I first began drawing and marketing CLUCKERS, an anti drug comic strip, in 2004. For the next 18 months or so, one new strip per day was drawn, much in the way I put out one new post (minimum) per day now. The strips were all pen and ink sketches, captioned by hand, and then copied on a refurbished Canon copier for dissemination to customers. I knew nothing about the ways of cartoonists who make magic happen on computers; my sketch-copy-and-mail procedure was all there was to it.
In order to sell the strips, introductory letters with a page of cartoon samples were snail mailed to approximately 5,000 newspapers around the United States. Additionally, in our local area (western Montana at that time), a number of walk-in sales calls were done.
None of the walk-ins produced results, though a couple of editors did seem to really like the strip. It’s a pretty good bet their superiors shut them down. To my utter disgust, my (then) home state never bought a single strip.
Three publications in other states did purchase annual subscriptions. Two of those papers were located in Louisiana and one was in Illinois. My price was super cheap: $100 for a year’s subscription, which included every strip drawn for one full year. That gave an editor a total of 365 strips. Two of the papers were weeklies, though, so they got to pick whichever 52 strips they liked best from the total and run those.
The most important publication from the CLUCKERS point of view was the Crowley Post-Signal of Crowley, Louisiana, which became my first customer. The paper put out a monthly insert titled Teen Scene, aimed specifically at area teenagers. This was where the general manager chose to use my anti drug cartoon strip. That one captured my interest; if the cartoons spoke to the kids, I’d know I was on track.
Readership response from the students was hugely positive…but the editor who’d made the initial purchase was no longer around when it came time to consider renewing the subscription. The new regime at the paper didn’t even acknowledge my emails, and that was that.
Finally, in mid-2005, CLUCKERS was put on the shelf. I quit drawing the cartoons and began to focus on other things.
Which did not mean I forgot. Producing CLUCKERS was in many respects the most enjoyable thing I’d ever done. Beyond that, it had the potential to become the most important thing I’d ever done. From early childhood, I’ve been a fanatic reader of the comics. I’ll even read strips I hate, just because they’re there. From newspaper cartoons to comic books, political cartoons to super light fluff, artistically or crudely drawn, cartoons have been a significant force in my life, sometimes even changing it for the better.
Figuring there must be others out there, I always knew I’d return to CLUCKERS someday…and this is the day. It won’t be anything close to full time like it was in 2005 unless a major industry player drops by this website someday and says, “Hey, let me syndicate that for you.”, but that’s okay.
Now, a few key rules I set for myself:
1. All of the talking barnyard characters are fictional. If you know a real drug pusher named Shady Skunk, I assure you it’s a coincidence.
2. The critter characters all talk, but sometimes they also evolve. For example, Lily (married to Shady Skunk) used to be a lot cuter in 2004/2005. She’s half chicken, half skunk, and stole Shady’s heart when she was his nurse. Shady had been run over on the railroad tracks and had his tail severed by the Skunk Squasher Special; she was there to help him convalesce after the chicken doctor had sewed his tail back on. But raising a problem child seems to have aged her unfairly; she’s gained a lot of weight, especially in the butt.
3. All of the drugs described or mentioned in CLUCKERS are provided with their own made up (fictional) street names. We have no interest in promoting the use of any of the real, specific horrors that are out there ravaging the youth of our nation as we speak.
4. The first strip, which I just finished about an hour ago, is hardly representative of the best I can do. The cartoon at the top of the page is my second cartoon of the evening. I’m not going to redo #1, but I will remember from now on that using the flash on the camera produces a lot better end result than relying on a 40 watt incandescent room lighting bulb.
With that said, let’s get to it. I’m going to publish this, then cartoon #1, then get back to drawing. I’m not yet sure just how many strips will be included on each page–but the journey should be enjoyable. I can’t wait to get started.