Susanna McLeod, Make Way - New Comic Strips Coming Through

20 February 2004

   Inch by inch and rung by rung, new comic strips are making their way up the ladder of syndication and leaping into publication. The older strips dominate the funny pages with beloved standards such as Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Peanuts and Dennis the Menace. It is pretty hard to elbow in between them with their huge fan bases of support. Newspaper editors are leery of making changes and dread upsetting their readers, but cartoonists with fresh ideas aren’t given up. Here’s a quick look at several newer entries to tickle your smile button:

   Using a plot line like no other strip, Lost Sheep made its debut through Comics Sherpa, Ucomics “incubator website.” Lost Sheep features the escapades of George, a sheep who left the flock to seek a better life. George befriended Joe, a human, and has taken up residence with him along with a parrot that they rescued from a pet shop. Sounds puzzling but it’s very entertaining with the sheep and parrot attempting to fit into a human world, giving Joe both advice and trouble. Creator Dan Thompson is a professional cartoonist with a background in character design, animation clean-up and a portfolio of cartooning work in magazines and websites. Thompson submitted his innovative comic strip to Comics Sherpa in the summer of 2003 and has now become syndicated by uclick. Dan Thompson lives in Western Connecticut with his wife Kari.

http://www.ucomics.com/lostsheep/

Lost Sheep

    With a degree in Film from Calfornia State, Northridge, Michael Jantze is a creative fellow, working for heavy-weight companies such as Industrial Light + Magic and PC World Magazine, and as a freelance filmmaker and writer. Jantze developed his The Norm comic strip “during these dark years” of working, as he tells it. The Norm focuses on the amusement of Norm’s modern life as a young married man working at a rather unsuccessful publishing house, and whose in-laws have moved in right next-door. King Features Syndicate describes The Norm as “a fairly new comic entry on U.S. comics pages and becoming a fan favorite. It reaches hip readers with strong art and storylines and character-driven humor. The fact that Michael draws cute women doesn't hurt either. The Norm.com Web site is considered one of the most innovative sites on the Internet. For instance, Norm’s daily journal uniquely adds depth to each day’s strip.” Visit http://www.thenorm.com/how/ for a fascinating look at how Jantze draws his strip. The talented  Michael Jantze and his family live in Dallas, Texas.

http://www.gocomics.com/thenorm/

   The prominent issues of the day are the focal point for the comic strip Candorville, featuring a diverse cast of characters living in the inner city. The strip dives into the difficult questions of poverty, homelessness, bigotry, racial issues and many serious topics in an “upbeat way.” Beginning with a web audience and readers in African-American newspapers, creator Darrin Bell has earned a growing fan audience. With syndication since 2003 through the Washington Post Writers Group, Candorville is now appearing in many newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune, LA Times and in Spanish edition of the Dallas Morning News, Al Dia. Candorville has wonderful art and expression, and handles tender life issues with a great amount of heart. Darrin Bell is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Science. He continues to work as an editorial cartoonist and co-creator of Rudy Park, a comic strip syndicated through United Features. He and his fiancée live in Oakland, California.

http://www.comics.com/wash/candorville/

http://www.candorville.com/

   The title of this last strip says it all: Bo Nanas. Even the name is funny. Bo Nanas is the creative invention of John Kovaleski, a freelance cartoonist since 2001. (He previously worked as an advertising illustrator among other jobs.) He had almost given up on finding syndication for his creations when at the last moment before deadline, sent in a submission to the WP Group’s Fine Toon Fellowship. On the Bo Nanas website, he tells how he finally found his place in the newspapers: “I dust off the few meager notes and gags for the monkey strip and get to writing in the weeks before the deadline. I do all the art for 24 strips in three days and barely make it to Fed Ex. I'm not happy with the outcome. Not sure about the concept or the gags and the art feels rushed. I describe it as ‘ a load of crap’ (only I didn't say ‘crap’) and I write the whole experience off.” To the cartoonist’s surprise, the entertaining comic strip, centred on a three-foot-tall talking monkey with ears like an elephant and a face like no other, caught the editor’s eye. Kovaleski won the Fine Toon contest for 2002 and hasn’t looked back.

http://www.bonanas.com/

   These are just a few of the successful cartoonists who have made the difficult journey into publication. There are plenty of artists waiting patiently at the bottom to climb up that same long ladder and join them in the newspapers. Maybe we should suggest to Editors that they double their space for comics and double their readers’ fun, too.

Cartooning Update: Bonanas ended in August, 2007.

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