Ralph Hagen, Creator of The Barn and Editorial Cartoonist

March 18, 2010

The pencil of Ralph Hagen is busy forming the outlines of hard-working but odd people in action, serene meadow scenes, a curious sheep and droll, expressive bovines in the hunt for a chuckle. A curious sheep? Expressive cows?!? It's true. Ralph Hagen, the creator of The Barn, has developed a smile-winning comic strip. The lead characters feature the young sheep "Rory", sporting a really nice coat of sheep's wool, and "Stan" the bull, doing his best to avoid the sharp butcher's knife and the restaurant plate.

Hagen was busy with his drawing pencil even as a young boy growing up on a farm in Alberta, Canada. "I can remember cutting up grocery bags and using them for paper," said Hagen in an interview with Scott Nickel in "A Nickel's Worth" on July 23, 2009.

After a while my mother realized I liked to draw and started buying me drawing pads." His interest continued into his teenage years and he must have had a real knack for the comics art - he was hired when he was 16 years old to create weekly editorial cartoons for two newspapers. In 1975, he was paid $8 per cartoon by the Stony Plain Reporter.


It seems that life had different plans for Hagen than being a full-time cartoonist. He took on a job with Chevron, working in the oil fields, braving the outdoors in icy cold winters and steamy hot summers. Marrying his sweetheart Brenda, the Hagens have raised a family of three daughters. Not giving up on cartooning, Hagen created single panel cartoons and graphics. His skill with humour and unique character design brought him clients ranging from Kraft Foods and Columbia University to Reader's Digest and the Saturday Evening Post.

By 2004, Hagan left his Chevron job to create funny stuff full-time. (Sadly, his father died that same year.) Aside from the freelance work, he developed potential comic strips, hoping for syndication acceptance. Hagan tried many different themes, producing the requisite four weeks of strips, the Sundays and all wrapped up in a professional package. None caught the eye of editors.

Sketching out roughs for a strip about farm animals with sheep and bull as the stars, mentioned Hagen to Scott Nickel, he produced about twenty strips and sent them off to Creators Syndicate as-is, without the formal packaging. In a few short weeks, Hagan got a call, a contract and a new comic strip. After a development period of six months to smooth out the bumps and get organized, the strip was ready. In October 2008, The Barn debuted under the Creators' syndication umbrella.

Sweet and hopeful Rory and sardonic Stan provide the biggest chuckles and great sarcastic humour, but Juanita, the cow who constantly rebuffs Stan's advances, the nameless Butcher, the quirky veterinarians and assorted other offbeat characters add to the giggle-factor. But the weekly editorial cartooning job that he started nearly 25 years before in high school ended when Hagen was abruptly cut from the paper in 2009.

Cartoonist Ralph Hagen

Perhaps seeing the error of their ways, or readjusting the newpaper's budget somehow, a few months later the Stony Plains Reporter reinstated Hagan and his editorial cartoons. He took up where he left off, producing the great laughs once again in the fall of 2009. In his contagious editorial cartoons, Hagen is careful to keep away from personal stabs. "I don't go out to hurt anybody," he said in the Stony Plain Reporter announcement of his return in September 2009. "I always look at the silliness; things we do everyday, things that we see everyday that show how silly we can be."

Hagen creates his delightful cartoons with a Micron 08 Pen and then scans his strips into the computer to add colour by Photoshop. Through his years of artistic work, he found that the writing is even more important than the artwork - though from the reader's view, he is exceptional at both.

The Hagen family live near Edmonton, sharing their home with three cats and one dog, and have four horses nearby. Ralph is into playing guitar and hockey.

As yet, there are no awards for Ralph Hagen's impressive cartoons. Let's hope there are some forthcoming in the near future. The Barn is a great chuckle and a nice big Blue Ribbon would look just right pinned on Rory's white woolly curls.

Visit The Barn for a good chuckle. Good work, Mr. Hagen!

September 2012 News about The Barn!

Great stuff just announced by Creators Syndicate - the wonderful 'toon of Ralph Hagen is now available in e-book form! For more information about "The Barn: From the Beginning," visit TheBarnEbook. Giggles about Rory, Stan, and the rest of the delightful cast included, no charge.

Characters are under the copyright of Ralph Hagen, promotional photo from Creators Syndicate.

© Susanna McLeod 2010