Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family.

smaldoneSmaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family

Paperback

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Clouds for Breakfast: Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Medal Recipient. A book that will stimulate children’s fantasy.

cloudst

clouds1With a delightful language, directed at the younger children, Laura Eisen presents a simple but endearing story, which will certainly be appreciated both by children and their parents.

The initial concept presented by the author was for a child to have the opportunity to eat clouds for breakfast. In reality, to have clouds for breakfast reflects human fantasy at its most essential. Who among us has not observed clouds and thought they could recognize characters from fairytales or objects from our everyday life? Or maybe even an insect or a giant ship? Who did not get lost in these reveries? Drawing on this notion, Ms. Eisen presents us with a poetic and inviting view of a day in the life of a child.

clouds2 Reading the story to a child, he (or she) will identify himself with the story, as if it was written exclusively for him. The magnificent illustrations, delicate and imaginative, by Kent Cissna not only help, but strengthen the author’s idea, making this book both pleasant and useful to the parent or teacher who want to use it as a tool to stimulate their children’s fantasy.

This book offers also the opportunity to read the book in Japanese or in Italian (other languages are on the way) besides the original in English, something quite unusual for children’s books…

clouds_Japanese

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GUY GILCHRIST: FROM THE MUPPETS TO NANCY, A SUCCESS STORY.

Guy Gilchrist

Guy Gilchrist

Guy Gilchrist is a renowned writer and illustrator of children’s books (42 titles to his name, of which the acclaimedNight Lights & Pillow Fights also appears in comics and games versions) and a celebrated, syndicated cartoonist, with strips such as “Mudpie,” “Screams,” “The Poetry Guy,” “The Rock Channel,” “Today’s Dogg,” and, since 1995, the classic “Nancy.”
Guy won the prestigious Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society in the Best Book Illustrator category in both 1998 and 1999, and 3 Children’s Choice Awards by the International Reading Council for best books of the year. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the globe and is permanently preserved at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
In 1981 he created the daily comic strip The Muppets with his brother Brad Gilchrist, which was printed worldwide in over 660 newspapers from 1981 to 1986.
In 1997, Guy founded his own international publishing company, Gilchrist Publishing.

Attitude of Gratitude

NANCY, Attitude of Gratitude

L’IDEA: Guy, you have been drawing “Nancy” for 19 years now; it has probably become part of you, almost as if you created it, although the strip appeared for the first time in 1938 and the Nancy as a character was first drawn in 1933. How different is the experience of creating a strip from scratch, creating a strip based on someone else’s characters, as you did for “The Muppets,” and drawing a strip that has been around already so many years, as “Nancy” is?
GUY GILCHRIST: Nancy really has become a part of my life and a part of my heart; you know, writing and drawing something for 19 years, every single day of your life, has that effect. I’m certainly not the same person I was when I began or anywhere in the middle. And I look back now at 19 years and can see the effects of the different things that were going on in my life at the time.
When I was writing and drawing for Jim Henson and the Muppets I was trying to please Jim. Also, I was very scared; I was just a kid starting out and I was given a worldwide stage to either succeed on or fail. No pressure, you know. The Muppets definitely all had incredibly wonderful personalities, which were already very well evolved. Basically, my job was to take these wonderful, crazy characters with all of this life and color and music and warmth and try to find a way to translate that into a daily comic strip. Sometimes it felt like I was trying to get a 100 piece orchestra into a phone booth! When you’re doing your own comic strip, characters that you’ve created all by yourself, then it really is a totally different thing. You truly are like an eagle flying endless skies with no barriers to your creativity but your own mind and talents.

guyThese days, of course, I have the little panel, Today’s Dogg, which is very fun and free, but also, after 19 years really and truly Nancy and Aunt Fritzi and the entire group are really and truly mine. Now, the characters will always be the creations of the great Ernie Bushmiller, and he is always my inspiration, it’s really important for me to be honest and funny in my own way in the comic strip each day. The best way to honor Ernie Bushmiller and his wonderful characters is to keep them alive and romping through the newspapers and the Internet for as long as it is my blessing to do so!

L’IDEA: Do you believe that the continuing success of classic strips, such as “Blondie,” Gasoline Alley” and “Nancy,” which seem to live well beyond their expected natural life, is tied to the “nostalgia” factor, with its simpler times and situations?
GUY GILCHRIST: I believe it is a combination of two things. I believe that nostalgia of course is extremely important in our continuing success. Many of our readers have been Nancy Fans their entire lives, since this trip is been around for over 80 years! They may remember it from when they were children, and now as parents they are reading it to their children! There has always been the Stasia, that longing to touch something from my past that has touched our hearts. My job as the Cartoonist is really twofold. I want to present our readers with a product that will please them and remind them of the characters that they so loved when they were children, but also breathe life into these characters and make them viable and entertaining and engaging to today’s generation!

