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Getting In Toon: The Scott Roberts Q&A - Part 2
By Rich Watson


This week concludes my conversation with Patty Cake creator and Rugrats artist Scott Roberts, done while he was in New York for the Big Apple Con back in January. In the second half, he talks about his long-running book, as well as the relationship between kids and comics today, and a certain vocal duo that pops up in his work from time to time…

(click here for Part One)

Rich Watson: And on that note, let's move on to Patty Cake. She's been around a pretty long time now. You've got like 30-something issues under your belt. Has that been surprising at all?

Scott Roberts: Considering the state the industry's been in - when you start out, you think, I'll be lucky if I can make it to six issues - yeah, I'm very happy that it's lasted as long as it has. I owe a lot to publishers who've picked the book up when I really needed a helping hand. I self-published the first nine issues and really ran out of money, and the offer came from Caliber to take it over. That helped carry me over for another year. And then Slave Labor was interested in taking it over, and I had to say yes. Who couldn't? They came to me and I said I'd be happy to go to them. It's a golden opportunity to keep my book going because I couldn't on my own.

RW: One thing about the current run, which I am absolutely loving, is the way it's taken a more dramatic tone, going into the history of the characters. Were the ideas for these stories in place beforehand or is it a recent development?

SR: Most of the Patty Cake backstory has been there all along, but you have to reach a certain point of familiarity for the readers who have read it for enough years to really know the characters, and then you can start to flesh it out more and drop in all that stuff. The whole backstory about her parents, how they met, I've had that in my head since the first year I published the book. But it was never the time yet to put that in there. I'd say, well, eventually, I'm gonna show her grandparents; you're gonna learn a little more about why her sister's the way she is, how the parents got together. I felt like the time was right. (And I already knew the backstory about Janine-Jean's father.)

Most of these characters come from a comic strip I spent most of the 70's and 80's trying to sell. The comic strip centered around the Mr. Cuddles character and his adult son, and they were sort of the spoke of the wheel, and everything else kinda radiated out from there. Cuddles was a high school vice-principal, so there was a whole high school setting. His son was a young adult, so there were young adult characters. Patty Cake, Jose and Irving were all the little kids who lived on his street. When I went to the comic book I simply shifted the focus around to Patty Cake, but a lot of characters had to wait their turn now.

RW: Did Mr. Cuddles not work as a marketable character, or did you have more stories with Patty Cake?

SR: Well, at the time I don't think I was really as ready as I thought I was to make it. The usual editorial reaction was that "The gags aren't quite strong enough," or "You just need to work on them more," or "This isn't the kind of thing we're looking for just now." I honed it and honed it, and finally it got to the point where I was starting to think to myself [that] there were way too many characters in too many situations. Nobody will ever be able to follow this stuff unless they're really into it, like Doonesbury - very complex and multi-layered. A causal reader would have trouble picking up on what's going on. I would shift completely from gags about Patty Cake one day to gags about Ken Dew the next day… The others just started to flesh out more and more so they could take over for weeks at a time, but it would always come back to Cuddles and his son. The son was finally introduced into the comic book in a recent issue. In their world, he's been there all along, just as Janine-Jean's sister and her boyfriend have been there all along. In fact a few years ago I did a comic book one-shot ashcan, more adult oriented, with Janine-Jean and her sister. It was all their point of view. The material that was planned for that turned up in Janine-Jean's [recent] story in Patty Cake.

RW: I wanna get back to Janine-Jean, but another thing I wanna mention is how the continuity between stories is tightening up a little.

