I don’t often think about how far I’ve come as an artist. But, it being on the verge of a new decade, I thought I’d see exactly what I was doing ten years ago. In 2009, I released Welcome to Falling Rock National Park, the third comic strip collection of the above-mentioned comic strip.
Here is the cover to that book, as well as one strip that I particularly liked.
Happy 2020 everybody! I hope we all grow into ever more wonderful beings over the next decade.
Two heartbreaking decisions I’ve had to make recently: one, the next issue of Falling Rock National Park will be the finale. The second, that I won’t be exhibiting at San Diego ComicCon next year.
Falling Rock has been a big part of my identity for much of my adult life. I started the strip in 2006. After six years of that daily strip (and four years of my previous strip), I realized I was not going to ever be a syndicated newspaper cartoonist.
Falling Rock made its debut as a comic book series in 2013 (with the awesome help of guest artist Reid Psaltis). Over the past 7 years I’ve released 8 issues (with two more guest artists, Tyrell Cannon and Oscar Woodruff), and hopefully will release issue 9 next year. But it never made the bigger impact I was hoping for, never got the readership or publisher’s interests. And so, it’s time to try something new.
As for ComicCon, it’s been an amazing 8 years, but it’s been getting more and more difficult to afford that convention. I can’t do it at a loss. Every year I am amazed at how well it is run, and how gracious the people are, from attendees to exhibitors to celebrities. I will miss it, and I definitely want to return.
Sometimes I get an idea that’s too much fun not to do. In this case, it was a Little Golden Book adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. I took the character designs from the new film. I’d be very interested to work on a G-rated version of that story, if only for the creative challenge.
The first famous person I ever saw at ComicCon was Lee Salem. It was my first year attending that convention, before I even had a table. One of my early stops was to the Universal Press Syndicate booth. To my complete shock I saw the man himself, talking with a few other editors. I approached him with the awe appropriate to kings and religious figures, and I think he was baffled by this young man’s recognition. I shook his hand, mumbled something about how great it was to meet him, then moved on. That moment stands as one of my all-time ComicCon highlights (and I’ve met the voice of SpongeBob).
As longtime readers of this here blog know, I wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist since I was a kid. Calvin and Hobbes has been my guiding light since around age 10. Through that strip, I’ve learned just about everything I know about making good comics. Of course there have been others, but Watterson’s work has become so ingrained I believe you can see some of the jokes written in my DNA.
At some point I learned that Lee Salem was Bill Watterson’s editor. I later learned he edited many of the greatest comics to ever grace the pages of newspapers. This was a man I needed to know. As any good writer knows, they are only as good as their editor (Salem’s suggestion on an early submission from Watterson, to focus on the younger brother of the main character, led to the creation of Calvin and Hobbes). When I was old enough to submit comics to syndicates, my first letter was always addressed to Mr. Lee Salem.
Though I never got to work with him (he was promoted to President of Universal Press Syndicate before his retirement) his legacy left a lasting impression on me.
It feels strange to miss a man whose work was, for the most part, invisible. He helped innumerable cartoonists be funnier. He led the industry to give creators more rights. He was president of a comics syndicate during a time of great uncertainty and change. He did all these things well. I am sorry to hear that he is no longer with us. I am grateful for the good work he did.