Corey Pandolph draws from life. Literally. Itâ€™s a good thing, too, because the cast of characters who inhabit â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ are drawn (no pun intendedâ€¦or is there?) upon real-life experiences, both past and current. And that makes for hilarious reading.
â€œOf course, having a screwy sense of humor is a great help, too,â€ Pandolph said.
And while â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ hasnâ€™t yet reached the stage of popularity other newspaper comic strips have already attained, Pandolphâ€™s work is quite familiar, even if people arenâ€™t aware heâ€™s the artist.
For instance, heâ€™s illustrated a number of childrenâ€™s books; has done advertising artwork, such as those seen in ads for clothing line Cole Hahn; and designed logos for small businesses and his hometown AA minor league baseball team. Heâ€™s even done the animation for the teamâ€™s video board.
But heâ€™s probably best known for what many consider the Bible of modern-day satire.
â€œI do a lot of work for Mad magazine,â€ he said.
Even so, it hasnâ€™t been easy getting â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ launched.
For several years, Pandolph submitted ideas to syndicators, but none ever attracted much buzz. For someone who had once drawn a comic strip two years for an alternate newspaper, it was frustrating.
Then he hit upon â€œBarkeater Lake,â€ a storied, fictional little village in the Adirondack Mountains of New York peopled by characters never seen in any Norman Rockwell portrait. (Incidentally, Pandolph claims heâ€™s been told that Adirondack is an Iriquois word that means, â€œbarkeater,â€ hence the name.)
â€œUnited Media expressed an interest and in 2002 signed me to a development contract,â€ Pandolph said. â€œI would submit a weekâ€™s worth of strips that my editor would review.â€
He and his editor would go over the strips and the process of tweaking and fine-tuning would commence.
But it was slow-going. The sales force didnâ€™t appear too keen on the strip. It almost got derailed when Pandolphâ€™s editor left. However, the new editor was really sold on â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ and has proven to be of enormous help in the growth of the strip.
To aid in its promotion, it was put on a Web site, www.comics.com, where it has proven to be a minor sensation.
â€œI get really good calls,â€ Pandolph said. â€œHits keep going up.â€
Right now, â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ has nearly 4,000 Internet subscribers and that has its creator excited.
â€œI was told that if my numbers go up, then I will get syndicated,â€ he said.
It would be the culmination of a dream for Pandolph, who would love nothing more than to (pun intended) draw his living drawing Barkeater Lake.
â€œIâ€™ve always draw cartoons,â€™ he said, â€œand Iâ€™ve always wanted to a comic strip.â€
That desire was whetted when he drew â€œSocial Orderâ€ for the now-defunct Casco Bay Weekly, an alternative newspaper based in Portland, Maine.
He based the strip upon his grandfatherâ€™s bar. In certain ways, â€œSocial Orderâ€ was a tribute to his grandfather, a world champion bobsledder who also competed in the 1964 Winter Olympics.
Growing up on â€œPeanuts,â€ (which, ironically, â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ is replacing) he became a comics enthusiast himself and steeped himself in its history. His passion introduced him to classics such as â€œKrazy Katâ€ and â€œPogo.â€ (The latter was drawn by Walt Kelly, who also drew for Mad magazine).
It also gave him an appreciation for comic timing, to which he still considers himself a novice.
â€œItâ€™s taken a long time to learn how to write comedy, and I still donâ€™t think Iâ€™m great at it,â€ he said. â€œNow, â€˜Bloom Countyâ€™ had the best timing, ever.â€
That strip, plus â€œCalvin and Hobbsâ€ rank as two of the finest to Pandolph. They serve as his goal, both art-wise and circulation-wise. While he doesnâ€™t know whether â€œBarkeater Lakeâ€ ever reaches the numbers of the abovementioned, Pandolph hopes soon to reach between 200 – 300 newspapers.
(Editorâ€™s note: The Lincoln Times-News is only the second newspaper in the nation to carry â€œBarkeater Lake.â€ The other newspaper carrying the strip is carried by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake, where Cory Pandolph currently resides.)
by Steve Steiner