Chip Sansom, Creator of The Born Loser

16 May 2003

   We all have bad days, humiliating episodes and moments of exasperation that make us feel as if we were born losers. But the designation of The Born Loser doesn’t suit quite everyone. Chip Sansom, creator of the The Born Loser comic strip and son of Art Sansom, the cartoon’s originator, feels that he is more of a “Born Winner.” *(1)

    The Born Loser has been a mainstay in newspapers since 1965. Chip Sansom’s father, Art Sansom Jr., was a staff artist for twenty years with the Newspaper Enterprise Association Syndicate (NEA). He would step in and draw the comic strips of other cartoonists when they were away or ill, giving him a huge bank of cartooning skills. The syndicate noticed Art’s talent for drawing and humour, and they asked him to create a strip of his own. The Born Loser was the product of that request. The cartoon was built on an enduring cast of characters, the lead being the badgered “loser” Brutus Thornapple, with whom all readers can sympathize at one time or another. Fans are able to “relate to the awkward situations in which he finds himself. When they are happening to someone else, these predicaments become humourous,” Chip Sansom said about his father’s cast of characters. *(2)

Sansom1

    Chip Sansom – officially born Arthur Sansom III in July, 1951 - was 14 years old when his father began The Born Loser strip. He assisted his father around the studio with answering fan mail, erasing and inking, and by providing gag ideas. (Unlike a few other cartoonists, both Sansoms readily accepted the suggestions provided by family and friends for a good laugh.) By the time Chip completed his studies in English and Management Studies and graduated from Case-Western Reserve University, he was ready to take on more of the work on The Born Loser. He began his official cartooning apprenticeship on the comic strip in 1974.

    For 15 years, Chip shared the daily work of creating the popular cartoon with his father at their Lakewood, Ohio home studio. Art Sansom died in 1991, leaving the strip in the capable hands of his son. Chip took up the mission with the blessing of the syndicate with the only instruction being to not make any immediate changes. As time has passed, Chip has kept the style and personality of the characters true to his father’s design and updated the backgrounds and props to maintain a modern look. The characters now do not smoke or drink (also as with the characters in the Beetle Bailey strip by Mort Walker). They do enjoy time on the computer and other timely experiences. The changes appeal to long-time fans and new readers, too.

    The Born Loser is drawn in the same studio of the same home overlooking Lake Erie as when Chip was his father’s apprentice, but now his wife Brooke and daughters Jacqueline and Isabel (ages 21 and 9) provide the studio help and gag ideas. The strip is drawn a month in advance of deadlines and Sundays are drawn six weeks ahead to allow for colouring. Chip sketches, draws and letters the strips by hand. He uses his computer only for scanning and forwarding his work to the syndicate.

    Appearing in more than 1300 newspapers around the world under the United Media Syndicate, The Born Loser is read in 30 countries and translated into many languages. The “everyman” concept of the strip is recognized and enjoyed universally.

    Chip Sansom’s artistic streak also lends itself to other areas of his life. He is the talented bass guitarist for the “Rockin’ Ravers,” playing the local clubs in Cleveland. Chip also supports the Ohio Literacy Network with his comics work. “I feel very strongly about the cause of literacy and do whatever I can to promote it,” Sansom said on the Washington Post’s Online Chat in April 2002.

    If you examine the comic strip closely, you may find details from Chip’s university days or some other reference to the Cleveland vicinity. You just may see Brutus wearing a Case-Western Reserve University sweatshirt. The cartoonist gathers many of the ideas for the comic strip from personal experiences but none are based on any particular person.

Sansom2

    The National Cartoonists Society rewarded the Sansom cartoonists and The Born Loser with the treasured Reuben honour twice for “Best Humour Strip,” in 1987 and 1991. The strip has been nominated a total of six times. They are definitely "born winners."

The Washington Post Live Online chat with Chip Sansom:
*(1) http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/02/cartoon_041902.htm

Scroll down to find the article on Chip Sansom:
*(2) http://www.cwru.edu/pubs/cwrumag/winter2002/alumnijournal/textonly/index.shtml

Home base for The Born Loser:
http://www.comics.com/comics/bornloser/index.html

An article about the original creator, Art Sansom:
http://www.lkwdpl.org/lore/lore28.htm

© Susanna McLeod 2003
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)