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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 12/25/2008

Fave Fan Anecdotes: 'Pearls Before Swine' & 'Hi and Lois'

By Michael Cavna


All week on Comic Riffs, in the spirit of the season, syndicated cartoonists share their favorite fan anecdotes -- telling us in their own words about their artwork that struck a particularly poignant chord with readers. Today, STEPHAN PASTIS and BRIAN WALKER share their stories.

STEPHAN PASTIS, creator, "Pearls Before Swine":

None of my strips ever received such a strong reaction as this one (about Israeli children killed in a bombing). It's from December 2003. ...

Personally, I don't think I'll ever do a more meaningful strip. It generated over 2,500 e-mails -- way, way more than anything else I've ever done.

Because of the Internet, many of the e-mails were from people in Israel. Some had lost children in terrorist attacks. Some had close calls. Incredibly moving.

BRIAN WALKER, cartoonist, "Hi and Lois" and "Beetle Bailey":

About 10 years ago I wrote a "Hi and Lois" Sunday page in which Lois was giving Trixie a bath. In one panel, Lois got up to get a towel, and Trixie was shown by herself in the bathtub. A reader in Florida wrote to the editor of her local newspaper expressing her horror that we had left this infant alone in the tub! The headline on the letters page read: "Infant Left Unattended in Bathtub is No Joke, Says Reader."

King Features called me and said I should call the editor to apologize, which I did. I discussed with the editor the absurdity of the situation. Most people keep their towels in a linen closet in the bathroom, so it was safe to assume that Lois still had Trixie in her sight while she was getting the towel. I was also surprised that a reader would get so upset over a comic character. It wasn't a real child that was being put at risk!

After talking to the editor, I began to rethink the situation. Our job is to create the illusion that these characters are real, and we want our readers to care about them. So it wasn't such a bad thing that this woman had reacted this way. In this case, I felt I had done my job. But in the future I vowed to be more careful with my little pen-and-ink baby.

By Michael Cavna  | December 25, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists  
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My nominee for #2 moving Pearls strip is the one where Pig goes on Memorial Day weekend to the Vietnam Memorial. Just a very careful set up that takes you to a place of unexpected depth.

Posted by: Montanan | December 25, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

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