Monday, August 22, 2016

TIME CAPSULE

A cartoon of mine about the 2008 Presidential election that ran in Time magazine:


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ULTIMATE AMBIVALENCE

INTERVIEW: UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS, 2011

  • How did you discover you had a talent for cartooning? 

I think I was back in art school when I began to be able to do drawings that looked funny. The writing part came a few years later, and improved over time, as did the art.

  • How did your career unfold? 

It was a slow process. In my early-to-mid-20s I would occasionally submit cartoons to the top magazines and get rejected. I wasn't coming up with a lot of stuff and I was not disciplined about sending. Then I lowered my sights drastically and sent a cartoon to a very sleazy, low-rent men's magazine and they bought it for 50 bucks. I sold them another one and raised my sights slightly, selling cartoons to a few slightly less sleazy men's magazines (I never made it into Playboy). I was also still submitting to the top general interest magazines like the New Yorker once in a blue moon with no success. I was doing other things all during this period, and by my late 20s I got a little more serious about cartooning and worked up a book proposal, a collection of oddball cartoons and drawings. It was rejected by every publisher but one. They signed me when I was 29 and it came out when I turned 30. It was called Moot Points, and it got excellent reviews, but they didn’t promote it, so it didn't sell very well. But that year I also began doing greeting cards for two different companies, so, all combined, I made a living as a cartoonist beginning with the book signing. I branched out into some newspaper illustration and advertising art (both in a cartooning style) over the next few years. Then I worked up a proposal for my first comic strip, The Fusco Brothers. All of the newspaper syndicates turned it down, then a few years later a former major syndicate editor, Lew Little, syndicated it on his own, and it launched in 25 papers in 1989. This impressed Universal Press Syndicate enough that they took it over six months later and sold it to a lot more papers. Five Fusco book collections followed. With the decline of newspapers over the years, Fusco's income has dropped, but it's still running. During this period I also sold some cartoons to some mainstream magazines like Esquire, TV Guide and Lear's (now defunct). In 1998 I decided to get serious about trying to break into the New Yorker and decided to commit myself to submitting 10 roughs per week for a year, as I'd read that they liked to see a consistent level of quality over time, and it could take as much as a year.. After six weeks the  phone rang and it was the cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, asking me if I was the same J.C. Duffy who did Moot Points. I said yes, and he bought a cartoon, the first of many over the years.  Since then I've sold cartoons to Barron's, Mad, Time and other magazines. I also did a second newspaper comic, Go Fish, for United Media Syndicate, which ran for five years.

  • What do you enjoy most about your job, your career? 

I love being able to do something creative for a living, and I love working at home and making my own hours. When the income is good, it's a great job. When it's not, it's not.

  • What does your workspace look like? (photo)

  • What was your greatest success? 

I guess being in the New Yorker would be in a tie with having a long-running syndicated comic strip.

  • You've worked on many high-profile projects so far in your career, The Fusco Brothers, as well as writing + drawing cartoons for The New Yorker. What are some of your other favorite projects that you've completed in your career and why? 

I liked Moot Points a lot, I re-read it a few years ago and I thought it held up well, and that it was very original. And I liked my edgier work in greeting cards. Not the occasion-based cards wishing somebody a Happy Whatever, but the weirder cards that were just self-contained gags and strange concepts. I like the few short humor pieces I have on Narrative magazine, online, some of which are accompanied by my illustrations. And I especially get a kick out of my daily blog, Night Deposits, which contains cartoons, drawings, writings, etc. There's no money in it, but I have complete freedom and it's a fun creative outlet. http://nightdeposits.blogspot.com/

  • Describe a typical day of work for you. 

I wake up whenever I wake up, make some coffee, and sit at the computer, where, these days, I do most of my work in Photoshop. Though I also spend time at the art table doing drawings the old fashioned way, which I scan into the computer. (The New Yorker still likes its cartoons done the old way from start to finish, then sent via Fedex.) Depending on what deadline is nearest, I'll be working on Fusco, or magazine submissions or my blog, or whatever other proposals and projects I'm trying to work up. I'm also answering business e-mails and sending rejects from magazine A to magazine B, etc. In the evening, if I'm home, I'll generally do blog material for my own amusement. Finally, before bedtime, I write and draw in blank books, partly for my own amusement, but also, when a book is filled I go through it and scan anything I think may be a potential magazine cartoon or comic strip. This is actually the main source for my magazine cartoon ideas.

  • What mediums do you use for your work? 

