Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman are the creators and producers of the popular comic strip, Baby Blues. They have been writing it together since January 7, 1990, and it was picked up by King Features Syndicate in 1995.
Jerry, you work on Zits with Jim Borgman and Baby Blues with Rick Kirkman—that’s a lot of time with kids/adolescents. Do you ever go see rated R movies just because you can?
JS: You bet. But I cover my eyes at all the appropriate times.
What was the last really great movie you saw?
JS: Moneyball, Super 8, Rango, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris… is that more than one?
RK: The latest would be Midnight in Paris. My list of recent ones would be about the same as Jerry’s, except I haven’t seen Rango, but I’d put Tangled up there. I have to say, I find more compelling work on TV these days than in movies.
Can you tell us a little about your creative collaboration with Rick? How did the two of you become partners?
JS: We met when we were both living in Phoenix in the mid-seventies (gasp!) and discovered a mutual interest in cartooning. Rick was doing magazine cartoons and taught me how to make submissions to magazines. Neither of us made much money at it, but we never got tired of it and just sort of naturally drifted toward comic strips. Creating and producing a syndicated comic strip is a lonely job, so we decided to do one together so we’d have somebody to talk to (and to blame whenever the strip wasn’t funny).
Baby Blues has been in syndication since 1990, yet the material is as funny as ever. How do you come up with so much new, funny stuff?
JS: We have agreed that one of us is to always have at least one funny kid in the house at all times.
RK: I finally had to draw the line with a twenty-something in the house, deal or no deal. Luckily, my niece just had a baby. But she’s NOT moving in with us.
You both have children—how influential are they in your work?
JS: They might classify themselves as victims, but influential is a nicer word. Rick’s kids were the models for early Baby Blues, then mine came online. It’s a great thing to be able to make every embarrassing moment, disaster and frustration in the house into a profit.
RK: Best of both worlds: you get to shamelessly exploit them while they’re young, and then hold it over them about how you supported them with it—that is, until they get smart and figure out that you actually owe them for all the material they provided.
If you couldn’t do this as a career, what would your second choice be?
JS: I’d be a painter. A ridiculously successful one, if possible.
RK: Rock star, if I was any good, which I’m not. Professional tennis player, if I was any good, but I’m not. So, that leaves writer…
What kind of material do you read in your spare time?
JS: I read a lot of fiction – all types. I’m a fan of John Irving, Donald Ray Pollock, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Chabon and a lot more.
RK: Fiction as well—John Irving, Michael Chabon, Stephen King, among others. I like suspense-genre novels and the occasional non-fiction book. I also read magazines—including articles about Apple products—and newspaper articles.
Wanda is a stay-at-home mom, which can elicit opinions from both other stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home. Do you get a lot of feedback regarding this? Does it influence her character?
JS: I wouldn’t say that we get a lot of opinions about Wanda’s career choice, but it seems to me that it’s a pretty even mix between women who think stay-at-home momming is the ideal, and those women who believe that working outside the home is the way Wanda should go. That said, Baby Blues isn’t a comic strip run by committee. We let the characters do what they will do.
RK: I think there was more feedback about it in the beginning as Wanda struggled with her decision more. As time went on, that became less of an issue. It’s a personal dilemma, and every mom (and dad) deals with it her/his own way.
Are there any big happenings coming up for the MacPherson family?
JS: Nothing planned, but that’s the way life works most of the time, isn’t it? They’ll never see it coming.
We will be publishing a hardbound Twentieth Anniversary book this fall that’s a must-read for Baby Blues Fans. It’s called BBXX. Rick has been working on this book for quite a while, and it’s going to be awesome.
RK: There’s no master story arc, just the way it is in life. I like being surprised…unless it’s another child. There’s just no more room in the panels. We’d have to take over another strip’s space if that happened.
When you look back over your long, successful career, what would you consider to be your “lucky break”?
JS: There have been several. I would have to say that meeting Rick Kirkman at a time when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life professionally is a big one. After that, I think it’s been a matter of making my own luck through hard work and preparation.
RK: Ditto, meeting Jerry. Meeting my wife, because having a child that deprived my wife and me of sleep at just the right time was, believe it or not, a break. Our other child deprived us of sleep, too, but the timing wasn’t quite right.