June 18th, 2014

Ask A Cartoonist: Hit the Panic Button!

by Countess Tea

Hi, all!

Well, we’ve celebrated animal-themed days and food-themed day and career-themed days, but today pretty much takes the cake– it’s International Panic Day!

(Ready to panic? On three..)

So in the spirit of the day, I’ve asked our cartoonists to tell us about how they cope with stress– and the thing that panics cartoonists more than anything, deadlines!

The only way I can handle deadlines is by meeting them – otherwise I would be too stressed! I draw up a schedule for the work I have to do each week and allow myself some spare days, in case it is sunny and I want to skive off and go to the beach! –Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle

Doing comics about stress always relieves my stress. Deadlines? I love ’em. Because without deadlines, I’d be stress-free….then, I couldn’t do any comics about stress. Now that’s stressful! — Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

Good ol’ Snuffy Smith has never had a deadline he couldn’t sleep through! –John Rose, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith


I don’t have any trouble with deadlines or stress. I work 7 days a week on gag ideas. I get ideas in bed or while waiting for doctor’s appointments, when I can get 15 ideas till he sees me. I get gags while shopping and I joke with everyone on the street. That’s why I have over 50,000 gags on file that I haven’t used and that’s why I’m always ahead on my deadlines. And it’s also why I never feel stressed. Thinking of humor and living a life of laughter relieves any stress that comes my way. I have a good life.

Beetle takes a nap, Sarge gets his relief beating up Beetle and General Halftrack escapes the stress in the office by substituting stress on the golf course. Miss Buxley sheds it all by putting on a bikini. –Mort Walker, Beetle Bailey

Since I have to produce an editorial cartoon on a daily basis, stress and deadlines are my middle name.

There are a couple of ways I deal with that routine. One is exercise. As long as the weather permits ( no rain or snow and ice) I usually run 40 to 45 minutes in the morning. Relieving stress is one of the multiple benefits from that workout.

The other technique I use is how I manage my time. I try to minimize activities which are not work related if at all possible. Anything I can do evenings or weekends so as not to disturb my focus on my work I will do. Otherwise, when I need to take a break during the day, I try to take care of whatever chore or errand needs to be done.

I have a pretty good idea of how long it will take me to draw a cartoon… usually 2 or 2 and 1/2 hours, so I make sure that I have an idea for the next day’s cartoon with enough time left to complete it. Depending on how inspired I feel and how complex the drawing is, I may finish well before deadline, or I may be nearer to deadline when I am done.

But I can say that I have never in over thirty years missed a deadline! –Jimmy Margulies, Editorial Cartoonist

Deadlines? Stress? I’m 6 months ahead. –Bud Grace, The Piranha Club



I lie on my back lengthwise on a foam roller and try to get my shoulders to un-hunch.– Hilary Price, Rhymes With Orange

Doing three strips, I work on a three-week schedule. For example, during one week I’ll write about 24-30 gags for “Kevin & Kell” while drawing 18 “Safe Havens” strips from the gags I’d written the previous week. The next week I’ll draw 21 “Kevin & Kell” strips while writing three week’s worth of material for “Fastrack.” And on it goes.

This gives me a weekend between the writing and the drawing, which is important because it allows me to get away from the gags and see them with a fresh eye the following Monday. At that point I often change a gag drastically from its original incarnation. –Bill Holbrook, On the Fastrack and Safe Havens


Sorry, Panic Day, but I’m not going to observe you on Wednesday or any other day! Seriously — I find that the way to reduce unnecessary stress is to keep way way ahead of my deadlines, and never— ever!!— allow myself to fall behind. Stressing over deadlines, or feeling like you’re falling behind in your work takes the fun out of cartooning. So I keep a good workable routine that’s easy to follow and keeps me from having to worry about anything outside of creating good comics. –Rina Piccolo, Six Chix and Tina’s Groove

And here’s an oldie but goodie from Hank Ketcham of Dennis the Menace:






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