|Outnumbered by Tom Bancroft|
FLIP: You recently started the web comic Outnumbered - how did that come about?
Tom: Huh, I’m not even sure if I remember - weird. I think I was on a vacation/drive and that’s when I get lots of creative ideas. I started thinking of a strip that was (largely, but not completely) about my life in the world of women. I have 4 daughters, a wife, and three female dogs. Lots of figure skating, cheerleading, high emotions, and chick flicks. Most of which, I’ve grown to love - except for the figure skating.
I had roughed out the character designs, come up with their personalities and written/drawn up about 7 strips in 2012 but then let it sit there - for about a year. I didn’t show anyone but my family. Then, coming home from a family Christmas trip to New York at the end of 2012, my wife and I are talking about the strip and she says, “Why don’t you just start putting it online?” Such a simple idea and I couldn’t think of why I hadn’t thought of it. But, it’s the kind of support that we creative husbands love to hear from our wives, so I started posting the first Monday of Jan. 2013. I’ve been doing one to two a week ever since.
FLIP: Is this your first foray into the world of strip cartoons?
TOM: To this level and regularity, yes. But this is not first time I have drawn a strip. My twin brother Tony and I had done a strip together for our high school newspaper and then did separate ones for about a year in junior college.
FLIP: Do you hope to get syndication in the newspapers and if so how easy/difficult is this?
TOM: The short answer is yes. I do want that. It’s an artistic bucket list for me to have a syndicated comic strip. But, I guess, the real bucket list is to just do a comic strip, so I can at least say I am doing that. The reason I set out to do this online was that it would force me to keep doing the strip. I get super busy with deadlines from work and other freelance art gigs - and my family of course. But, knowing I have to create a new strip or two this week, or else I might lose the followers that I have accumulated, motivates me to keep at it.
My goal was to get a months’ worth of strips (at least 24, with maybe a couple Sunday color ones) and I hit that about a month ago. I have submitted that first group to Universal Syndicate and got a nice rejection letter. They liked the art and even liked the concept but said the “writing just wasn’t there yet”. That was the part I was most sensitive about, so it did hurt to hear it. It made me question if I wanted to continue on it, for a day at least. About a week later, I put another package together and sent it off to King Features Syndicate and its been about 4 weeks now and I haven’t heard back. Not feeling too good about that one either. Still, I’m enjoying doing the strip, so I’m keeping at it.
FLIP: What other projects are you working on right now?
TOM: You name it. I’ve been very busy over the last couple months. I’ve said “yes” to a bunch of things that all came to fruition all at once, unfortunately. My day job is a contract job that I do from my home office, which is nice. It’s for Christian Broadcasting Network and it’s a Christian TV series called “Superbook”. I am the Lead Character designer for Season 2 and Season 3, so far.
Then, on the side, I am developing a TV series for Warner Brothers (based on one of the 70s H-B TV series I grew up with), developing/art directing a pitch package of characters/layouts for a well known author who wants to make a cartoon series. I am also designing a mascot for the University of Denver, lecturing on animation and character design online and at art schools, fulfilling a successful Kickstarter/ graphic novel print project for my indy comic OPPOSITE FORCES, and working with a partner on creating a new online art school! Now you send me this interview?? Crazy.
FLIP: What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a new cartoon strip off the ground?
TOM: That’s easy - just do it. In doing it and getting it up and out there online you will get better and better and your followers will let you know when it works and when it doesn’t. I get between 900 and 1000 hits when I post a new strip, and around 2-6 comments on a given strip. I believe that each of those comments speaks for about 100 people that chose not to comment, but feel the same way.
Now, the flip side of that is that you will have to figure out which comments NOT to listen to. A comic strip is one of the most individual creations you can do as an artist and writer. It should stay that way, for the most part. You need to take the good suggestions and ignore the bad ones, but experience is the only way to know which is which. Getting the stuff out there is the FIRST STEP! All the other steps are smaller ones.
(Editor's note: You can see Tom's cartoon strip Outnumbered at www.outnumberedcomic.com. Comments, and of course shares, are very welcome.
For more on cartoon strips and web comics, check out Sydney Padua's online steampunk fantasy Lovelace and Babbage, and also Stephan Franck's new graphic novel Silver. You can also read about the birth of Alex's law cartoon strip Queen's Counsel, here.)