SR: Well, again, if you already know all your backstory, and all the rules of your world, that helps to keep the continuity. If you have a tendency to make things up as you go along, you're gonna forget things you've already stated and contradict them later down the line. The Simpsons have done that for years; they'll say something and then they'll say the opposite, and in recent seasons, suddenly, they've become more interested in stating something and keeping it true. Their feelings about that have changed. Flanders' wife dies, she stays dead. Milhouse's parents divorce, they stay divorced, they're not back together in the next episode…

I never name a specific year in Patty Cake. It's whatever year you wanna think it is. All the stories that have ever happened in Patty Cake or ever will could take place reasonably within the same year. There are many weeks and many days in a child's life, and time does seem to pass slower for a child. So the Christmas story should not contradict the summer camp story. If I do a Halloween story, it may actually have her going out dressed as a monkey, expecting to get that Monkeys Playground [toy], because in the reality of that, the Christmas story won't have happened yet. So you really wanna do your background stuff. You don't have to have thousands of years of Middle Earth, like Tolkien did, but just have some kind of reasonable story about everybody's origin and how they relate to each other, so you can pick and choose your facts and they'll still ring true in a later story.

RW: So you're not necessarily building towards any future stories?

SR: Well, I'm always looking for future storylines, but each issue is a combination between some story I may have had in mind for years to write, and new stuff that occurs to me at the spur of the moment. There are many Patty Cake stories that I almost made up as I went along: here's the situation, we plug her into the situation, and see what happens. Others I had on a long list of story springboards and now the time seems right for that story. There are several I've almost used many times and still haven't, and got bumped for something else that came up that seemed more timely…

RW: You've said in the past that Patty Cake was inspired by your childhood. Where did you grow up?

SR: Ridgewood, New Jersey. Anybody who knows the Monkees song "Pleasant Valley Sunday," that's where I grew up. The song was inspired by Bergen County, New Jersey. Very green, leafy suburbs, quiet streets, far away from the part of New Jersey New Yorkers are familiar with. It's not Jersey City, it's not Newark. Ridgewood was a combination of long-established villages with a business district, and post-war suburbs all along the edges. I grew up out in the edges, the post-war suburbs. Which is why Patty Cake is set in a post-war suburb; that's what I know. They always say write what you know, so I write the kinda neighborhood, the kinda situations that I'm familiar with firsthand, but without saying that it's all happening in the early 60's when I was growing up. This way many readers think it's happening in the 70's or the 80's when they grew up, which is what I want - as many readers as possible to feel that this is their life or could be their life, which is neither the city nor the country. It's in that unique post-World War II environment.

RW: And the primary characters are inspired by friends of yours, right?

SR: More or less. Patty Cake herself just came from the name. As a kid, nine years old, I thought "Patty Cake Bakerman" sounded like a character's name. And I wanted to grab it before somebody else did, so I made up a character with that name. Jose came along a year later because I had seen the name Jose for the first time and thought how exotic it looked because it wasn't spelled or pronounced like an English name. Now I know quite a bit of Spanish, but back then I knew none. Irving came many years later, he didn't come along until the 80's with the Cuddles strip. I thought, let's do a little Dennis the Menace reversal from the Cuddles point of view. So the original Irving was a little more crafty and mischievous. He had an invisible friend who I've only used once in the book.

RW: The Patty Cake/Susie rivalry is one of the strongest aspects of the book. Is it fair to say that they're two sides of the same coin?

SR: Yeah. Well, neither one knows why they hate each other. They each blame it on the other. When pressed for a reason, they're never gonna say anything other than "She started it! She hates me for no good reason!" That's their inclination. Susie was originally just gonna be a minor character, to show up every now and then to make Patty Cake jealous because she had better, more expensive toys. That was gonna be it - just two kids trying to make each other jealous. But I held off on her for awhile; I didn't put her into an issue until the seventh [of Volume 1], even though there is a page in the first issue which I've reinstated in the [Sugar and Spice] paperback where we see Susie - an early version. But then it just kinda developed from there. The rivalry took on a lot more dimensions than just who has better toys. And there are a lot of kid rivalries that are like that; they can't really intellectualize why they don't like a certain other kid. And I don't want to solve it and give it a pat little "Now they're friends" [ending] -

RW: I wouldn't want you to! I think Patty Cake needs an archrival to better define herself.

