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Artist calls upon small-town happenings to creat new cartoon strip

Corey Pandolph draws from life. Literally. It’s a good thing, too, because the cast of characters who inhabit “Barkeater Lake” are drawn (no pun intended…or is there?) upon real-life experiences, both past and current. And that makes for hilarious reading.
“Of course, having a screwy sense of humor is a great help, too,” Pandolph said.
And while “Barkeater Lake” hasn’t yet reached the stage of popularity other newspaper comic strips have already attained, Pandolph’s work is quite familiar, even if people aren’t aware he’s the artist.
For instance, he’s illustrated a number of children’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. He’s even done the animation for the team’s video board.
But he’s probably best known for what many consider the Bible of modern-day satire.
“I do a lot of work for Mad magazine,” he said.
Even so, it hasn’t been easy getting “Barkeater Lake” 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 “Barkeater Lake,” 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 he’s been told that Adirondack is an Iriquois word that means, “barkeater,” hence the name.)
“United Media expressed an interest and in 2002 signed me to a development contract,” Pandolph said. “I would submit a week’s worth of strips that my editor would review.”
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 didn’t appear too keen on the strip. It almost got derailed when Pandolph’s editor left. However, the new editor was really sold on “Barkeater Lake” 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.
“I get really good calls,” Pandolph said. “Hits keep going up.”
Right now, “Barkeater Lake” has nearly 4,000 Internet subscribers and that has its creator excited.
“I was told that if my numbers go up, then I will get syndicated,” 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.
“I’ve always draw cartoons,’ he said, “and I’ve always wanted to a comic strip.”
That desire was whetted when he drew “Social Order” for the now-defunct Casco Bay Weekly, an alternative newspaper based in Portland, Maine.
He based the strip upon his grandfather’s bar. In certain ways, “Social Order” was a tribute to his grandfather, a world champion bobsledder who also competed in the 1964 Winter Olympics.
Growing up on “Peanuts,” (which, ironically, “Barkeater Lake” is replacing) he became a comics enthusiast himself and steeped himself in its history. His passion introduced him to classics such as “Krazy Kat” and “Pogo.” (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.
“It’s taken a long time to learn how to write comedy, and I still don’t think I’m great at it,” he said. “Now, ‘Bloom County’ had the best timing, ever.”
That strip, plus “Calvin and Hobbs” rank as two of the finest to Pandolph. They serve as his goal, both art-wise and circulation-wise. While he doesn’t know whether “Barkeater Lake” ever reaches the numbers of the abovementioned, Pandolph hopes soon to reach between 200 – 300 newspapers.
(Editor’s note: The Lincoln Times-News is only the second newspaper in the nation to carry “Barkeater Lake.” The other newspaper carrying the strip is carried by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake, where Cory Pandolph currently resides.)
by Steve Steiner

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