Hatch, by Carl Schoner
Carl Schoner is a great guy with great talent. He's written a great book, Carl Allen Schoner's BIG Cartoon Sketchbook, which you can preview and purchase by clicking here. One of the many cartoons featured in the book is his comic strip, Hatch. This was a serious attempt by Carl for syndication, but unfortunately it never made it. Here's the story behind Hatch, in Carl's own words.
"Hatch has always been a labor of love for me. When I started the strip, I basically forced myself to draw a panel or two about anything that came to mind, everyday, with the hope that something meaningful would come out of those efforts. I initially called the strip "Rubik's Roost," since the main characters, "Rubik," "Robin," and "Polyanna" were Brazilian parrots literally roosting on a limb. I began introducing other props and gadgetry to my gags, when lo and behold - quite unexpected to me - "Hatch" was born in the 70th panel. The strip was transformed in an instant, in a single frame, and from that moment on, "Hatch" became both the most interesting and most malleable character of the strip. I knew at that moment that my character development had reached a new level, and so I changed the name of the strip to "Hatch." While this strip was never syndicated, it did win accolades from many of the syndicate principals who reviewed it, including Lewis Little, who is often called the "father of a thousand strips," and who invited me to participate in his syndication development internship program, which I stupidly didnít do for two reasons. First, the internship had a cost attached that I could not justify at time. Second, he wanted me to abandon "Hatch" and work on some other concept, and I was totally dedicated to "Hatch" at the time. There are 140 panels in all in Hatch, and in my opinion they are all delightful, free standing, and representative of some of my best work.
"I drew Hatch using a pen brush, and the lettering was done with a rapidograph pen with a .3 tip. Notice how the pen brush creates a much more interesting, varying width line, and how this adds an element of life to the visual impact of the strip. These pen brushes have a sponge like synthetic tip and are available at most art supply stores, and range in price from about $2.50 for a good one, to $10 or more for a premium pen. It is also possible to buy fountain pen brushes with genuine brush tips, but these are generally much more expensive. Another advantage of the cheaper variety is that they are generally two tipped; that is, they have a brush tip at one end, and a regular writing tip at the other end that is generally excellent for lettering.
"If you use a brush tip, I recommend that draw your panels on 11 by 14 inch Bristol board, which will give you more room to accommodate the wider lines of the brush. You can then use a copier to reduce your panels to an 8 by 10 page for submission. Although this adds an extra step, the reduction from 11 by 14 to 8 by 10 actually produces a better looking cartoon, because the reduction also reduces any imperfections in your lines.
"When I submitted "Hatch" to the syndicates for review, the submissions where sized exactly as they are in this book. I always sent a short letter of introduction, a character sheet, and about 1 month of photocopied material. I also included a SASE (self address stamped envelope) for the return of my material. Never send your originals! I once sent about 15 original full color washes on Bristol board to a major magazine for consideration, and never saw them again, despite the fact that my name and address was written on the back of every cartoon, and my return address was written in big block letters on the envelope! Never send originals; only send photocopies."
Oh, and here's some awesome additional info from Carl regarding Hatch and comic strips in general:
"Hatch never made it into syndication, although as my introduction states, Lew Little considered the quality, consistency, and delivery of the strip good enough. What he told me, however, is that newspaper editors HATE strips with animals as the main character. Now, this may seem incongruous with the observation that most newspapers have lots of strips with animals, and that is why I struggle with this. According to Lew, the reason the newspapers hate animal strips is that they cannot cancel them without suffering a storm or protest from the loyal readers who follow the strip! These readers may be small number in comparison to, say, the number of readers that The Boondocks or Dilbert or Frank and Earnest [sic] or Willy and Ethel have - I could name a couple dozen here - but when they cancel an animal strip those readers scream the loudest and the longest. So, to run an animal strip is a gamble between the strip really making it, and the editor losing some control over the makeup of the funnies page. They usually will not take on a new animal strip unless it is already a proven success!
"Anyway, I submitted Hatch to every one of the major syndicates at various stages of its development, in some cases numerous times, and while they often replied with personal notes applauding my style and character development, the verdict was always the same, so I eventually moved Hatch into semi retirement.
"I say "semi retirement" because he is, in fact, alive in a lot of places. He does have a lot of local fans - people who know me and have witnessed his development - and his strips still hang in office cubicals and on refrigerator doors years after I drew them. He is also alive in my book, and who knows? Perhaps the book will spur sufficient interest in him that I will bring him out of retirement."
Terrific insight into the business, eh? Check out some of Carl's great original art below!
Example of Hatch original strips by Carl Schoner. Copyright Carl Schoner.
Go and preview (and purchase!) Carl's book, Carl Allen Schoner's BIG Cartoon Sketchbook, by clicking here.
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