Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman — Written by Jerry Scott and drawn by Rick Kirkman, Baby Blues is one of the most popular strips from Creators Syndicate. Jerry and Rick both grew up dreaming about becoming successful cartoonists and were eventually introduced to each other as the result of a friendship between their wives. After several unsuccessful collaborations, Baby Blues brought the team the sort of fame and rewards they’d been reaching for.
”Before Baby Blues, Rick and I were searching for an idea for the world’s next great comic strip,” recalls Jerry, “trying all kinds of ideas, but nothing was working out. Our biggest mistake was concentrating on the setting and circumstances instead of the characters. At that same time, Rick had recently become a father and was always going around with baby food stains on his shirt and talking about how little sleep he got last night because the baby was up all night. He was full of funny stories about the joys of parenthood. Suddenly we realized that we had a great strip idea right under our noses.
I’m convinced that great strips and characters aren’t created, they’re discovered! There’s a whole lot of material lying around in everybody’s living room that they just don’t see. The whole world is full of funny stuff!
’to get ideas for Baby Blues,” Jerry explains, “I drink a lot of coffee and do some research in baby books or magazines, make notes about babies throughout the week. I try to write eighteen to twenty gags from which Rick will pick two weeks’ worth of ideas to draw.” The remainder of Jerry Scott’s time is spent writing and drawing the classic Nancy comic strip for United Features Syndicate.
Before collaborating with Jerry Scott, Rick Kirkman was employed as an artist in an advertising agency and later freelanced as a humorous illustrator. Throughout his earlier career, Kirkman was never comfortable with the traditional cartooning tools of pen or brush and black ink, so he began using black colored pencils, which help give Baby Blues its very distinctive look. Beginning with a pencil sketch on tracing paper, Rick uses a light box to trace the final art onto heavier paper for the finished art.
Jerry Scott agrees. ‘the newspaper market has changed, it’s smaller. Anyone under forty years old seems to be doing more than one thing, strips, freelancing, editorial cartoons or whatever. Most people with strips in fewer than two hundred newspapers are doing more than one job.”Both Kirkman and Scott are aware that the comic strip business is not quite the same as it was when they were kids dreaming their dreams of glory in the 1960s and 1970s. “Our expectations were based on older cartoonists who built their careers in the 1950s and 1960s,” says Kirkman. “Back then comic strip cartoonists were stars with very high incomes. Financial realities just aren’t that way anymore. For the majority, comic strip success today is clearly a middle-class situation.”
Rick Kirkman believes that originality is one key to becoming a great cartoonist. ‘the great ones do something totally different, create something completely unique. Luck also plays a role. You can’t force the public to love your work and luck isn’t something you can control or manipulate. However, you can never be lucky unless you work hard and are prepared when luck arrives!”
Jerry Scott sees greatness in a slightly different way. “Greatness in cartooning is a matter of integrity, sincerity, genuineness. With the great ones, it’s clear that they are always doing their absolute best work, never coasting or taking the easy way.”
As a message of encouragement to aspiring cartoonists, Jerry Scott offers a few words of advice. “Always do your very best work, and keep working at getting better. Be honest with yourself. Be real, don’t try to do something just because you think it will sell. In other words, don’t be contrived. Be yourself and do work that is uniquely your own.”