::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
5 Questions About: F Minus
(In the bleak, often unfunny world of daily comic strips there has emerged a savior. A comic strip that – dare we say – is so hilarious that we try not to have a hot cup of coffee nearby in case of dangerous spills caused by shaking guffaws of laughter. Move over Blondie! Get out of the way Garfield! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out Family Circus! There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s not wearing pants. Let DaRK PaRTY introduce you to Tony Carrillo – the artist and writer of F Minus, one of the most hysterical new comic strips in years. F Minus can be seen in newspapers across the country, including the Boston Globe and the New York Daily News. Tony, 24, was born in Arizona and when not penning F Minus experiments with saxophone playing and actually owns a robot that serves him cocktails.)

DaRK PaRTY: Were you one of those kids in high school constantly doodling on their notebooks?

Tony: I was a good student, but I was a major doodler. Visualization was important to my comprehension. Geometry was the only math class I felt comfortable in. Drawing a monkey sliding down the slope of a hyperbola somehow helped it all make sense.

DP: So you end up at Arizona State University and win an MTV contest that launched your career as a cartoonist and now, at the tender age of 24, your daily strip is in hundreds of outlets. Can you give us your version of this amazing launch story?

Tony: I was on the fast track to becoming an unknown artist, selling my drawing to delis and butchers, which they would use to wrap cuts of meat (apparently my art was cheaper than wax paper). In my sophomore year at ASU I saw an advertisement in the school newspaper asking for a new cartoonist. The ad said, “Can you draw? Even just a little? Apply to The State Press.” So I sketched up three bad little cartoons and submitted them. I remember I was in a dollar store when they called me and told me I had the job.

I spent the next four semesters drawing F Minus five days a week. Once in a while I would see one cut out and taped to a wall or bulletin board on campus. I started my website www.fminus.net and built a little fan base. I was once recognized by a fan in an elevator. “That was it.” I thought. “My 15 minutes of fame. And it was only 23 seconds long.” I had been submitting my comic to contests for some time. F Minus placed second in the Associated Collegiate Press Cartooning Award, and third place in another. The one I really wanted was the Charles Schultz award, but it didn’t even place. The award went to a Manga style comic that year. I was crushed. That was the day I started my feud with one of the contest judges, Al Roker.

I was in my final semester of my senior year and preparing for a life of hard work in the food industry, while saving my money so I could afford to frame my Fine Arts diploma. One day my editor at the State Press emailed me about a new contest, the first ever MTVu Strips contest. MTVu is a branch of MTV that broadcasts to universities around the nation. There were 700 schools involved, and the contest would award the best college cartoon with a development deal with United Features Syndicate. This was a much better prize than the Schultz award, which was just money. I would have blown all of that on candy in a few weeks anyway.

I submitted F Minus to the MTVu contest. Soon I was notified that F Minus was a finalist. The top comics were then subjected to online voting, and separate voting by cartoonists Scott Adams (Dilbert) and David Rees (Get Your War On). Over 200,000 votes were cast, and F Minus came out the winner. Oddly enough, I think I was in a dollar store when I got that call too. I went to New York and got to tour the United Features Syndicate building and meet the editors there. I spent the next six months working to develop F Minus, and post my comics every day www.comics.com.At the end of the six months they had the option to syndicate F Minus nationwide or to pass on it. To my delight (and the delight of my landlord), they decided to go with it.

On April 17th, 2006, F Minus launched nationwide and can now be seen in newspapers such as the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, the New York Daily News, and many others.

DP: How would you describe F Minus to those innocent masses that have yet to experience it?

Tony: I think it is easier to describe what F Minus is not. F Minus has no plot or regular characters, no political slant or pop culture references. There are no precious moments or thought-provoking issues. In fact, the less thinking, the better. That’s my motto. Really, my goal is simply to get a laugh every day. Sometimes it’s silly or absurd, sometimes unintentionally profound, but if it gets a smile, then I’m happy.

DP: You break a lot of taboos with the strip. I remember one with a handicapped man in a wheelchair flipping the bird to a "Walk" sign and another one with a father and son standing outside Big Splash Water Park with a sign that warns that urine levels are "moderate" today. Have you always had a quirky sense of humor and where do you draw your inspiration from?

Tony: First of all it’s never my goal to offend anyone. However, if I come up with an idea that I think is funny, I’ll submit it even though I know it may lend itself to misinterpretation. In fact, whenever someone is upset about one of my comics, it’s almost always because they have assigned some meaning to it that I didn’t intend. One reader, unhappy with a particular comic, accused me of being sexist against men. I’m still shaking my head over that one. The only person that wrote to me that had a right to be angry was a professional clown. I actually do hate clowns.

I try to draw my inspiration directly from life. If I hear a word or phrase that is even remotely funny, I’ll write it down in my notebook and try to turn it into an actual comic idea later on. For me, it’s important to stay out among people. There’s so much untapped comedy in your average overheard conversation.

DP: What are your three favorite comic strips and why?

One of my biggest influences is Bob Mankoff, cartoonist and editor for the New Yorker magazine. I love the simplicity of his drawings and the insanity of his ideas. He wrote a great book called “The Naked Cartoonist,” a must-have for aspiring cartoonists.

When I was a teenager I really got into Bloom County by Berke Breathed. I was amazed at how much depth there was to each character in that strip. The prospect of creating a whole world like that is intimidating. Maybe that’s why I don’t have any regular characters…

Finally, I still love Calvin and Hobbes. When I was a kid, I always associated with Hobbes the tiger. The problem is, at some point it occurred to me that Hobbes was an imaginary being. Being forced to question your own existence is really not healthy for any 12-year-old.

Read our interview with Cartoonist Harry Bliss here

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
I have to say, this is my favorite Tony interview yet. -- Tony's sister

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I laughed and I cried through the entire saga.


Blogger GFS3 said...
It looks like Tony's entire family has been here!

Thanks for the feedback!

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