Category Archives: Cartooning

Two Big Anniversaries for The Big E

In August 2012, six cartoonists—Jeff Bacon (Military Times/Broadside/Greenside), Tom Richmond (MAD magazine), Jeff Keane (The Family Circus), Dave Coverly (Speed Bump), Sam Viviano (MAD magazine) and I (Rick from Baby Blues)—traveled out to the Persian Gulf on a USO tour to draw for the troops. This time, mainly for the Navy. Continue reading

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Filed under Cartooning, Family, Rick Kirkman, USO

Pumpkins as far as the eye can see… [Updated]

I’m pretty sure that’s how the description went in the gag for this strip. I can’t actually prove it, because in those days, Jerry sent gags to me via fax. Hard to believe we spent the years 4 through 15 with gags being sent as faxes. We’ve since moved into the modern world and use email.

Jerry sends gags to me as little scripts. A brief, not-usually-very-detailed description of the scene, and the dialogue. The panels are numbered. Most of the time, it leaves me some leeway as to the setting, the peripheral action, scene blocking. If it’s really critical for a bit of stage action or direction, he’ll indicate that for the panel. Then it’s just a matter of who says what.

It’s a great system. I’m not too roped into the details of how he sees it, which gives me room to play around with the characters. The nice thing is that he says most of the time, the finished strips look just like he imagined them.

I guess knowing someone for about forty years pays off.

This particular strip, though, was his Halloween “trick” to me. And an early one—we produce the strips several weeks ahead of publication. I wasn’t in the trick-or-treat mood yet. Continue reading

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Filed under Baby Blues history, BBXX, Cartooning, Contest, Creative process, Drawing, Family, Holidays, Jerry Scott, Strip process, Where ideas come from

The first real live cartoonist I ever met

Today is the birthdate of the late Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus. Here’s a repost from the Cartoonist Studio blog I wrote earlier this year.

Baby Blues title panel tribute to Bil Keane from July 23, 2000

In June of 1976, I met my first cartoonist. I was taking night classes at Phoenix College, and in my Art Appreciation class, the final assignment was to interview a local artist. At the time, my interest was in becoming a professional cartoonist, so obviously, I thought of interviewing a cartoonist. Bil Keane was one of only a few cartoonists in the Phoenix area. He was, by far, the most well known and high profile. How do you go about trying to locate a famous cartoonist?

My first step was to check the phone book.

And right there it was: Bil Keane, in Paradise Valley. I called the number, expecting to get an assistant or secretary, whom I would have to maneuver my way past in order to get to the famous man myself.

He answered the phone. I recall being taken by surprise. I’m sure I was flustered by this and probably tried to sound much more substantial than my 22-year-old greenhorn self. Apparently, I sounded legitimate enough, because Bil made an appointment for me to meet him at his studio in his Paradise Valley home to interview him.

Click photos to biggify

He gave me directions, and when I got to the big mailbox with his famous signature on the side, my quest to become not just a professional cartoonist, but a syndicated one, was ignited. The fire was fueled when I entered his studio with a view of a lush back yard and Camelback Mountain, and saw the map of the United States with pins in it for every city where The Family Circus ran. Decades later, Jerry and I started a similar wall map with pins for Baby Blues clients—many, many fewer pins.

I sat across from his drawing table and put my cassette recorder between us and we talked. For nearly an hour, Bil told me about his career and the business of syndication and I soaked it all up like a sponge. He was funny and friendly, and serious when it came to the business end of being a cartoonist. I thanked him for his time, and put away the recorder. At some point, I had mentioned to Bil that I was an aspiring cartoonist. Bil asked me if I’d like to have an original Family Circus.

Of course, I would!

Not only had I met my first cartoonist, but I had scored my first original. He pulled a daily panel out and signed it to me.

I wrote up the interview and passed the class with high marks. Not long after that, Jerry and I sent our first comic strip idea to him for some feedback, and he referred us to his syndicate editor. The encouragement from his response fed our persistence for years.

Recently, I unearthed the tape after many years of it being missing. It was an amazing record of my first meeting with a cartoonist.

And I feel quite lucky that it was Bil Keane.

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Filed under Baby Blues history, Cartooning, Family, Rick Kirkman

BBXX: Reviews!

(Click to biggify)






BBXX: Baby Blues Decades 1 & 2 has received several great reviews online. There’s one in particular, by Augie De Blieck Jr.  at Thanks for the great review! (Scroll down about midway in the page for the review)

Amazon reviews have been great, too—21 5-stars and one 4-star (where did we go wrong?).

Get a head start on your Christmas shopping!

BBXX on Amazon

BBXX at Barnes & Noble

Or from your local bookstore.

BBXX includes what we consider to be the best strips of the first 20 years. Add to that the special sections with sketches, commentary, inside info on how we work, photos and short essays, and you have a great gift for any fan of Baby Blues, cartoons or that aspiring cartoonist in your life. It all comes in a beautiful hardbound volume suitable for any coffee table (unless you’ve got teething babies around).

Other reviews to follow.

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Filed under Announcements, BBXX, Cartooning, Uncategorized

Year of the fortune cookie



This year was the 67th Annual Reuben Awards dinner. In February, Tom Richmond, the president of the National Cartoonists Society informed me that I was nominated for the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

From most people that garners a shrug.

To cartoonists, it ranks right up there with an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or Tony. But in our case it’s even more special because, at some point in the 1990s, the award was made a once-in-a-lifetime award—no repeats.

This was my first nomination. My fellow nominees, all nominated by the membership of the National Cartoonists Society, were: Brian Crane (creator of Pickles) and Stephan Pastis (creator of Pearls Before Swine). The announcement of the winner would be made at the awards dinner during the Memorial Day weekend convention of the NCS in Pittsburgh, three and a half months from then.

I have to admit, for the first few weeks, it messed with my head. Every drawing raised the question, Was it good enough? After a while, that gets pretty exhausting, mentally. I was finally able to get to a point where the nomination stopped sneaking into my head. Continue reading

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Filed under Announcements, Baby Blues history, Cartooning, Rick Kirkman