SR: Once in awhile they almost forget for a minute, when they join forces to laugh at Irving for something stupid he did, but then they realize again, shun each other and just walk away…

RW: Janine-Jean is obviously a character you have a lot of affection for. Has she reached the point where she's becoming a breakout character for the book?

SR: Well, she does have a whole backstory of her own, which could take on a life of its own. As I said, I did do a one-shot ashcan from her point of view, her and her sister. I could've taken that into a whole series based on them. Eventually I didn't because I thought it would be a conflict of interest, especially since that book had a much more adult tone. But when kids who are familiar with Janine and Patty Cake might not be able to read their own book, I held off on that. But I know that she has a lot of fans. Certain people almost regard her as real. I know people who, I think, have quite a crush on Janine-Jean. I tell them, well, if she were real, I'd be after her first! She's a composite, if anything. I knew one girl who's name was Janine-Jean, and another girl whose middle name was Janine - from her I got the fedora, the guitar - and then the rest of it is all just stuff I made up…

Originally she was a prop character. When I first introduced her, Cuddles' son was in love with Janine's sister, but it was unrequited, so she fixed him up with her little sister Janine. The running gag was, they got along, but she always fell asleep every time they went out on a date. It got to the point where he'd call her on the phone and she fell asleep on him! Now, that joke hasn't really been touched on in the book lately. Cuddles' son has appeared only once anyway, and I include that they are still very close friends. So she took on a life of her own and it just went beyond the restrictions of that original one-note gag. There were a whole lot of storylines in my Cuddles strip that involved Janine on her own. She had a job working at a department store, and a pesky little guy who had a crush on her there would follow her around. So she appears to be a breakout character just because I've invested so much in her even before I started the book that she was very totally developed…

RW: I wanna talk a bit about some of the other comics out there. You probably heard the news that there'll be new Disney comics again.

SR: Actually, I haven't heard that. What are they planning?

RW: Gemstone will be reviving the Donald Duck comics, and some other Disney characters as well. There's gonna be some European stuff that'll appear in the States for the first time. It'll be coming out in the summer, I believe.

SR: The question is, can they make it sell here? It's very frustrating that that stuff sells in the millions in Europe and is ignored here. I have most of that Gladstone reprint library of Carl Barks comics. They certainly sold back in the day, but now, is it a lack of correct publicity, advertising in the right places? I sometimes wonder the same thing with the Cartoon Network and their comics. Should they be doing more on their television network to make people aware that these comics exist?…

RW: Even from watching you with some of the kids here today, my experience has been that if you give a kid a comic book, with a character that they find some sort of affinity with, they'll read it.

SR: Unfortunately I think technological advances go hand in hand with the delusion concerning future shock - we assume that if kids are into television and video games, then it must stand to reason that they're not into comic books, and a lot of them aren't given the chance to see them. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool if you do get enough kids to see them and spread the word.

RW: That's the big problem. Getting the comics into kids' hands.

SR: With this foregone conclusion that they don't want comics anymore, kids won't read those now, that's pretty self-defeating if you're not even trying to get kids to look at them. The real delusion is that children are different today. They're not born different; they're just growing up in a different environment. They learn different things, but from the moment they're born you can shape any child the same way they were shaped 100 years ago if they were growing up in that kind of environment. They're still just human beings waiting to learn, to receive a set of impressions upon which to build their concept of the world. They're not all of a sudden born out of the womb computer geniuses.

RW: Another big issue lately is the matter of content in all-ages material, especially in the corporate comics. Should real-world subject matter play into all-ages storytelling in any aspect?

SR: If it's handled in a way children can understand. We don't need to go all the way back to the 50's kind of censorship, where we think they have to be so innocent [that] kids aren't aware of the realities of life. There is a bar of what's appropriate, to what a kid is ready to understand. I think some people push it by saying, "This is all-ages," and then they still go over the line. That's a hard thing to set as a rule, because it's not something you can be totally objective about. It depends on the way different people were raised, as to what they personally think is proper.

Just as the Supreme Court gave individual communities the right to set their own standards of obscenity, if everybody is gonna agree to the same thing as obscene, then everybody's going to agree that the same material is or isn't appropriate for children. That's why I mentioned the comic strip Rugrats is quite different from the TV show because the perceptions of the newspaper reading audience is quite different from the television audience. And some people who even enjoy The Rugrats Movie will say that there are too many butt jokes and poop jokes, and maybe you don't need all of those. But the producers know that kids will laugh at that stuff. They won't be offended by it the way adults are. They haven't been taught to be offended by it or ashamed of it yet. That's a pretty hard line to draw.

I'm sure DC does have its own standards. There are actually rules for, for instance, the Powerpuff Girls comic. I tried to write a script for that and found out that I'd inadvertently broken several rules - things that are perfectly okay in the TV show, but again, not in the comic book. In the comic book, you can't over-emphasize the Chemical X [the source of the Girls' powers]. You can never have one of the Powerpuff Girls decide she no longer wants to be a Powerpuff Girl. Things like that are just rules for the comic book… There was an episode of the show where [the villain] Mojo Jojo appears to be a pusher in an alley, giving kids Chemical X! He's wearing a trenchcoat, a low hat, [and] the kids are coming back for another hit of Chemical X! And of course, it tries to teach a lesson about the evils of addiction, but often people react before they see the end, and they don't know whether there's a lesson at the end, they just see the situation. So that helped them become a little more sensitive in print.

RW: A lot of the time, when corporate comics (supposedly) meant for all ages try to address real world issues, they tend to beat you over the head about it. The Patty Cake story you did that was nominated for the Eisner, about the crossing guard, made its points and let the reader fill in the blanks themselves. That's something that most corporate comics, whenever they try and do something similar to that, just don't get.

SR: It's a case of getting carried away with your good intentions, and thinking that the readers won't understand unless you spell it out. I won't write a story that way. I like a little ambiguity, to let you think about the issue. I wrote that story in a way that would make you wonder, well, who was right, who was wrong, what really happened, and what would you think if this happened in your community? It was inspired by a real crossing guard I knew when I was a kid. He was an elderly man, he did hug all the little girls [and] just rushed the little boys along. In fact, I was caught up in his hug once by mistake. I was too close to a group of girls, and like Jose, I had to wriggle out for dear life! But what happens in the story did not happen because in the early 60's, people didn't mind each other's business in quite the same way. I know eventually he retired and wasn't there anymore, but it had nothing to do with a scandal. It was just my way of saying well, if that happened today, what would happen? There is a little clue as to how it was reported, but I never made it explicit. I never said "This is who made the complaint." But if you really look at the story carefully, you'll see where the complaint is made. But it's subtle.

RW: Should adult readers expect today's comics to be the same as they were when they were kids? I see that attitude a lot these days, especially with the rise of the nostalgia books - G.I. Joe, Transformers, etc.

SR: Whether they should expect that they could be is one thing. If they expect that the publishers are going to do it, that's another thing altogether. I think what's happened to comics today, part of the phenomenon is that the Silver Age fans are the first group of comics fans who grew up with comics, and kept the habit, and wound up going into the business themselves. So they view them in a whole different way. Whereas with Golden Age fans, they kinda grew up and grew out of comics, and almost no Golden Age fan went into the business. The numbers are very small. Many of the Silver Age artists and writers are the same ones as the Golden Age artists and writers. So along with this went a collector's mentality, and kind of a pride about the cliqueishness. So the Silver Age fans reached a point where they said, "We don't want people to think comics are just for little kids. We gotta change them; we gotta take them to places they didn't go before. So let's take the Hulk and do this and that with him" that they wouldn't have done, to prove that they were for grownups. So it's partly that possessive attitude that led to a boys' club mentality of comics. It would be very hard to get back past that to do comics the way they used to be without it looking like a deliberately retro look. It would appear to be nostalgia right away.

RW: Everyone thinks the age they grew up in is the best.

