Devericks: The Man You Love to Hate
The Cartoonists Northwest meeting on Friday, February 18 featured Seattle Times editorial cartoonist Eric Devericks. Eric's is a success story based on hard work and determination, and members listened with interest as he detailed his rise to prominence at such a young age.
Eric acquired an interest in cartoons while pursuing a medical career at Oregon State. After publishing a series of humor strips in the school paper, he tried his hand at editorial cartooning and fell in love with receiving hate mail. He made it his goal to become a paid, professional cartoonist, and put all of his focus into winning journalism awards that would impress potential publishers. Eric won several contests including three national journalism awards; he quit school and became a freelance cartoonist. He developed a relationship with the editors of the Spokane Review at a cartoonists convention who showed some interest in hiring him, but September 11 interrupted the process and made it impossible for the Review to hire. But the Spokane editor was so impressed by Devericks he shopped his name around various newspapers. Eric received a call from the Seattle Times, and since then has been their hard-working staff editorial cartoonist.
Eric starts his day at the Times by attending an editorial staff meeting, in which writers and editors debate the issues that will become the editorial page. He listens to their ideas, but prefers not to match the content of his cartoon with the themes of the articles it will be published with. He gets his ideas for cartoons by reading incessantly, watching television news broadcasts, and listening to talk radio. After making several smaller sketches he creates a more elaborate sketch and then passes it to his boss for a critique. Once he has sign-off he begins the final cartoon within a couple of hours to make the five o'clock deadline.
He begins with a detailed pencil sketch, then goes over the cartoon with brush pens and micron pens. He uses gray markers for his shaded areas, but elaborate strokes are not always necessary; Eric prefers to focus on the characters rather than needlessly fill space. He works larger than the cartoon will be printed and so scans his final work into Photoshop in two pieces. He enjoys experimenting with different pens and other materials, and believes that every new technique mastered is another tool for his arsenol. His caricatures emphasize the essence of the person. a gaping mouth for Howard Dean, enormous ears for President Bush. Consistently Eric works to be unique in style and approach.
For aspiring editorial cartoonists, Eric Devericks cautions that you need a thick skin. Eric can receive thousands of angry emails over the course of the year, but it's his goal to make readers think, and his favorite cartoons are the ones that invoke the most outrage. Editorial cartooning is about inspiring people to share their opinions, and fortunately, Eric thrives on emotional responses. He acknowledges that when he was considering this career path in college, established cartoonists warned him not to do it. True, it can be difficult at times; sometimes there is pressure not to print local storylines for political reasons, and cartooning on a national theme runs the risk of having your cartoon supplanted by a nationally syndicated artist. But Eric loves his job, and his determination rewarded him. He's now a familiar name to Seattle Times readers, who alternately believe he is slanted left and right.
contact: Georgia Ball
Loonatics Come to the WB
Animation has seen a trend of taking popular characters and making spin offs to cash in on their popularity, or to try and save a failing idea by making it "new" & "now". Most often the idea of miniature versions of the same characters seems to be a constant. Examples of this can be found in animation history with such shows as Muppet Babies, Flintstone Kids, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, etc., etc. Perhaps the largest source of this activity is Warner Brothers with such releases as Tiny Toon Adventures and Baby Looney Tunes. Well, now Warner is at it again.
They are not making the characters younger and cuter, after all "Fetal Looney Tunes" may just be a step in the wrong direction. No, this time the good folks at Warner are taking these classic characters that we grew up with and make them appealing to the new generation. While we watched "classic" Looney Tunes & Hanna-Barbera the kids today are hooked on such tv choices as Pokemon & Yu-Gi-Oh. Knowing this, is it any wonder then that the newest incarnation of Bugs and pals will be set in the future to capture this new market?
Yes, the new turn for Looney Tunes will be Loonatics. Warner Bros. has created angular, slightly menacing-looking versions of the classic Looney Tunes characters for its new series and set in the year 2772. Names for the new characters haven't been finalized, but they are likely to be derived from the originals: Buzz Bunny, for example. Each new character retains personality quirks of the original. The new Bugs, for example, will be the natural leader of the Loonatics' spaceship; the new Daffy will remain confident that he is the one who should be in charge. "The new series will have the same classic wit and wisdom, but we have to do it more in line with what kids are talking about today," says Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation. The plots are action-oriented, filled with chases and fights. Each character possesses a special crime-fighting power.
