by Jim Nintzel
Longtime TW readers may recall "Staggering Heights," a ongoing comic strip by Joe Forkan, whose work also graced many a cover for TW through the 1990s.
Joe is now an associate professor of art at California State Fullerton. Check out some of his latest work here.
He's also posting those old strips on his Staggering Heights blog, along with commentary. One great story he tells:
I met Charles Schulz once. I was in my early twenties, and I was drawing comic strips and editorial cartoons for a bunch of college papers at the time. I heard that Schulz was in Tucson, where I lived, filming a live-action sequence for some Peanuts special at the local skating rink. Well, when I was a kid I loved the strip, as did anyone my age. He did artwork for the Apollo 10 moon landing, for god’s sake. Snoopy was everywhere, and Christmas and Halloween weren’t the same if you missed the Peanuts specials when they aired. So the strip was a bit of a touchstone for me, and Schulz was certainly the most successful cartoonist imaginable.
Well, being an industrious young man, I decided it would be a good idea to head right down to the skating rink and show him my cartoons, thinking of course, that he would
instantly recognize the sterling quality of my work and then he would, um… he would… uh, give me a key to the cartoonists executive washroom or something??? I don’t know what I thought he would do, but I wanted him to see my work.
So, down there I went and wandered into what was essentially a busy movie set, and saw him finishing a conversation with a guy with a clipboard and saw my chance to introduce myself. Which I did. I explained that I was a fan, and asked him if he would take a look at my work, handing him a huge, bound collection of comic strips.
Well, he looked annoyed, but took the cartoons from me, leafing through them quickly. From a brief five second skimming of the entire stack, he weighed in: “You have the unfortunate distinction of being influenced by two of the worst cartoonists working in the field today; Berke Breathed and Gary Trudeau”. At least he recognized my influences, I thought. Berke Breathed’s Bloom County and Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury were certainly influences, and I enjoyed their work immensely, at the time. He then looked up from the cartoons and asked, “How old are you?”
“Um…twenty one,” I answered weakly.
“Well…”, he sighed, and paused for a beat.
“You’re still young”.
Then he pressed the cartoons back into my hands, spun on his heels and walked away.