Nate Fakes is a very humorous and talented cartoonist. His comic “Break of Day” brings me a laugh every time I see it. Nate has been an intern and freelance writer/cartoonist for Mad Magazine and has a line of Christmas Cards in the works. I asked Nate if I could feature him at “Don’t Pick the Flowers” blog and he said yes, so I called him up and what a pleasure it was to speak with him. Not only is it great to talk with another cartoonist, but even greater to see how down to earth Nate is, and someone I call a friend. I asked Nate some questions and here is what he had to say.
David: What do you consider the greatest thing about being a cartoonist and what is your favorite thing about making comics? Do you have a favorite part of putting a comic together?
Being a cartoonist has its perks. There are a lot of things that are ‘great’ about it, but in general, my favorite part is the freedom I get from the job. I have freedom to take the work and do it from almost anywhere, I can write/draw about what comes to mind and I like the fact that I don’t really have a boss breathing down my neck. So, yes – the freedom is great. I’ve never been one to have a structured work environment. It’s just not my cup o’ tea (although in my case, it would be coffee since I’m not much of a tea drinker).
As for having a favorite part of putting a comic together, definitely the best moment is when it’s finished. It’s real WORK writing and drawing. A lot of people don’t look at it as a job, but it is. It’s not easy to sit for hours and hours trying to come up with a funny concept. And the drawing can get tricky as well. I’m constantly pulling up pictures from books or the internet to get a visual on whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish with my art. I like to double-check my work. You never know what little detail I could have forgot, so I look into almost everything. And though its work, I still love it. But, when I have that completed written, drawn and colored comic in front of me, and I can see how it turned out – that’s the best part. I know it’s done, it’s good and I can send it off out into the world. From there, it’s on its own.
David: Do you have a set schedule working on your comics, a day in the life scenario where you come up with the ideas and then put everything together? Wake up, put the coffee on and then start sketching away?
I actually do have a pretty steady schedule that I keep. Generally, what I do is wake up and first come up with my daily grind. I’ll write it all out on paper. Like, for example, I’ll put down something like: 1. Write 2. Draw two comics 3. Send out queries 4. Lunch 5. Color 6. Write. Anyhow, you get the idea. Most of my day is like that. And yes, the coffee is on when I begin to write. It’s amazing how much that stuff opens up the senses. I use that (coffee) as a writing tool, actually.
My main focus out of anything else is the writing. Writing is by far the most important element. Every cartoonist will tell you something different, but I believe that comics need to be 80% to 20%. 80% of a cartoon depends on its writing quality, therefore being the most important part. The rest is the drawing and putting it all together. A bad drawing can be an excellent comic if the writing is good. However, not so much the other way around. I do really try to put a lot into my drawing though. For me that’s an important part. The trend nowadays though in the business of cartooning is the writing though. It used to be about a 50/50 for writing/drawing but not now. At least that’s my observations. I don’t have any stats or facts to back that up.
David: What are the things that bring you inspiration when you are coming up with the gags for “Break of Day”?
I’m not sure why I’m good at my profession and where the stuff comes from. Honestly, it just happens. A lot of my work involves animal cartoons and things I don’t have a clue about. Yet, somehow I put it all together and come up with an idea. It’s a mystery to me, but I guess I’ve been able to do that sort of thing my whole life, so it’s just natural. I’m guessing it comes from observations in life in just a general matter. Like, when I go for a walk, I pay attention to little things; like what a squirrel is doing or the guy in the Pinto with his music blaring – things like that. And in my head, it all connects and leads to a comic about a naked penguin or a groom smoking a cigarette during the lighting of a unity candle. Weird, I know. But life in general is probably my biggest inspiration. That being said, looking at great cartoonist and their work inspires me as well. When I see a cartoonist “making it” and doing well, it’s a huge motivating factor for me and inspiring. “There is hope!” I’ll say to myself. Even in this digital age, there is hope for us starving cartoonist. That’s nice to see.
David: Who are some of your favorite cartoonists and greatest influences?