Amazing? I think so too. While such classics as the Muppets Pigs In Space may soar through the cosmos, Loonatics may well be "watership down" when fans of the classic series see this for the first time. Other people have used descriptive words like "terrifying" & "desecration." The mainstream press wonders what is wrong in Burbank. "Have our Looney Tunes taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque?" asks the Boston Herald. "Has Warner Bros. gone daffy?" speculates the New York Post. Even the staid Wall Street Journal (in its print edition) smothers Warners' PR hype with skeptical allusions to the studio's lousy track record with Looney Tunes "updates."
There is a picture here of what they all will look like just so you get the idea. What gets my interest more than the WB doing this is the controversy this has caused. I can't go into any social circle of artists or fans or even go online without hearing about this from someone eventually. Because I'm an artist and a fan I'm asked to comment on this a lot lately, and on first sight I'm against it all. I mean, just look at them!!!
Still, one could act as devil's advocate and say "Get a grip. You haven't even seen it yet." Many new ideas have looked rotten on the surface, but change my opinion 100% once I give them a chance. Once Loonatics debuts Saturday mornings this fall there will be plenty of opportunity for the the village hordes to storm the castle in a rage—or for the eating of crow. In the meantime, Warner Bros. has only released the concept and two pieces of artwork. That's a pretty slender basis on which to condemn the entire enterprise. Is it too much to ask that we (all of us who are Looney Tunes fans) keep our minds even slightly open?
Mind you, I'm not endorsing Loonatics or condemning fan skepticism-how can I, since I feel the same skepticism? However, as I'd mentioned before, the argument here intrigues me and I'm keen to hear the opinions of my fellow fans and professional artists. Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think the WB is on the right track? Do you think the anime craze has taken too hard of a strangle hold on the younger generation and is now choking out our classics? Or, contrariwise, do you see this as a boon to a dying market? Have the Looney Tunes run past their golden age of the 1940's & reached retirement age instead? I think there is much room for debate here, and I think it'd be fascinating to hear the points of view from the pros.
SO, I wanna hear it from all of you, my friends in the artistic community. What's your opinion of this "new look" to our beloved and familiar characters? I hope that you find the time to participate in my little survey, I really think your responses would be quite interesting. Send your thoughts & opinions to my e-mail address, or take the poll on the site below, then I'll tally your votes and opinions and I'll print the results in Penstuff next month!
Contact: Scott Alan
Not just toons, ScotttoonS! Visit ScotttoonS.com to see the work of Scott Alan, performer and freelance cartoonist.
Cartoonists honor Seattle artist Rick Hoberg
The Northwest's best cartoonists were honored March 19 with Seattle artist Rick Hoberg receiving a Golden Toonie and the induction of legendary cartoonists Carl Barks and Gary Larson into a Hall of Fame.
Honorees were selected by members of Cartoonists Northwest during its annual Toonie Award Banquet.
Hoberg received Cartoonists Northwest's highest yearly honor, the Golden Toonie, for a wide-ranging career that's included comic books (Batman, Green Arrow, Roger Rabbit); animation (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles); merchandising-licensing & comic strips (Star Wars); and video games (Microsoft.)
This is the 14th year that a Golden Toonie has been awarded. Past winners include some of the Northwest's finest and most celebrated artists: Brian Basset, Berkeley Breathed, Steve Greenberg, Dave Horsey, Lynn Johnston, John Lustig, Roberta Gregory and Jim Woodring.
This is the first year that Hall of Fame honors have been awarded. The late Carl Barks was honored for a career that stretched back to the early years of Disney animation when he wrote and storyboarded Donald Duck cartoons.
Barks is best known, though, for his decades of work as writer/artist of Donald Duck comic books and as the creator of Donald's fabulously rich Uncle Scrooge McDuck. Barks, who was born in Merrill, Oregon in 1901, died in Grants Pass, Oregon in 2000 at the age of 99.
The other Hall of Fame honoree, Gary Larson, is the creator of THE FAR SIDE--one of the most famous and successful newspaper cartoons of all time. Larson, a Tacoma native, began his comics career selling cartoons to Northwest publications and in 1979 launched a weekly single-panel cartoon series, called "Nature's Way", in The Seattle Times. Soon after, the series was picked up for syndication and rechristened, "The Far Side." Before he retired in 1995, Larson's series was syndicated in 1,900 newspapers.
During the Toonies, awards were also presented to Northwest cartoonists Georgia & Scott Ball for best online comic strip (SCOOTER AND FERRET); Phil & Kaja Foglio for best comic book series (GIRL GENIUS); and Mark Monlux for best illustration (THE COMIC CRITIC).
Cartoonists Northwest is a group of local cartoonists which has been meeting every month in Seattle for over 20 years. In 2003, the group received the National Joseph Werner American Spirit Award.
Contact: John Lustig