In Memoriam: Randy Glasbergen
Randy Glasbergen (1957-2015) was not only an amazing and hard-working cartoonist, he was also an incredibly kind, knowledgeable and helpful friend. He left us way too early and unexpectedly, but we still think of him and his amazing contributions in the field of cartooning.
Below is an interview we did with Randy in 2002.
Randy Glasbergen is one of America’s most popular cartoonists. More than 25,000 of his cartoons have been published by Funny Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Hallmark Cards, America Online, and many others around the world.
Randy is the popular creator of “The Better Half” daily panel for King Features Syndicate.
Randy also showcases a new cartoon every day on the Internet. “Today’s Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen” is one of the most popular humor sites on the web and ranks as the #1 daily comic in many online polls.
Randy lives with his family in a big old house in a small old town in rural upstate New York.
Visit all of Randy’s cartoon creations here
eToon: Mr. Glasbergen, it’s an honor to have you here, sir! You are one of the most published cartoonists nowadays…Today, when you look back, what do you think? Was it hard? Or do you think it’s karma?
Glasbergen: It’s been hard, it’s been fun, it’s been frustrating, it’s been exciting, it’s been disappointing, it’s been painful, it’s been delightful. You get the idea.
eToon: When did you start your cartooning career?
Glasbergen: I made my first professional cartoon sale in 1972 at age 15. I got $5 each for three cartoons. It was a little magazine that only published cartoons, it’s not around anymore, but they bought a ton of stuff and a lot of magazine cartoonists got their start there. I continued to sell more cartoons throughout high school and college, to some of the top magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping. After one year of college, I was eager to get out into the “real world” so I began freelancing fulltime at age 19…it was a good age for me since my expenses were very low, I had a very cheap apartment and just me and my dog to feed. Over the past 30 years, my career has grown little by little and it’s chugging along pretty well now.
eToon: Have you ever had a “real” job?
Glasbergen: Around 1990 I was frustrated with freelancing and accepted a job offer from Hallmark Cards. I moved the family to Kansas City and spent a bit less than a year there working as a staff humor writer. (I continued to do much of my cartooning work on the side, nights and weekends.) Hallmark was a great experience, but I got bored and returned to freelancing. Fortunately, I hadn’t sold my home yet so it was easy to come back East and pick up where I left off. Shortly after I left Hallmark, my career started to pick up steam so today I’m happy freelancing and have no desire to get a “real job” again.
eToon: Is the cartoon market shrinking today? There are more and more magazines that are going out of business and others closing their doors to cartoonists…
Glasbergen: The cartoon market isn’t shrinking but it’s changing. I see a lot of gag panel cartoonists who are still marketing their work like it’s 1985 and that’s a mistake. The internet makes it possible to sell cartoons to markets all over the world, not just magazines. For example, I’m currently negotiating to have my cartoons animated and displayed by laser on the side of an airship (blimp) at public events in Europe. The market isn’t shrinking by any means, but it’s morphing to something broader and more global…it’s not just the Wall Street Journal and Good Housekeeping anymore.
eToon: As a freelancer, how do you look for new markets? Do you make “cold calls”?
Glasbergen: I used to promote myself more aggressively, but now my web site brings in just about all of my new work. People see my work on the web site or someplace else on the net and e-mail me for more info.
eToon: What is the schedule of a man “working @ home”?
Glasbergen: I get up at 5:00 AM to surf the net and catch up my e-mail until 7:00. After a workout and breakfast, I’m back by 8:30 to draw for a couple of hours, then I write gags from 10:30-12:30, break for lunch, then back to work until 6:00 PM. I work at home, so there’s no commute beyond a couple flights of stairs. By 6:00 I’m done for the day…I don’t work nights.
eToon: Your site is, I think we’ll all agree, the most popular cartoon site online. Does it help you market your work?
Glasbergen: Absolutely. It’s revolutionized my career, changed everything. In the beginning I thought it might earn enough to pay for my monthly internet service…but it’s become much more than that. I put up my web site in 1995 and within a week (to my amazement) it started making money…I was hired to create characters for a menu for a pizza place in Greece, that was the first thing. The web site is exposing my cartoons to a much broader audience than they’ve ever had and of course that helps me market my work. The internet gives more people access to our cartoon services, people who didn’t have easy access to cartoonists in the past. We’re not just selling cartoons to Woman’s World magazine anymore, we’re also selling to the entrepreneur who thinks he can market refrigerator magnets with our cartoons on them.
eToon: How do you promote your site?
Glasbergen: I’m listed with the major search engines plus I’m affiliated with some large internet sites like iWon.com, Excite.com, Classmates.com, eDiets.com and they send a lot of traffic to me. I make sure my web address is on every web cartoon, that’s important because cartoons get passed around by friends, relatives and colleagues and many of those people work in businesses that can use cartoons.
eToon: What is the role of the computer in you everyday life?
