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‘Three Word Answer’ Q&A with Mark Tatulli

This is the debut of a possibly recurring feature called “Three Word Answer” on The Daily Cartoonist where we’ll ask a cartoonist 20 questions. They’re instructed to answer each of the questions in three words (or fewer). Of the 20 questions, the cartoonist may chose three questions (of the 20 total) to elaborate on with a maximum of 20 words. Make sense? T’us neither. Editor’s Note: Mr. Tatulli chose not to play by the aforementioned rules. 

Today on TWA we’re rapping with Philadelphian and Reuben nominee Mark Tatulli. Mark is the syndicated cartoonist behind “Heart of the City” and “Lio.” Mark has also published 16 books ranging from collections of his syndicated strips, picture books and graphic novels. His latest, “The Big Break” from Little Brown launches today

Q1) You have a new book out called “The Big Break,” what’s it about?

Boyhood friendship in that weird hiccup of life called middle grade. And monster tracking, B-plot. 

2. Is there a marketing hook the publisher came up with to help sell it?

The publishers marketing plan is to “like” and/or “retweet” my tweets about my book. So obviously I’m super excited.

3. Name three newspaper comic influences that aren’t Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts or Garfield.

Bloom County, The Addams Family panel cartoons, and Gahan Wilson’s panel cartoons.

4. How about three comedy influences outside of comics?

Steve Martin, George Carlin, Mel Brooks.

5. Best comic artist (any format)?

Jean Giraud aka Moebius.

6. You’ve had some experience in Hollywood. Care to share that experience?

I’ve had lots of Hollywood meetings. They all went well.

7. What’s more work, a daily comic or a graphic novel?

A comic strip is a lot work spread over a lifetime, but a graphic novel is a lot of work spread over the smallest amount of time the publisher can possibly allow.

8. What’s more rewarding creatively?

“Rewarding creatively”? Is that a thing?

9. Does creating comics feel like work?

No, it feels like “fear”. Fear that I just came up with my last idea, fear that I just thought of my last joke, fear that I don’t know what’s funny anymore, fear that I won’t make deadline, fear that they’ll stop making Cheetos and toffee-flavored k-cups. It’s just all fear. But I’m very fortunate to do this for a living.

10. Would you change your career path if you could press the reset button?

No, because I’m never going to sing the lead of EVITA on Broadway no matter what happens, and I just have to live with that.

11. Do you have any theories on what makes something funny?

Mel Brooks once said, “when I stub my toe, it’s tragedy. When you fall in a hole and die, that’s comedy.” I think that’s right. And that’s why I have loved that man since 1974.

12. What newspaper comic surprised you that it wasn’t more successful?

Both of mine.

13. You’re the only male nominated for the Reuben this year. Comment, please.

I don’t believe in labels.

14. What are the keys to successful storytelling in the graphic novel format?

Copy whatever Dav Pilkey or Raina Telgemeier do. But change the words slightly, like you did when writing a report for school and copying from the encyclopedia.

15. What’s the most important thing for a newspaper comic to be successful?

Cutting newspaper editors in on the action. Let ’em wet their beaks a little, ya know?

16. Do you think people who don’t do two daily comics and graphic novels should be allowed to say “I’m so busy”?

No, but the word “goldbricking” does come to mind.

17. Do you have a good idea of which comics you write will get the biggest reader reaction?

The funniest ones always piss people off.

18. What do you find more challenging to write: Lio or Heart of the City?

HEART, because it’s scripted. Dialogue driven, for the most part. And writing like that is too much like reading. I prefer my information in bite size TikTok like pieces.

19. When you have an idea for a graphic novel, how much are you thinking about the reader/buyer and whether the idea is marketable vs. a story you want to tell?

The story and characters are first. Then when you show your agent or publisher, they say, “that’s great! I love it! But can you make it more like DOG MAN? And can you not be a middle-aged white male? That’s so 2012. Thanks!”

20. What is in your bloodstream when you draw?

Depends on time of year. December? Hot chocolate. March? Girl Scout Cookies. April? Marshmallow chickies/jelly beans. Summer? Chlorine. And on and on. But all that’s going to change when I get my N.J. Pain Management Cannibas Card. I have lots of pain, especially since I’m on self-quarantine with people who watch THE KARDASHIANS and 90-DAY FIANCEE. That $#!+ just ain’t right.

Community Comments

#1 Mike Lester
March/31/2020
@ 4:10 pm

That anyone signs up to write a comic strip is insane, hammer to the head taxing mentally and Groundhog Day terrifying.

That anyone would sign up to write two of them is like those yahoos w/ more than one wife.

#2 Mark Tatulli
March/31/2020
@ 7:14 pm

Yo, Mike, it’s nothing like having more than one wife!
My comic strips have no problem when I shave and leave all the little hairs in the sink.

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