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.