If you are interested, the following is an abridged chronology of KIDZ between the very first moment in 1989 when drawing comic strips seemed like an interesting thing to do all the way up until this webcomic was launched. The entire process has taken over twenty-five years, survived four career changes, one major health scare, a premature marriage/divorce, and countless weekends spent sipping coffee at bookstores in over eleven US States. The desire to draw is still with me and I don’t think it will ever stop.
The picture on the left are the actual rock walls of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Sylvan dormitory area where I first had the idea to draw comics for the campus newspaper The Collegian (I lived on the sixth floor of that far-left building.) My first comic strip was named The Kids are Alright, after the The Who’s song by the same name. They say to write what you know, so being a young man, and having the maturity of a banana split, my comic strip mostly revolved around bathroom humor. My roommate was my biggest fan and is still one of my best friends to this day.
A comic strip artist labors under the delusion their work will be liked by all, but I knew very quickly my strip wasn’t well-received by the UMass “Elitist crowd.” In the ’80s UMass was a polarized hotbed between psychotic self-congratulating Liberals and pizza-injesting beer-hazing fraternity jocks.
Uniting these two extremes through a comic strip was highly unlikely. At the time I hoped my poll numbers would split with 45% of students liking the strip and 55% in the “hoping-I-got-hit-by-a-public-transportation-bus” category. The truth quickly arrived after the Collegian newspaper ran a “Choose Your Favorite Comic Strip” survey. My strip came in first place! — albeit first place in the “Worst Comic Strip” category.
It was official; the students/teachers hated me. To this day I have never been prouder.
After graduating with a BFA I was prepared to hit the working world with all the new artistic talent I learned over six years. Yes, you read that correctly — six years for an art degree; when my father would visit the campus he would pretend to be my roommate’s dad if we met anyone.
I must confess a secret colleges don’t tell teenagers when they enroll in a BFA (Bachelor’s of Art ) program. Upon graduation you will have achieved 3 hard-earned milestones:
- You will have contributed to the decline of American higher education.
- You will legally be able to drink alcohol as you begin drowning in school loan debts.
- Having a BFA degree fully prepares you for work as a Walmart cashier, or one of the many available duties in the custodial or convenience store arts.
Once I realized this I followed the rich tradition of artists before me — I listened to Morrissey songs and decided to enroll in an MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) program! You only learn from a mistake when you stop making the mistake. If you continue making your mistake you can live in blissful denial for an entire lifetime. I was clearly choosing the latter.
While pursuing my MFA I abandoned the bathroom humor but kept practicing cartooning, and for two years my new strip ran in the campus newspaper. This strip was called Lost Horizons and was never voted “Worst Comic Strip.” This might have been because the newspaper never ran a reader’s poll, or the fact that I was the Managing Editor of the newspaper and wouldn’t allow it (ahem! cough-cough! ); however, my first cartooning success arrived when I won semi-finalist for the 1994 Charles M. Schulz/National College Cartoonist Award.
Here is an old college newspaper clipping:
The Scripps/Howard letter gave me the confidence to enter the professional cartooning world with nothing but success and national syndication as my motivation. I didn’t know it at the time but this decision launched an eleven-year campaign to earn a contract from one of the big national newspaper syndicates (King Features, Universal Press, United Media, etc.). At this happy point in my life you may begin to hum the theme to the movie “Jaws”.
newspaper syndication and
From what I am to understand by watching the Science channel, Black Holes are distant stars far from home, guiltlessly murdering all material sent in their direction from which no matter (not even light) can escape their infinite digestive power. Newspaper syndicates are eerily similar; they exist far from your home, consume all material sent inside your comic submission from which nothing can escape their monopoly on comics (not even hope). The only difference between the two is semantics: Black Holes accept everything whereas Syndicates reject everything. I have enough syndicate rejection letters to wallpaper a small bathroom. Upon reflection I should have addressed my comic submission to a Black Hole — at least they would have accepted it.
Yea, I know these words sound like sour grapes but the truth is I wasn’t professionally ready for national syndication. Although I think it’s fair to say my work had potential. Not one to quit, with every rejection letter I doubled my drive to succeed, improved my drawing skills, comedy writing, and kept submitting. Rejection letters actually helped me become a better comic strip artist — such is the path of virtue. This went on from 1997 – 2005 when I came very close to being selected for the (then) The Washington Post Writers Group FineToon Fellowship competition. The winner was awarded a year-long development contract with first rights belonging to The Washington Post Writers Group.
2003 Washington Post Writers Group
“FINETOON FELLOWSHIP”… so close!
I wrote “close” because in 2003 Suzanne Whelton was the Comics Editor at the Washington Post Writer’s Group. Ms. Whelton had sent me a couple of encouraging letters explaining how close I had come, and I will forever be grateful to her for doing so. Unfortunately, she retired before the next “Finetoon Fellowship” contest in 2005.
YELLOW BRICK ROAD
Just like the twister that transformed Dorothy’s life from a black/white hopelessly structured world into a colorful expansion of dreams, new beginnings, and opportunities, so too has the Internet become our own personal Land of Oz! From 2006 – present, KIDZ as a comic strip is now actively courting the children’s picture book industry, which you can view some samples in my portfolio section. But thanks to such webcomic pioneers like PVPonline, Penny Arcade, Scott McCloud and the Comicpress’s crew of designers, especially Phil ‘frumph’ Hofer, the Internet is now a fertile place for comic artists to showcase their work and even have the opportunity to earn money.
Around New Years 2011 I made the decision to try to build a webcomic site (this one!) and see what will happen. Thanks to the Internet I have joined the liberation movement away from the newspaper syndicate’s monopoly to reach potential readers. I am now free to discover successes by my own efforts, jokes, ideas, and story lines built up from many years of trying. I am excited to draw them in the KIDZ format and see what the future brings. Now the hard part begins.
Well, there you have it: a KIDZ biography. Since you guys are my new Comics Editors, I wish to thank you for reading this; I tried to make it enjoyable. I hope to see you at conventions, etc., and I hope you find my comic strip enjoyable.