Kevin Fagan, Creator of Drabble

6 September 2002

    “When I started Drabble, I was Norman: insecure, awkward and always embarrassing myself,” Kevin Fagan, creator of Drabble, said on the United Media web site. “Now I find I identify more with Ralph. He’s also insecure, awkward and always embarrassing himself, but he’s older and doesn’t care so much anymore.” *(1) The cartoonist was afraid he would run out of ideas, but instead has had a steady stream of inspiration - from his own life.

    Kevin Fagan constructed the framework for Drabble, a cartoon of a socially inept college student, while he was a history major at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). He created comic doodles as a young boy and his artistic streak continued throughout his school years. School newspapers at Saddleback College and then The Hornet at CSUS published his early work. Initially, Fagan was not paid for his comic strip by the student paper because he refused the payment offered by then-editor Rick Holloway. The cartoonist was in fear that the money offered per strip would run out and his cartoon would no longer be printed. (Neil, a character in Drabble, is based on Rick Holloway.) He needn't have worried. Fagan's comics appeared in the State Hornet paper for two years. *(2)

    Editors at the Sacramento Union newspaper noticed Fagan’s cartoons with interest, and offered him a spot in their newspaper. He accepted, and this time took the payment of $5 per strip. Using his published clips, Fagan took the advice of Charles Schulz, creator of "Peanuts" and one of his favourite cartoonists, and mailed his artwork to the syndicates. Nine months later, United Features Syndicate put forward a contract for Drabble. The cartoon made its grand debut in 1979.

Drabble
Drabble2

   Only three courses short of a degree,Fagan left CSUS to become one of the youngest syndicated cartoonists. (Al Capp was also one of the youngest at age 19, with his cartoon "Colonel Gilfeather", under Associated Press in the late 1920s.) Drawing the comic strip of the Drabblefamily’s silly escapades has been Fagan’s on-going career. Adding to the inspiration, Kevin and his wife have three children. The family resides in Mission Viejo, California.

    For creating such a funny cartoon with loads of humour, well-developed characters, good clear drawings and a solid fan base, it is surprising that awards are not lining the cartoonist’s wall. There seems to be a dearth of recognition for Drabble, other than an NCS nomination in 1996 for Best Greeting Cards. Kevin Fagan’s work was published in a line of cards he created for Recycled Paper Greetings.

    And that strong fan base isn’t composed of only individual readers. Fagan drew a series of strips in which the father character, Ralph, found his dream job of working in a doughnut store. Doughnut giant Krispy Kreme noted the resemblance to their stores, and were so thrilled that the company bought the signed original strips. Fagan had no idea what the delicious doughy business planned for his art. He found the comic series of 12 original strips framed and hung on the walls of a Krispy Kreme store in Orange, CA. He was elated.

    Kevin Fagan found his own personality showing through, first in Norman and now in Ralph, Norman’s father. If Drabble continues its success for another 23 years, perhaps fans will find Fagan penning himself in as a cartoon Grandpa, too.

Cartooning has been a pretty good career move for this comics artist who said, "I didn't set out to be a cartoonist, I just fell into it." *(2)

Collections of the Drabble comic strip have been published in seven books, from “Dad, I’m an Elvis Impersonator” by Pharos/Topper Books in 1991 to the latest, “Drabblations” by NBM in 1999.

See the Drabble family daily at the United Features site:
*(1) http://www.comics.com/comics/drabble/

The Hornet article on Kevin Fagan:
*(2) csus.edu/hornet/archive/spring98/number54 (Link no longer active.)

© Susanna McLeod 2002
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)