I’ve gotten email from various people asking me question about me and my cartooning. I thought I’d try to answer some of those questions here, because there may be others (God knows why) who might also be interested.
The first is “How did you start Ernie/Piranha Club” and how did you start cartooning?” When I was four years old I was reading the Sunday comics (I was a bit precocious), in particular, it was a Li’l Abner Sunday strip. It was about the Sadie Hawkins Day Race. I thought to myself ” Some man draws this. Wouldn’t it be the most fantastic thing if I could do that when I grow up”. Then I grew up. I couldn’t draw. But I was pretty smart, so I studied mathematics and physics. But I still loved comics. When I was thirty-five I started drawing comic book stories. The artwork was terrible. When I was 39 I quit my job and started sending cartoons to magazines. At first they were really bad. But I worked long and hard, and finally got pretty good at it. The second cartoon that I ever sold was to the New Yorker, which was the most prestigious of all magazines here in the States. Then Frau Grace got pregnant. Single panel freelancing is fun, but the pay isn’t that good, and the income isn’t steady. I needed a more secure source of income. My intention all along was to draw a newspaper comic strip. I had drawn a character based on myself when I first started drawing. His name was Dudley. Dudley underwent changes and finally became Ernie as I developed the strip. I had drawn a comic strip in the Florida State University student newspaper, The Flambeau. It was called Nuclear Funnies. (My last real job was for the Florida Energy Office. It was after the Arab Oil Embargo. I ran the program that developed the State of Florida Energy Efficient Building Code. One of my additional duties was to provide State input on the proposals on how to dispose of nuclear waste. I became convinced that nobody knew what they were doing. I was the only PhD physicist providing input. It’s what happens when you turn science over to laymen. I’m starting to get off track here.) One of the characters in Nuclear Funnies turned into Uncle Sid. Effie was somewhat based on my mother, at least in the way that Sid bummed meals off her. After my father died, my mother had a series of boyfriends, and all they wanted to do was come over to her house and eat dinner. I drew a bunch of strips featuring these thre characters and took them to New Yourk to King Features. The Editor at that time was a man named Bill Yates. Their last successful comic strip had been Hagar the Horrible in 1973. I dropped the strip off in 19865, so they were desperate for something successful. Bill Yates took the strips home with him. (Incidentally, newspaper syndicates look at about 600 comic strip submissions a year) In the middle of the night his wife, Skippy, got him out of bed. She was laughing at Effie. And that’s how Ernie got started.
I’ll answer more questions tomorrow. And if you have a question, shoot it to me.