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I Was a Once a Professional Cartoonist

July 25, 2014

Talk about a trip down Memory Lane.

I went over to the academy last night in order to do some computer work for the upcoming school year and found a surprise while going through my classroom cabinet.  I stumbled across an old photo album of mine, ragged and torn, holding some clippings of a life that seems so long ago.

You see, back in the 1980s while I was a teacher in California, I was also a professional cartoonist.

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I drew a daily comic strip for the local newspaper, the Hollister Free Lance.  More specifically, five days a week, Monday through Friday.  Modeling the main character after a fun-loving deacon in our church, I named the strip Mr. O’s Apartment, and soon came up with a collection of oddball sidekicks who were also inspired by the locals and even some of the students in the school.

imageI went under the pen name of Kent Albert.   “Kent” is my middle name and “Albert” is the first name of my late paternal grandfather.  I was paid the princely sum of $1 a strip.  You got it right; I made a full five bucks a week at this job, so you might guess that this was mostly a hobby.  I look back at the strips and see how I slowly developed the style and flow as the months wore on.  I had no goal or specific philosophy to the work; I was going all over the place with ideas.  As I look over the pages of strips, I realize that none of them are really very funny.  I did indeed keep my day job.

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The real fun in all this was that I kept my anonymity; outside of the students in my classes, very few people knew that I drew the strip.  This was a one-newspaper town, and everyone had a subscription, so it was a secret delight for me to be chatting with folks and to find out what they really thought of Mr. O and the gang.

The response was tepid at best.  Some thought it wasn’t funny enough, while others thought the local flair made it an interesting read.  Most of the time I would hear why the reader thought the cartoon stunk, and I would quietly improve upon what I heard.  Even on my best days, the strip didn’t put Peanuts or Garfield in any professional jeopardy, believe me, but I did slowly improve through the brutal honesty of unknowing readers.

I had a great learning experience.

I found fascinating the idea that I could find a true and honest opinion about my work from people who had no idea that I was the author. For over two years I labored at my little drawing desk and picked up my meager earnings, all the while enjoying the secret with my students.

It was a life lesson that has stayed with me to this day.

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One translation states Proverbs 27:6 in this way:

“The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy.”

Don’t we really benefit most from honest correction, not flattering words? In my case, I found that forthright answers – no matter how brutal – were what helped me most.  They helped me as a cartoonist, as a writer, but most importantly as a Christian.  If I was to grow as a Christian, I needed gentle but firm words of correction that would help me, not just make me feel good about myself.

God, deliver us from Christians who speak out of both sides of their mouth.

It’s a truth I carry with me as a Christian counsellor to this day.

And to think that it started with a silly comic strip.

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2 Comments
  1. katleemar@netzero.net permalink

    I love your post. Each one is a great read and an encouragement. Thank you for sharing the many talents the Lord has given you. Appreciate you sharing the personal struggles and blessings. Praying for you and your family and Church family.Kitty

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