great tool it is to showcase work, and grow your audience. So, there you go— I totally disagree with my own strip from 2009!

--Rina Piccolo, Tina’s Groove and Six Chix

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