Last updated 5-30-06
ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
How long have I been drawing cartoons?
How old am I?
What is my educational background?
Where do I get my ideas?
What materials do I use to draw FoxTrot?
What size do I draw my originals?
How long does it take me to draw a strip?
How do I color my Sunday strips?
How far in advance do I draw my strips?
Am I married? Do I have kids?
Are the Foxes based on my own parents and siblings?
What courses of study do I recommend for the aspiring cartoonist?
What is a syndicate?
How does one get syndicated?
Did I always want to be a cartoonist?
Which comic strips are my favorites?
Do I sell, donate or give away my originals?
Is there a list of all my books?
Is there a way to get a reprint of a particular strip?
I first started drawing cartoons for fun when I was about nine years old. I liked to draw frogs and dinosaurs, which may partly explain why I have an iguana in my strip. FoxTrot began running in newspapers April 10, 1988 when I was 25.
I was born in 1962. You can figure it out from that.
I have a Bachelor's degree in physics from Amherst College. Apart from a basic drawing class my senior year, I never really studied art. Some say it shows.
I think really, really, really hard. Seriously, there's no secret magic formula that I know of. It helps to have good characters to work with and to write about things I'm interested in, certainly. And the always looming do-or-die deadlines seem to help me, inexplicably.
Currently I am using a combination of Micron Pigma permanent markers and Rapidograph pens on Strathmore 400 series smooth surface bristol board paper. I use a 2H pencil and a kneaded eraser to pencil the strips before I ink them.
If you are interested in creating your own strip, it's important that you choose materials that you're comfortable with and that work to enhance your personal drawing style. Just because I use a particular pen doesn't make it the "pen of choice." Many cartoonists use brushes, many use the old-fashioned crow quill sort of pen. What's important is that whatever you choose to use should yield a black line suitable for reproduction.
The dailies are 3.75" x 12", which is roughly twice the size they appear in books and newspapers. The Sundays must obey a set of size/format rules that are fairly complicated. Basically, I do them in three rows of panels that altogether fill up a 9.125" x 13" rectangle. The top row must be expendable (some newspapers don't have the space). I believe Bill Watterson talks a bit about these format requirements in his Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Note that these are simply the sizes that I choose to do them. Original size varies from cartoonist to cartoonist. As long as the height-width ratio remains constant, you can draw them as big or small as you want.
Hard to say. I tend to write a week's worth of strips on one or two days and then spend the rest of the week drawing and inking them. If I had to guess, I'd say it takes me three to four hours to pencil and ink a daily strip after it's been written, and eight to ten hours to draw and color a Sunday strip. Most cartoonists are faster than I am, I suspect.
Most every Sunday newspaper comic strip is colored by the same company, located in upstate New York. Using the numbers from a color key that they provide, I take a photocopy of my black and white artwork and indicate what colors I want where. In the last few years, a number of cartoonists have begun coloring their strips themselves using Photoshop, or some other method, to give themselves a bit more control over the look of their art.
Not very, unfortunately. I tend to procrastinate more than I should, so I often turn my strips in to my syndicate roughly two weeks before they run in newspapers. My syndicate would prefer it if I had a lead time of four to six weeks. Because color must be added, my Sunday strips get turned in six or seven weeks in advance.
Yes and yes. My wife and I have two young children (one girl, one boy).
Not deliberately, at least. I suppose I can't help but be influenced by my own experiences and observations growing up, but I do try to create the FoxTrot storylines from scratch, rather than base them on what might have happened in my family. I am the oldest of four children (three boys, one girl) and it's true that there was a lot of FoxTrot-like chaos, but I think in general my characters are more extensions of me than my siblings or parents.
I recommend that the aspiring cartoonist obtain the best possible education he/she can in as broad a range of subjects as possible. Too many young cartoonists forget that what makes a comic strip work is much more than the ability to draw funny pictures. What sustains a strip, what makes it worth reading day after day, is the mind behind it.
A syndicate is a business that sells feature material such as cartoons to newspapers at a cost far less than that which the newspaper would have to pay were they to do the work themselves. This allows a cartoonist to have his/her work appear all over the country and allows even tiny newspapers the opportunity to run big-name comic strips.
There is a book titled Your Career in the Comics by Lee Nordling that is a good source of info on cartooning and the syndication process. Each syndicate has their own policy regarding how submissions should be sent and you might call or write them for their guidelines. It took me three years of submitting strips before Universal Press Syndicate offered me a contract in late 1987.
Interestingly, no. I always wanted to make movies. Not that I have any regrets about my career choice. I find cartooning a wonderfully challenging, unique and personal means of creative expression. And I have a level of control over my fictional universe that I could never have as a film director.
Generally, the funny ones where there is an interesting and distinctive voice. Strips with generic humor have never really appealed to me as much as the more quirky ones. Bloom County, The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes were all favorites of mine before they ended.
So far I've done 41 FoxTrot books, which boggles my mind, frankly. Here are the titles, in reverse chronological order:
Jasotron: 2012 (2012)
AAAA! A FoxTrot Kids Edition (2012)
The Best of FoxTrot (2010)
FoxTrot Sundaes (2010)
Math, Science and Unix Underpants (2009)
Wrapped-Up FoxTrot (2009)
And When She Opened the Closet, All the Clothes Were Polyester (2007)
Houston, You Have a Problem (2007)
Jam-Packed FoxTrot (2006)
How Come I'm Always Luigi? (2006)
My Hot Dog Went Out, Can I Have Another? (2005)
Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything (2005)
Foxtrotius Maximus (2004)
Am I a Mutant, or What! (2004)
Who's Up for Some Bonding? (2003)
Your Momma Thinks Square Roots Are Vegetables (2003)
FoxTrot: Assembled With Care (2002)
His Code Name Was The Fox (2002)
Encyclopedias Brown and White (2001)
Death by Field Trip (2001)
Assorted FoxTrot (2000)
Think iFruity (2000)
I'm Flying, Jack...I Mean, Roger (1999)
Camp FoxTrot (1998)
Welcome to Jasorassic Park (1998)
Come Closer, Roger, There's a Mosquito on Your Nose (1997)
FoxTrot Beyond a Doubt (1997)
At Least This Place Sells T-Shirts (1996)
The Return of the Lone Iguana (1996)
Wildly FoxTrot (1995)
Take Us to Your Mall (1995)
May the Force Be with Us, Please (1994)
Enormously FoxTrot (1994)
Say Hello to Cactus Flats (1993)
Bury My Heart at Fun-Fun Mountain (1993)
FoxTrot en masse (1992)
Eight Yards, Down and Out (1992)
Black Bart Says Draw (1991)
FoxTrot: The Works (1990)
Pass the Loot (1990)
Yes, my syndicate offers suitable-for-framing reproductions for around $40. Contact Universal Uclick at 800-642-6480 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More info here.
Additional questions? Concerns? I can't promise a reply, but if that's ok, you can e-mail me at mail ATSIGN foxtrot PERIOD com.