Phil Dunlap, Creator of "Ink Pen"

July 30, 2010


Just like the rest of us, it seems cartoon characters need jobs. Some of them have been out of work of work for a while. Like many of us, the superheros, the farm animals and the fading stars are ready to get back to business. And who is looking for wacky workers? A temporary agency, of course. The imaginative and enticing plot comes from the creative mind of Phil Dunlap in his delightfully funny comic strip, "Ink Pen".


It must have been a classic comics moment. While filling out the time slip for his temporary job, Phil Dunlap virtually had a light bulb light up over his head. Trying to come up with a theme for a new comic strip isn't easy, but there it was right before him - a temp agency!

Originally, said Dunlap on a telephone interview with Comics Coast to Coast, there would be only two regular characters running the agency: the once-child-star rat and now agency talent coordinator, Fritz, and his partner, Bixby, who promotes "adorable cartoon mascots." The rest of the cast would be "one-off characters." But plans would change. The stars became a larger slate of regulars, and Dunlap would save the new faces for when he was out of ideas (a common comic strip measure to keep reader - and cartoonist - interest engaged).

Showing his work to his wife and friends, he was encouraged to use his imaginative characters in further plot lines. Dunlap's wife particularly enjoyed Hamhock, the sweet and vulnerably funny fame-seeking pig who has nearly stolen the strip away from the other stars.

Ink Pen by Phil Dunlap  

"Ink Pen" is not Dunlap's first comic strip. Catching the bug while drawing for his high school newspaper, he mastered the craft of cartooning by producing "Living Joke," a feature that appeared in weekly alternative newspapers. The cartoon did not find a foot hold, being, said Dunlap, too racy for general newspapers and too lame for the alternative weeklies. The effort wasn't wasted, though. Dunlap's sense of humour is acute and his drawing skills those of a professional.

Sending in the required submission package of six weeks' of dailies and Sunday's to several syndicates, Dunlap caught the eye of Universal Press editors. He was signed to an 18-month development contract in which he was required to submit two weeks of roughs each month as a "dry run for doing the real strip," Dunlap noted. Already well-thought out, "Ink Pen" did not require much adjustment or fine tuning. Skipping the step of first appearing for customer evaluation on GoComics, "Ink Pen" went directly to syndication.

Cartoonist Phil Dunlap, Ink Pen, Universal Press

Hitting the funny pages in 2005, "Ink Pen" has gained a strong foothold in the cartoon arena. Praised for its unusual premise, great artwork and "Ink Pen's" ability to evoke giggles, it was given five-star reviews by the likes of Amazon and Review Scout.

"I draw everything on basically just marker paper (vellum) and then I just draw it randomly on a page... then scan it in and do everything else on the computer," Dunlap mentioned on Comics Coast to Coast. The lettering is done by computer. He occasionally will draw the comic without a particular storyline in mind, and create the dialogue as the piece progresses.

The character line-up now encompasses daring but out of work superheros like Captain Victorious, and endearing critters like Flippy the Frog.


Phil Dunlap grew up in Brookline Massachusetts. Graduating from Tufts University, he then sharpened his arts skills at The School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Putting his many talents to use, he works in advertising, producing storyboards for music videos, commercials, television and film. Dunlap's clientele includes MTV, Burger King and Transformers, among many others. Having a fondness for comic books, Dunlap also enjoyed the gold standards of Garfield by Jim Davis and Peanuts by Charles Schulz. (But not a newspaper reader of late, he was unaware of the new greats, such as Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine.)

Making his home in Brooklyn, New York, Dunlap lives with his wife and young son in what was a hard-to-find apartment.


Andrews McMeel published the first "Ink Pen: A Cartoon Collection by Phil Dunlap" in 2009. Great work, Phil Dunlap! I'm looking forward to many more of the great laughs and fascinating storylines with "Ink Pen"..

Listen to theComics Coast to Coast Interview #77with guest Phil Dunlap and guest host Tom Racine (filling in for Brian Dunaway), Justin Thompson (Mythtickle), and John Sanford (Chippy and Loopus).


Visit GoComics for a daily read of "Ink Pen."




All art and photo are © Universal Press and Phil Dunlap.

Sample of Ink Pen Comic by Phil Dunlap  
© Susanna McLeod 2010