Cartoonist Stephan Pastis revisited

A few years back, I interviewed cartoonist Stephan Pastis for the Huffington Post. As of today, millions of people have read it, literally. That’s how popular he is. Here’s a repeat of that interview. As you know, he is the creator of the long-running comic strip, Pearls Before Swine. I had the opportunity to check in with Stephan again.

TOM: You have a new book out, “Trubble Town,” what’s the gist any of the Pearl Before Swine characters in it?

STEPHAN: Yes! Trubble Town 2: The Why-Why’s Gone Bye-Bye just came out, and is the sequel to Trubble Town 1: Squirrel Do Bad.

It contains both the cat and the moles from Pearls, as well as cameos from other Pearls characters. It’s about a town that’s been torn apart by stupidity and greed, and the only way to save it is for aliens to remove all the adults and let the children take over.

TOM: I guess you are going to hit the road promoting the book, I noticed you seem to travel a lot, do you get things done with the Pearls Before Swine comic strip? Do you work on the road? What is your work schedule like?

STEPHAN: Yes, I’m sure I will be doing that once again. I try to draw 14 Pearls strips every week that I’m home, which buys me 26 free weeks a year to write other books and travel. Next week, I’m headed to Copenhagen, eastern Germany, Poland, and Prague.

TOM: That’s amazing, because most cartoonists wrestle with the non-ending deadlines of daily comic strips. Are you still working with pen and ink or have you moved to digital yet?

STEPHAN: Pen and ink on a flat desk with a manual pencil sharpener. About the only old-school component I don’t use is candlelight. For light, I have transitioned to electricity.

Stephan’s humble work space.

Here is a photo of where I draw everything — note the chair that is only six inches off the ground. I use it because when I draw, I lean way over and draw with my head very close to the paper, which-in a normal chair-hurts my back. With this super-short chair, my head is naturally closer to the paper and I don’t have to lean forward. It is a process as strange as the characters I create.

TOM: Well, that process seems to work, you have millions of readers and fans. Where do you get the most readers — Instagram, Facebook, online at GoComics, etc. or is it still newspapers where most of the readers are?

STEPHAN: Probably still newspapers. Although when I post something that gets re-posted a lot, those reader numbers may exceed newspapers.

TOM: What song would be the theme of Pearls Before Swine?

STEPHAN: Well, there was an acid-rock band in the 1960s named Pearls Before Swine, so that would probably be appropriate. But the truth is that when I’m writing and I get stuck for ideas, I generally play one song over and over — the Doors’ live cover of Who Do You Love? Something about the rhythm of the drums is exactly in line with the rhythm of the words I write. So I’ll make that my theme.

Stephan Pastis at NY Comic Con a few years back

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?

STEPHAN: My children. I want to see how unflattering it would be.

My daughter once saw the line for one of my book signings and said, with true astonishment, “Why would anyone wait in line to see you?”

TOM: I’ve seen you quite a few times at Comic Cons, I’ve never come up to you, but you seem very quiet and unassuming, nothing like your comic strip characters. Are you shy, or just being a gentleman in public?

STEPHAN: I just want to bask in the light of being called “quiet and unassuming,” a counter to the legion of folk who call me loud and obnoxious, usually preceded by profanity.

TOM: Superpower if you had one?

STEPHAN: The ability to write a book that is still read 100 years from now. Or the ability to get slimmer and healthier every time I eat an entire pizza.

Pearls Before Swine, courtesy GoComics.com

TOM: What made you laugh today?

STEPHAN: A video on Facebook of a guy lighting a bottle rocket that shoots under a bathroom door and explodes, causing the man relieving himself inside to yell, “SHIT!” and scream. Comedy just doesn’t get any better.

TOM: What three cities are you going to visit first to promote “Trubble Town?”

STEPHAN: I’ll probably look at where I want to visit next and do it that way. For the last Trubble Town, I went to Kansas City, Fort Worth, Little Rock, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Buffalo. I am also very influenced by people who promise free beer.

TOM: Thanks, Stephan!!

Trubble Town 2: The Why-Why’s Gone Bye-Bye may be purchased here at Amazon or at your local book shop.

Originally published at 10withtom.com on September 2, 2022.

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Tom Falco

Tom, along with being a cartoonist, writes about art, history and culture.