Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cavalcade of Comics

How to be a successful comic artist
Over the past thirteen years I've made several attempts at newspaper syndication. For those unfamiliar with the process, a syndicate is a company that sells and promotes comic strips (and other features) to newspapers, and splits the profits with the creator.
Syndicates typically receive thousands of unsolicited comic strips each year and can usually only afford to pick up and promote a few. Here's a sampling of my additions to their slush piles since 1994, in semi-chronological order. (Any of the images in this post can be clicked on to view a larger version)
The story of a college dormitory full of young men and their exploits as brand new freshmen. (I don't have samples of the earliest ones, they're probably in a box somewhere and I'll be sure to post them if and when they are recovered.)
Similar to Q-Hall, but focusing on two recently graduated roommates and their attempts to make it in the real world. Zag was the name of the less-responsible, Oscar Madison-esque one.
Jim the Wonder Dog
This strip focused on a mad scientist and his dog-brained creation. There was also a love triangle involving the scientist's lab assistant. Jim also had ears like a dog.
The Further Adventures...
Captain Adventuresome, part-time superhero, part-time HMO claims adjuster. His boss is his former arch-enemy, his managers are demons from another dimension. This one was submitted around 1997, and one editor made sure to tell me he didn't see much of a future for the superhero genre among the general population.
My Evil Twin
Two high school-aged twin brothers: one's popular, one not so much.
Something about a zoo (I forget the title)
A comic strip about a zookeeper and her animals.
(Some of these were rejected for good reason, though all of them certainly had more potential than the stack of generic form letter rejections* gave me credit for.)
Bob's Honest Truth
Bob's Honest Truth
A question & answer strip, in a larger format like you see in weekly alternative papers.
Something about a bunch of high school teachers
The art teacher's name was Mr. Crayon and the principal looked like a gorilla. That's all I remember.
Childhood Zen
Childhood's Zen
A one-panel cartoon with no recurring characters, about childhood and kid stuff.
A semi-autobiographical strip about a stay at home dad and his infant son.
Suitable for Framing
Suitable for Framing
Another large format strip, this one was completely miscellaneous, though it did have a couple of recurring characters like Ace Poorman: Poverty Stricken Detective.
The story of a sherpa exchange student and his adventures in America. A surprisingly shallow concept when it comes to attempting to wrap a comic strip around it, though the characters had potential.
Contemporary Commuting
Contemporary Commuting
A hapless bus rider and his travails. This one was actually published for a few months in a corporate newspaper.
Watson Elementary
Watson Elementary
This one focused on an elementary school and had a rather ambitiously large cast: an elderly school teacher who'd returned from retirement, a handful of kids, a sprinkling of other teachers, and a hamster. Watson Elementary was by far my favorite to write and draw up to that point. However, once the syndicates tell you no, there's really not much for a cartoonist to do but retool it or move on. Most of these were created in the days before I was very internet savvy, so the notion of producing them for an online audience wasn't even a consideration.
Words to Live By
A daily word definition followed by it being used in a situation.
Something about a 32 year old who returns to live at his parents house
This one didn't make it much further than the concept, some writing, and a few roughs. Before I ever begin to draw a strip, I typically write around 200 samples, and then winnow those down to the best 24 to drawn and submit for consideration.
Tortoise and Hare
Something about a tortoise and hare
They're roommates. The hare is dumb, the tortoise is a community college professor. The hare works for a robot at a fast food restaurant called Taco Village. Also there's a girl involved somehow.
Laugh-Out-Loud Cats #7
The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats
I actually inherited this one and now offer it directly to the public through the wonders of paypal. And, despite accusations of "cashing in on the meme", I've immensely enjoyed producing it and have no plans of stopping anytime soon.
Several more samples of my rejected strips can be seen here, and I'll update it as I come across them in the archives.

*Not to sound bitter, I know the syndicates receive a deluge each year, so it's not very realistic to expect much. The one shining exception to this was King Features' Jay Kennedy. A true gentleman and fan of comics, he tragically passed away earlier this year. His rejection letters always included a hand-written note with insightful comments. He was always encouraging when 99% of the other syndicates were satisfied to send a form letter. Sometimes even a photocopy of a form letter.