Celebrating 30 years as a syndicated cartoonist this year, today we hear from In the Bleachers cartoonist Steve Moore!
You might expect me to say that I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist from the moment I popped out of the womb, but I was never an “aspiring cartoonist.” I was an accidental cartoonist.
I showed a warning sign of heading down that path in grade school when I would draw cartoons in the margins of my textbook during math class. But it wasn’t because I wanted to be a cartoonist; I just needed to keep my brain occupied while I flunked math.
I did not set out to be a cartoonist. From the time I popped out of the womb, I wanted to be a veterinarian and tend to the medical needs of reptiles and amphibians. You know, like treating an iguana with hemorrhoids or a frog with flatulence.
I went to Oregon State University and majored in pre-veterinary medicine, but it didn’t work out because I kept my brain occupied with fraternity shenanigans. I didn’t flunk out, but my grades dipped so low that I had to punt the veterinarian dream and change my major to journalism, which did not require organic chemistry and embryology.
In my junior year at OSU, a roommate let me borrow two books: “Whack Your Porcupine” and “Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head.” They were collections of cartoons by B. Kliban. Never heard of him? Then I feel sorry for you, but it’s not too late to catch up. Go here to meet Kliban.
The Kliban cartoons were like nothing I’d ever seen. They were far beyond the madness of even Mad magazine, which I loved mostly because my parents told me not to read it.
Kliban was the spark that got me fooling around with cartoons. Still, I was not “aspiring.” I focused on newspaper journalism. After graduation, I was sports editor at The Maui News when I first caught a glimpse of The Far Side by Gary Larson, who also happened to be a Kliban disciple. Like many others, I was inspired by Larson’s world, so I decided to draw a sports cartoon with a Kliban/Larson spin and – as an afterthought – submit it for syndication.
I sketched about a dozen sample cartoons and mailed them to three newspaper syndicates. A week later, Tribune Media Services offered a contract. One month later, on Sept. 1, 1985, In the Bleachers launched in about 30 newspapers. In 1995, I switched to Universal Uclick.
On Sept. 1, 2015, In the Bleachers will be age 30.
-- I was a news editor at the Los Angeles Times on “breaking news teams” that earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 (Rodney King Riots) and in 1994 (Northridge Earthquake.)
-- I resigned as executive news editor at The Times in 1996 and chased a dream of working in animated TV and film. “Open Season” (Sony Pictures Animation); “Alpha & Omega” (Lions Gate Films); “Metalheads” (TV Loonland/BBC); “In the Bleachers” animated shorts (Disney/ESPN).
-- One of my cartoons inspired a new running craze – Instant Gratification Run. Read about it in the New York Times here.
-- I have Essential Tremor, a nervous system disorder that causes shaking, mostly in my hands. It’s not deadly (unless you make a living disarming explosives) but it’s a pain in the butt if you draw cartoons. ET affects 10 million people in the U.S. and millions more worldwide. There is no cure. To control my shaking, I need to either take a medication called “propranolol” or drink an alcoholic beverage. (See “Slug” illustration.)
Either solution is a double-edged sword. March is Essential Tremor Awareness Month. Check it out here.
Read In the Bleachers here.