See All Topics

Home / Section: Comic strips

Three Word Answer Q&A: Rob Harrell

This is the second installment of an exciting new feature called “Three Word Answer” here on The Daily Cartoonist where we’ll ask a cartoonist 20 questions. We politely request that they answer each of the questions in three words (or fewer). But of the 20 questions, the cartoonist may chose three questions (of the 20 total) to elaborate on with a maximum of 20 words. Unnecessarily confusing and pretentious? Oui. 

Today on TWA, we’re palling around with Hoosier cartoonist and graphic novelist Rob Harrell.  His latest (and fifth) graphic novel, “Wink” from Dial Books (Penguin RandomHouse) launched earlier this month. New York Times best-selling author Max Brailler called it “wildly funny” and School Library Connection said it was “heartfelt, humorous … not to be missed” in its starred review. Rob took over the syndicated comic Adam@Home from Brian Bassett in 2009 and created his own daily syndicated comic Big Top which ran from 2002 to 2007 and whose reruns continue on GoComics.

1. You have a new children’s book out called “Wink,” is it your story?

Parts of it.

2. Exactly how autobiographical is it?

It’s set in seventh grade, while I was an adult. But the emotions are all real.

3. Speaking of real emotions, name three newspaper comic influences that aren’t Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts or Garfield.

Pogo, Doonesbury, Bloom County.

4.  And what about three comic influences outside of comics?

Jimmy Pardo, Arrested Development, Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

5. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Paula Poundstone, I’ve always felt her unique brand of comedy living in the subtext of all your work. But let’s not get derailed, so let’s shift back to comics. Who do you regard as the best comic artist in any format?

Walt Kelly.

6. Great answer. Did you know he began his career in animation with Walt Disney? And now your “Monster on the Hill” graphic novel has been sold to Paramount and made into the animated movie “Rumble” (due out in 2021), how was that experience?

Weird, long, exciting.

7. It sure is a long process and lots of work to go from a graphic novel to an animated feature. I’d be interested in your position on hard work. What’s more work for you, a daily comic or a graphic novel?

A graphic novel.

8. But be honest, what’s more rewarding creatively?

It’s a tie!

9. LOL. Though I bet you never wear a tie to work. LOL. Does creating comics/graphic novels ever feel like work?

On some occasions

10. Well, I know I can speak for all your fans that we’re glad you do it. But let me ask a personal question, would you change your career path if you could press the reset button?

No way!

11. You’ve been quoted extensively about “loving to laugh.” Do you have any theories on what makes something funny?

Honestly, no. But absurdity helps. Something unexpected helps, but so does the smack of recognition in a good joke.

12. Besides “Big Top” what newspaper comic surprised you that it wasn’t more successful?

Ouch! Loaded question.

13. Does that still hurt? Wait. I apologize. That’s an insensitive question. I’m sure it does take a long time to get over something so personal. Speaking of time, how long does it take you to complete a graphic novel?

Year (or two)

14. And if I forced you to tell us what the keys to successful storytelling are in the graphic novel format, what would they be?

Solid characters.

15. Speaking of solid characters and regular laughs, what’s the hardest thing about taking over someone else’s comic (Adam@Home)?

The message boards!

16. Those can be brutal, but also a good place to judge reader reaction. Do you have a good idea of which comics you write will get the biggest reader reaction?

Yes. Coffee jokes.

17. Do you think writing for comics would make you a good writer for other comedy formats (sitcoms, late night, sketch shows)?

Can’t hurt!

18. 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?

Almost all story.

19. Can you sell a graphic novel to a reputable publisher without an agent?

Tougher, but yes?

20. What is your go-to snack to draw with?

Bananas, but the tip gets mushy pretty fast and ruins the paper. Kidding: Extra Toasty Cheez-its are my jam!



Community Comments

#1 Mark Tatulli
@ 10:51 am

Great read, Rob! Love your stuff and good luck with WINK, a wonderful middle grade illustrated novel!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.