NANCY, Keeper of The Keys

NANCY, Keeper of The Keys

L’IDEA: Do you feel that the messages and the humor in “Nancy” are as valid today as they were in 1938? Has she been modernized, both in thinking and/or communicating, or is she still the same mischievous 8 year old?
GUY GILCHRIST: That’s really my job, isn’t it?! I certainly hope I’m doing that! While the cars and machines and electronics around Nancy and her gang have changed, she really hasn’t! She may live in a slightly smaller town then perhaps she did early on in the 1930s, since her author these days lives in a slightly smaller town… but that is probably about it. I think the small-town feeling of Nancy is one of the things that make her so successful around the world. You know, little children still pretty much act and react the same way that little children acted in the decades before. They are both angels and brats. One moment you want to scold them, the next moment you want to hug them and hold on for dear life! These are the fundamentals of human emotions. They will never change.

arturoezoe

The Italian version of “Nancy,” “Arturo e Zoe”

L’IDEA: I used to read “Nancy” when I was a little kid (I read it in Italian as “Arturo e Zoe,” which appeared as full stories in the comics magazines “Il Monello” and L’Intrepido”), and I am sure most of our readers have been exposed to it one way or the other. What do you feel are the most appealing characteristics of this strip?
GUY GILCHRIST: Nancy is still very popular not only in America but all around the world. Our COM X are read in over 80 different countries and by 57 million people. That’s a pretty scary thought. It makes me want to check my spelling a hundred times before I send things out. I wouldn’t want to make a mistake in front of that many people in that many languages! Honestly, what I have always tried to do is keep Nancy’s wants and desires and her daily life simple. By that I mean that if you read the comic strip for a little while you will realize that the characters never do anything that would be expensive. They do things that really don’t cost any money. They go for walks they play in the park they climb trees they ride bicycles and skateboards. The most expensive things they ever buy are ice cream cones and comic books. They spend a lot of time outside, playing. They have television sets and computers, but I don’t have the children sitting in front of them all that much. I keep them also away from too many video games. I do this because no matter what generation you are from, and where you are in this world, these are common things that we all can enjoy and can remember. I was poor growing up and the comics were something that were a thrill for me. When I would see those two or three pages each day of the funnies, they were really a treasure to me! I want the same feeling for children who cannot afford much around the world, that if they see the funnies in the paper with Nancy and Sluggo in them, they will be able to identify with them and to smile.

L’IDEA: If you had any suggestions for Nancy, the little girl who is main character of that strip, what would it be?
GUY GILCHRIST: She wouldn’t listen to be! I’m a grown-up! Believe me, I’ve had daughters and a granddaughter and I know! That’s what’s so much fun about Nancy! We see our own children in her and her friends!

L’IDEA: When you started drawing “Nancy,” the person in charge of the stories was your brother Brad, and that went on until last year. What made you take over completely the strip?
GUY GILCHRIST: When I started drawing Nancy, my brother Brad and I shared the writing duties; after about seven or eight years, my brother Brad began to work on another project. He’s always been very involved with the environment, recycling and ecology; that is his passion. It was then that Brad backed away from the Nancy comic and I began to work on it on my own. And so, I have actually been writing and drawing the strip on my own for quite a few years. I consider myself a writer first, And an illustrator second, so the transition was not a difficult one for me. Brad’s name had been left on the byline by the publishers! That was okay with me and still is! A terrific way to honor my brother!

nancy4L’IDEA: What is the illustration work you are the most proud of and why?
GUY GILCHRIST: That is a really difficult question. You know, I’ve had a very long and very blessed career. My favorite project is always the exact thing that I am working on at this moment. That is the way you must always be as a writer and artist. You don’t look toward the future and you do not look toward the past. You concentrate all you have on that scary blank white piece of paper in front of you and pray you have something to offer! In regard to highlights of my career, certainly the artwork that I did for Pres. Reagan and the White House back in 1984 that was preserved in the Smithsonian would be a blessing. I have been so blessed also to have met many people who have been touched by my story books as well as my comics. And when they share with me how much a certain book or a certain character meant to them, that becomes a very important work for me. I thank my Father in heaven every single day for the blessing that He has given me to be a writer and an artist and to be able to reach out to people in the ways that I am privileged to do so.

nancy3L’IDEA: You are also a popular children’s book’s author and illustrator. Are your books all independent of each other, as stories and characters go, or do they carry common themes, locations and characters? Which one is the character of your stories that you like the most and why?
GUY GILCHRIST: There have been common themes and common characters throughout many of my books. However, each book can be read independently and enjoyed on its own, apart from whatever series it may be a part of. The Tiny Dinos Series with Warner Books still seems to be very popular with many, many people. My Mudpie character Has been published by several different publishing houses and was also of course a comic strip.
Then there are the Night Lights and Pillow Fights and Just Imagine books . Those were full of poems and pictures and brand-new little fairytales that I concocted! I’ve written so many, and each one of them is a wonderful memory!

Batotom Lotshaw

Batotom Lotshaw

L’IDEA: Were you always interested to be an illustrator? How did you get to where you are now? If, hypothetically, you could be working in any job position in the world, what would you be?
nancy2GUY GILCHRIST: I don’t consider myself to be an illustrator. I consider myself first to be a writer. You see, whether it is a storybook, a comic book, a comic strip, or a song or a speech… the idea and the story always comes first. Even as a little child when I was drawing cartoons, while I was copying Superman and Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker and Popeye, I was making up stories for them! How did I get to be where I am now? First you have to tell me where that is! I hope I’m still right in the middle of a wonderful adventure! I hope I’m not near the end! I hope I’m right in the middle. I feel like I’m learning every single day. I certainly feel like the comic strip and the songs and the stories that I am writing now are the best of my career. Really, the success that I have had is not based on talent. I know that there have always been more talented artist and writers than me applying for the projects that I’ve had over the years. I believe that the secret to success is to stick to it. To never quit and always keep your promises. Be a person of your word who can be counted on to get the project finished. If you stay busy, you will eventually get better and better and better at everything that you do. Repetition helps to pull the genius out of you and put it down on paper! It also helps if you remember that you are a professional, and therefore it is your job. A mortgage and a lovely spouse and children are wonderful igniters for your muse!!! And never forget the power of prayer. Don’t ever forget to thank God every single day for all that you have.
Oh, and hypothetically, if I could have any job in the world, I’ve got it!

L’IDEA: You founded the Guy Gilchrist Studios, and opened also a branch in Tokyo. What is their function?
GUY GILCHRIST: Back in the early 1990s, I was exploring the market for my cartoons and writing in Tokyo. We opened a branch office at that time and were quite successful with it! We were able to produce some Japanese versions of some of my children’s books and also work with the Japanese baseball clubs and the national soccer league on some cartoon mascot projects! My agent over there, Maseo Maruyama, keeps a desk there for me, although I have not been back in quite a few years. This now Nashville cat is looking forward to getting back over to Tokyo sometime soon.

nancy1L’IDEA: What are your projects for the near future? And for the long run?
GUY GILCHRIST: We’ve got some fantastic projects going right now! By the way, everything that I’m working on and I can show you is over at www.NancyandSluggo.com. For instance the brand-new Nancy comic book that we just published! It’s the first brand-new Nancy book in 20 years! We plan on putting out an entire line of all of the cartoons that I have done I’ve Nancy over the last 19 years. Also there’s a figurine line called Bearly Angels. They are sweet little statuettes of angel bears that have sayings to motivate you and to fill you with God’s love. We are working on a set of children’s books featuring these characters. We also have a Nancy Broadway show and a project with Dreamworks in development. It’s a very exciting time! My incredible wife, Teresa, is my partner in Nancy Entertainment LLC.
I have a full engagement calendar as a touring Motivational speaker. Traveling all over this country and being able to connect with people of all ages is probably my favorite thing to do! It is such an incredible joy to be able to share stories of my life with the Muppets and Nancy and all the cartoon characters that I have worked on, as well as tell the personal side of my life and how I started out as a poor child without a college education and eventually wound up as a guest of honor at the White House and beyond. It is always a great honor and blessing to be able to speak in front of audiences and connect that way. I am so, so lucky; so, so blessed. I’m hoping for a very long run.

 

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The World Seen Through a Dog’s Point of View. An Exclusive Interview with Paul Gilligan, author of Pooch Café

 

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Paul Gilligan with Poncho, the main character of Pooch Cafe

According to his website, http://www.poochcafe.com, Paul Gilligan’s affair with art began in 1970, in kindergarten, when he figured out that he stunk at sports and that art was his only other option for impressing chicks. Weaned on Mad magazine, super-hero comics and “Bloom County,” Paul attended Toronto’s Sheridan College for animation and illustration and took comedy writing at the Film Institute in Ottawa.
He tested out other jobs over the years such as gas jockey, carnie, night watchman and florist, before joining the Ottawa Citizen newspaper as its on-staff illustrator, where he won awards in both illustration and design. He also found work in advertising, editorial cartooning, storyboarding, comic books and animation, and finally set up shop in downtown Toronto as a free-lancer, where his roster of illustration clients grew to include the likes of Entertainment Weekly, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Disney, and Wired. During this time he created a number of strips, the culmination of which was Pooch Cafe.
Pooch was the first comic of the new millennium, debuting on Jan 1, 2000 with Copley News Syndicate. In 2003 it was picked up by Universal Press Syndicate, and since then it’s found its way into over 270 newspapers around the globe, including recent additions like London and Moscow.
Paul does not currently own a dog, but he skulks around dog parks doing research, and is an avid viewer of “Dogs With Jobs” and “Scooby-Doo” reruns.

L’IDEA: Paul, was being a cartoonist always your desire and aspiration?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I’m one of those lucky people who always knew what they wanted to do. I started copying Don Martin drawings out of MAD when I was in grade 3 and I was hooked. In grade 2 I said I wanted to be a baseball player or astronaut. In grade 3, artist.

poochcafe3ponchoL’IDEA: How did the comic strip Pooch Café came about and where does the name come from?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I tried a few other strips before Pooch, and the feedback I got was that the work was okay but the subject matter wasn’t sellable enough, the concepts were more outlandish and didn’t have a target demo. So I went: “Hmm, I don’t have a family, I don’t have a teenager, I’m not a senior, I’ve never worked in an office….” You sort of have to write what you know, so it was either a strip about dogs or a strip about a failed superhero-comic artist.
The premise of Pooch Café is that a dog’s happy relationship with his master is thrown into a tail spin when his master marries a “crazy cat lady” and they move into a house loaded with cats. The dog then finds solace at the local canine hangout where they discuss life among the humans and how to get rid of the “fuzzy virus”.
The name “Pooch Café” was a sort of pun on the obscure mixed brandy cocktail, the “pousse café.” The first person I ever mentioned the name to connected it immediately. And not a single other person since.

carmenL’IDEA: Do any of the human characters in Pooch Café carry any resemblance to people you know, whether as physical presence or as personality?
PAUL GILLIGAN: Not intentionally, although friends have said they hear my voice when they read Poncho’s words. Probably because I’ve been known to spin off on rants.

chazzL’IDEA: Has any of the main characters in Pooch Café changed their physical appearance from the early years?
PAUL GILLIGAN: Nothing substantial. Chazz used to have a pony tail, because I first envisioned him having some kind of “rad” occupation that he would force Poncho to tag along on. But that morphed into a more standard job and home life. Boomer’s eye used to not have a pupil, but I found adding one gave him more soul. Poncho’s ears used to touch his body, now they sort of hover magically over his head.

popooL’IDEA: You have been publishing Pooch Café for over 14 years now. Do you find it difficult to come up with new ideas?
PAUL GILLIGAN: The beauty of Poncho as a character is that he’s a dog when I need him to be, a buddy when I need him to be, a child when I need him to be. This helps facilitate a lot of material.


