Friday, June 24, 2011

Mort Walker...In His Own Words

I was born in Kansas in 1923, reared in Kansas City, Missouri educated at the University of Missouri, and matured with the Untied States Army in Italy. Instead of bedtime stories, my father used to tell me anecdotes about the famous cartoonists of that day. I drew constantly, and spent many days on the floor of the art department of the Kansas City Star going through drawers of old cartoon originals. Success at my chosen art came early. I started selling to magazines when I was twelve. All of my dates were financed by the money I made selling cartoons to church publications, the local newspaper, and amateur contests in kids' magazine's. My father was an architect who painted, wrote poetry and drew cartoons. My mother had been an illustrator and designer. We were poor by financial standards (we were often without heat, lights or food), but we were rich in every other way imaginable.

My parents were wonderfully inspiring, guiding hand in my career. When I was fifteen I did a strip for the Kansas City paper. It was about a group of goofy sailors with a fat captain. Little did I know then that I would hit it rich with the same theme...but in different uniforms! I submitted my first strip to a syndicate while I was still in high school, but it was turned down. In my first year of college and working in the stock room of Hallmark Greeting Card Company, I read an add for an Hallmark! They almost fired me for looking for a job while in their employ. I told the company, honestly, that their cards were gooey, over sentimental and sickening, and I wouldn't buy one for my grandmother. They hired me. At seventeen I became the editorial designer for all the greeting cards that Hallmark produced. The war interrupted the great start I had. While in the service I met all the characters who people my strip. The "Sarge" I knew didn't have a hair changed to walk right into the strip.

I work with an "assembly line " system. That is, I pencil in an entire week of strips in one day. The next day I ink them in. This is opposed to the "one complete strip a day" method used by many cartoonists. Two days I write ideas, sketching them in pencil on typing paper, one to a page. Jerry Dumas, who works with me, has also at the same time been home writing, and we get together Monday morning and discuss our week's output of ideas. We vote on the best, discard the bad ones, and put aside those that are worth saving, if we can repair them. I use a three-ply, plate finish drawing paper. A #170 pen point for drawing, and a stub for lettering. I use India ink, F pencils, and erasers, among other things. And don't forget your electric pencil sharpener and an electric eraser for ink smears.

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