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.