Later today, Richard Hunt of K-Love Radio is scheduled to call me for an interview. Yesterday he sent me a list of questions he probably will ask. I’ve given these some thought, and decided to post them here.
WHO OR WHAT FIRST INFLUENCED YOU TO THINK ABOUT CARTOONING?
I’ve loved the newspaper comics since I was a preschooler. My dad, a coal miner in Alabama and West Virginia, always subscribed to the daily newspaper no matter where we lived. As far as I recollect, of the six children, I was the only one who read the comics every day. Two or three of them I loved dearly: Dick Tracy and Oaky Doaks come to mind.
I UNDERSTAND YOU VISITED CHURCHES AND DREW CUSTOM IMAGES OF PEOPLE. WHY?
Churches invite me. I’ll be doing this tomorrow in Demopolis, Alabama, at the monthly seniors meeting at First Baptist. I’ll get there at 10:30 (after a three hour drive) and sketch everyone, then bring a Christmas devotional. Afterwards, we’ll have lunch then drive home. Long day but great fun.
Last weekend, I drew for the two hours prior to each of our church’s four presentations of its CAROLS program. Must have done a couple of hundred, but I never make any attempt to count them.
REGARDING CARTOONS, WHAT CAN THEY OFFER WHICH THE PRINTED WORD CANNOT?
Nothing. But they’re easier to read and often slip up on you with a great point when you were least expecting it. But I’m a strong believer in the printed word, having blogged on our website for some 20 years, and have published a number of books (on grief, growing old, deacons, prayer, healthy church, hearing from God, and pastoring).
HOW DO YOU ‘IMAGINE’ WHAT CHARACTER YOU’RE GOING TO DRAW? DO YOU SEE IT IN YOUR MIND?
No, it’s much more haphazard than that for me. Often, I’ll sketch a face or body and realize this person is angry or puzzled or doing something and work around that. But it’s rare that I set out to draw a specific character doing a particular thing.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
From reading, listening, praying, sitting in church, and reading other cartoons. The only reason I have subscribed to The New Yorker magazine–it ain’t cheap!–for many years is they have these great cartoons, many of which will often give me ideas. Cartoonists, you may be interested to know, borrow ideas from one another all the time, so it’s not plagiarism.
Often I’ll draw a situation without a clue what is going on or what they people are saying. I’ll add that to a stack of similar drawings that have no caption, and sometimes go through them asking “what are you saying?” or “what’s going on here?” And once in a while I will post one of those drawings on Facebook, telling my friends that “I don’t have a clue what’ he’s saying. Help!” An hour later I’ll check and will have 40 or 50 suggestions.
DO YOU BELIEVE GOD HAS EVER GIVEN YOU A SPECIFIC MISSION FOR A CARTOON?
Not that I can remember. But I will tell you that I frequently pray about the cartooning. Basically, I pray two things: Help me to do this well and Use it to encourage people.
DO YOU LIKE TO POINT OUT STRUGGLES PASTORS AND FAMILIES GO THROUGH?
I do that all the time, particularly pastors and their families. Many years ago I made a vow to the Lord that we would do three things: live simply, give generously, and encourage pastors.
YOU TAKE ON STEREOTYPES. YOU’RE NOT AFRAID TO POKE FUN AT THE CHURCH AND BELIEVERS.
God’s people have a great sense of humor. And the mature ones know they deserve being kidded. — Many years ago, when I was young and trying to draw cartoons for religious publications, my cartoons had a barb in them. Their humor was sharp and sometimes painful, and editors would (wisely) not use them. Over the years I learned to take the edge off and sweeten them up.
DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE WILL RETHINK THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF SOMETHING FROM READING A CARTOON?
I do. I’ve done cartoons on racism, hypocrisy, materialism, and ignorance of the Word, in the hope that someone would get the point.
IN THE WORLD OF CARTOONS AND EDITORIAL CARTOONS, WHO DO YOU ADMIRE?
Pretty much all of them, but my all-time favorite was Dick Moores who did the Gasoline Alley comic strip for the last 30 years of his life (he died in 1986). Prior to that he worked for Chester Gould in his 20’s drawing Dick Tracy, then in his 30’s worked on the Disney comic books. Funny story. In 1979, I was in his studio in North Carolina. He told me that one of his jobs had been adding that distinctive Walt Disney signature to the artwork. I noticed he had an autographed photo of Disney framed on his wall. I said, “Did you ever know Walt Disney personally?” “No,” he said, “but two years ago we had a gathering of cartoonists who used to work for him, and I saw a stack of these photographs off to one side. So I took one and autographed it to myself.”
The way we met was interesting. I’d written a letter to the newspaper syndicate which handled the Gasoline Alley strip complimenting Mr. Moore on his incredible art. It was simply wonderful. So, I got a personal note from the man thanking me. That was something special. (He told me later he would spend a full day doing the art for one strip.) Then, one Saturday morning I came home from an early meeting and my wife said, “You’re not going to believe who called you this morning. Dick Moores called from North Carolina.” Wow. When I returned his call, he said, “I’m about to marry two characters in the strip. It’s been so long since I’ve been to a wedding, which side do they stand on?” I told him. He said, “Do they still say Til Death Do Us Part?” I assured him they did. He sent me a photocopy of that strip which is framed and hanging right in front of me. It’s as close as I’ve ever come to marrying characters in a comic strip.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CHARLES SCHULZ AND PEANUTS?
Total admiration. He was amazing. And soooo highly respected by the other cartoonists. In the early 1980s when I joined the National Cartoonist Society, he gave me an original Peanuts cartoon with Snoopy and Woodstock. It’s frame and stowed away somewhere safe. They tell me he used to sell original strips for $1,000 each.
YOU’RE IN YOUR 80S NOW AND STILL CARTOONING. WHY?
Oh man. Because I love it, because I still can, and because there are still editors who want to run my stuff. I am so blessed that my hands are still steady and my eyesight good and I can still do this. One of the fun things about being a cartoonist is you send someone a note and they frame it. How good is that?
SOMEONE LISTENING MAY NOT HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS BUT LOVES CARTOONS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM ABOUT THE SAVIOR?
I would say, “My friend, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are living beneath your privilege. There is a whole ‘nother world just waiting for you to discover.”
Where to start? I would get into the Gospel of John and live there until I had it settled and knew the Lord Jesus personally. This Gospel is the richest, a mother lode of truth, a treasure chest of insights about the Lord Jesus. I would sit down and read all 21 chapters through at one sitting. You can do that in an hour or two. And then, I’d start all over, reading it slowly, thinking about it, and going back and reading a chapter again. And when I finished that, I’d read it again. You’ll see more the third or fourth time through than you did the first time.