New (to Us!) Comic Alert: Baby Bluesby GoComics Team
There’s a new face in the GoComics family—five new faces, in fact! Last week, we welcomed fan-favorite Baby Blues to the site, who brought with it all growing pains of the MacPherson family—Darryl, Wanda, Zoe, Hammie, and Wren.
Co-creators and longtime friends Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman hatched the idea for this family-based feature back in the late 1980s when Kirkman was in the throes of parenthood for the second time. The strip debuted in 1990, and for the past 30-plus years the two combine words (Scott) and drawings (Kirkman) to create story arcs that generations of kids and parents love.
How did you two meet, and when did you start working together? (I heard a rumor it was meet-cute set up by your wives.)
Jerry Scott: It’s a long-ish story, but the way my wife tells it is that she and Rick’s wife worked at a doctor’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, in the late '70s. One day they were having lunch together, and Rick’s wife said, “My stupid husband wants to be a cartoonist.” My wife replied, “My stupid husband wants to be a cartoonist, too!” So they introduced us. Smart girls.
Rick Kirkman: What Jerry said.
How’d you come up with the idea for Baby Blues?
JS: Baby Blues came along years after Rick and I met. We started out writing and drawing comic strip ideas—lots of comic strip ideas—that didn’t work. Most involved two guys trying to do jobs they were unqualified to do (unintentionally autobiographical). Unsurprisingly, none of them were very good, and we amassed an impressive stack of rejection slips.
It wasn’t until the late '80s when Rick had become a father for the second time. Their new baby didn’t sleep well and screamed a lot, and Rick started looking more bedraggled and exhausted every time I saw him. I didn’t have children at the time, and I thought it was funny to see the power a tiny infant had over this otherwise competent and un-sticky couple. Ba da bing! Baby Blues.
RK: My wife and I already had one child, and had gone through some challenging times with colic, but those resolved and we went along our merry way. We thought we had the parent thing nailed by the time our second child came along. The new baby, however, had other ideas. She was what one doctor not-so-jokingly called a “mother killer”—not in a murderous way, but in an exhaustive way. As I became more bedraggled, and our comic strip ideas hit more dead ends, Jerry and I realized that while my wife and I might be barely holding on, it was a great idea for a comic strip. The early years were ripped from our lives, later adding Jerry’s growing family to the mix.
Right, you’ve mentioned in other interviews, too, that your real lives show up in the strip. How does your family feel about that—especially your own kids, who I assume are old enough now to read the strip and understand?
JS: My kids don’t actually know what I do for a living. To them, I’m just the dad who never goes anywhere, wears a lot of t-shirts, and shaves inconsistently. I do get a lot of ideas from stuff that goes on around the house. One of the greatest benefits of writing this strip is that any frustration, disaster, or calamity that befalls me usually ends up as an idea in Baby Blues.
RK: I asked my kids once how they felt about their lives being exploited for profit. They were fine with it, since it sent them to college.
And your partners? Do they serve as inspiration?
JS: My wife, Kim, has contributed no small number of ideas for Baby Blues…some of them intentional, even.
RK: Same here. The most frustrating and embarrassing things that have happened to us as parents have made for the best strip ideas. It’s not uncommon for something to happen at home, and one of us will say afterward, “That would make a great strip.” Then I’ll fire off the story to Jerry to turn it into a gag. Painfully, some of them appear almost verbatim.
How do the two of you collaborate?
JS: Basically, I write and Rick draws. I send him a script of sorts, and he draws the strips in rough form for me to see. Once we both agree on the dialogue and drawings, Rick draws the finished strips on an electronic pad.
Are there stories or characters that have resonated with fans in ways that surprised you?
JS: It seems like Hammie gets the most attention these days, but all of the characters have been embraced by our readers. If one of them gets hurt or has an especially difficult conundrum to face, it’s surprising (and gratifying) to me to see the outpouring and concern expressed.
Other than cartooning, what profession(s) would you both like to try?
JS: I’m an oil painter when I’m not writing comic strips, and I love the creative part of that. I like to paint large canvases, probably as an antidote to the tiny graphic world of comic strips.
RK: It is an odd thing that the writer, in his spare time, paints—and I, the illustrator, writes novels in my free time with the hope of being published.
What profession(s) would you never want to try?
JS: I would not want to be an executive or a rodeo clown.
RK: No job that involves meetings or unpleasant smells. Huh. Sounds a little like Jerry’s answer.
Don't forget to follow Baby Blues on GoComics today!