I draw in my journals with either a rapidograph or a Flair pen. For finished art I use a rapidograph. I shade (dailies) or color (Sundays) comic strips in Photoshop. I color magazine cartoons in Photoshop, and I shade New Yorker cartoons with various gray markers.

  • Do you have a favorite cartoon you’ve drawn? 

No, I could't pick just one.

  • Who is your favorite cartoonist?

I guess  I'd name the late B. Kliban.

  • What are some common myths about cartoonists? 

Are there myths about cartoonists? I don't know what they are, but I'll bet they're all true.

  • Tell us about your education. What did you like and dislike about your cartooning-related education? 

I went to Temple University's Tyler School of Art. I simultaneously dropped out and flunked out in my final year. I had no "cartooning-related education" there. It was primarily a fine arts school, and they did not encourage my cartooning tendencies, let alone teach anything on the subject.

  • How does a prospective art student assess their skill and aptitude for cartooning? 

I suppose it's hard to be objective about one's own level of talent, in cartooning or anything else. I think you need to simply do a lot of it over time before you get good at it, if you ever do get good at it, but as far as assessing your skill and aptitude, at some point you need to ask yourself, as objectively as possible, if your drawing style has an amusing look, and more importantly, if the writing is funny. If not, try to make it funnier. There's no easy answer for HOW you do that. If you feel you have it in you, and you're driven to keep doing it, you'll do it.

  • How can the reality of cartooning as a career differ from typical expectations?

I don't know what typical expectations are, but the Golden Age of cartooning has passed. Newspaper comics are dying, and the number of magazines that run cartoons has dwindled drastically. Frankly, I would not advise anyone to choose cartooning as their prime career at this point in time. The odds would be against making a good living at it these days. As a sideline, sure, but don't go into it with money as your goal.

  • What are some of the trends that you see in the field of cartooning which could help students plan for the future? 

The trend is toward online cartooning, but unfortunately there's currently very little money in online cartooning, and no one has yet come up with the new "model" that people talk about for how to make money that way. I have no advise for a plan for a future in cartooning. I don't think anyone can predict how things will pan out in the industry. It might continue to whither on the vine, or there may be some new high-tech development that we can't yet imagine that will offer some new venue that actually pays well.

  • What interests you about teaching?

I like the idea of passing along some of the benefits of my experience and knowledge to other people.

  • What will students learn from your class?

Along with firsthand information about many aspects of the business, I hope to get students to explore their own creative process and hopefully find ways to increase their creativity.


  • Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to enter and succeed in cartooning? 

Despite the state of the industry right now, cartooning used to be lucrative for those fortunate enough to succeed at it, and it may be again at some point in the future. And as far as creative outlets are concerned, it can be very rewarding on a personal level. Although this might be the wrong century for it, financially, I'm glad to be a cartoonist, creatively speaking. And if someone has a strong interest in pursuing it, I would tell them to do it strictly for their own satisfaction. While there is no guarantee of big bucks, the new "model" may be just around the corner, and you won't be in a position to benefit from that without entering the field in the first place. And in any event, if it's something you enjoy doing, I would say to do it for that reason alone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

INTERVIEW: SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, 1995

Quirky Fusco brothers return to The City
By Jane Ganahi of the Examiner  staff
Sunday, May 7, 1995

