Reading “Baby Blues” is like watching a moment in my own life, that of a mom to three children.
For more than 20 years, the Valley’s Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, now based in California, have collaborated on the comic. It’s become one of the most popular in the world, appearing in 1,200 newspapers, including this one.
The latest project for Rick and Jerry is a book that looks back at the first 20 years of the comic strip’s existence as it follows the MacPherson family – mom Wanda, dad Darryl and their children, Zoe, Hammie and Baby Wren. Inspired by their own lives as fathers – it started when Rick and his wife were expecting their second child – moms, dads, grandparents and children can relate to the stories that appear daily in the strip. Both men are now fathers to two children.
“BBXX” includes more than 800 comics, commentary from the co-creators and more. They’ll discuss the book and sign it 7 p.m. Saturday at Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore.
The friends and business partners took a few moments Monday to talk to the East Valley Tribune about “Baby Blues” and what still inspires them, years after their own babies have grown up. Some of their answers are tongue-in-cheek and we wish we’d taped the conversation for all to hear.
Q: How do you get ideas to keep “Baby Blues” going?
Jerry: (Laughing) We keep having more children.
Rick: We each have two. Part of it is you remember a lot of stuff from years past. We also have friends and neighbors who have kids. We can steal from them as much as possible.
Jerry: I have an 11 year old and a 19 year old who is at college. The 11 year old is still able to provide some feedback. We have lots of friends and lots of memories and nieces and nephews with young families. We’re good for a while.
Rick: We pay attention to people when we’re out in public, too. We eavesdrop. We make mental notes of things we see other families doing.
Q: How do you two still collaborate?
Jerry: We first started the strip in close proximity. We shared an office in downtown Phoenix with our drawing boards back to back. … Then it seemed like every few years I would have to move a little further away. I moved to Cave Creek with my studio up there and Southern California. … I just go with what works.
Rick: (Laughing) You get farther and father away and either I’m dense or I don’t question it.
Jerry: I try to write in batches. I’ll sit here in this chair the next six to seven hours and try to write “Baby Blues.” When Rick starts the drawings, he generally tries to do a batch, too. It helps keep the flow going that way.
Q: What do you see if the future of cartooning?
Rick: Cartoons are still going to be around. They have been for a long time and they’ll continue to be.
Jerry: They’ll be around as long as we’re around, anyway. … Newspapers will be around too, in my opinion, in a couple of forms. That business, as you know, is changing a lot. I don’t think papers are ever going to go away, any more than television killed radio or television killed the movie business. It just didn’t happen. Everybody scooted over and made a little more room… our hope is the comics will continue to change and evolve with the newspaper business and newspapers will continue the tradition of running the comic strips. It’s such an American institution.
Q: What are you most excited about with the book?
Rick: That it’s finished. It’s about two years worth of work. For me that’s the most exciting thing about it.
Jerry: I have a copy in my studio that I keep walking by and looking at. Every time I see it, I’m trilled with it. It’s a thick, hardcover thing. When I look through it, it’s a nice look back at what I’ve been doing the last 20 years with my life. Everybody should have a 20-year-anniversary book of what they do.
Rick: It’s like getting a DVD with all the extras. That’s different for us. In the past we’ve added little extras here and there. But this one is full of extras.
Q: What inspired the “extras?”
Jerry: They give you 300 pages to fill.
Rick: That’s good motivation. … Part of it is fans ask questions. That gives you an idea of what they’re interested in. We went a little bit by that. We sort of tried to fill the book with a lot of things like that.
Jerry: The whole process of going through the strips we’ve done over the years was kind of grueling and interesting, too, and a reminder of different periods. The strip is different. It’s evolved over the last 20 or some years. It’s interesting to see the evolution of the writing style and drawing style.
IF YOU GO
What: ”Baby Blues” co-creators Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott will share their favorite stories from “Baby Blues,” and sign their new book, “BBXX,” which marks the first 20 years of the popular comic strip.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10
Where: Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive
Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or firstname.lastname@example.org