Monday, July 19, 2010
I'm not big on What-If scenarios, at least not in retrospect. They're too daunting and too trivial and too irrelevant all at the same time. What if I'd taken a different route the day I had that accident? What if I'd stayed in nursing school? Or finished college in general? What if I'd thought twice about that one (one?) joke that bombed so irreparably?
Who cares? I didn't, and here I am.
But there's one What-If that I do wonder about. What if I had drawn Frazz the way I had originally sketched him - with curly hair instead of straight?
My comic strip gets compared a lot to the great Calvin & Hobbes, sometimes with a sneer and sometimes with a hurrah and always with way more credit than I deserve. The compliments feel good, the anger kind of hurts, and I don't let myself believe the compliments too much because then I'll have to believe the insults, too.
For the record: I learned a ton from reading Calvin & Hobbes, and I use it. If we want to give my plagiarism accusers some credibility, I'll steal and rephrase a quote from George Bernard Shaw: 90% of cartoonists my age are influenced by Bill Watterson and the rest are liars. I try to draw Frazz cleanly and expressively, like Watterson drew Calvin & Hobbes. I try to write it smartly and give my readers credit for thought and ambition, like Watterson did. From there, I do it my way, and if similarities happen they happen. I neither steal nor conceal.
But that's not what a lot of people zero in on. Many of the people who notice similarities, and nearly all of the angry ones, go straight to the hair. Calvin had spiky hair; Frazz has spiky hair.
I enjoyed the nod from Cory in Watch Your Head. Enjoyed it very much. He's a terrific cartoonist, so to be sent up by him is a real honor. In a nice bit of circular symmetry, his editor at the Washington Post Writers Group is Amy Lago, who signed me to United Feature Syndicate more than 10 years ago and got Frazz of to such a solid start. She's a terrific editor with impeccable instincts. She never got to see the sketches of Frazz with the frizzy hair. If she had, I wonder. What If …?
Posted by Jef Mallett at 10:10 AM