Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Interview with Eddie Fitzgerald

Eddie Fitzgerald have worked in animation for over 30 years on series such as The Ren & Stimpy Show, Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, Tiny Toons, and countless others. Currently he writes on a popular blog Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner.

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

You worked on many different shows during your career, which spans over 30 years. Of all the cartoons you've worked on, which did you enjoy working on the most? The least?
Gee, I have a bunch of favorites! Ren & Stimpy was fun because working on it gave us all an insight into the mind of John K, a true genius if there ever was one. It was also fun to work with a talented crew. I'd get up to stretch and when I looked around there were museum quality drawings on every lightboard around me! it was exhilarating! I also have great memories of working at Filmation. The shows were absolutely terrible, and the hours were grueling, but it was my first industry job and there wasn't a moment when I didn't feel surrounded by magic. Actually, I still feel that way. Warners and Bakshi were fun, and I actually had a job as gag man at Disney's. Maybe I had the most fun doing my own cartoon for Cartoon Network: "Tales of Worm Paranoia." Believe me, there's no greater experience than directing a cartoon that you've written yourself. Every day was an education! I felt truly alive and awake, and when the film was done and I had to return to the workaday world, I felt like I had been forcibly put to sleep.

How did the staff react when the news of Nickelodeon firing Spumco from Ren and Stimpy came?

Interesting question! I didn't see it coming at all; it was a complete surprise! Out of the blue the production people told us to put our pencils down and pack everything carefully so it could be shipped to a new studio. I was stunned! John was out of town, so there was no talking to him about it. All the artists gathered in the middle of the main room. A couple were crying. Mike Fontanelli looked like he'd seen a ghost.

What happened next was the ugliest experience of my adult life. I said, "Wait a minute! This show uses a unique drawing style that takes a while to learn. Draw it any other way and it just won't look like Ren & Stimpy. We're irreplaceable! If we hang together and refuse to work on the show without John, then Nick will be forced to give it back to him! Let's all sign a letter to that effect and deliver it to Nickelodeon!" Half the room thought that was a great idea but the other half just looked at the floor, avoiding my gaze. Finally someone said, "Well, I wouldn't sign that. It sounds like a loyalty oath to me. That's McCarthyism."

McCarthyism!? Being loyal to a friend and a generous employer is McCarthyism? I didn't think that made any sense at all, but it seemed to satisfy half the room, and we broke up. Later, as new information came in, it became apparent that half the studio had already secretly negotiated contracts with the new place, for big raises in pay. They knew the split was coming.

Still later, I talked to the artist who was leading the split, and implored him not take John's characters away. I offered to do free work on a presentation that would help him to sell a show of his own, with his own characters, but it was no go. It was an ugly, ugly experience!

Are there any animation introduced in recent years that you like? Or hate the least?
There's been several funny animated shows since Ren & Stimpy, but none that relied on solid cartooning and the unique thing that funny acting and animation bring to the table. Cartooning caricatures the way people look; animation caricatures the way people move. I don't understand why current cartoonists show so little interest in moving things funny.

Have you ever pitched any series ideas to networks? Thinking about pitching more in the future?
I do pitch to networks, and I have absolutely fantastic ideas that would break new ground and work great on the screen! Unfortunately I'm one of those people who are shattered by rejection. You need a thick skin to prevail in this business.

What are your thoughts on the now-common practice of outsourcing animation to an overseas studio?
I would never outsource anything if I could help it. There was a job waiting for me when I needed it, and now it's my responsibility to be sure that one is waiting for the next guy. But it's more than that. American animation benefits from a hundred year-old tradition that includes comic strips, magazine illustration, pulp fiction, movies, funny cereal boxes and toys. It was influenced by immigrant humor, vaudville, jazz, swing, rock and roll, hip-hop and the unique flavor of the american streets. I don't see the sense in turning our backs on all that and sending everything to Shanghai.

Would I take a job overseas? Sure, if there was nothing going on here, and I'd do my best with it, but I do want to see a healthy industry here.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Tales of Worm Paranoia © Cartoon Network, A Time-Warner Company
Other Artwork © Eddie Fitzgerald

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gamin and Patches

Gamin and Patches was the last of the 9 or so comic strips created (or co-created) by Mort "Addison" Walker during his career. "Gamin" was also the only one that wasn't syndicated by King Features; it was syndicated by United Features instead. It only ran from 1987-1988.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Interview with Neil Swaab

Neil Swaab, 30, is a New York-based cartoonist known for his weekly comic strip Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, which runs in papers such as Rochester City Newspaper, Real Detroit Weekly, New Times Broward-Palm Beach, among others. In addition, he served as a character artist for Adult Swim series Superjail!, which began its run in September.

