Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interview with Kevin McCormick

Kevin McCormick, 56, was a cartoonist behind Arnold, which ran in newspapers from 1982 to 1988. Afterwards he became a Paws Inc. (Garfield) staffer. He is currently a pastor and principal of Bread of Life Christian Academy in Rochester.

I recently conducted an email interview with him. My questions are in bold.

When and where were you born? What are your cartooning background?

I was born in 1952 in Jamestown NY. The only cartooning background I ever had was consuming every strip or comic book I could get my hands on. I also carved Woody Woodpecker into my mothers coffee table once.

How many strips did you submit before coming up with Arnold?

There were three strips before Arnold. The first one was an animal strip. The second was a deranged youth with a Mohawk (this was before deranged youths were wearing mohawks).

How did the editors react to your strip?

Whenever a paper would run a readers poll on comic strips, Arnold would always be on the “most hated list” and the “most loved” list. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground. Most editors hated the strip. One reason they gave me was that the strip “didn’t show the best of human nature” if there is such a thing.

How did you come up with Arnold? Was he or any of the characters based on somebody you know?

I needed a vehicle to fit my humor and the one that was finally accepted by the syndicate was Arnold. This was after a lot of tries and gradual toning down of the humor.

Ultimately, how many papers ran the strip? Which one was the biggest?

I think it was in fifty six papers at one time. LA Times was one of the big ones.

What did you do after Arnold ended?

I did some ghost writing for some strips for a while. I became a Christian and now am a pastor and administrator at our church’s school.

What are your favorite comics, past and present?

Too many to name in the past. I’m not really up on what is out there today although it’s really sad to see what the comic pages have become.

With you being a principal now, do you know any students that act like Arnold?

Yes but they have been executed.

Do you still come across people that remembers your strip?

It’s weird but every once in a while someone will track me down and send me an email. The local paper where I live never ran the strip so I’m safe here.

Are your students impressed that you used to have a nationally syndicated comic strip?

Some of the older kids have found old Arnolds on the internet. They really liked it.

Do you still draw cartoons? Any thoughts about coming back with a new strip?

I teach Bible class in our school. So I make up these little stories to convey the spiritual concept we’re covering. I draw them out and it’s been fun in that it really keeps the kids attention. I have a lot of ideas for new strips and I’ve drawn some up for some handouts for the kids at school. The latest was a sociopathic cow but I don’t have the time and I guess I don’t really have the desire any more. I ‘m happy doing what I’m doing.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Arnold © King Features Syndicate

Special thanks to John Kovaleski for getting me in touch with Kevin.


richardcthompson said...

Thanks for this, Charles. I really enjoyed Arnold in the Wash Post way back when. "White Death" still cracks me up. AIEE!

Brubaker said...

I can imagine Petey screaming "white death" in your strip.

Weird cartoon characters of the world, UNITE!


Dean martin said...

They don't make comics like they used to. I like that Garfield character, with the lasanga and whatnot. I give this Arnold three months, tops.

Bill H. said...

Wow I remember Arnold - crazy and funny comic. thanks for posting this!!

Anonymous said...

AIEEEE!!! One of the best comic strips ever

Anonymous said...

I really wish someone would publish a "best of" collection of Arnold strips. An "all of" would be nice too.

johnmoore said...

wow! i always wondered what happened to that strip! thank you!

Robert said...

I have long suspected that I am the only person in the world with an Arnold tattoo. Got it in about 1991. Just Arnold with his AIEEE!" battle cry.

Anonymous said...

I loved it & read it in the Miami Herald as did a number of like-minded friends. When it disappeared I was upset & in trying to see what happened somehow ended up on the phone w/ the (actual) editor of the Detroit Free Press (a VERY normal, nice guy) who I discovered was also a great fan. I hope Mr. McCormack is doing well as he gave me a number of laughs. I probably cut out and still have at least a hundred of his daily strips. You either get this guy...or you don't.

Anonymous said...

ARNOLD was the first thing I would read in my morning Free Press. It appealed to my off-beat and off-the-wall sense of humor. It also reminded me of one of my former students who was about the same age, and had similar physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Thanks Arnold for reminding me, for about five years anyway, of Robert H. He used to walk around making weird noises, or banging his head against his locker (whom he named "Idiot") when it wouldn't open. Robert later confessed at the end of the school year that it was all an act to get attention. It was kids like Arnold who started my day with a smile, and Robert who ended it the same way.

Anonymous said...

I loved Arnold. It's the only comic I actually remember reading in the Sun-Times growing up in Chicago. Would love to have a book of reprints. Can't have enough picnic bags!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the two-fingered nostril pull?Loved that comic. Any fans of Mr. Boffo out there?

Joe said...

LOVED this strip, and I was devastated when it disappeared one day, never to return. Read it every day in the Miami Herald! I still miss you, Arnold; hoping against hope for a complete anthology one day.

Anonymous said...

I only wish that I could remember the words to the Camp Itsafungus song...

Anonymous said...

I have just created the first ever "Arnold" group for Facebook. Sign up and tell your friends!!/group.php?gid=118753991499610

Anonymous said...

Yes, I felt like someone was telling my story when I read Arnold. A bit of "live" died when Arnold was taken from us. I loved it. Thanks for finding Kevin and posting this story.

Anonymous said...

My favorite comic strip ever! I'm probably one of the few female fans. I still remember "Celebrity Electric Chair" where Arnold asked Julie Andrews to please sing for them and when she said no, he turned on the electric chair and she screamed THE HILLS ARE ALIVE!!!! So twisted and perfect.

Anonymous said...

Arnold was so full of win. Read it religiously. Strip ended just before Miami Herald started it's one way decline... Anyway, would love to see a book/e-book anthology.. Thanks to Kevin for the laughs!

Anonymous said...

Kevin McCormick has great talent. Some ppl like Dean Martin, choosing a name like that speaks to why they dont get McCormick, cant understand his wit because its over their head. Comparing Arnold to Garfield, really? Garfield is just mkting where as Arnold is great humor. Kevin your a genius and we luv your work!

Robert W. Fisher said...

ARNOLD, in the Detroit Free Press, was one of the most original and funniest strips ever -- still have many of them stored away. Too edgy and clever for most people, though. Kevin McCormick should have never quit writing; that kind of brilliant talent never dies.

Anonymous said...

Best strip ever. I was devastated when it disappeared. Why??!!! Nooooooooooooooo!!!

I'm glad you're happy doing what you're doing. Thank you for being such a vivid memory of my youth.

Unknown said...

I have almost every one clipped. Read it in the Free Press.
Thank you, Kevin!!

Anonymous said...

scan and upload those! you would be a hero to many!

Anonymous said...

Arnold was funny!
I was baffled at the strips disappearance and came to miss it.

Jeff said...

It's taken me years to remember the name of this comic. Through the 1990's and 2000's, I'd occasionally try to remember or ask people I knew if they could remember. For a while there, I thought it might be a figment of my imagination. Finally, FINALLY, I decided to google "1980's comic Aieeee" and I finally got a hit. I loved this comic so much. My current sense of humor is a direct descendant.