SR: Oh yeah, that's normal. I see all the technological advances that are in the world now, but I'm still glad I grew up when I grew up and I would not trade it for growing up now. Especially when candy bars were a nickel, and comics were 12 cents back then. You can't beat those prices today!

RW: As long as we're on the subject of adult matter in comics, I wanna briefly talk about Click Track, since you have a lot of adult matter in that, and I don't think a lot of people are aware of the book anyway. Why don't you provide a synopsis of what it's about, first of all.

SR: The back cover gives a little capsule description. [Here he takes a copy of the graphic novel from the table and turns to the back.] I'll read this: "There's a very thin line between celebrity and reality, and retired action hero Click Track is about to walk its edge. On the eve of a promised Hollywood comeback movie, Click finds himself instead in a real life/death adventure of deepening mystery. Accompanied by feisty stunt double Billie Boyd, it's a cat and mouse game, with our heroes in the trap. Colorful supervillains and a mysterious messenger lead Click and Billie through the clues." There's a lot of just poking fun at Hollywood excess, the thin line between fantasy and reality, how seriously people take movies, how obsessive fans become about their heroes, how they forget they're only actors and try to turn their characters, in their own minds, into real beings - all that stuff is addressed. While the themes are more mature, there was an experiment in the book, which I hope I carried off: I wanted to show I could write an entire book without any four-letter-words or adult language.

RW: That must have been a great challenge, because you do approach some weird stuff in there.

SR: Oh yeah. Well, it is a challenge - it's more challenging to write that way. It's all too easy to have every other word be eff or ess, and a lot of writers think it's more realistic - it's a David Mamet thing. But it's not necessarily real life, because then every character would start talking that way, and everybody doesn't sound the same. But I wanted to find more creative ways to say what's going on, to come into the sentence beyond the point of the yelling of the swear word - what else is the character reacting to here? How else can you say it? So that was really a very conscious thing in Click Track - to see if I could make it all the way through the book without throwing in any objectionable words other than perhaps "crap," which has become one of the more acceptable ones.

RW: I think you even had "ass" in there a couple of times too.

SR: Yeah, possibly, that's in there.

RW: You go in all these different directions in the story, and yet the overall theme, about illusions, holds together.

SR: I wrote the basic framework of the plot one afternoon. I was at a very boring temp job, sorting out very disorganized files for a pharmaceutical company, and I just had to do something active with my mind other than looking at numbers and names and medications. It occurred to me that the term "click track," a recording industry term, sounded like one of those phony action hero names, so right away I pictured what he would be like. Probably a hothead, aggressive, all-man, but [a] mostly created image. Bit by bit, within the afternoon, the story came along - the obsessive fan, the stunt double who goes along with him because she's mistakenly hired, the director who mysteriously disappears, all the points of the story kinda fell into place and I went home and drew most of the characters in one afternoon. And then the rest of it kinda fleshed out as it went along. I knew I had to get from point A to point B. I didn't always know how; anything could happen along the way…

RW: I also wanted to talk about your brothers, who have had strips appear in Patty Cake

SR: Each one of my three brothers has done something in each of the editions. My brother Jeff did the Kook & Lax one - characters that go back to childhood. They can often be very surreal and stream-of-consciousness. He had two nicely finished, nicely rendered strips, and I chose the no-dialogue one because I thought you don't need to know about the characters as you would in the one with dialogue. It's kinda there as a non-sequitor… I colored it, he just drew it and inked, and I said, well if I'm gonna do color, let's put it on the back. My younger brother Jim, who also goes by the initials J.C. - The Finnies was his. A family of three generations of very strange guys… They take life on their own terms, they're not too bothered by reality. I picked what I felt were the easiest strips to understand without knowing too much about those characters. The other one my older brother [Dave] did - a strip called Etc. with a character [named] Ziz - again, it goes way back to his childhood… That's the only one that was drawn specifically for the book. The others were pre-existing strips.

RW: Are they interested in cartooning professionally, or is it just for fun?

