Today we conclude our interview with cartoonist Dave Gilbert (born 1971),creator of the comic strip Buckles. As someone dog-sitting for the past four months (and with two more months to go), I can say that if dogs had opposable thumbs, they would rule the world by now….
How do you work with King Features?
I e-mail all of my work. I draw classically, using an ink brush and Bristol board, and then scan it into my computer and color it there. American Color takes care of the reproduction. Bud Grace, the guy who does Ernie, also e-mails it in. I think Ernie is terrific, it kind of reminds me of early MAD Magazine.
What about your fans? Do you get a lot of mail? Do they suggest stories?
I get a fair amount of mail. I try to answer all of it, although sometimes I miss a few. And the ones I miss always write me back, and remind me that I haven’t answered! I find I have a hard time sometimes answering letters, and e-mail is easier. I haven’t gotten ideas from readers yet, but very often they write to tell me that Buckles is just like their own dog. And I like that, it’s what I’m setting out to do.
How long does it take you to draw an individual strip?
Depends on the action, on my mood, everything. Some days I could crank a strip out, even when starting with no ideas, from beginning to end, in less than an hour. And other days, it could take upwards of six hours. It really depends.
I understand that Buckles has been optioned for an animated series.
Yes, through Hearst Entertainment, the same people who did the Bloom County special and The Tick. I thought The Tick was brilliantly funny.
Being a former animator, would you be working on the animation yourself?
No. They asked if I wanted to, but I think I’ll focus my energies on the strip. But I’ll put my hands into the show as much as I can.
Would you write it?
No, but I wouldn’t mind writing a few episodes, and I’m supposed to see everything before it goes through. As the creator, I’m want to make sure it turns out as well as it can. But, I haven’t talked to them in while, and I don’t know the current status of the project.
And in your dreams, who’s the ideal voice for Buckles?
I don’t know! I guess it’s mine, only a little faster. I thought about that when Hearst brought it up. I know the voices have to fit the characters and the way they’re drawn. I think Buckles needs to sound... eager, and kind of on the edge.
Have you been getting a lot of reader response?
When Buckles first came out, a lot of papers were doing reader polls on their favorite strips. Happily, Buckles won a whole bunch of them, nearly five across the nation. One in Burlington, Vermont, and one in Oklahoma, and a couple of others I can’t remember. It was a good beginning for the strip.
Any plans for Buckles merchandising?
I would love it. I always felt that I would know I had made it in the industry when I had a stuffed animal. When I could hold one up and say here’s a 3-D, solid character. Or a Buckles cup, that would be fun. I might worry about over-merchandising. I agree with Bill Watterson about purism, but I don’t know how far I would take it. I’ve already done the poor thing, and it’s vastly overrated. I do care about my characters though, and I’m very cautious about what could happen to them. After something like Buckles underwear, I don’t know where it would go. I think I would need a Buckles book, first.
Are there plans for a book?
Not anything solid, now.
Do you have plans for branching out into other strips?
I don’t know. I’m really happy with Buckles, and that takes up all of my time. I don’t know how I could break up my time to do a different strip. Maybe one day I would add a different part to Buckles, that would sometimes make it feel like another strip. When Watterson did Spaceman Spiff in Calvin and Hobbes, he got to do a whole different strip. Or Snoopy and the Red Baron. And these things bring a whole new dimension to the characters.
Any thoughts on a cartoonist’s life?
Yeah. Even when I’m away from my desk, I’m still working. The best part, though, is that I can roll out of bed and into my desk. It’s not a long commute. I don’t know what I would be if I weren’t a cartoonist.