3. How did you get involved with the syndicated strip, THE BETTER HALF?
In the late 1970's I had a contract with Rupert Murdoch's syndicate (Murdoch News Service) for a panel called HOWIE, which appeared in a number of papers at that time. That syndicate folded and was acquired by The Register & Tribune Syndicate, which was a major syndicate at that time with FAMILY CIRCUS, SPIDER-MAN and other successful strips.
In the early 1980s, when RTS was ready to hire a new cartoonist for THE BETTER HALF, they knew my work well from the HOWIE panel and hired me based on that. I was in my early 20's and had virtually no time to prepare and had to hit the ground running almost immediately.
The early cartoons were awful (in my opinion) but I've gradually evolved TBHalf into something that is uniquely my own, not an imitation of another cartoonist's art or gags.
King Features syndicates THE BETTER HALF now and it's recently begun appearing in a large number of online newspapers where it's often ranked as one of the most popular strips and panels.
4. You’re one of the industry’s most prolific gag cartoonists. What’s your secret?
Ask any active freelancer like Harley Schwadron, Marty Bucella, Rex (Baloo) May or Mark (Andertoons) Anderson, and they'll probably tell you they draw 5-10 cartoons a day. It's not that uncommon. I average 6-8 cartoons a day, 5-6 days a week for a total of 30-45 cartoons per week, some for syndication, some for my website and freelance submissions.
Working at home, I have two flights of stairs for my commute and no coworkers to distract me or waste my time, so staying busy and keeping organized is fairly easy for me.
5. What’s your favorite rejected strip or gag?
If I have a favorite cartoon, I'll publish it on my website.
6. Where do you stand in the print comics vs. web comics debate?
Print or web makes no difference to me. I do both. My web comics eventually become print comics and my print comics usually spend some time on the web. I don't see any great wall between the two.
7. Newspaper comics are considered pretty tame compared to TV and other media. Do you find this limiting or is it a welcome challenge?
This can be frustrating, especially when a word like "damn" would add some needed punch to a gagline. On the other hand, I purposely push the envelope a little bit with THE BETTER HALF with quite a bit of sexy banter between the two, physical affection, intimate talk...but without any of it being crude.
People who are unfamiliar with TBHalf assume it's a LOCKHORNS clone, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Lockhorns seem to despise each other, but THE BETTER HALF characters are as frisky as a couple can be trapped inside depressing middle-aged bodies.
On my website, I will be a bit more liberal with those cartoons, but I'm still careful not to offend anyone. My job is to entertain, not offend. Plus it's harder to sell a cartoon that offends and that is always a major consideration.