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United to launch Freshly Squeezed by Ed Stein

Former Rocky Mountain News editorial cartoonist Ed Stein is launching a new comic strip through United Media on September 20. The new strip, entitled Freshly Squeezed, is a close spin-off from Denver Square, the local daily comic strip that Ed produced for the Rocky Mountain News for 11 years ending in 2008. The new strip features Sam and Liz, their pre-teen son and Liz’s parents who move in. The strip rides a new trend in the US of multigenerational families living together.

Alan: When did you begin working on this strip?

Ed: I started working on it in earnest when the Rocky folded last year.

Alan: How much of this strip is new and how much is “Denver Square the sequel”?

Ed: In some ways it is a sequel to “Denver Square,” in that it features the same cast of characters in a similar setting (although I’ve restyled the characters, some pretty dramatically). Obviously, it won’t be about life in Denver, but is really about the family dynamic of three-generations living together under one roof–a family that might just be better off not being so close. It isn’t in any way political, although I expect to touch topical subjects such as the economy.

Alan: You had mentioned, when announcing the end of Denver Square, that the strip was starting to “feel like a grind instead of a pleasure to write and draw each day.” What’s it like now coming back to doing a daily strip?

Ed: I’m enjoying writing and drawing a strip again. The grind I felt probably had more to do with my sense that the Rocky was likely to close and that I needed to move on to something I could support my family with. So, naturally, I’m going back to work in the same whalebone corset industry that I just left. Nobody ever said cartoonists made smart career choices.

Alan: The premise is about a multigenerational family living together. What was the genesis for that scenario come from?

Ed: It just seemed like a natural way to bring the same character mix to life; the economy tanked and many, many families found themselves living in multi-generation homes–so I just started with that premise, and it came together.

Alan: Where are you getting the daily inspiration/material for Freshly Squeezed? Are you living in a multigenerational environment?

Ed: I’m actually at the opposite end. My kids are out of the house, and it’s just me and Lisa (and the dog and cat) now. Of course, given the state of the industry, we might end up having to move in with the kids.

Alan: How much of the humor is based on the living situation (much like “Dustin”) and how much of it will be topical family humor that just happens to include the grandparents living with the family?

Ed: In the beginning, it’s more about the living situation as I establish the characters and the setting, but you can only ride that one so far. Ultimately, the strip has to be driven by the relationship between the characters, not by externals. Otherwise it gets boring fast.

Alan: The newspaper market went into the tank the last couple of years as far as new comic strips launched, but it appears we’re seeing a resurgence in the number of new features (“Dustin”, “Barney and Clyde”, “Diamond Lil'”) launched. How do you view the market and what are your expectations as the launch date nears?

Ed: I think some really dreadful strips got launched in the last decade or so, as editors chased demographic niches. I’m seeing that trend starting to be reversed now with some strong new features. I’m hopeful, obviously, that editors and readers will like “Freshly Squeezed,” and terrified that the current newspaper economy won’t support it. I’m happy with what I’ve created; I think it’s a strong strip, but I honestly don’t know what to expect in this market. Note to editors: this strip will save your newspaper. Buy it.

One newspaper has announced they’re picking the strip up and have posted a Sunday strip preview. Head over to the Knoxville News Sentinel for a look.

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