SR: The youngest is doing animation; he's doing Flash animation. We're really hoping he can make a go at it because he's learning very fast, doing very (I think) impressive things. I'm having a great time watching him build his first cartoon - and he's doing everything, the voices, all the animation, all the writing. He's turning out a one-man factory. He'll eventually put his own music on it. Hopefully he'll be able to enter it in some festivals… In fact, I did have him print up, so I could take around to shows, an ashcan of some of his stuff, and his first cartoon is based on some of the stories in that ashcan. I don't recall how many people got a hold of that ashcan; a few got it in their hands. He did a little story about a character named Naybob, who's gonna be the star of his first animated cartoon when he gets it done. The question now is how does he transfer it to film? That's expensive. He hasn't solved that problem yet. I think you might have to get it on film to get it into festivals.

RW: Simon & Garfunkel. I know you're a big fan of theirs. What's your favorite song by them?

SR: It'd be hard to pick one favorite. I like "Sounds of Silence," "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme"… They hit a kind of sound on those two albums that they never went back to. Some people call it precious, or sophomoric, or dated, but I just like that sound. And I've had fun sneaking them into the comics off and on, crossing them with Bazooka Joe [in Patty Cake], putting Garfunkel into Click Track. They're icons - regardless of whether they want to work together [again] or not, someday they'll have to accept the fact that they've become iconic. It's a tough thing when you know you're more than an icon, you're a person that the public doesn't really know everything about, but at the same time there's that iconic ghost of yourself that goes before you. Whether it gets you into trouble or not, I don't know.

RW: To me, being of a younger generation, I always saw their music as being specifically tied to their generation, the 60's - its ties to The Graduate, the whole vibe of that era in history.

SR: Using the music in The Graduate is what cemented that. [Director] Mike Nichols heard the music, thought, "This is the perfect kind of music for what I'm trying to say in the movie," and once he did that, it became kind of inseparable from that image. In fact, the story goes, Simon had been asked if he could write the music for Midnight Cowboy and he said, "I don't wanna become known as Dustin Hoffman's songwriter!" He backed off of that so he wouldn't be typecast: "A Dustin Hoffman movie, we'll get Paul Simon." The first time I went to see The Graduate, it was on a double bill with Carnal Knowledge. Garfunkel was in that; it's also another Mike Nichols movie. Simon did One Trick Pony; Garfunkel had that movie Bad Timing. A lot of theaters showed them as a double bill. I know it's frustrating for them, but they'll never be able to be separated in people's minds. In fact, I was quite impressed with Garfunkel's new album, in which he makes his debut as a songwriter. Some of the songs sound very close to Simon's kind of songs.

RW: When did it come out?

SR: Just a couple of months ago, I think in October. Six songs are co-written by him with the musicians and singers who help him out on the album… It's a fantasy of mine that if ever [Simon and Garfunkel] were to work together again they would both write the songs and they would fit together. I think that's what went wrong with that aborted reunion that turned into that Hearts and Bones album. That should not have been the album they tried to do together because that started out as a Simon solo album. They tried to just artificially graft Garfunkel on and it didn't work. There's no rule that says it ought to be all Paul Simon's songs… Why exactly I decided to turn them into Bazooka Joe and Mort? Who knows? It just seemed like fun!

RW: Which is as good a reason as any.

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SR: But as far as Garfunkel appearing in Click Track, he just made a nice icon of innocence and romance that Billie might have remembered believing in at a younger, more naive age. So I took him at a younger age, right off the cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - that version of Garfunkel, the words from that song, what it represented to her at the time is very important - just as Click was let down when the King of Entertainment did not turn out to be the Duke [John Wayne], but the lowest common denominator of slapstick comedy.

RW: That was a really funny scene.

SR: You think about it, there's a lot to that. Violence sells. People love the Three Stooges, [but] they're not intellectually challenging, funny as they may be. But I never mention Moe's name because you can get in trouble with the estates of these celebrities if you try to appropriate the image too far. I just made it so it looks like him.