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

What were your duties on Superjail? How did you get involved in the show?
I was a Character Layout Artist. Along with four other guys, I drew all the key poses and created a lot of secondary characters and inmates for the show. I got involved through Aaron Augenblick whose studio was producing the show. Aaron and I are fans of each other’s work and have mutual friends in common and had discussed possibly working together at some point throughout the years when we’d run into each other. When Superjail! came up, he thought my style and sensibility would be perfect for the show and got in touch with me to work on it.

Is this the first time you worked in animation?

What are the staff on the show like?
Awesome! They’re a great group of people, extremely talented, and incredibly hard working. Everyone in the studio put their life and sweat into the show from people as high as the creators to people as low as the interns. It was a real labor of love.

Do you know if Superjail will get picked up for second season?
I’m afraid I don’t know.

Superjail is one of the very few US animated series that's not outsourced to an overseas studio. What is your view on outsourcing? Should more series be animated in-house in America, even if it will lead to Filmation-like quality?
Well, outsourcing is a big deal. Obviously, we want to keep more jobs in America and Augenblick Studios proved they could do it and produce high quality work at the same time. In order to compete with outsourcing we need to give them something that can’t be replicated in India or China. I believe what was done on Superjail! is a good example of that.

Do you have any favorite cartoons currently on TV?
Not really. I actually don’t watch too many cartoons. I don’t have cable and, lately, I can’t say I’ve even watched a lot of TV. I’ve never even seen Adult Swim, which Superjail! airs on.

You do a comic called Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles for alt-newspapers. How's the strip doing?
Pretty well. It’s in a bunch of papers and seems to be doing particularly well in Italy, where I’ve built up a large fan base due to my inclusion in the magazine, Internazionale.

Any thoughts about creating a show for television? Maybe an animated Mr. Wiggles, perhaps?
I’d love to. After taking a long break, I’m finally back to work on writing a pilot for a Mr. Wiggles TV show. Once it’s completed, I hope to start shopping it around and trying to get a studio interested in working with me on it.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Mr. Wiggles © Neil Swaab
Superjail! Created by Christy Karacas, Stephen Warbrick and Ben Gruber © Cartoon Network

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.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The most bizaree, screwed up comic in general, surprisingly, was not published in alt-weekly newspapers. It ran in a small number of mainstream daily newspapers in the mid-1980s. Move over, Bob the Angry Flower! Up yours, Maakies! Let Arnold through!

Arnold was by Kevin McCormick, and ran from January 3, 1983 to April of 1988. It was syndicated by Field Enterprise, which was bought out by Rupert Murdoch and renamed News America Syndicate, until it became North America Syndicate, which was bought out by King Features (the North America name is still used in some of the KFS comics). Phew!

The star of the strip was Arnold, a kid who constantly spouts random statements out of nowhere. His friend was Tommy, who is probably the only "normal" character the strip, and I mean that loosely. Their teacher was Mr. Lester. These three characters were the only ones to actually appear on-panel in the strip, until about few months before the strip ended, when Arnold gained a younger brother named Sid. Every other characters, including Arnold's parents (also equally weird), only spoke off-panel.

The strip is fairly well-known despite its short life in a small number of papers. Chances are, if you got the strip in your paper, you would've remembered it.

Kevin McCormick joined the staff of Paws Inc. (Garfield) after the strip ended, but eventually left cartooning behind. He's apparently running a school somewhere now.

You can see more strips here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Here's Kelly again

Google proves itself more useful when they began putting up archives of old newspaper microfilms. If you want to see how comics looked decades ago, this is the place. It's a bit of a pain to use, but it's worth it.

One of the papers Google is archiving is St. Petersburg Times. One of the strips they were running was Kelly & Duke (back then, the title was just Kelly). Here are some daily samples.

Note how the artwork has more detail than the later run.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Goosemyer

More "Goosemyer" by Brant Parker and Don Wilder.

The first one in particular features criticism of Ronald Reagan. Imagine what it would've been like if someone uploaded that strip right after he died.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Don Wilder, co-creator of Crock, passed away few days ago.In his honor, I thought I'd post samples of his short-lived Goosemyer strip, which he co-created with Brant Parker. It ran from 1980 to 1984.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bad Baby

Patrick McDonnell is best known for his daily strip Mutts, which runs in over 500 newspapers thru King Features Syndicate.

Before starting Mutts, however, he did a monthly strip for Parents magazine called Bad Baby, which ran from 1984 to at least around 1997.

The local university's library has a bound copy of a bunch of magazines, Parents being one of them.. I xeroxed some of the Bad Baby strips here.

Unfortunately, these are all in black and white; they were originally printed as is from Patrick's watercolor, so you're not seeing everything here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sibling Revelry

Thanks to Mr. Martin himself, here are additional Sibling Revelry strips. These are from the later part of its run.