If comic strip character "Cathy" has nightmares about blind dates with buffoons, chances are she's dreaming about the Fusco brothers.
The four brothers, who hail from Newark, N.J., have occupied their own strip for the last five years, expanding rapidly to a publishing empire of more than 100 papers in that time. On tap for the next expansion: The Examiner, which begins the cartoon on Monday.
"I'm glad to be appearing again in San Francisco, so it's good news," says creator J.C. Duffy, noting he isn't sure why it was canceled in the Chronicle. "I hear that in their polls it got both strong negative and positive reactions. I know it will never be "Calvin and Hobbs' or "Peanuts,' but the readers are loyal who do like it."
Indeed, other newspapers - among them the Orange County Register and the Philadelphia Daily News - which canceled the strip, soon reinstated it after readers rebelled.
What gets people so excited about the Fuscos? Duffy says he thinks it's because the four brothers are "everymen" - people with whom readers can identify. Topics for their wry discussions include things that come up between people everywhere: The war of the sexes, single life, dysfunctional families.
The commentary is wry, never obvious. The humor is quirky, never slapstick. If you like the subtle sarcasm of David Letterman, you'll like the Fuscos.
In addition, Duffy uses a unique technique - on TV, it's called "breaking the third wall" between the actors and audience. The brothers openly discuss such things as cartoon agents and lampoon standard cartoon visual devices like the balloon thoughts above their heads and the letters "Zzzz" that denotes sleeping.
Duffy, 43, says the brothers are in no way related to him.
"It's not my family. It's a made-up thing. I always wanted to do four goofy guys and a talking animal."
Duffy describes the family thus: "Lance is pretty much the leader; he's the oldest and kind of cynical. Al is the dumb guy, the youngest. Rolf is the ladies' man; he gets the sexist complaints. Lars is the quiet one; he's kind of classy. And Axel is a teenage wolverine, about 16. He's the sanest one, kind of high-minded. He just tolerates the brothers."
Why a wolverine? "I just thought a wolverine is more interesting than a dog. Some people debate which it is, but I like to leave it officially a mystery."
Duffy set the action in Newark because "I wanted it to be an East Coast city that was kind of dark and gloomy." He himself hails from Philadelphia, where he went to art school and still lives. But he thinks he might soon be making a move.
"I'm hoping to spend a lot of my summer in San Francisco; I hate the hot summers back here. I've been threatening to move there for years because I have a lot of good friends out there. It's a great town."
He has an ally in San Francisco - man-about-town and retro-rocker (with the Dinos) Roger Clark, who is collaborating with Duffy on an animated cartoon of the Fuscos. Duffy did the animation and helped write some songs along with Clark, who describes the project as being
"in development."
As much as he loves being a cartoonist, he does admit, "I do get tired of doing the same characters every day. I like them, but sometimes I think if I have to draw this guy's head one more time I'm going to go on a shooting spree. But it's worth it to get it on the page."
Duffy also has created numerous greeting cards and already has published two Fusco Brothers anthologies,

"Meet the Fusco Brothers!" and "Newark and Reality . . . Together Again." Fans take note: His third book comes out this fall, titled "Cruel and Unusual."

Monday, August 15, 2016

INTERVIEW: ORLANDO SENTINAL, 1989

Testing, Testing. . . 'Fusco Brothers': 4 Guys Living On The Far Side

August 21, 1989|By Agnes Torres Al-shibibi, of The Sentinel Staff

Welcome to Fuscoland, where four bumbling losers share a home with a talking dog who thinks he's a wolverine.
Lars, Rolf, Lance and Al Fusco (pronounced FUSS-co) have no luck with women, are really into Leave It To Beaver reruns and order pizza with giblets for Thanksgiving. Axel, their confused pet, goes to school, complains about dog food and sips martinis.
If Dorothy were here, she'd definitely know she wasn't in Kansas anymore.
''The Fusco Brothers'' begins a two-week test run in The Orlando Sentinel today on page C-5. It is the second of five comic strips to be auditioned for readers, who on Sept. 1 will be invited to vote by telephone on whether the Fuscos should take up permanent residence on the comics pages.
''The Fusco Brothers'' had been scheduled for a fall debut nationwide, but plans changed when newspaper editors expressed an interest in the strip as a replacement for the discontinued ''Bloom County.''
About 50 newspapers have picked it up, said syndicate editor Lew Little, including The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Daily News.
''Fusco'' creator J.C. Duffy, a 38-year-old bachelor with no siblings - bizarre or otherwise - works out of his home in Philadelphia. He designs greeting cards for Recycled Paper Products Inc., does free-lance illustrations for the Philadelphia Daily News and contributes to the syndicated comic strip ''The New Breed.''
An art-school dropout, Duffy credits Mad magazine with shaping his sense of humor and Gary Larson's ''The Far Side'' with inspiring him to try cartooning.
''I didn't think there was a place for what I did in the comics until I saw 'The Far Side.' It was similar to what I had been doing in my cards, and it made me realize the market was loosening up.''
The Fuscos came to life four years ago, but distributors showed little interest then. Duffy tried again earlier this year, hitting paydirt when he sent samples to Little.
Duffy said he has no idea how he came up with the Fusco brothers, but his career may hold some clues. Before becoming a greeting-card illustrator in 1981, he spent years trying to break into the music business as a rock guitarist. He supported himself with odd jobs. At one point he tended bar. At another he was a welfare case worker.

''I guess this strip is a compilation of everything I was dealing with in my drawings over the years. I get a lot of these things from my own sordid life.''

THE FUSSTONES: A SERIOUS PORTRAIT