L’IDEA MAGAZINE
: Which character from your own strip do you identify yourself the most with?
PAUL GILLIGAN: For some reason I really identify with Poo Poo’s plight of being a little dog trying to protect the fire hydrant on his front lawn from other dogs.

poochcafebook1 poochcafebook3

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: There are four book on Pooch Café (Pooch Café: All Dogs Naturally Know How To Swim, Bark To Work Legislation, Poncho: Year One – A Puppy Life, and No Collar No Service.) Are they all collections of previously published strips? Will you in the future publish a graphic novel with Poncho as the main character?
PAUL GILLIGAN: Three of the books you mentioned are straight up collections, but “Year One” is a cross between a collection and a graphic novel. There was a 15-month-long stretch of strips where I took Poncho literally back to the womb and re-envisioning his formative puppy years, including the meeting of Boomer and Chazz, his first introduction to this magical thing called “meat”, and learning what it is that makes him hate cats so much. I then edited these strips and supplemented them with about 100 new panels to make the read flow as a graphic novel. I’d love to have time to do another one, but the right concept hasn’t struck me yet. I have to say, there were times when doing such a long storyline was difficult, but it was important to me to reinvigorate both the strip and my enthusiasm.

poochcafebook2

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Did you ever expect Pooch Café would have been so popular and in such a relative amount of time? What is your fan base like?
PAUL GILLIGAN: Like a lot of kids, I lay on the living room carpet reading the Sunday comics and dreaming of having my own strip one day. So pulling this off is the main reward by itself. It’s overall popularity is subjective, but I’m happy to be making a living. I think I have more of a cult following, which is code for a fanbase that’s small but fervent.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: In June of this year you debuted with another comic strip, Poptropica. Could you tell us how it came about and what is the storyline?
PAUL GILLIGAN: Poptropica is a popular website where players can create avatars and travel through a plethora of interesting islands. The website’s creator, Jeff Kinney (of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” fame) wanted a comic strip to go with it, and so he hired me to do the writing. There were pre-existing templates for the two main characters of Oliver and Jorge. I fleshed them out and gave them the motivation that they’re searching for a way out of Poptropica by traveling from island to island, kinda like that show “Quantum Leap”, like each time they hop to the next island it will be the one that leads them home.

A Poptropica strip

A Poptropica strip

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: In Poptropica you share the credits with Kory Merritt. How do you operate in the creation of the strip with him?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I do the writing, accompanied by thumbnails if necessary, and Kory pencils out the strips and runs them by me. I bring up any alterations that might be necessary for clarity, etc, and then he inks and colors the work. It’s been a fairly seamless collaboration thus far; Kory’s a great artist and super easy to work with.

L’IDEA: Some media projects a gloom future for newspapers in general and for newspapers’ comics in particular. Do you agree with their view?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I’m not really as up on this topic as perhaps I might be, considering my position in papers. But after the dip about 3-4 years back there seems to have been some stabilization. Perhaps this shows that papers will still be around in some form for a while yet.

L’IDEA: Are you at the moment working on any projects not involving Pooch Café or Poptropica?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I have an animated show in development, but I don’t want to say too much about it at this point, as it’s a years-long process.

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L’IDEA: You won several Studio Magazine and INMA Awards for illustration and a National Newspaper Award for design. Could you tell our readers something about that?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I worked as an on-staff illustrator at the Ottawa Citizen newspaper for many years. During that time I was encouraged by the paper to submit the work in various contests, and I came out with a few awards from that. This was quite some time ago and I used styles that were painted. I haven’t used paints in illustrations in about 15 years. When I struck out on my own as a freelancer my style became more cartoony, black brush lines and colored electronically.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: What are the comic strips that you believe influenced you the most? Who are the comic strip artists you admire the most and why?
PAUL GILLIGAN: I was influenced by the obvious guys, Larson, Watterson, Breathed and Shultz, but also by a lot of alternative comic book cartoonists, Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Chester Brown, The Hernandez Brothers. Those guys really influenced my writing as well, and the marriage of the words and art on the page, which is really what it’s all about. I was also heavily influenced by superhero comics, which was a passion from about 12-17, and can probably be seen at times in Pooch.

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L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Is Pooch Café also becoming an animated cartoon, soon?
PAUL GILLIGAN: Well, I sure wouldn’t mind if my animated show made it into production, I’d say that would be about as good as I can imagine.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Paul, if you could choose to meet a person, any person in history, regardless of time constrictions, who would that person be and why?
PAUL GILLIGAN: My father, as a twenty year old, in lower Manhattan, so we could go on an all night drinking binge together.

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The Argyle Sweater’s surrealistic view of life: An exclusive interview with cartoonist Scott Hilburn.

Scott Hilburn

Scott Hilburn

Scott Hilburn is the creator of The Argyle Sweater. Boasting a readership ranging from The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times to the Calgary Herald, Hilburn’s colorful cartoon panel fuses his visceral talent and bold pen stroke. What results is a cerebrally astute cartoon panel that comments on popular culture, human nature, and sporks in a clever, spontaneously rich way. It is a comic panel where one should expect the unexpected — where animals can talk, the imaginary becomes real and politicians tell the truth.

