It seems so absurd to get really mad with a cartoonist over a comic strip. It's sort of like getting in a fight with a circus clown outside your house. It's not going to end well.
You can't just count on becoming a syndicated cartoonist. I actually tried to calculate the odds once, and the best I could come up with is a 1-in-36,000 chance. And the odds of getting hit by lightning are 1 in 7,900 - which kind of shows how long those odds are.
You can write a little and can draw a little, but there's necessarily a limitation on both in a comic strip, since it appears in such a tiny space.
I guess that compared to other comic strips, I'm edgy. But put me along something like 'South Park,' and I'm 'Captain Kangaroo.'
I don't pay that much attention to sales figures or awards. To me, the big question is: 'Did you influence the next generation?' That's my goal.
Sticking to my schedule, I've gotten over seven months ahead, which allowed me to write a 'Pearls Before Swine' movie script for the big screen.
If you're from a certain generation, you basically learn to read with 'Peanuts.' It's sort of the template for the modern strip. Its influence ceased to be noticed because it's in everything.
Maybe the bar is low, but most of the strips that are 50, 60, 70 years old that are on their second or third generation of artists, the humor is pretty bland. There are others by people that were raised on 'Family Guy' or 'South Park' that are edgier. Mine's not as edgy as those, but it's edgier than 'Beetle Bailey.'
I like characters like Ignatius Reilly in 'A Confederacy of Dunces' and Ricky Gervais's character in 'The Office.' They think one thing about themselves, but the truth is as far from that as it can be. So I began to think about how to put that kind of character in a book for kids.
The wonderful thing about a book is that you have a canvas that is 300 pages wide, and it's all free space. You can make a piece of art as big as you want and whatever shape you want.
Basically, I learned to read by reading 'Peanuts,' just wanting to know what they were saying. I was 4 or 5 or whatever. I think it's a fairly common story.
A stand-up comedian faces the audiences and gets their immediate feedback. I hide behind the comic strip, and unless people write to me, I don't know what they think.
Repeats are the worst, and 'Peanuts' was the one that started that. They don't rerun the news, do they? They don't repeat any other part of the paper. Why do they do it in the comics?
I write for three or four hours and then hopefully I'll have something. Then I draw for the rest of the afternoon... I literally block out Wednesday-Thursday-Friday - I more or less disappear.
Thomas, my 15-year-old, is effectively my editor, I've always trusted his voice, more than anybody, on the strip for years. He has one of those ears that's just tuned to the rhythm of humor, so if he says something's not funny, my stomach just hurts because I know he's right, and it's already been drawn.
When you do anything creative, you really have to live entirely in that world. I think my ability to do that is what makes me such a bad dinner guest. I'm always looking over someone's shoulder, taking in stuff around the room, immersed in the world of whatever I'm writing about, and keeping the characters completely in my head.