My favorites. Well, that’s hard to figure out. There are a lot of cartoonists I see things in that I like, and so there are quite a few of them out there. My all-time favorite cartoonist though has to be people of the likes of Charles Addams, Gary Larson, Bill Watterson and Roy Doty. I really enjoy Edward Gorey as well, although he was definitely an illustrator. I don’t think he was really considered a cartoonist, but his drawings were great.
As for influences, a lot of them aren’t cartoonist. They were musicians. Once again, here’s where the freedom part comes into play. I grew up seeing musical talent, and I observed all the freedom they had in their profession. Well, I’m not exactly a musical prodigy, so cartooning was the direction I took. But still, I like the fact that a musician can do his/her work almost anywhere and have their way about what they do. So, I have a lot of influences in that department, everyone from Amadeus to Jim Morrison. It’s a broad range.
David: What are the artistic tools you work with and what’s your favorite?
I’m old fashioned. I use the old school way of dip pen, India ink, Bristol board (QUALITY Bristol Board) and a sturdy drawing table. I’ve never used a tablet. I DO however color most everything in Photoshop after scanning it all in. But, I like using ink to draw. There are quite a few nibs I use for my pen, and I won’t bore you with the details of them, but that’s how I get it done.
David: You’ve worked with Mad Magazine, two comic strips plus writing, what was that like?
I’ve never been actually employed with MAD – just an intern and freelancer.
Being an intern there was a MADdening experience. It was extremely awesome to meet all the “Usual Gang of Idiots” that run the show in their office on Broadway in New York City. To live and work in the Big Apple – I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much I didn’t want to leave. And that’s where I would have done things different. I was so determined to STAY that I kind of focused on that instead of just enjoying it more. I was more worried about “making it” there. I wish I would have just pictured it as an internship and leave it at that. I probably wouldn’t have been as tense and could have lightened up more. But, all that being said, it was truly an experience that I don’t regret at all and am grateful I had the chance to do.
Now, as for getting into the magazine – it’s tough! I wish I could say that I was a Sergio, Jaffee or Richmond that are in practically every issue, but I’m not. I’m very hit-or-miss with my work. I still haven’t figured out the key to getting in there consistently. But, when I do make the pages, it’s very rewarding. I grew up with MAD, so to be part of that is unreal. The editors there are a good group of guys and fun.
And the work that I’ve done there has been mostly writing. However, I finally got two features in the magazine as well: My Wife the Turtle and Twisted Toaster Tales. My Wife the Turtle is about this really weird guy who is married to – well – a turtle. The turtle doesn’t talk or anything like that, so it puts him in awkward situations when he’s with the general public. Twisted Toaster Tales is about a toaster that – for no apparent reason – wants to kill this kid. The kid is naive at first, but is quickly catching on that the toaster wants him dead.
David: I hear you will also be creating Christmas Cards, can you tell me more about that project?
In 2012, that’s my newest and biggest endeavor that I’m excited about. It’s not just Christmas cards, but all different kinds for every holiday and event (although yes, at this point in time I’ve been working on a lot of Christmas cards for next season – usually work about a year in advance). It’s new territory, but what I really like about it is there is always a market for them. I’m not saying there will never be a bigger market for comics (I’m very optimistic), but as we all know, right now newspapers aren’t doing too well, so syndicated cartoons is not exactly thriving. And I’m sure with all the e-cards and things, card market might be in a slump as well. However, I’m sure there will always be a want and need for a personalized card to have and to hold (not online). It’s rewarding as well to make people laugh in a given moment like a holiday or other special event. So, I’m really diving into the card market at full speed and have a current company I’m working with a few other solid ones that are coming along. I wish I would have started with the card market sooner. At any rate, they will all start on shelves later this year.
David: It sounds fantastic to me, everyone loves a card! I personally like having the “real thing” a tangible item, and can imagine you will have great success with it.
Nate is has been a true pleasure hearing about your life and comics. I’m a big fan of “Break of Day” and wish you the very best with everything the future has in store for you. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Here are some links to find out more about “Break of Day” and Nate Fakes: