NEA Holiday Special 2006-Cow and Boy, Created by Mark Leiknes

December 1, 2006

    Hurray! It's that festive time again, when the Newspaper Enterprise Association chooses a cartoonist to celebrate Christmas with a special comics event. This Christmas, let's enjoy the endearing, heart- warming storyline by Mark Leiknes, creator of "Cow and Boy". But don't delay; "Cow and Boy and the Quest for Santa " is already underway and available for only a short while. It truly is a Christmas special.

   Mark Leiknes himself is pretty "special", too. In his early 30s, he is in the amazing position of having his comic strip picked up for syndication less than a year ago and now finds it in the enviable position of NEA Holiday Special. An honour, indeed.

    "Cow and Boy " is an intelligent, funny comic strip that explores the friendship between a youngster and one of the cows on the family farm. (The cow not only talks but makes perfect, intellectual sense.) Billy's father, a farmer, his mother and his sister are not thrilled that his best friend is a large bovine, but as the basis for a cartoon, it is an ingenious springboard to much thought-provoking hilarity.

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Cow and Boy and the Quest for Santa

    Mark Leiknes attended Iowa State University, studying Graphic Design. (He also participated in a sketch comedy troupe through the University.) He had always wanted to be a cartoonist, right from the age of six years old. By the time he was in his teen years, he had submitted many strips, earning only rejection after rejection. Leiknes found work as a freelance graphic designer while continuing to follow his dream of cartooning. He noted on that when he was about to be a father, he "kept seeing that six-year- old version of myself drawing comics in his bedroom, and I thought how crushed he would be to find out that I had given up on our dream."

   He tried again.

    "Cow and Boy " at last tickled the editors' ribs. The uncomplicated, sleek art combined with a more complicated theme is reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson, and a little like Opus and Bill, by Berke Breathed. "Cow and Boy" began syndication under the United Features banner on January 2, 2006. The subject of farm living, it is near to the life-style Leiknes would like to have for himself some day.

   Moving east after making their home in Los Angeles for five years, the Leiknes family - including new baby Lucy - now live in the MidWest. (Mark's wife Lisa is an English teacher at a middle school.)

   To create this year's Christmas Special, Leiknes dealt with the issues of childhood and the existence of Santa Claus. Given the task of determining Santa's status, Billy and Cow go on a journey, exploring their own beliefs and philosophies, and those of others. "Millions of young kids are brought up believing in Santa, and it always bothers me when one of those kids who is in such a hurry to grow up tries to ruin the mystery of Santa Claus for the others," said Leiknes on

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    Congratulations and best wishes to Mark Leiknes, for a long and satisfying career in the Funny Pages.

   Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good read!

    Visit "Cow and Boy", daily and Sunday:

    Visit "Cow and Boy and the Quest for Santa " at:

© Susanna McLeod 2006