The Interview: "Mutts" Cartoonist Patrick McDonnell
"Mutts" creator PATRICK McDONNELL has won some of the biggest awards in the cartooning biz, including the National Cartoonist Society's Reuben Award and Germany's international Max and Moritz Award. Yet it's safe to say that his honors for animal and environmental advocacy, including the PETA Humanitarian Award, mean more to McDonnell. Read just one week of his regular "Shelter Stories" strips and you can feel his sense of mission.
So it is completely natural this week that McDonnell's cartoon critters turn their attention to a future shelter-dog owner: President-elect Barack Obama. Starting with today's "Yesh we can!" strip, "Mutts" spends the next six days whimsically playing with political language in the name of pet rescue.
Comic Riffs caught up with McDonnell to ask him about Earl, Mooch and "Mutts's" saunter into the political ring:
MICHAEL CAVNA: When did you decide upon this week's approach to "Mutts"?
PATRICK McDONNELL: I was inspired when President-elect Obama held his first news conference and said that his preference was to get a shelter dog. When he said, "Most shelter dogs are mutts, like me," I knew I had to comment on it in "Mutts." I normally stay away from politics, but this was a perfect fit.
MC: I like how you co-opt the political sloganeering and imagery each day. Was this week particularly fun to write and draw?
PM: Yes on both counts. I think we have all been inspired by Obama's messages of hope and service. Putting these themes into "Mutts" was easy for me.
MC: What breed would you recommend to the Obama family?
PM: I would love it if the Obama household adopted a mutt. Mutts make great companion animals, and it would make a huge statement. But if any shelter dog, mixed or purebred, is adopted by the first family, it could start a trend that would help save so many dogs in shelters across the nation and the world.
MC: What do you find most rewarding about your animal rescue work? And are any other rescue-related projects on the horizon for you, Earl or Mooch?
PM: Through "Mutts," I have the opportunity to work with many animal charities. I can tell you that the people who work and volunteer for these charities and shelters are unsung heroes, and are among the kindest, most dedicated people I have ever met. The most rewarding part of my job is when someone tells me that, because of "Mutts," they have adopted a pet, or became a volunteer for an animal welfare organization.
This year, my "Mutts" Shelter Stories strips were collected into the book "Mutts Shelter Stories: Love. Guaranteed." Included, along with 10 years of "Mutt" strips, are real stories of animals adopted from shelters and rescue groups worldwide. This book has an introduction by Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society U.S. President and CEO, and is also a source of information on how you can adopt a new best friend.
MC: Other than your own, what strips do you enjoy that feature animals?
PM: The comics that inspired me to become a cartoonist are "Krazy Kat" and "Peanuts." In fact, when I was about 7 years old, I wrote to Charles Schulz and suggested that he should add a cat friend for Snoopy. I think that I may have taken my own suggestion when I started "Mutts."
MC: Historically speaking, who's been the best president for the cause of animals?
PM: I'm not a historian, but I've always admired Abraham Lincoln. He has been quoted as saying: "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." And also, "I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it."
But let me simply say that I hope history will show that the best president for the cause for animals was Barack Obama.
| December 8, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Interviews With Cartoonists
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