MJ: Stylistically speaking, what new things did this format enable you to try?
JF: The thing that made me want to be a cartoonist in the first place, back in the 1930s, before comic books came on the scene, was adventure comic strips. The most exciting of the strip-layers was a guy named Milt Caniff, who did “Terry and the Pirates,” which was akin to a movie on paper. He built storyboards and he did very impressionistic work and real characters who were interesting and involved. He and Will Eisner were my role models. Those were the cartoonists I wanted to emulate in these adventure strips. I ended up writing Eisner’s “The Spirit” for three or four years, so I understood the form. But I couldn’t do the drawings. No matter how hard I tried, it was pitiful. It took me until age 80 to perfect a style that worked in that kind of genre. And I amazed myself! I thought, when I wrote this story, somebody else would have to illustrate it. The publisher tells me to try it, and so I try?and by God, things began to click!
Here’s a sample of Jules’s work: