10 Questions for Tuck!

Mike “Tuck!” Tucker specializes in drawing sports cartoons. In addition to various daily and weekly newspapers, you can find his satiric take on baseball news every week on the Hardball Times website. He also provides illustrations for Acta Publications’ books, including Hardball Times Season Preview, and Hardball Times Season Annual.

Which isn’t to say that the resident of upstate New York hasn’t drawn comics. You’ll find his work in back issues of Armies of the Night (Dreamcatcher).

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

Age six.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

My creditors and Major League Baseball. Both for obvious reasons.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

How I cartoon: Jack Kirby, Alex Toth and Steranko, for showing me how it’s done. Guiding my career: Frank “Foolbert Sturgeon” Stack, Frank Miller and Erik Larsen, each for dispensing timely and accurate advice at strategic points of that career.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Looking at great work, both within comics — Darwyn Cooke, Jeff Smith, Ed McGuinness, Tim Sale, Jay Stephens, Paul Pope, Paul Gulacy and John Romita Jr. are favorites besides Kirby, Toth and Steranko — and outside of comics — Ken Burns’ documentaries, old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Jim Borgman and Mike Luckovich editorial toons, listening to Rush, Led Zeppelin, Lindsey Buckingham, David Gilmour, or just going for a walk, catching up on email, getting away from it all for awhile.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

This is a tough one since there’s nothing typical or routine about how I work. I usually carry a sketchpad of some sort with me wherever I go, and depending on the day’s headlines, I’ll get a handful — or no — ideas roughed out. Depending on the week, my deadlines are Tuesday night — or various for the TPBs — and depending on the other schedules in my house I like to crank out a bunch at a time, on any Friday or Sunday or Monday night. At which point I’ll sit down with the week’s accumulated sketches and sort out the best few. Those get turned into comics.

I’m working about 10×15, blue pencil the rough form, then graphite/black in more finished pencils, then inks, then mechanical gray tones — yes, they’re dinosaur, but I like ’em. Then I scan it into the computer, clean up or further dirty up whatever needs it, and convert to either .jpg or .tif depending on the outlet. At this point the “best” or, more accurately, “most immediate” gets selected for upload to the site. Book deals are way more specific as far as the editorial process, revisions, and deadlines are concerned.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

Different tools for different jobs. Right now my pens hate me — and, I, them — so I am constantly on the lookout for ways to improve. The Faber-Castell Pitt brush pen is fun to play with, although the results are, um, varied.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Writing and drawing isn’t “fun” for me, as much as it’s scratching an itch or putting out a fire. But every once in a while an idea will hit, and then the execution will click exactly. When everything fires successfully, simultaneously it is, for me, like the golfer really smacking the ball squarely and putting the shot right where it was intended to go. It’s the thing that keeps us all coming back.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

The next one I’m working on. Because it’s next. And, it’s not “not” measuring up to my expectations of it.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Dave Sim always said love everything you do and hate everything you do. It’s served me well. He also said don’t look back and don’t look down. That works too. The rest of what he said I’ll leave to other folks to debate.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

I’m still learning, so I’ll have to get back to you on this one. Although, now that I think about it, that kinda works. I did like Neil Vokes’ admonition to be passionate, though.

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