Glasbergen: I run my business from the computer. Plus I do all of my full color cartoon work on the computer. I use a Mac G4 tower with a 22″ flat screen monitor. These days a computer is just as necessary as a drawing board.
eToon: If you were a dentist, would you still be cartooning?
Glasbergen: If you want to succeed at cartooning, you have to be passionate about it to the point where no other career is even an option.
eToon: Hm, what if you had a million dollars?
Glasbergen: That’s why I’m cartooning…to get a million dollars! It’s a myth that freelancers don’t earn much money. I know many who earn a nice middle class living and some who earn in the doctor/lawyer range or better. It’s also a myth that syndicated cartoonists are the only ones making good money. Your earnings as a cartoonist depend on how diversified you are, your marketing skill, how long you’ve been at this, how much commercial value your work has, etc..
eToon: Where does your creative force come from?
Glasbergen: I have bills to pay and a family to take care of. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a “creative force” to sweep over me.
eToon: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career?
Glasbergen: I forgot to acquire hot groupies while I was still young and attractive.
eToon: Do you work with any agencies? Do you think they help the artists?
Glasbergen: King Features distributes my panel “The Better Half” to newspapers and I have a licensing agent in Europe who does a lot of traveling to promote my work…these companies both do something I can’t do for myself. Otherwise, I do all of my own sales and distribution.
eToon: Is there a market you most like working for? Magazines, books, greeting cards, etc.?
Glasbergen: I don¹t’ work with specific markets in mind. When I do a new cartoon, it might end up in a magazine or a greeting card or in a business presentation or a T-shirt or on the side of blimp. The same cartoon might be used over and over for dozens of different purposes over the course of a few years. When I choose which of my ideas to draw up, I try to pick ones that are most likely to be sold over and over with the potential for many different applications.
eToon: How do you create a successful cartoon?
Glasbergen: I write a bunch of ideas, then I draw them up. The more you create, the more likely it is that some of them will be successful. Some are more successful than others, but it’s hard to predict which ones will do best.
eToon: Do you have cartoons you’ve never sold to anyone?
Glasbergen: Yes, many.
eToon: How long does it take you to create a cartoon from start to finish?
Glasbergen: I really can’t say. I don’t work “from start to finish”. I write an idea, set it aside, revise it, draw it up, tear it up and start over…it varies.
eToon: Is it good to get “personal” with a client or should a freelancer always keep a distance?
Glasbergen: E-mail is about as personal as I get. I try to be friendly, but business like. I don’t try to be a “funny guy”…I let my cartoons do the funny work.
eToon: Tell us a bit about the selling process. Do you have set rates for your work and do you give discounts?
Glasbergen: I evaluate each request on its own merits. Every request is different. A newsletter for hospital employees that’s published weekly is going to be a different rate than something published by a major company once a month with a large circulation. A client in Australia or New Zealand is going to get a different rate than a client in New York due to the big difference in the currency exchange rate. There is no “one size fits all” pricing.
eToon: Do you think that advertising in traditional media justifies its costs?
Glasbergen: If you mean advertising in books like “Directory of Illustration” or “American Showcase” it’s hard to say. It’s a gamble. You invest $2000 and hope the ad pays off. My first directory ad earned me $18,000 my next one made me nothing at all. I don’t use them now. I get more advertising and illustration work from my web site than I ever got from the directories.
eToon: Do you laugh while you draw?
Glasbergen: Only if I hear something funny on the TV or radio.
eToon: Tell us a bit about your family…
Glasbergen: We could all stand to lose a few pounds.
eToon: What’s your favorite food?
Glasbergen: Don’t have one.
eToon: Do you like to travel and do you work when you are on a vacation?
Glasbergen: I hate to travel. I’m a homebody. When I go away for family vacations, I bring my laptop because I must keep up with the business. Unlike a shop keeper, I can’t go away and leave someone else in charge. So even on vacation, I spend an hour or so on the computer each morning. Plus I need to update my “cartoon of the day” each morning…which I do manually, I don’t have a script for that.
eToon: What is the most exotic place you have ever been to?
Glasbergen: I’m a small town hillbilly…for me, exotic is the mall.
eToon: How do people look at you when you tell them you are a cartoonist?
Glasbergen: I don’t tell them. I’m a pretty quiet person. Those who already know usually tell me jokes and then say “you should make that into a cartoon”.
eToon: Is cartooning “art”?
Glasbergen: If you hang a cartoon on a wall, it’s art. If you sell a cartoon to a magazine, it’s business.