Chad Carpenter, Creator of Tundra

September 7, 2007

    For many cartoonists, it is often enough work to devise a cartoon that passes muster, feel the daily pressure of coming up with humour that will touch a funny bone and then create the consistent art required for strips or panels. Some don't mind handing their work over to a syndicate to handle the stress of marketing and selling comics across the continent, all at the price of a hefty split of fees, of course. But Chad Carpenter, creator of Tundra, is making a success of his comic panel on his own terms with self-syndication.

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    Chad Carpenter took the advice of a friend he met while living for a short while in Sarasota, Florida. "Do what you know" was the solid advice of Mike Peters, creator of "Mother Goose and Grimm." What Chad knew was living in the beautiful, expansive state of Alaska, the nature and the animals surrounding a scattering of urban places. And he knew the people living there, some who were there for generations, others tenderfeet from the south, not used to Alaska and its northern lifestyle, so different from the rest of the USA. "People are out of their element there," he told the, "so there's lots of material."

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    He packed up and returned to his northern home state, and got to work on Tundra, building a comic that produces big smiles and belly-laughter.

   The Anchorage Daily News was the first newspaper to take on Tundra for its comics line-up in 1991. Success bred success and before long, other newspapers took an interest. "It's kind of a snowball effect. The more papers we get in, the more likely another paper will pick it up to say, 'Ok, these guys [are] doing it well, it must be OK', said Chad on in 2006.

    To keep up the pace, Chad took on a "salesman" to make the rounds of newspapers Canada and the United States. A friend of Chad's, Bill Kellogg made successful trips around the continent; Tundra now appears in the comics sections of over 80 newspapers, with a goal of 100 in the near future. Another unique side of Tundra is that chad Carpenter invites readers to send in suggestions for the panel, and occasionally uses the ideas, adding the name of the submitter. It's a great way to keep reader interest at a higher level.

    The 39-year-old cartoonist creates his quirky characters and action at his kitchen table, moving to the bedroom to work when his kids arrive home from school. His individual style of cartooning has helped him pick up projects with the United States Navy, the Alaska State Troopers and the National Association of Search and Rescue. Tundra stuff includes a dozen books, t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, note cards, bumper stickers and more.

    Of course, there are always detractors. Not all editors are thrilled with Tundra, and it has been refused or pulled from the funny pages. "They said it's not the kind of strip we want representing our paper," Chad told Some of the panels may be harsh for readers, some considered disgusting. Others find the cartoon to be a huge laugh.

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   With a spark of humour that is not seen elsewhere on the average day, a flair for cartooning art and good, clear writing, Tundra is a delightful, colourful comic panel... even if you don't want to see a critter's bum frozen onto a fire hydrant or someone in an out-house.

    The Carpenter family of Chad, his wife Karen and three children make their home in the town of Wasilla in the glorious Matanuska Valley of Alaska, south of Anchorage. Chad, his brother and co-author Darin Carpenter, or other member of his family can often be found at the Weekend Markets in Fairbanks and Anchorage, meeting fans and selling Tundra goods.

    Cheers to Chad for successful self-syndication and hopes for many more newspaper readers to giggle with Tundra. I think its great!

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See Chad's delightful site at:

More information at these sites:
The Daily Cartoonist

KTUU, Alaska's News and Information Source

© Susanna McLeod 2007