Today, we hear from Lola cartoonist Todd Clark!
I suppose I'm different than a lot of others in the field in the fact that I didn't long to be a cartoonist from childhood. I have always drawn, and my mother was an artist. I guess I WAS cartooning outside the margins of school papers, but I didn't realize it.
For what eventually became my career, I'd have to say early influences were comic books rather than strips. These were soon replaced by MAD magazine, which I absolutely lived for. My father would buy B.C. collections as well, and I remember thinking those guys on the wheels was the coolest thing ever. I really wanted to travel like that. Still do. And the ironic thing is, all these years later, I contribute gags to B.C.
In college, I realized my art skills were nowhere near the students around me, and I began to think about other options. By this time, I'd become a huge Far Side fan, and later Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes. I'd always been able to make people laugh, and the combination of my poor artistic abilities and annoying humor seemed like a natural fit.
I started sending cartoons to magazines, and I was fortunate to have a few take a chance on me -- the Saturday Evening Post amongst them. At the same time, I found out about King Features' New Breed panel, which featured a different cartoonist every day. Jay Kennedy at King loved my writing (though he wasn't thrilled with my artwork) and gave me a huge break by putting me in there regularly. One of the papers it appeared in was the Kansas City Star, and I would order a copy from them when one of my cartoons ran, because it was right next to the Far Side on their comics page. I got a huge kick out of seeing my name next to Gary Larson's. I started working with Bob Thaves, selling him gags for Frank and Ernest. He, along with Mike Peters of Mother Goose & Grimm, was instrumental in helping me out, and were great mentors and friends.
Through Jay Kennedy I was introduced to Steve Dickenson, which led to our partnership on our first syndicated strip, My Brother's Keeper. My Brother's Keeper is still my favorite of the handful of strip I've been lucky enough to get syndicated. It just wasn't a good fit with the syndicate and us, and we mutually ended the strip less than a year after its launch.
BUT, this lead to us creating Lola, which I co-created with Steve for eight years, and I've done on my own for the past seven. A few years ago, Jay approached me about writing for a strip that would have three punchlines everyday, called Triple Take. Insanely, I jumped on board, and Scott Nickel provided great artwork for this strip that lasted for a year or so. To be honest, I don't know how much longer I could've written for it, but I couldn't pass up the chance to work with Jay. I feel fortunate to have gotten this chance before his untimely death. I miss him greatly, and I pretty much owe my career to him.
Steve and I teamed up again for another syndicated strip, Retro Geek, which used retro images we recaptioned. We loved it, but, unfortunately, it only ran for about a month and a half in papers.
All the while I still wrote for Mike Peters, Jim Toomey on Sherman's Lagoon and the Thaves family. These days, besides Lola duties, I contribute regularly to the aforementioned strips, as well as Tundra, B.C., Wizard of Id, Baby Blues and Zits.
Since I initially started out in magazines, I'd say my influences early on were the MAD gang -- Don Martin, Dave Berg, Sergio, Mort Drucker and the rest. Other early favorites were magazine cartoonists like Sam Gross, Nick Downes, Leo Cullum and Tom Cheney.
My favorite cartoonist of all time remains Dr. Seuss, whom I consider a flat-out genius, and a huge inspiration. On the comic strip side, there are many I love, including Bill Watterson. Inspiration-wise, I'd have to cite Berkely Breathed and his twisted characters and humor. Love his work.
I've recently had a children's illustrated novel published through AMP! Comics for Kids, "The Ice Cream Kid: Brain Freeze." It's about a fourth-grade boy who suddenly discovers he gains temporary superpowers when he gets ice cream brain freezes. I'm very excited about continuing to pursue more with books. I really enjoy the process. It's such a nice change from the daily writing of setup-setup-joke, setup-setup-joke.
Easily my greatest joy and perk I've received from whatever success I've achieved is being able to draw for our troops on USO trips at home and abroad. I've had the good fortune to travel with some amazing cartoonists to Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Germany (twice), to visit with and draw for these awesome men and women. It's truly an honor.