Welcome to the Friday Five, where The Register asks five questions to preview local events or highlight area artists.
Beginning in the Tuesday, Jan. 7, edition of The Register, a new daily comic debuts. Rhymes With Orange is set to replace The Pajama Diaries, which will no longer be syndicated.
Hilary Price and Rina Piccolo of Rhymes With Orange provide more details.
1 How did you both get involved with comics?
HILARY: As a kid, drawing was something I always did, but not something I expected I would do in terms of a job. It didn't seem like a career path until I got paid $35 for one and saw it appear in print. (It shouldn't surprise you that I was an English major versus an Econ major. Thirty five bucks was all it took.) My family got the Sunday paper and I always read the Comics section. I also had an aunt that got the New Yorker magazine. When we visited her, what I really wanted to do was play with her cats, but they would hide under the bed. So I would sit on top of the bed and flip through the magazine's cartoons. My hope was that the cats would grow tired of hiding and appear. Turns out I read a lot of cartoons.
RINA: It was a natural progression of things happening over time -- I mean, I've always loved to draw and write stories, and at the age when a lot of young people quit drawing, I just never stopped. My brother owned a ton of Marvel comic books, and I grew up reading Spider-Man, Thor and the Hulk. My favorite was Spider-Man because his stories were more human (he had a girlfriend, and a sick aunt!). On Sundays, I'd wait for the Sunday paper to arrive with its full page spreads of color comics. There was something about Peanuts that set it apart from the others. It still is my favorite. In my twenties, I got into alternative underground comics, and the gag cartoons in my brother's National Lampoon magazines. Soon after, I picked up copies of the New Yorker and poured over the cartoons. All these things influenced the types of comics and cartoons that I was creating for myself at the time. After a local alternative weekly published one of my comics in their "Guest Cartoonist" spot, everything sort of snowballed (slowly!), and I started getting published in other places as well. Although I had been drawing for years before that, I like to look at that time in my life as my first big step into the whole business of cartooning. Getting published for the first time encouraged me to set future goals for myself -- I thought maybe I could do this as a job. Anyway, you could say I got serious about the funny papers, ha ha, and it was very hard to quit and change life-paths after that. I mean, I had zero desire to do anything else.
2 How did Rhymes with Orange get started?
HILARY: Back in 1993, I bought a book called The Cartoonist's Market, which listed all the magazines and newspaper syndicates that were looking for material. (A syndicate is like an agent for cartoonists -- they sell your work to different newspapers.) I put together a package of 24 strips and sent them to the names I found in the book. (Oh, the pre-internet days!) I got four rejection letters, and one letter that said, "Show us some more." Over the course of nine months, I sent the editor at King Features Syndicate seven strips a week so we could go over them. The point was to see if I had the chops to produce daily, and sustain the quality. It also meant I would have a stash of toons to pull from once I got going. (That nest egg, by the way, is long gone.) At the end of the trial period, King decided to launch the strip. It was 18 months later, in June of 1995, that Rhymes With Orange first appeared in newspapers. As for the title, that same aunt with the New Yorkers had once told me that no word rhymed with the word "orange." I remembered that when it came time to name the strip, and liked that there was a little joke baked in. I've since learned that nothing rhymes with words "silver," "purple" or "month." That's weird about the colors -- "month" is a great shade on me.
3 What can readers expect in this cartoon?
RINA: If I can tell you what our most avid readers say about us through fan mail, and social media comments, Rhymes With Orange is a cartoon you'll want to share -- it will put a smile on your face, make you laugh, or make you want to say, "Oh, yeah, I can totally relate to that!"Or all of those things at once.
4 How did you two come to work together?
RINA: Hilary had known about my single panel cartoon stuff for years, and often she'd tell me how much she liked my work. One day several years ago, she asked me to be a guest cartoonist on Rhymes With Orange. (This was something she did every now and then --invite a cartoonist to do a week of cartoons for the strip. It did well to promote the guest cartoonist, the strip itself, and it gave a little break to Hilary.) Anyway, I filled a couple of these guest spots over the years, and even collaborated on some cartoon ideas with Hilary before we were officially a team. So when it came time for Hilary to make big changes to her career, she sent me a message, and we followed up with a phone chat. They say that good things don't happen overnight, and this is one of them. It took time and lots of decision making. Many phone calls later (we live in different countries -- Hilary's in the US, and I'm in Canada) I decided it was time to quit my own daily comic strip ("Tina's Groove") to work full time with Hilary on Rhymes With Orange. I'm happy to say, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
5 What's your favorite thing/part about the Rhymes with Orange?
HILARY: I have to give two answers: In crafting the comics, I love collaborating with Rina. Once the comics are out in the world, I love hearing that someone put a strip on their fridge. That is the highest compliment a cartoonist can get.
RINA: I was a fan of Rhymes With Orange long before Hilary Price asked me to collaborate on it with her. I loved the world she had created -- one that mirrors our own, but in a way that's funny, imaginative, often insightful. As a cartoonist, I enjoy diving head first into that world everyday when brainstorming new ideas. Often, these ideas are ones that Hilary and I riff on, and have a laugh over. What can I say-- it's fun! Oh, yes, and I love sharing the cartoons with you, our readers, and hearing what you have to say -- the experience would not be the same without that.
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