But Cerebus went so far as to have all three of the Three Stooges as running characters in a whole story arc. And now I'm wondering about his first story arc with Woody Allen. I doubt very much Woody Allen's ever gonna read Cerebus, but if he did, I think he'd be unhappy. He doesn't like people taking his image. And [Dave Sim's] not only using his physical image as a character, he's reproducing, by hand, moments from his movies, with Diane Keaton and Louise Lasser… But I think the comic is so far below the radar of somebody like Woody Allen, he may never discover it unless somebody brings it to his attention.

I'm sticking it out with Cerebus to the bitter end anyway, just to see what happens. I don't really understand what's going on in it lately; it's gotten pretty dense. I figure I'm this close to the end, I wanna see how it ends. The thing is, he set himself up in an awkward way. When you say you're gonna do 300 issues, that last issue better be fantastic! If it's a letdown… [Whistles.] I mean, Jeff Smith knew the end of the story when he'd probably told enough story, not even going for 100 issues. There's no point in artificially prolonging it anymore. He admits he could've ended it sooner if he wanted to, but it's ending very soon, I think within the next year, about five or four issues of Bone left. Then I will grab all the hardcovers and sit down and read it from front to back, all in a chunk. And I expect to enjoy it all over again. It remains one of my favorites, one I regularly run right over the comic store to get when I hear it's in…

RW: So when are we gonna see the Patty Cake/Amelia Rules crossover?

SR: [Laughs] Actually, we've kidded about that a little. What would happen? Would they get along? Amelia's older than Patty Cake. She's more Jose's age. The problem is, where do they both live? I think Amelia's town has a name. Patty's has no name. I never say where she lives. I've named some surrounding communities, like Cleanfill Corners, but not Patty's own town. But I could sneak [Amelia] in somewhere, the way I've snuck in other kid characters.

RW: I'd want to see Janine-Jean and Tanner together. Tanner seems like an older, wiser version of Janine-Jean.

SR: She's been burned and she's been through it. Janine's a bit of a slacker; she's not trying hard enough to get where she wants to go. That's why she's still where she is. Her sister's an overachiever and Janine's an underachiever, so that was the tension in their own story. [Jimmy Gownley] has a similar tendency to flesh out the world with background things, like "Softee Chicken." I said to him, "I see what you're doing; that's the same kind of thing I do in Patty Cake" - something that's real in her universe. It's not Barney or something that we know; it's something that makes it Amelia's world.

RW: It makes it specific to Amelia's world.

SR: That's why there are so many things that are specific to Patty Cake's world. Softee Chicken is [Amelia's] equivalent to Birdy, the Weasels, or any of those things. Although I think he does mention more real-life things. I have sort of an unwritten rule: I never mention current celebrities or politicians. They don't exist in Patty's world. The President of the United States is always Skippy Milkwater. I can name historical figures, who have existed before Patty's time. Mark Twain is fine, Stephen King is not. He's too current, he's too now, and he dates the story. Mark Twain has been done before her stories began. But I've got into another little tradition of having her go to the ice cream store and sneaking in other characters.

RW: Yeah, that ice cream store is like a crossroads for all these different cartoon characters.

SR: It's the Nexus of All Realities. Well, the first time I used it, just as a joke I snuck Little Audrey into a story. And again, I didn't use her name, just her image. One shot, I think, fair use. I said, well, I've already used Little Audrey in this story, how about when she actually gets to the store, [I could] fill it out with all kinds of other characters. There's Akiko, there's Lucy, there's Nancy and Sluggo. I used Angelica long before I ever knew I'd be drawing Rugrats professionally! That was just a one-off thing at the time - I looked at a picture of her, copied her. I could sneak Amelia in if I get back to the ice cream store.

There are two Patty Cake trade paperbacks available from Slave Labor Graphics: Sugar and Spice and Mostly Spice And Everything Nice. The third, Love Is All Around, is due next month. Click Track can be ordered through Comics Library International, 2049 Alfred St., Pittsburgh PA, 15212 or by e-mail at gbstudio@sprintmail.com.


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