Comics fans, we're excited to introduce a new recurring feature to our GoComics blog. A few times each month, we're going to hand the keys over to one of our talented cartoonists for a blog post. They'll share the inspirations behind their comedy, how they think, what's next for them and their characters and how you can access more information about your favorite comic strips/panels and support them further.
Our first creator is Jef Mallett, creator of Frazz. If you've yet to read the strip about an elementary school janitor who shares his wisdom with teachers and students alike, you're in for a treat. The kids are smart and Frazz is even smarter as the guy that has the world figured out for himself. Enjoy.
Jef Mallett, creator of Frazz:
By my reckoning, I’ve kept readers waiting just over two years for a blog item or Facebook post. Which is about how long any given cable TV or phone company keeps people waiting, which gives me no comfort at all.
Two years is a long time, so let’s start from scratch. Please forgive me, and I’ll shed the baggage, start anew and get it right. Call it blogruptcy.
If you’re coming to this from GoComics, here’s what you presumably already know: I created, draw and write the comic strip “Frazz.” I do everything except (a) letter the text and (b) everything else. My wife of 25 years, Patty, does the lettering. My own lettering would be fine, I think, but her plain old handwriting has a style that suits the comics as well as anything out there except for (and Patty would be the first to agree) Jim Borgman’s in “Zits.” Then the GoComics folks handle all the messier details, like editing, distributing, sales, marketing, billing, feeding my pets (I’m joking, but they probably would if we lived closer to each other) and other impossible things, like getting me to resume a blog.
And I do mean resume. The idea is that this is the first of an indefinite string, and I’ll keep it quick so I don’t scare myself away from writing more, or scare you away from reading more. If I do it right, each entry will answer a question or two -- about Frazz-related stuff and non-Frazz stuff -- and raise a few more. And I'll offer my observations about the world in general. Call it focused distractibility. Basically Frazz itself, just in a different format with a little different detail.
So: Hi, I’m Jef. I’ve been putting Frazz in newspapers and on the Web for 12 years now. I was a cartoonist right from the start, which is no big thing. All kids draw, and usually very well. I liked to write, too, and I loved using the combination of pictures and words to tell stories. And I’ve always loved to laugh. By the time I was halfway through high school, I was drawing a daily comic strip for my local newspaper, The Pioneer, in Big Rapids, Mich.
I like to say the reason I’m doing this now has less to do with when I started and more to do with the fact that I never quit, but the truth is I kind of did try to quit. By the time I was out of high school, I figured out I wanted to draw comic strips, but I had learned it was as shaky and arbitrary as any other form of show business. A backup career seemed to be in order. Here’s how naïve I was: I enrolled in nursing school. Nursing is not a backup career. I loved it and school was going well, but an opportunity at the Grand Rapids Press forced a decision. I chose to stay closer to my writing and art roots, a rash decision that somehow turned out well. Freelancing for The Press turned into other newspaper jobs and a fine life -- I became art director and photo editor for the capital bureau of Booth Newspapers, a chain of eight dailies in Michigan -- but still no comic strips.
I did write and illustrate a children’s book called “Dangerous Dan.” It was published in 1996, sold something like 30,000 copies in its first year and zero in its second, the sort of thing that can happen when a publisher goes out of business without warning. It was great, seriously rewarding fun in the meantime, and it took me to a lot of elementary and middle schools for assemblies. I noticed something interesting. Assemblies are pretty exciting occasions and can be attended by overly excited kids. Somebody had to calm them down so I could get them riled up again. Teachers couldn’t always do it; the principal couldn’t always do it. But the janitor could almost always calm them. Everybody loved the janitor, and respected the janitor, and listened to the janitor. Fascinating, I thought. I wonder if I might be able to use that someday.
A few years later, when the first tremors of the current newspaper-industry quake were tingling, I anticipated my capital bureau closing and got thinking about backup careers all over again. I should probably, I thought, go back and finish college. Sigh. But fiiirrrrrst … I’d try another go at a comic strip. Not so much because I thought it was the better option, or even a reasonable one. But I just didn’t want to see myself 20 years later wondering what might have happened.
Whenever I’m in the right mood, I still wonder what happened. Or at least how it happened. And frankly, sometimes, what’s going to happen. But I don’t wonder what might have happened, and that’s a good feeling.
I do wonder how I let the blog slip, though. This was fun. I’ll be back.