Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A few minutes with Jef Mallett
"You can't have the blank page -- that's just not an option."

I was in Lansing, Michigan, this past week, visiting my two youngest grandchildren, and took the opportunity to finally meet Frazz creator Jef Mallett face-to-face. Jef and I have known each other since I interviewed him by phone for a series of cartoonist interviews I did about six years ago, but we had never been in the same room.

And now we were. This was quite impromptu -- I had the camera with me and wanted to have a look around anyway, so it made sense to ask questions and get the answers recorded. I also knew that Jef was under some serious deadline pressure (as he alludes to), so this was basically a very quick hello with the chance of a more leisurely visit the next time I was in town, assuming he doesn't get himself into another book contract and that I avoid showing up during triathlon season.

For those unfamiliar with Jef's work, I attach a trio of favorite Frazz strips below. (Click to enlarge)

This first example is included because I went unshaven throughout the trip, mostly to see what my beard looks like these days, having shaved my last one off in 1978. I learned that, while my ears, nose and back have all learned to grow hair much better in the intervening years, I still have some shortcomings in that department along my jawline. I could grow a goatee, of course, but ... no. Shaved it off at a Travelodge in Batavia, NY.

And, of course, the start of football season brings this one to mind:
Several years ago, Jef gave me the original of this third one, which remains my favorite Frazz ever, mostly because of the way he structures a three-shot gag and makes serious demands of his readership.

There's nothing wrong with making demands of your audience, as long as you're making demands of yourself as well.

Incidentally, Jef's book, Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete, is already listed on Amazon and will be released in time for Christmas giving. I say that with a sense of awe since he was finishing up the illustrations as I interrupted him Wednesday. If you hit the link on the title, you'll see that he had apparently already done the illustration for the cover, but the rest had to be completed that day. And then there was a Sunday Frazz that had to be done Thursday.

Apparently, running, swimming and biking aren't the only of his activities in which speed is a factor.


Sherwood Harrington said...

I enjoyed this interview a great deal, Mike. And why didn't Tolstoy illustrate his work?

I can see why you're especially fond of that third Frazz example; it's got your prints all over it.

Unknown said...

Wow - great single-cut interview, Mike.

I'm a huge fan of Jef and Frazz - I think I became a "superfan" one October when the annual Halloween arc was from "To Kill a Mockingbird" and have remained so. The "Prince" strip you feature is also a favorite.

He sure is burning his candle at three or more ends these days.

richardcthompson said...

Thanks for this, Mike. Jef's a master, and a very thoughtful & nice guy. In short, a prince. And I want that drawing table real bad.

Sandra said...

Really enjoyed that. Thanks!

Dann said...

Dang. I'm hurt that you didn't let me know you were in the area.


Brian Fies said...

One of the best brief interviews of any cartoonist I've seen. I liked the matter-of-fact professionalism he developed at an early age; there aren't a lot of high school kids who wouldn't even consider missing a deadline. Jef also shares a trait with every professional writer/cartoonist I've ever met: they keep busy.

Mike said...

Actually, Dann, I didn't realize you were in the area.I'm not too good on keeping track of the terrestrial coordinates of my friends anymore. I made plans to have breakfast with a former assistant who, after we began to make specific arrangements, turned out to be in Oxford (U of Miami) rather than Bowling Green (Bowling Green). I suggested she transfer so she'd be closer to the route, but ...

Tim said...

Great interview, Mike. Loved it.

By the way, Oxford is the home of Miami University, not U. of Miami!

- Tim, Miami University, class of '93

Mike said...

So, that would be the Miami where the football players don't all have parole officers?