Today we hear from “Just Say Uncle” creator Dan Pavelich, who shares his career experiences as a cartoonist, and his inspirations and successes.
My first big break in cartooning was signing a development deal with King Features in 1993. The deal, for a strip called "The Alden Reid Show," lasted a year and was a clinic in how to deal with frustration. My editor frequently lost my weekly samples or kept me busy trying to figure out what size noses would look best on my characters. Had they not been paying me, I don't think I would've lasted the full year. In the end, my editor decided against syndication, commenting, "Your strip is about a teenager. Teenagers don't read newspaper comics." A few years later, King would find great success with "Zits." I pressed on …
I took a little time off, regrouped and then got back down to business. Putting together an entire submission packet is an unbelievable amount of work, especially when you're working a day job on an assembly line, like I was. Eventually, I was offered another development deal with King. I kept my nose to the grindstone, convinced that if I jumped through every hoop put in front of me, I'd eventually come out on top. As the year wore on, my editor's notes on my strip became less frequent. Phone calls weren't being returned. Like a jalopy on the way to the junkyard, my tenure at "The House That Popeye Built" ended with a sputter and a wheeze.
Several years later, I approached my local paper, The Kenosha News, with an idea for a strip that revolved around a multi-generational Kenosha family. I did a few samples, and they liked them. I've been supplying jabs at city council members and commentary on local news stories for nearly 10 years now.
For me, getting a shot now with Universal is comparable to having played minor league baseball for a decade and then being called up by the New York Yankees. Seeing "Just Say Uncle" on the same page as "Peanuts" makes me feel exactly how every rookie must've felt the first time they put on the very same Yankee pinstripes that Babe Ruth once wore. There is a pride in stepping up to the plate in this stadium that's always with me. It's probably the greatest thing that I've ever done, or ever will do.
My love of the comics is firmly rooted in "Peanuts." As a kid, I used to snip the dailies out of the newspaper and glue them into spiral notebooks, creating my own comic books. There is a warmth and comfort that I've always felt in Schulz's work that has never been duplicated. I suppose that's what I'm ultimately striving for in my own work. These days, a lot of strips are centered around animals or characters that are "edgy." For what it's worth, I'm more than happy to go in the other direction.
I do read several contemporary strips -- my friend John Hambrock's "The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee" is fantastic. I'm also partial to the creations of Greg Cravens, "The Buckets" and "Hubris." In fact, I'll be showing some of my strips at the 2014 Kenosha Festival of Cartooning alongside both of these gentlemen's work. When I started cartooning in grade school, I never imagined that anyone would ever ask to hang my work in a gallery, so this is another incredible thrill. Onward …