My cartooning history in the published eye has been short.  My father was a cartoonist who enjoyed frequent exposure in USC’s Daily Trojan during his college years in the 60’s.  In addition, he has had numerous other one-time publications here and there.  I began emulating him at a very young age.  He allowed me to develop my own style with very little guidance — unless I asked.  He always encouraged me to start a comic strip of my own for my high school paper.  He would tell me to create a character that represented the school in some way and develop it into a strip — as he had done with  “Big T.”  Fears of being rejected and having “creative block” prevented me from taking that first step.  When college came around, I got the same speech.  Again, the same fears prevailed.  I did, however, work up enough courage to illustrate for my community newsletter at Oak Park apartment complex.  The exposure was less, and the creative factor was cut considerably.  The job basically consisted of drawing “clip art” type images utilizing a few characters that I developed (Acorn, Oak, and Sap).


During LACC interviews in 1991, I mentioned in my application that I enjoyed cartooning.  One of the doctors suggested that I do something for their paper.  Upon my acceptance, I immediately began developing a character for LACC’s paper, The Hotline.  My confidence level was up, and furthermore, they asked me!  I eventually fashioned a character after a miniature spine key chain that I had purchased in anticipation of going to chiropractic college.  The sketches and ideas were rough, but the character had been created!  Nevertheless, I still was a bit apprehensive about submitting my cartoons to The Hotline; after all, the paper didn’t have any cartoons.  And then the worst happened.  In 1992, I was flipping through an issue of Dynamic Chiropractic and out popped a colorful advertising insert entitled “Spinal People™.”  It contained caricatures of human spines posing in various ways for “Birthday” and “Thank You” cards for chiropractors.  I felt I could not go on with my original idea.  I was bummed.


Original Sketches of Vert (1991).

It wasn’t long before The Hotline picked up an aspiring cartoonist named “Mitch” (a pen name for a female cartoonist a few terms ahead of me).  Again, I thought I had missed the boat.  But as time went on, I noticed that my cartoons were unlike Mitch’s and could run beside them rather nicely.  By the end of my 4th term, I decided that I wasnt’ going to let the Spinal People’s™ existence stop me.  Nobody could capitalize on a human spine!  Think of how many cat cartoon figures exist (Heathcliff™ and Garfield™ look pretty similar).  Also, the styles and looks or our personified spines differed in a lot of ways.  I later met the editor for The Hotline, Brad Kitchens.  He inquired about when I was going to submit an article to the paper (as he did everyone).  It was then that I told him that I was interested in cartooning for his paper.  The rest, as they say, is history.