Greg Evans, Creator of Luann

29 October 2004

   He might feel “not worthy,” but Greg Evans was found “most worthy” by the National Cartoonists Society. The skilled cartoonist of Luann was awarded the distinguished and desired Cartoonist of the Year Award for 2003 at the NCS ceremonies held in Kansas City in May of 2004. Greg Evans had been honoured with nominations six times during his cartooning career and finally reached the lofty pinnacle of The Reuben.

    Art has always been a part of Greg Evans’ life. “I guess I was born with the Cartooning disease because I’ve drawn cartoons for as long as I can remember,” he stated on the Luann website. *(1) In 1970, he earned a BA in Art from Cal State University at Northrop, teaching high school art after graduation. Comic strip ideas were beginning to brew in his mind. Greg and his wife Betty taught for two years in Australia, later moving back to the USA and making their home in Colorado.

    While working at a Colorado Springs television station as a graphic artist and promotions manager, Greg began magazine cartooning. After moving to San Diego, he continued working up comic strip ideas, sending in a dozen before finding any Syndicate acceptance. His first strips, Greg said on nctimes.com, were just imitations of other strips and about things he was unfamiliar with. (He never worked in a circus or a police department.) The best ideas for a comic strip, Greg found, were right in front of him.

Luann 1

    The inspiration in front of him was Karen, his then-six-year-old daughter. Taking observations of her life and her older brother, Gary's, Greg found a continuous source of ideas. Then, with a little artistic engineering such as making the main character a young teen, Greg created Luann. (He did not use incidents from his three kids’ lives; Luann’s life has always been different from that of his own teenagers.) Somehow, Greg has a true understanding of a teenage girl’s life and it rings true with the many Luann fans.

    The Luann comic strip was accepted by the News America Syndicate and danced into print on March 17, 1985. Greg's dream of being a cartoonist was fulfilled. After mergers and amalgamations, the popular strip was with King Features briefly and now makes its home with United Media Syndicate.

    Though the heart of a comic strip is to entertain, Greg takes on all sorts of teenage angst and controversial issues to inform and educate, including the onset of menstruation (handled with great finesse), cancer, drug abuse and drunk driving. School, family, friends and relationships fill in the humour along with Puddles the dog. Expanding on teen experiences, Greg updated and aged Luann a few years ago to 16 from 13. But, he is determined not to continuously age the characters as in “For Better or For Worse,” but to keep Luann and its young cast members in their teen years.

    With his own teenagers now grown and moved on, Greg keeps in touch with the teenage life through television, magazines and by “being observant at the mall.”*(2) He prefers a good plot line to a quick laugh, but tries to have a mix of fun and seriousness. Greg realizes that he just can’t please everyone.

Luann 2

    To create Luann, Greg sketches out his ideas in the rough, then uses a computerized comic strip layout to write the script. (His handwriting has been digitized to make his own font.) Greg then prints out the strip-in- progress on standard legal-size paper. He draws in the cartoon art, occasionally doing the shading by hand, and outlines the dialogue bubbles, also by hand. He scans the strip into the computer for the finishing touches of shading and colouring. When a week of strips is complete, the whole works are “modemed” to the United Media Syndicate. Greg faithfully stays two months ahead, keeping a Monday to Friday schedule. He prefers to draw in the morning and write in the afternoon.

    A sign of this comic strip's popularity, aside from appearing in over 400 newspapers and growing, is the huge support received from fans. In early 1995, the strip did a school fashion show series. On January 14, 1995, Greg called for readers to submit their ideas.

   Much to his surprise, Greg and his syndicate were swamped with FIFTEEN THOUSAND sketches, in the form of crayon drawings, photos and computer art. With the help of his syndicate, Greg came up with the idea of creating one week’s drawings in four zones around the US, so that the submitted drawings would be featured in their own areas. It was four times the work for a week, but it was also a first in cartooning.

    Look for Luann comics collections in several books, the latest two being “Luann: Curves Ahead”, published by Andrews McMeel Publishers in 2003 and “Dates and Other Disasters: A Luann Collection”, Andrews McMeel, 2004. Luann has been adapted into a musical stage production, along with a serious play entitled “The Trouble With Derek”, a story of a drug-user from the comic strip. There is also the possibility of Luann showing up on television in a live-action sit-com some time in the future.

    Greg Evans will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Luann in March 2005. The cartoonist and his wife Betty live in San Marcos, California.

    Congratulations on the Reuben, Greg. You are definitely worthy!

Read more about Greg Evans and get the daily Luann (surf around – there is a lot of good stuff here):
*(1) http://www.comics.com/comics/luann/html/about_author.html

An interview with Greg Evans on Washington Post’s Live Online:
*(2) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6802-2004Jun1.html

Some great advice of “do’s and don’ts” for aspiring cartoonists from Greg Evans:
http://www.comics.com/comics/luann/html/become_cartoonist.html

Photo and article about Greg Evans:
http://starbulletin.com/2002/02/10/features/story8.html

© Susanna McLeod 2004
TheCartoonists.ca  
     
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)