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
Category Archives: Rick Kirkman
I was never in the military, though I did grow up in it as an “Air Force brat,” as we are affectionately known. As an adult, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for what my father did, and for the countless others who served our country in the military. While on USO tours, I’ve been lucky to meet many of them in some of the more outlying areas where they’re deployed. These men and women are often far from home and family, and our tours gave us just a small taste of what that must be like. Here are some images that stuck with me from those trips. (Click to biggify)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
It recently occurred to me that I had a path toward Baby Blues even before Baby Blues existed—before I even knew I had a path.
In the few years before Jerry and I became syndicated, and before we ever had the idea for the strip, I found myself gravitating toward freelance work that involved drawing kids and parents. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe clients sensed something in how I drew that led them to seek me out for that kind of assignment. You can never really know, but things like that become more obvious when you look back on them. Among those magazine clients, where I was a regular, were Woman’s World, Redbook, Parents magazine and Sesame Street Parents Guide.
So, from Ye Olde Freelance Files, I give you a few of the freelance jobs just prior to the creation and syndication of Baby Blues. You can see a lot of the MacPherson clan showing up in the drawings.
All of the above drawings appeared in Redbook on their back page.
Detail of the hyena family.
(Above and below) Sesame Street Magazine Parents Guide
Click to biggify.
Sesame Street always liked big illustrations that covered the whole page so they could run the headline and the beginning of the story over the illustration. I learned a lot from the work of Elwood Smith, master of the watercolor wash. In the late 70s, I’d attended a demonstration by him showing how he prepared his watercolors and applied washes to his cartoon illustrations. I
stole borrowed his little background flecks and added some squiggles of my own.