Bill Nichols’ Prescription:
Comics 10ccs of Gary Barker
I’ve been friends with Gary Barker for about 30 years now and the guy is amazing. He can draw a spot-on sketch of Garfield and in the next minute, sketch a better Superman than I could do in a day, a week, ever! And with a Sharpie, no less. Meet my friend, Gary Barker.
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
Deadlines, students, and paying bills! Especially the students, watching them grow as artists inspires me to want to keep getting better.
Do you have a set routine?
Mostly determined by class times during the semester. When penciling the Garfield strip, I usually work at night. I’ve been accused of being a vampire.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
Making the comic strip deadlines and getting assignments graded.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
When I’m working at home, YouTube movie reviewers, classic monster movies and Godzilla movie retrospectives. In the classroom, some faculty will have music playing, but I prefer to let the students work listening to their individual tastes in music via their headsets.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
Curt Swan was my biggest influence. The first comic I remember buying was a World’s Finest in the 60`s. I still remember to this day standing at the spinner rack at the local grocery store with 12 cents thinking I could buy a Superman title, or a Batman title, but with World’s Finest, I got both characters for 12 cents. I, thankfully, had the pleasure to meet and talk with Curt Swan on a couple of occasions.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
Not certain if it was a realization but more of an epiphany that I was going to be a part of the comics industry. There was really nothing else except for a very brief thought of being a veterinarian. Also, I had an eighth grade teacher who was very motivational. She made me believe I could do this.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
The biggest challenge is on those days that I don’t feel like drawing…at least what I’m supposed to be drawing. And I have to trick myself into working on what I need to. I think everyone has to find ways to get through those periods in their own way.
What else do you have to learn?
Everything! I’m still learning every day!
What keeps you motivated to get better?
Our students at the Ringling College of Art and Design; the caliber of skills they achieve by graduation is tremendous.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
No and it has caused many a sleepless night.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
Keep following your passion…but with realistic expectations. There is a lot of competition, so look at what you can bring to the genre that no one else does. What makes your work unique and how is it marketable?
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
As long as you have life around you, there are always ideas. Create concepts from your experiences. When you need to design human characters, just observe the many faces of people you pass everyday, strangers, friends, family…be careful using family, some may not like how you represent them 😉
How do you handle the slow times?
Beer and sleep! Actually, we are always renovating, so any time I’m not on the drawing board or in the classroom, there are plenty of things to do around the house.
How do you feel about the industry?
Everything is changing at a very fast pace. Comic strip artists can no longer just rely on newspapers in print form. They must also have an active presence online.
The comic book industry has changed so much…both for the good and for the bad. Comic artists now have greater opportunities to find work in the industry, but sadly, much of it is low-paying. It doesn’t seem that the plethora of super-hero movies is translating to comic book sales. Comic titles no longer sell in the numbers that they used to, but they cost so much more that it offsets the lesser print run. And that also means the number of people “reading” comics has greatly diminished.
I think Free Comic Book Day is a great thing, but I don’t know how well it financially benefits comic stores that participate in the long run. I guess I should ask a comic retailer.
The best thing that has happened to comics recently, in my opinion, is the blank cover variant…that was genius. You can buy any comic that offers the blank cover variant and have your favorite artist draw a “one-of-a-kind” illustration.
What would you say is your crowning achievement thus far?
In my mind, I haven’t achieved it yet. That gives me a constant, never ending goal.
Gary Barker started his career at age 19, illustrating concert and promotional posters for the company, Serigraphics, while still in college at the University of Indianapolis. But it was his alter-ego of Captain Cartoon, donned in tights and a cape with red-glittered sneakers; that would get him the attention of Jim Davis. Gary has been working for Jim Davis on the comic strip, Garfield, for over thirty years. In 2003, he went freelance contract for Garfield so that he could live in Florida and teach at the Ringling College of Art and Design. He became adjunct faculty in 2004.
Through 1989-1994; freelanced comic book work for Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, and others. Co-developed and illustrated Garfield’s Pet Force, published as paperbacks and comic books. Received film credit in the Garfield’s Pet Force movie released in 2009. In 2012-2014, worked on the Garfield comic book published by BOOM Studios (Kaboom).
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Author, Artist, Editor for ShoutFyre.com
Bill is the creator of Arteest & Ursula comics, writer for Ringtail Cafe, co-creator of Savage Family, writer and inker of HellGirl: Demonseed. Editor for ShoutFyre and Sketch Magazine. Co-author of Camelot Forever novel series.