MISSION VIEJO, Calif. – Kevin Fagan’s last name is printed in 200 different newspapers every week, but to his neighbors in Mission Viejo, he’s just a regular guy.
Fagan can usually be found in his home studio, using his dip pen and ink to create new story-lines for his long-running comic series, Drabble. The series runs every day and has been for the last 40 years.
“Most cartoonists are smart enough to have the computerized tablets and they kind of draw it on there. I’m Fred Flintstone, so I haven’t figured all that out yet,” said Fagan.
He says his wife helps him scan the strips, color them, and send them to publishers.
Drabble was first published in 1979, but Fagan actually got his first taste of what it’s like to have readers after he turned in a comic book for a class project at Mission Viejo High School.
“I turned it in and got an A on it, but the kids were passing it around the classroom and laughing. That was kind of the first experience I had where people looked at this little hobby that I had and seemed to enjoy it,” said Fagan.
His cartoons were published at Saddleback Community College and later, at Sacramento State University when he transferred there.
“That’s where Norman Drabble was born was when I was drawing in college. Norman Drabble, the nerdy college student, who was me when I was in college,” said Fagan.
Breaking into the industry wasn’t easy. Fagan says he got rejected, ignored by others, and received wise advice from legendary Charles M. Schultz, the creator of Peanuts.
Fagan says Schultz told him that he doesn’t like to comment on art, because it’s not him that Fagan had to impress, but an editor somewhere.
“Along with his note, he sent a Xeroxed sheet of newspaper syndicates and on that sheet I got the address of United Feature Syndicate. That was who syndicated Peanuts and they also syndicated Garfield and many of the all-time great cartoons,” said Fagan.
He sent them dozens of comic strips and after months of checking in, Fagan got a phone call from a man.
“The man identified himself. He was the vice president of the syndicate. He said 'I’m getting on an airplane in New York City and I’m going to fly out to Sacramento. Meet me at the airport and we’ll sign a contract and we’ll be in business,'” recalled Fagan.
The cartoonist signed his first contract at the age of 21. Since then, Fagan has created new strips every day for the last 40 years, which brings his total to about 14,600 strips. Despite this, Fagan says it’ll be impossible for him to run out of ideas.
“You can get tired of what you’re doing. You can get burnt out and decide you don’t want to do this anymore. There’s always something going on. There’s always some new thing that you’ve never tried or considered, or combinations of characters or circumstances and things that you can write about that you haven’t done before,” said Fagan.
Along the way, Fagan has built a loyal following spanning multiple generations.
“The most joy comes from heartfelt letters or communications I get from readers who talk about the effects that it’s had on them or how certain strips have touched them in some way, or how they have certain strips on their refrigerator,” said Fagan.
We can’t show you much of the strip Fagan was working on during the timing of this filming, due to his contract, but we can tell you that particular strip will be published on June 30.
Fagan says one of the things that motivates him to continue creating strips is knowing he can make a reader’s day better for them.
Fagan will be appearing at the NCSFest, a big cartooning festival, in Huntington Beach on May 17-19.