Ask a Cartoonist: Fan Meetings!

By Tea Fougner

With Comic-Con buzz in the air, it’s the time of year for meeting our favorite cartoonists!  So I asked our cartoonists to tell me about a memorable meeting with a fan!

Two fan experiences stand out.

1) When I interviewed Mike Judge (“Beavis & Butt-Head”, “King of the  Hill”, etc.) for The New Yorker in 1995, he told me Zippy had inspired him to do his first animation.  Down-to-earth great guy—still is.

2) At a book-signing in San Jose CA in the 80s, two identical 96-year-old Scottish twins approached my table asking for autographs.  They told me they were part of a “family” (maybe a commune?) and they all took turns reading quotes  from Zippy every night before dinner.  My kind of cult!

–Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

Bill also alerted me to this very presidential meeting!

Here’s a pic from a few days ago–Obama is visiting the “Charcoal Pit” restaurant in Delaware. Behind him, framed on the wall, is one of my Zippy strips featuring the same restaurant in several Zippy strips. The owners wrote on it “Zippy Schlepped Here”.

Maybe Obama’s eyes strayed to it as he munched? Did the rays emanating from Zippy’s topknot enter President Obama’s brain? Will he be spouting non sequiturs at his next press conference?

When it was announced by King Features in 2001 that I would be the cartoonist for the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comic strip, my local newspaper ran a story about it.  I received some congratulatory calls, letters and emails after the story ran.  Two of the very first people to write me were Harold Reid and Don Reid of the legendary Grammy Award-winning Statler Brothers country music and gospel group!  My family and I had always been huge fans of their music, but I had never met them.  I couldn’t believe it when I heard from them!  They live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia like me, but in a different city.  They wrote me to say that they had always been big fans of Snuffy Smith and were happy to see a “local boy” given the opportunity to carry on their favorite comic strip!  Since that time we have gotten together for lunch on occasion, they have come to my book signings and art shows and we have met each other’s families, as well.  We exchange emails often.  I have been blessed, through the Snuffy Smith comic strip, to get to know them and call them my friends.  They are two of the nicest people in the world.  It’s so neat that, as a cartoonist, you just never know who is reading your strip!
–John Rose, Barney Google & Snuffy Smith

A while back I was approached by a group of fans who requested my permission to produce costumes of my “Kevin & Kell” characters. They put a lot of work and effort into creating Lindesfarne the hedgehog, Kevin the rabbit and Kell the wolf. At a convention about a year later I agreed to be in a skit in which I played myself writing terrible gags that they performed. The characters finally got fed up with me and chased me offstage with a giant eraser.  

–Bill Holbrook, On the Fastrack & Safe Havens

More than 20 years ago we held a Piranha Club meeting in Philadelphia. Two fans, “Spike” and “Dr. Fang” became personal friends. I visited Dr. Fang in Seattle last year, and this past February he ordered Xrays for me all the way from Washington State. He diagnosed a condition I have and prescribed treatment. AND IT’S ALL FREEEEE! I don’t have to go see Dr. Pork anymore. This past week Spike and I have been exchanging expertise endorsements on Linkedin. I’m afraid I can’t disclose the nature of those endorsements, but they involve animal magnetism and a yard stick.  

–Bud Grace, Piranha Club

Not a fan story, but an editor story. I had been sending cartoons to Ray Lesser and Sue Wolpert, editors of The Funny Times for years before I met them. When they came to New York – they live in Cleveland – they threw a party in a basement bar in the village. It turns out they are super nice. When they threw another party for their cartoonists and readers in Cleveland – I went and stayed at their house for a couple of nights. As you can see, they are as generous as they are nice. And they are funny in person – not just on the page.
 –Isabella Bannerman, Six Chix

My most memorable (indirect) interaction was with a New York State Judge. His wife, herself a Court Attorney-referee, contacted me to say he was an avid fan of ‘Pros & Cons’ and that one of my Sunday strips ‘stated a favorite and oft-cited saying of his.’
She wanted to obtain this strip so he could display it in his office.

That people working in the professions my strip revolves around can relate to and empathise with the characters is enormously gratifying. It’s also very encouraging.

–Kieran Meehan, Pros & Cons

I received a request for a sketch. This couple were having a charity auction on a certain date. I sent the sketch. A week later, I received an email from them saying that a sweet lady, named Nadia, had mistakenly showed up a day early for the auction to bid on the Dennis piece. They offered to let her have it for a donation, but she didn’t feel right taking it before the auction, which she was unable to attend the next day. After they told me the story, I sent them another sketch personalized to Miss Nadia. They later sent me this pic.

–Ron Ferdinand, Dennis the Menace

I did a high school reunion series in my strip once and I used the real name of my own school (Grantham) in several of the segments.  I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Australia one day who said he knew it was a long shot but wondered if the name of “Grantham” could be related to “Grantham township” from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada in any way. He had lived in St. Catharines but had moved to Australia in 1952. I wrote back that it was exactly that place.  He would write to me now and then and a few years later he came back to Canada for a visit. I met him and his wife for a coffee at Tim Hortons.

–Sandra Bell-Lundy, Between Friends

I do Price is Right strips on a regular basis. George Gray, host of the show, read the strip that ran on April 26, 2013, and contacted me about acquiring the original. When I sent it to him, I included one of my other Price is Right strips and asked him to sign it for me. Not only did he sign it, but he had Drew Cary sign it as well. I also got to connect with David Pogue, host of the PBS program Nova Science Now, because of a strip I ran a strip featuring him. He too has the original.


–John Hambrock, The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee