Congratulations to creator Dave Blazek on the 25th anniversary of Loose Parts. The strip made its debut on April 20, 1998. Check it out on GoComics. Dave took some time to participate in a Q&A in honor of the anniversary. Get to know him a little better by reading the interview below.
What do you think it is about Loose Parts that has made it so popular with readers – and editors – for so long?
I think audiences always have an undying thirst for cleverness. I work really hard to build that into every Loose Parts cartoon. I also like to think that Loose Parts – with its lack of topicality and commentary – exists as a safe island in a news landscape that can be testing at times. People know they’re just going to get a really good joke, and one that most often makes them think to get it. And there’s the fact that I tape a $20 bill to every cartoon. Yours may have fallen out before it got to you.
What has been your favorite part about creating this panel for 25 years?
Well, really, is there a more rewarding job than to make people laugh? Okay, superhero maybe. Just seeing how many ideas there are out there to be mined. I’ll admit that there’ve been moments over the last few decades where I think all the ideas have been done. Then, like discovering a new vein of gold, the gag universe just opens itself up again and more ideas pour out. Also, only having learned to draw (if you can call it that) at age 43. I was, and continue to be, amazed at the joy of creation, and the sheer almost hypnotic bliss of quietly working away at a drawing and all the micro adjustments that you need to make to get a cartoon just right.
Do you have a favorite panel that you’ve created? If yes, what one?
That’s a tough one. But if you had to pin me down (and please don’t, the blood loss would be substantial) I’d say there is one. It shows a uniquely dressed man who has just entered an elevator car a cow and a pig were already riding. The caption simply read, “It was bad enough he had on his leather coat, but that day he also wore his bacon pants.” Everything from the absurdity of the situation, to the subtle glances of the animals, to the lovely term ‘bacon pants’ just comes together in almost perfection.
You’re a relatively new creator to AMS. How has your experience been working with Andrews McMeel so far?
Just awesome. It’s a wild combination of serious professionalism mixed with a tangible love of comics that just makes AMS special. I’ll tell you a little story. The first time I visited AMS HQ in Kansas City, somebody asked me, “If I’d seen the wall?” I said, “What wall?” Well, it turns out the AMU HQ lobby is graced with a wall listing all the comics contributors they’ve syndicated over the decades. I mean, it’s a wall with names ranging from Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau to Ziggy’s Tom Wilson; from Charles Schulz to Bill Watterson; and more. And there, right at the bottom, my name was there. For someone who never even thought of being a cartoonist until his 40s, this was special and very emotional for me. I mean, c’mon, my name on the same wall with The Far Side’s Gary Larson? I think only my wife saw the tears in my eyes.
What is one thing readers don’t know about Loose Parts?
It was originally named Wide Of The Mark. But when my original syndicate realized there was a panel out there named Off The Mark, they said we had to change the name quickly – like in a few hours. So I rushed to put together a list of, like 10 names, in an hour and sent it to them. They picked Loose Parts off the list. When I thought about it more, I suggested we change the name to Quirksville. But it was too late and it’s stayed Loose Parts ever since.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about Loose Parts?
Okay, story time. For the first year of Loose Parts, I was just the writer and I had an artist partner. Well, he had to drop out after the first year. So I got on the phone and asked the syndicate if I could draw the cartoon as well as write it. They asked – because they’re professionals – if I knew how to draw. I said, “No, but I can learn fast.” They said, okay, go ahead. And I had to learn how to draw WHILE THE CARTOON WAS ALREADY IN SYNDICATION. Yikes. Months later, when I got up to speed and at least became somewhat capable at drawing, I called them and asked them, “What the hell were you thinking?!” Someone there said, “We saw your work and thought it was high time we took someone funny and watch them try to learn how to draw instead of taking someone who knew how to draw and watch them try to learn to be funny,” To this day, it’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve received. Mainly because it emphasized that whatever magic comes out of a Loose Parts cartoon, it comes out mostly because of the strength of the idea, not the window dressing around it.
What do you hope to see in years to come with Loose Parts?
I always felt like Loose Parts was like an indie band that’s been around for a long time. It has a small but intensely loyal following. And when new people discover it, they can’t believe it’s been around that long, and that there are such fiercely loyal followers. So I’m mostly looking forward to expanding its audience so even more people can be surprised and ‘discover’ Loose Parts, and enjoy and share what I’m doing. That and I’m hoping for a studio on Mars.
Is there anything else you would like to add about the panel, or about your life as a cartoonist?
Just that everyone should know how intensely self-critical I am of my own work. I am rewriting more than ever; I’m redrawing more than ever; I am spiking ideas I don’t think are good enough more than ever. I’m trying to distill down what I do to present the purest cartoons I can in terms of cleverness and wit. I promise you, I will never just ‘mail it in.’ This form had been around too long for me to disrespect by my doing anything but the best I can do. And I’m going to do it until someone comes and rips me out of my studio and says I can;’t do it anymore. I’m considering a moat.