Humorist Kevin Fagan is best known as the creator of Drabble, the syndicated cartoon strip appearing in over 200 newspapers nationally and various online forums globally. Kevin, then age 21, was the youngest syndicated cartoonist on record, receiving accolades from others in the industry including Charles M. Schulz. Over the decades he has only missed two days ‘work,’ inked eight books and just released his first novel, “A Drabble Family Christmas Tale.” Welcome to the spotlight, Kevin!
Q) The Drabbles: Ralph and June, parents of three – Norman, Patrick and Penny, and owners of pets, Wally the wiener dog, Bob the ‘parrot’ and Oogie the cat, have embodied many ordinary family topics, in an extraordinarily humorous way. Why did you pick now to tell their Christmas story in “A Drabble Family Christmas Tale,” and how much is based on your life, either when you were growing up, or now, with your children?
A) Christmastime is one of my favorite subjects to write and draw about in Drabble. It’s such an important time of year for many of us, and there is always plenty of material. Much of the humor in Drabble is based on real life. My kids always gave me ideas when they were growing up, and I certainly got a lot of ideas once I became a father.
My first novel, “A Drabble Family Christmas Tale” incorporates a lot of the Christmas humor that my readers expect from the Drabble family, but the story is entirely original. I’ve never told this story in the strip and it actually got a little more emotional than I expected! My wife says she can judge a good book if it makes her laugh and cry. I’m happy to say we passed her test!
In the book, Ralph thinks back to his childhood about a certain residential street with elaborate Christmas decorations, and one house in particular. He tries to recreate those decorations on his own house, but something is missing. He just can’t figure out what it is. Writing this book was a great experience. It’s very cool to see these characters in a new medium, and having them interact with greater detail than they can in a 4 box comic strip! So far, our loyal readers approve.
Q) Very cool! From Christmas to any other celebration, what’s been your favorite to ink?
A) It’s hard to pick a favorite subject that I’ve drawn. I love to draw Wally the wiener dog, Ralph playing golf, Oogie the cat, Ralph as a mall cop and now a TSA screener, Norman and his nerdy college friends, and many others. I like drawing Halloween strips too. Pumpkins and costumes are fun. One year I got a call from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, who told me that the strip I’d drawn for that day was the best Halloween strip he’d ever seen. That was unquestionably the highlight of my career!
Q) You share on your site that the history behind creating Ralph Drabble is a combination: you, when you were young, and your father. Now that you’ve been publishing almost nonstop for, eh hem, decades, has Ralph changed, and do you view him differently?
A) On the Drabble.com site, I share a little history. I was offered a syndicate contract when I was only 21, not even out of college yet. When Drabble began, I related mostly with Norman, the clumsy college kid who can’t get a date. It was pretty autobiographical! As the years went on and I had a family of my own, I started relating more to Ralph. Now my own sons are in college and they continue to give me a lot of material to work with. It’s fun to blog about those stories on the Drabble.com site. People are fascinated by where ideas for strips and story lines come from. So many come from real life. My wife is nothing like Honeybunch, though!
Q) Important to set that record straight, glad I could help! When you look back, who would you say had the most impact on your career?
A) When I was a kid, I enjoyed the work of Don Martin in Mad Magazine. I also
loved Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace and Johnny Hart’s BC. Herman, by Jim Unger, never failed to crack me up. But Schulz had the greatest impact on my career. I grew up reading Peanuts and getting lost in his world. As luck would have it, we actually did spend a lot of time together at his studio and his ice rink in Santa Rosa, CA. We talked about everything. “Sparky”, as he was known to everyone who knew him, really enjoyed talking about politics, religion, and life. Most people, including myself, were hesitant to argue with him about anything because, after all, he was Charles M. Schulz! My wife, however, is a real people person and never holds back her opinions. Sparky loved talking to her because she challenged him. He really enjoyed being challenged.
A) It’s hard to say which character I’ve enjoyed drawing most. Ralph is so rich. He’s a good husband and father and a good guy. A lot of men relate to him. He was the first “mall cop”, you know. I can’t say for sure, but I think the term may have originated in Drabble. I had no idea what to call him, “Retail security guard” wasn’t very funny. “Mall cop” sounded funny. I enjoy the expressions Ralph makes, and I enjoy all of his personality quirks. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed drawing Wally the wiener dog. I like the way he looks when he’s running, with his feet going really fast and his ears flying all over the place. It’s really fun to watch Wally come to life on the blank sheet of paper. Bob the duck is a lot of fun to draw, sitting up on his perch pretending to be a rare, south American parrot. I really should use him more just because I like to draw him! Penny, the little sister, is also fun to draw and write for.
I always get a big reader reaction when I do a story line with Norman and Echo. Echo is a girl from college who Norman has been spending time with. She is a female version of him. She seems to like Norman, as opposed to his last love-interest Wendy who didn’t seem too crazy about him! Not sure where this relationship is headed yet, but my readers really want them to stay together. By far, the character in Drabble who gets the most reaction is Wally the wiener dog. In this age of Facebook and e-mail and twitter, I hear from my readers every day. Wally seems to bring a lot of happiness to people. That’s why he is featured so much in “A Drabble Family Christmas Tale”, and why I promised my readers a lot more Wally in the Drabble comic strip after the first of the year.