California Raisins Comic Book – My First Professional Job

Here is my first professional cartooning job from back in 1988: The California Raisins in 3-D #5

While I was at the Kubert school, I realized that I liked drawing cartoony comics more than a superhero comics that I grew up liking. It sounds kind of strange, but it was a really big surprise to me.
Around this time, the comics that really excited me were Love and Rockets, Life in Hell, and the Kitchen Sink Press reprint of Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book.
Being completely ignorant of the lack of demand for funny comics, I wrote and drew a funny animal comic book story and brought it down to San Diego Comic Con to try to get a job.
A lot of people liked my samples, but most of them told me that there's no market for funny comics. I got a couple of bites from some small independent places like Apple Comics, Slave Labor, and Blackthorne Publishing. I also got some very encouraging words from Dave Stevens, Scott Saavedra, and my old hero, Mike Grell.
I came back home with a positive attitude because I had gotten a few good leads. I went back to life as usual (working at an ice cream store) until one day a package arrived on my front doorstep.
The package was from Blackthorne Publishing, and it contained a script, a contract, and 10 blank comic book pages. The job was a 10 page story for an upcoming issue of California Raisins in 3-D! It would have been nice if they had told me in advance... the deadline was in two weeks!
The first thing I had to do was ask my boss for a week off. Then I spent a couple days making thumbnail sketches and practicing drawing the characters. By the time I was ready to dive in fully, I had 10 days left to pencil and ink a 10 page professional quality story.
It was a pretty intense 10 days -- after all, this was my first job and I wanted to make a great impression. This was my way out of the ice cream store! My big break! California-Raisins-Comic004
After I was finished, there was no way I was going to send that precious cargo through the mail. I drove the story down to the Blackthorne offices in El Cajon California.
It was kind of cool to see the rickety little shop that they had going on there. After I turned in the story, they turned right around and give me another script. I didn't get a check, though... but that's another story. California-Raisins-Comic006Some of my early influences
are showing in these pages: on page 3, dig the Robert Crumb-style street scene.
California-Raisins-Comic007And the robot that answers the door on page 4 is an homage to my hero Harvey Kurtzman and his story "Henry and the Goon Child" from his early days at EC comics.
California-Raisins-Comic008 The comic was published in 3-D, so I'm just showing the black-and-white pages as I drew them.
California-Raisins-Comic009 I realize there's no lettering, but trust me -- the story wouldn't make much more sense if it had words. It was a pretty wonky script, but I wasn't about to complain.
Here's a look at the first page in all of its 3-D glory:California Raisins 3D comic page
California-Raisins-Comic-Book-Cover And here's the hideous cover which I certainly did NOT draw.
I'm happy to say that 22 years later (how in the world is THAT possible?) I can still look back at this comic and not wince.
It was still a few more years before my career really got off the ground, but this was my first taste of working to a professional standard, and on deadline, and getting to see my work in print. There is nothing like it :-)


Ian Merch! said...

Oh god! I used to HAVE this. This and a bunch of Simpsons 3D stickers. We could never keep a pair of the red and cyan glasses long before they broke. I have no idea why I liked The California Raisins so much as a child, but I seriously had a ton of this kind of stuff. Pretty impressive for 2 weeks worth of work!

MJ said...

WOW! This is so cool. It's a shame they didn't have you do the cover also. Nice!

Shawn Dickinson said...

That's a great "first professional job" story, Sherm!

Paul said...

I'm glad to see someone else considered Mike Grell to be their hero (even if only for a period of time).

Dan Moynihan said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

Sherm! You were amazing, even with your first professional job. They should have allowed you to draw the cover though. Then it would have made it even more perfect in my opinion.

ComiCrazys said...

That's a great story, Sherm. I can relate to having spent way too many hours practicing drawing superheroes and realistic human anatomy, when all the while I had the heart of a cartoonist. Once I decided that my love is in cartoony comics, I never looked back. I only wish I had done it sooner.

cartoonmonkey said...

Wow man! Would ya believe I have a nice hard frame set of 3d glasses I just picked up off my desk in front of me? Great story! From the frozen NorthWest, where the California Raisins were animated in all their Vinton-y clay mucky glory..
Keep on truckin' Shermy!