With more than one million greeting cards sold, Scott Hilburn’s The Argyle Sweater dresses-up the funny page with an argyle-wearing assortment of cavemen, bears, moths, and pompadour-having humans, along with an occasional evil scientist.
Born in 1971, Hilburn grew up in Garland, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Argosy University and began working towards his master’s in clinical psychology/professional counseling before interrupting his post-graduate studies to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a starving cartoonist. Hilburn and his family currently live in the Dallas area.

argyleTitleL’IDEA MAGAZINE: Scott, how did your first strip develop? Was it always a one-panelcartoon or have you attempted a four-panel cartoon in those now-far beginnings with ComicSherpa?
SCOTT HILBURN: I did try a drawing an unrelated strip once, but it was long before Comics Sherpa was around. The brief dalliance with that strip is what prompted me to try my hand at developing a single panel. I think most cartoonists are naturally better suited to drawing one or the other. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was in the ‘single panel’ category.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: You won a silver medal for your work in interactive media. Could you tell us something more about that?
SCOTT HILBURN: Wow, that was a lifetime ago! I worked in the training department of a major telecommunications company creating Flash based e-learning modules. My team consisted of two project managers, a web developer and myself (interactive/animation specialist). We entered one of our modules in what was considered to be one of the industry’s elite competitions and one a silver award (2nd place).

Argyle081206L’IDEA MAGAZINE: You certainly have a very diverse education: an A.A.S. degree in Computer Animation and Multimedia, a B.A. in Psychology and graduate work in Professional Counseling/Clinical Psychology. How did you go from Computer Animation to Clinical Psychology, especially considering your success with your cartoon work?
SCOTT HILBURN: Well, I’ve always wanted to become a cartoonist but after getting married and having kids, life kinda got in the way. Between a full time job and two kids, I was pretty busy. I had degrees in fields that interested me and leveraged them into a comfortable career.
However, after getting divorced, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time on my hands and decided that if I was ever to pursue my dream career, this was my opportunity.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Your biography states that you are single father of two young girls (the daughters are 11 and 13). How many ideas do you get from raising them?
SCOTT HILBURN: I’ve gotten a few ideas from something I’ve overheard my kids say or do, but honestly, not as many as you’d think. More often, my ideas come from pop culture, historical references or presenting animals or fairy tale characters with human settings and real life experiences.Argyle101203

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Is the surrealistic humor in The Argyle Sweater something that was always a part of your natural reaction to events? Specifically, is the cartoon an adaptation to your true personality or is it something that was refined through trial and error?
SCOTT HILBURN: I suppose it’s a little of both. I’ve always been kinda funny and had an offbeat sense of humor but I do think there was a brief maturation phase where I had to learn how to present those ideas on paper in a coherent way.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Were you always interested in becoming a cartoonist? Which ones were the strips that inspired you, impressed you and influenced you the most?
SCOTT HILBURN: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a cartoonist. I was influenced at different times by different comics. In my younger years I was drawn to the comics section because of the drawings. I liked the fluid strokes in Blondie and the clean lines in Beetle Bailey. As I grew older though, I became interested in comics for a different reason: the humor. By then, Larson was clearly one of my biggest influences – but I also read NYer cartoonists like Sam Gross and Tom Cheney. I was always impressed at how a single panel cartoonist could say so much in just one frame – especially when the humor is inferred and required some thought on the part of the reader. That “A-HA!” moment is something I try to create in my own cartoons.argyle061203

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Did you ever imagine that The Argyle Sweater would have been so popular and in such a relative amount of time?
SCOTT HILBURN: Never. I’m still surprised (and delighted) at it’s success.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Preparing a strip, or in your case a single panel, for a newspaper has some limitations in content tied to its medium, and the strip may be censored. Is this process allowing your full creativity to be expressed or is it restraining it?
SCOTT HILBURN: I think it’s very a slippery slope for me. I tend to prefer edgier/darker humor. However, because newspaper reader demographics skew a bit older, they’re also a bit more conservative. I usually draw whatever I think is funny and show my unfiltered ideas to my editors. I depend on them to let me know when a joke is too much for mainstream newsprint. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes we’re in agreement about a particular gag and move forward with it only to have a newspaper ask for a replacement. It is a bit stifling (and frustrating) to watch other mediums (like primetime tv) progress in it’s standards of acceptability while some newspapers still have an almost Puritan view.

Argyle140612L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Which ones are the contemporary comic strips you like the most and why?
SCOTT HILBURN: Like I said, most of the contemporary comics I like are a little edgier in their humor. Pearls Before Swine, Lio, Pooch Cafe’, Off the Mark.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Is this famous book of rejected gags still in the works?
SCOTT HILBURN: I’m still toying with the idea but I don’t think it’s something my publisher is interested in so if it happens it’ll have to be self-published – which requires a lot of extra time on my part. It may happen.

Argyle061204L’IDEA MAGAZINE: For a while, there was some controversy regarding your strip, mainly criticisms from Gary Larson’s fans who accused you of copying his drawing style and his humor (Note: there are objectively some similarities between the strips, but the originality of The Argyle Sweater has by now been proven by six years of uninterrupted hilarity). What has been your reaction to these accusations?
SCOTT HILBURN: As I mentioned, I was clearly influenced by Larson. But primarily in my style of humor and tone. As for my drawing style, the only thing I’ve intentionally borrowed from Larson was the “straight line” eyes. It gives my characters a sort of deadpan delivery that I love. Any other similarities in drawing style are unintentional.
And for every e-mail I’ve gotten that dislike any perceived similarities to The Far Side, I’ve gotten 50 that love my comic for the same reason.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Scott, are you now working full time as a cartoonist? Do you have any projects in the works at the moment? What about the near future? Do you expect to expand into novels or maybe another type of comics?
SCOTT HILBURN: I haven’t had a day job in 5 1/2 years and love being a full time cartoonist! As for other projects, I’m still looking for a way to share my rejected work. That might come in the form of a book or possibly even greeting cards. Not sure I’ll ever have time to devote to pursuing novels or other comics. I’m in awe of the cartoonists that can do that.

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A book by Scott Hilburn

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One of Scott Hilburn’s books.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: A lot of people claim newspapers, and comics with them, are doomed and will be completely replaced by the Internet. Do you agree with this gloomy view of the world?
SCOTT HILBURN: I suspect someday, that may indeed be the truth. My guess (maybe “hope” is more appropriate) is that it’s still a few decades away -but it wouldn’t surprise me to eventually see those predictions come to fruition.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Have you ever used people around you, such as friends or relatives, as characters (even though masked) in your strip?
SCOTT HILBURN: Not that I can think of. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t want them to know I was poking fun at them. Ha!

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: If you could be doing any jobs in the world, what would it be and why?
SCOTT HILBURN: You mean, besides the one I’m doing? I guess I’d like to be a pro baseball player. Who wouldn’t? They make millions of dollars to stay in shape, play a game that they love and travel. What a life!

Argyle121213L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Scott, if you could choose to meet a person, any person in history, regardless of time constrictions, who would that person be and why?
SCOTT HILBURN: There are a ton of historical figures I’d love to meet. But I couldn’t pick just one. It’d have to be three. The Three Stooges. I grew up watching them and think it’d be amazing to hear about their lives firsthand.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Do you have any hobbies?
SCOTT HILBURN: I love racquetball. I’m an insatiable history buff. And I’m a huge baseball fan.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Who is the cartoon artist you admire the most and why?
SCOTT HILBURN: I admire most of the cartoonists I grew up reading. They’re the reason I do what I do. I think I really fell in love with George Herriman’s art, though. I love Krazy Kat and Herriman’s art style is, for me, captivating.

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“Soup to Nutz,” A Family Affair: Exclusive Interview with Cartoonist Rick Stromoski

souptonutzbackgroundRick Stromoski is the creator of the popular daily comic strip “Soup to Nutz” and a successful book, magazine and greeting cards illustrator.
Rick’s work has appeared in national magazines, children’s and humor books, newspapers, licensed products, national advertising and network television.
Stromoski’s greeting cards have become best-sellers and he has received nominations for the prestigious Louie Award for outstanding greeting card design nine times, winning on four occasions. He has been nominated for his illustration work by the National Cartoonists Society 12 times and was awarded the Reuben division award for best greeting cards in 1995 and 1998, and for magazine gag cartoons in 1999. Elected to the board of the National Cartoonists Society in 1997, he has served as First Vice President and Membership Chairman, and was elected President by the NCS membership in 2005.
The first Soup to Nutz compilation book, Soup to Nutz: The First Course, was published by Andrews McMeel in 2002, while the second one, Soup to Nutz A Second Helping, was published by Soup to Nutz Publications in 2013. Stromoski has illustrated books for MacMillan, Workman, Irena Chalmers, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Candlewick Press, McGraw-Hill, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Grolier, Golden Books, Scholastic, Random House and Contemporary Books. He is also an award-winning winemaker, primarily producing German varietals. His wines have won medals including Best of Show in several national and local competitions.
Stromoski, his wife Danna and daughter Molly, along with their dog Rascal and fighting cats Sox and Shoes, live in the historic district of Suffield, Connecticut.

souptonutscats2L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Your biography lists various activities in which you are involved: greeting cards design, cartoons, illustrations, and others… Of the first three, which came first and how do they influence each other?
RICK STROMOSKI: I started my career selling single-panel gag cartoons to various magazines: Men’s magazine, women’s magazines, science, animal (pets), religious, Family etc. I realized I was able to transition many of the gags to greeting cards and sold several hundred to many companies. I also began promoting myself as a humorous illustrator since my conceptual skills were honed via writing single-panel gags, many of them captionless. This skill helped me gather work that required encapsulating the gist of an article in a single image. It also paid better.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Were you always interested in drawing?
RICK STROMOSKI: I’ve been cartooning since I was a small child…just loved drawing funny pictures…

Rick made several different wine labels over the years, basing them on the season or promotion. Here's one that Ihe made for the Reuben Awards, when he donated 500 split bottles of a white wine he made for the NCS convention goodie bags...

Rick made several different wine labels over the years, basing them on the season or promotion. Here’s one that Ihe made for the Reuben Awards, when he donated 500 split bottles of a white wine he made for the NCS convention goodie bags…

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: You are also an award-winning winemaker. How did that come about, what are the wines you produce, under what label are they sold, and where can they be found?
RICK STROMOSKI: Although it was an amazingly fun and fascinating experience, I no longer make wines. I learned from my father in law Don Gauntner, who has a vineyard in Eastern Pennsylvania. It isn’t a commercial winery, but sells his grapes and juice to commercial wine producers. The bulk of his grapes are reserved for amateur winemakers and he taught several dozen individuals how to produce premium German varietals: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Traminette, Mueller Thurgau as well as other white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal and Chardonnay. He also grows reds such as Pinot Noir, Chambourcin and Cabernet. My wife Danna and daughter Molly and I would visit the vineyard several times a year at various stages of the winemaking process: harvest, pruning, bottling, etc.
Eastern PA.’s climate is very similar to the wine producing regions of Germany so these wines did very well there. My father in law is the primary American Wine Society’s amateur wine producer in America winning more medals and awards in the past 20 years than any other amateur. His wines and the wines of those who have learned from him win the lion’s share of the medals and awards in every amateur competition they enter. It was a very fun and labor intensive experience for over 15 years and I learned a great deal from a master.
In recent years he’s committed his grapes to commercial producers so I no longer make wine, but maintaining a vineyard is an extreme labor commitment so I don’t blame him for cutting back. He earned the time off. He still produces his own wines for competition and personal consumption.

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L’IDEA MAGAZINE: You produced a comic strip named Mullets in the early 90s with Steve McGarry. What kind of arrangement was there between you and Steve? Was the writing a shared function? You are both illustrators; how did you share that job function?
RICK STROMOSKI: Working with Steve was enormously fun. We spoke daily and inevitably we’d both end up in a fit of laughter. Steve did most of the writing and I did the drawing. We’d tweak each other’s work, fine tuning ideas and composition. Steve did the color on Sundays and designed the promotional materials. They say write what you know, so a strip about two idiots was right up our alley. It lasted a year and although very popular where it appeared, failed to garnish enough sales to make it worthwhile.

50happensL’IDEA MAGAZINE: You published a few books in the 90s which are not available any more (Madame Wrinkleski Predicts…, 50 Happens! Humor Book, Face The Facts: 40 Happens!, Bad Dogs, Bad Cats, etc…) Were they all born as books or were they collections of single-panel cartoons? Is there any possibility of seeing reprints of those books?
RICK STROMOSKI: Some of these titles were novelty books with Birthday themes 24 or so pages long that had illustrated age related gags…almost glorified Birthday cards. The bad dogs and bad cats books were cartoon collections of captionless gags of dogs and cats doing bad things. I doubt any of the titles will be reprinted, although many of the images in the bad dogs and cats books found new life through licensing, appearing as greeting card lines, calendars, mugs, t-shirts etc. I also resold many of them as gags for cat/dog related magazines.

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L’IDEA MAGAZINE: In the two books Bad Cats and Bad Dogs, how much is pure observation of animals and how much is just fantasy?
RICK STROMOSKI: The images reflect the personalities of dogs and cats, but in an anthropomorphic way. Dogs are slightly dumb, cats are devious and aloof; I also touched on the natural animosity between cats and dogs, but exaggerating the situation ie: A cat luring a dog out an open window with a bone tied to a stick.

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L’IDEA MAGAZINE: You illustrated many books for other authors. Do you also pitch in with the ideas or they just tell you what kind of illustrations they want? Did you co-write any books?
RICK STROMOSKI: Publishers match me up with authors based on my style that fits with a particular manuscript. I have no input on the text but pretty much free to illustrate as I want. I am given guidelines and suggestions for images, but I also have input on what might work better.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Your comic strip Soup To Nutz is around since 2000. Have the characters changed a lot, whether physically or as personality, through the years?
RICK STROMOSKI: Their personalities have pretty much remained the same. Royboy is a boneheaded buffoon, Babs is the intellectual politically correct vegan and Andrew is the kind hearted, sweet Barbie playing Nancy boy. As with most comic strips that have been around for over a decade, physically the characters have changed significantly. One can’t help but evolve one’s drawing style with repetition, you fine tune the line and the characters take on a more consistent look. If you look at Peanuts or the Simpsons, the characters have gone through significant changes from the beginning.

A september7, 2000 strip with the original characters...

A september7, 2000 strip with the original characters…

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Soup To Nutz is extremely popular. I have to confess that I read it every day and I noticed that there really is a feeling of the interaction between siblings that is genuine. How much influence did growing up in a large family have on the content of the strip?
RICK STROMOSKI: Growing up in a family of twelve children has influenced me tremendously. My siblings and the collective experiences are the primary sources of my material. I also draw from my experience as a Dad, but mostly Soup to Nutz is about my family and how we interacted over the years. I remember at every family gathering, whether it be Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthdays, we’d sit around the dining room table and share stories that horrified our parents, they having no idea the things we were up to. Having that many kids in a household lends itself to sheer havoc and lunacy and a wealth of material to draw from. Every one of us has a healthy sense of humor so I’ve yet to run out of ideas after fourteen years.

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L’IDEA MAGAZINE: In Soup To Nutz, are the characters from the strip completely fictional or have you used people you know as models?
RICK STROMOSKI: Most of the characters are based on people I’ve known in my life. Some are a pastiche of my siblings and others are based on kids from the neighborhood. Bucky is that kid we all knew who just made up the most fantastic lies about himself and his family, all the while hiding the tragedy that his Dad left him and his Mom when he was a baby. Rosemary is the Tourette girl who spouts nonsense words, spits and shows her affection for Andrew by kicking him in the ankles. Buford is the cousin who flinches a lot and is always afraid when visiting his cousins.souptonutz1

