OK, here we go. Most of these are from John L…
After cartooning/drawing for over 30 years, do you miss it now that you’ve declared official retirement?
I sure do miss it. All those characters were as real to me as actual people. Or ducks. Or Zombies. They were like my best friends.
What are/were your favorite strips now, and as a kid?
As a kid I loved Pogo, Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy and Orphan Annie. There were others as well. I remember Smokey Stover, Barney Google. Pogo was my favorite.
There seems to be two general camps on cartooning retirement, either keep drawing till you pass on, possibly passing the torch to a son or another artist trusted and mentored to keep it going, or just stop cold, and never go back to that strip and characters again.
That depends on the Syndicate, and whether they own the copyright. For example, Billy DeBeck died and King Features got Fred Lasswell, Billy’s assistant to carry on the strip. But they put him on salary rather than sharing revenues. He was bitter about that, and for good reason. Harold Grey was terminally ill, so he had Daddy Warbucks die in the strip. The syndicate cured him and the strip continued. It’s happened time and time again, but the strip afterwards, whether good or bad, was never the same as it was under the original cartoonist. I don’t think anyone could mimic my humor. It’s just different. Any number could draw the strip, even better than I. Take my one time assistant whom I’ve mentioned before – Jay Scruggs – I think his version of my strip was visually better than mine. But then, I didn’t start drawing until I was 35.
Do you continue to do anything artistic like drawing, sketching, or painting as a serious hobby? Do you get to fish, or enjoy any other hobbies, such as collecting, or tinkering with anything?
I haven’t done much drawing. Moving back to Florida has occupied my time. That and putting together books. I grew up on the water, but I can’t catch a fish to save my life. But I’ve been very busy. I’m not at all bored.
I’ve always been told that when you follow your passion, you’ll never “work” a day in your life. Did producing your daily strip ever seem or feel like a 9-5 job with the deadlines, etc? Any “job” with art and humor combined does not seem to be equivalent to the “old salt-mine” type of employment, “working for the man” that most of us are entrenched in.
That’s one of my favorite quotes. And it’s true. The pressure was pretty heavy. The hardest part was thinking up gags. I dreaded it. Most of the time I could slip into my little world, and the jokes just seemed to pop up. But it wasn’t easy. It’s like slipping you brain into another gear. Once the writing was done, the drawing could sometimes be tedious, but I enjoyed it. Once I asked Bill Rechin how long it took him to draw a Crock strip. Don Wilder wrote the gags. It took Bill 15 minutes. On the average it would take me about an hour to write three daily gags and two and a half hours to draw them. Putting them on the computer and editing them took a lot of time as well. Like John L’s dad used to say “Even if you win the rat-race, you are still a rat…”