Stephan Pastis, 47, is an American cartoonist best known for his comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, one of the fastest growing strips across the world today, appearing in over 600 newspapers.
He won the 2015 Reuben Award for best newspaper comic strip and the National Cartoonists Society Newspaper Comic Strip Award in 2003 and 2006.
Pastis began his career as an defense litigation attorney in San Fransisco but soon grew bored with it and decided to return to a childhood passion for cartooning. He managed to make contact with both his childhood heroes—Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, at a coffee shop and the reclusive Bill Watterson of iconic Calvin and Hobbes in 2014, even getting the latter to make a guest drawing for his strip.
In February 2016, Pastis will make his first India visit to Goa to meet and speak with college students there. He gave an exclusive interview to THE WEEK over email ahead of his visit.
**Welcome to India, Stephan! What brings you here? What's on the agenda for the trip? ** Primarily, to just be a tourist! I've just always been fascinated by the beauty and mysticism of India. But while there, I will be speaking to students at BITS Pilani in Goa on February 6.
Since you have a fairly active social media presence, what is your experience with Indians fans who follow your work?
They're wonderful. Very enthusiastic and super-knowledgeable about the strip.
Are you planning any India-related themes/ideas for the strip, Pearls Before Swine? Either before or after the trip?
No plans as of yet. But as with everything I do, it will probably make it into the strip eventually.
Why the name Pearls Before Swine? Tell us about the inspirations for the main characters, Rat, Pig...
The Bible. Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” In the case of the strip, Rat thinks every thing he says is wise, and that it is wasted upon dumb Pig. I first created Rat when I was a student in law school. Pig followed shortly thereafter.
Why the idea to bring your own self into the strip?
It just makes me laugh. Also, it allows me to comment on things happening in my personal life.
Are you familiar with any Indian cartoonists, their work?
I am not. But hope to become more so after I visit.
You're the rare one who managed to make contact with legendary reclusive cartoonist Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes) and got him to draw for you! What was that like?
A dream come true. Never in my life did I think I would collaborate with him on anything. He could not have been nicer.
*How do you look at your own ideas of syndication, merchandising, etc vis-a-vis Watterson's purist ones? Peanuts' Charles Schulz when you met him at a coffee shop? *
I don't know if I agree 100 percent with Watterson on that. I think a little merchandising is okay. Schulz is the whole reason I become a cartoonist. As a little kid, I read Peanuts constantly.
*In today's times when the world is smaller with globalisation, the space—both literally and metaphorically—has become democratic between people and their idols. *
Yeah, it's crazy. Anybody can be in contact with anybody. And I can be in touch with fans in India! It's terrific.
*From an attorney to a cartoonist, when was the eureka moment to follow the proverbial heart? What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists? *
The eureka moment was when I met Charles Schulz. That's when I knew. As to advice, I would say to focus on writing funny. It all comes down to the writing. Much more important than the drawing.
How do you look at cartooning today, some say its a dying art, but with media opening up, there are greater avenues for people to share their creativity.
I agree that anyone who does work can instantly be seen because of all these greater avenues on the internet.
Finally, as a fan, could you write a funny line in Rat's voice (considering you say he is you) for this interview?
Haha! I would, but I am so tired today! Thanks for the interview.