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: What has been your experience with Network Television?
RICK STROMOSKI: I tend to watch cable these days, but will watch CBS and NBC for their sports coverage. I did the cartoons for a CBS television movie comedy starring Jill Clayburgh as a divorcing cartoonist called “Who Gets The Friends”. Jill played a freelance cartoonist who would talk to the camera, relaying the trials of her upcoming divorce while drawing on a sketchpad, table cloth, napkin, garage door etc., and then the camera would focus on the drawing as the scene would bleed into real life. For instance, Jill would be drawing a gorilla playing tennis and it would bleed into James Farentino serving a ball. There were about 15 – 20 of these throughout the movie and I even got a cameo for about 6 seconds. It was a wonderful experience and the easiest $ I ever made in 2 weeks.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Are you working on any special projects at this time? What about the near future; any projects in the works?
RICK STROMOSKI: I’ve finished my syndicated strips for all of 2014 so I have a nice cushion that allows me to work on a few projects that have been on the back burner. One being a graphic novel about my late mother. There are a couple of children’s books proposals I’d like to work on as well.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: You were President of the National Cartoonists Society, and before that you were on the Board of that organization. How hard was the job and what were your duties? Did you find it difficult to juggle that job along with all your other ones?
RICK STROMOSKI: From 1997 to 2014 I’d been an NCS volunteer in some capacity. I was membership Chairman, Awards co-ordinator, 3rd and 2nd VP, President and finally President of the NCS Foundation. It was like a second job, especially around awards time. Duties as membership chairman was to review applications for membership, establish applicants as professionals and co-ordinate with the committee that reviewed potential new members. As awards chairman I co-ordinated instructions to awards juries, answered untold questions from juries and applicants, oversaw the production of the actual awards hardware, actually designed the Gold Key award (Hall of fame) when it was reinstated , designed and issued certificates of nomination to the nominees and mailed out nomination ballots and final ballots to the membership. I’d also have to contact members in arrears with their dues and gently remind them we can’t do what we do without their help. When we roasted one of our luminaries for the saturday night show, for months before hand I would solicit and gather original art from the membership that gently skewered them, have them bound in a portfolio to present to the roastee as a gift from the membership.
As NCS President I would visit potential sites for our Awards weekend for up to 500 members visiting cities and 5 diamond hotels all over the United States. I would plan the convention meeting with hotels negotiating dates, food and beverage prices, accomodations, travel, VIP details, oversee the awards night, seek sponsorship and host several events and parties for sponsors and members. I’d also write a monthly column for the newsletter as well as oversee budgets, income and the organizations finances and investments. At times it felt like herding cats.

rickstromoskichildren2L’IDEA MAGAZINE: What were the comic strips that influenced you the most? Who are the comic strip artists you admire the most and why?
RICK STROMOSKI: I was more influenced by the art and writing of MAD magazine than comic strips due to the variety of creators in every issue. The variety of styles was a big eye opener for me and I learned a lot just from the art in MAD. I loved its irreverance towards popular culture, religion and politics…there were no sacred cows in MAD. I loved Jack Davis’s sports illustrations, Don Martin’s hands and feet, Sergio Aragones’ margin pantomime drawings, Paul Coker’s Horrifying Cliches, Dave Berg’s Lighter side, Al Jaffees foldouts and Mort Drucker’s incredible line and how he captured caricature so effortlessly. It showed me that there were more than one way to draw funny.
If I had to pick comic strips that influenced me I’d have to say I was drawn to the clean lines of Reg Smyth’s Andy Capp and the insanity of Bil Holman’s Smokey Stover… I loved that there was so much else going on in the background’s of Holman’s strip that had nothing to do with the strip idea itself…a picture in the backgound of a sinking ship from one panel to the next, the odd language and the punnish signage…loved it!

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: If you could have any job in the world, no questions asked, what would it be?
RICK STROMOSKI: Exactly what I’m doing now, but I suspect this is a loaded question.

L’IDEA MAGAZINE: Do you have any writers who you would love to illustrate the books for, but you did not have the opportunity to?
RICK STROMOSKI: Not necessarily, but when my daughter was born and I began buying picture books for her, I was particularly drawn to Chris Van Alsberg’s work. His stories were beautifully drawn but they were also just a tad eerie. Both my daughter and I could’t get enough of his work. They always had a moral point to make but did so in a slightly twisted way. I consider him the Rod Serling of childrens books.

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Guido Mattioni’s “Whispering Tides” makes the reader a protagonist

cover1A novel that will touch your heart, Guido Mattioni’s Whispering Tides has the power within its well-crafted narrative to make the reader a protagonist, not merely a spectator, by triggering sensations that may have seemed to be forgotten but were just like fire under the ashes, waiting for a chance to take over. The yearning for a “natural paradise governed by the breath of the tides” may at first remind us of the Yeoman’s Myth, but it really has no similarity to it. Alberto Landi, the protagonist of the story, an Italian journalist from Milan, is just trying to recreate the environment in which he lived with his wife of 23 years, recently deceased, by moving to the place that they both loved, Savannah, Georgia. He does so in the attempt to find the peace, serenity, sense of belonging that he felt there with his wife, a somewhat futile endeavor, one would think, since that serenity came from being with a loved one in an ideal place loved by both, and now he is alone; the story develops, instead, as a fruitful search, and Alberto seems to find all the required components for that much longed peace of mind, the tranquility he needs and wants. Savannah is his new love and everything will be all right, or so it seems.

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The chronicle of his search for a house is intriguing, since the novelist uses this excuse to offer his view of that marvelous city, describing it with details that will certainly entice the reader to go visit it, spending long descriptions on diners, waterways, bird personalities and local characters, items that certainly would be missed by tour operators and even a well-written guidebook.

The author certainly has the suitable familiarity of that city, since he is an honorary citizen of Savannah, and his love for it is genuine and as deep as the protagonist’s, who is actually modeled after him. We could assert that this is almost an autobiographical book, but since we know from the book cover that the author lives in Milan, the decision of the main character, at the beginning of the story, to move to Savannah throws us for a spin and makes us deny that possibility, which arises then and again through the book. The mixture of real and invented characters is optimal and creates the ideal milieu for a valid, well-balanced novel, and Mattioni succeeds in making the readers believe to the various developments of the narrative, surprising them at the end with an unexpected twist…

Whispering Tides was originally published in Italian as “Ascoltavo le Maree”
The characters are detailed, well described and gauged in their actions and motives, allowing for a pleasant reading, and the love for this Southern city is pervasive, almost obsessive. We can rightly affirm that this book is about love: love for a city, love for a partner, love for a way of life, and love for all the small things that make life worth living. The writer conveys his thoughts and feelings effectively and convincingly, making this book a certain winner.

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