Some interview subjects need to be drawn out
As this is the 30th anniversary of Craig Marks joining the West Side Leader as its editorial cartoonist, the reclusive Marks granted this column a rare interview.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve drawn more than 3,100 cartoons for the Leader. There must be some topics you’ve touched on more than others.
MARKS: Sure. The weather, city hall squabbles, road construction — those are perennials. And then there are the cartoons about “comings and goings.” The Inventors Hall of Fame came and went. Kenley Players disappeared for a while, came back and then left for good. The Cleveland Browns left and came back. And, of course, LeBron James ...
INTERVIEWER: How many LeBron cartoons have you done?
MARKS: I’ve lost track. The most recent LeBron cartoon I did was last week, and the first one was back in 1984, on the occasion of his birth. That was the one where the stork says to the other stork, “He’s a nice kid, but the crown he’s wearing weighs a ton.”
INTERVIEWER (a bit confused): Moving on, how would you describe your drawing style?
MARKS: Hmm. I’d say “photo-realistic.”
INTERVIEWER: Interesting. I was going to suggest “doodling in a poorly lit room.” You don’t do many drawings of real people. Why is that?
MARKS: Drawing caricatures is not really part of my skill set. I have a couple of characters I’m comfortable drawing, and I pretty much stick with them. But if a shady local politician ever resembles one of my characters — with a nose shaped like the letter “C,” two eyes on one side of the head and a flat skull with “Linus Van Pelt” hair — he or she will have some devastating cartoons coming their way.
INTERVIEWER: What is your earliest cartooning memory?
MARKS: When I was 3 or so, my parents allotted me one wall in my playroom that I could draw on to my heart’s content. It was my canvas, my Macaroni Grill tablecloth, and I covered it with whatever drawings popped into my head. And with jelly smudges. Lots of jelly smudges.
INTERVIEWER: Your parents seemed very supportive.
MARKS: Yes, and they still are. They are the sweetest and most encouraging parents any approval-hungry kid could ever ask for, and they still take the time to look at my stuff. The only difference now is they receive my cartoons via email instead of me tugging on their pant legs shouting, “Howzthis? Howzthis?”
INTERVIEWER: Tell me how you got started with the Leader.
MARKS: When the Leader began, I was drawing a comic strip about Zippy the Kangaroo for The University of Akron Buchtelite. I showed a sample of my work to the late Mary Maxson, one of the founders of the Leader, but she wasn’t interested in a comic strip. But the Leader did need a weekly editorial cartoon and she gave me a chance. I’m eternally grateful to her.
INTERVIEWER: So the story about you getting the gig by winning the reality show competition, “So You Think You Can Turn the Mayor’s Latest Anger-Fueled Faux Pas into a Humorous Illustration”... not true?
MARKS: Not true.
INTERVIEWER: What are your fondest memories drawing cartoons?
MARKS: In 1999 I did a cartoon that tied in a politician’s retirement with the retirement of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. Schulz’ widow, Jean Schulz, wrote the Leader requesting it for an exhibit in the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and I was thrilled beyond belief. Later this year, a cartoon of mine is supposed to be in a psychology textbook, which, if it comes to be, will prove true many teachers’ predictions of where I would eventually end up.
INTERVIEWER: Any final thoughts?
MARKS: Howzthis? It’s been a great 30 years, and to my fellow Leader staffers (past and present), my family and readers, thanks.
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