From Comic Strip Gutters To Children’s Book Awards: The Norm Fueti Interview

From Interviewer William Schwartz:

From 2006 to 2020, Norm Feuti wrote and drew Retail, a syndicated strip surprisingly low on wacky antics, preferring to deal with the mundane farce of retail employees stuck between intractable corporate policy and arbitrarily unreasonable customers. Feuti spoke with me about this and the other comics of his career.

The Comics Journal presents an interview with cartoonist and children’s book author Norm Fueti.

Now, you didn’t only write Retail. For a couple of years you wrote Gil, a more sort of generic premise about a cheerful, chubby child of divorced parents, before eventually going Sunday-only. What was the genesis of this project, and why do you think it didn’t have quite the syndicated success that Retail ultimately did?

Gil started as a webcomic in 2008. The original website no longer exists. I didn’t have the time to focus on it as a web project, so I ultimately gave it up. But readers responded well enough to it that I put together a pitch in 2012, and then King Features took a chance with it. Gil only sold to a handful of newspapers. Sales never materialized, so we pulled the plug after two years. However, one of the papers that did carry it (the Providence Journal) got hundreds of letters when Gil ended. Their readers really loved the comic, so the editor reached out to me and offered to pay me to do Sunday Gil comics just for them. That arrangement lasted until the end of 2022. New management decided not to continue with the comic as a cost-cutting measure. Still, it was a good run.

Why did you stop Retail, and eventually Gil as well? Do you ever think about returning to comics? Or is your current work as a children’s book author that much more fulfilling?

In 2020, my contract was just about up with Retail and I decided not to renew it. I was having success with my children’s books, and had just signed a contract with HarperCollins for a four-book deal. It seemed like the right time to let it go. After 14 years, I think I mined the rich tapestry of retail life pretty well. It was time for a change. Besides, the newspaper industry continues its decline, and it seemed like a prudent decision to switch gears.

I do find writing and illustrating children’s books very fulfilling. I enjoy the more thoughtful pace as well. Producing a daily comic is a grind. Fourteen years with no vacations. That aspect of the job I certainly don’t miss.

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