What be Hector?
Craig: Hector is a group of cartoonists who work in a variety of styles, creating normally 6-panel strips for weekly magazines and small newspapers using the same masthead. We share the costs, responsibilities, and distribution tasks of sending the mass mailings to different publishers. We occasionally get together for art shows.
How many people are in it right now?
Tom: There's usually a core group of about 5 to 7 members. People are always quitting and others taking their place. We wouldn't mind having 10 or 12 but it's enough work trying to hang onto 7.
How much local representation is there and how much from out of the area?
Tom: The only Hector member who is not a Denverite only moved recently. We have accepted guest Hector strips from people outside the area, but it's pretty much area artists who can come to the meetings.
How did Hector come about in the first place?
Tom: OK that's a long convoluted story, told many times. Harry Lyrico had a weekly cartoon running in a local Denver arts newspaper called Icon. Harry, for personal reasons, was leaving town and moving to Hollywood. I guess he had done this a couple of times. But this time, one of the things he did was give my number as one of the people who might take over providing the strips. I happened to run into him before he left, so he told me what he had done & I was expecting the call from Icon. I felt at the time I didn't really want to do it, 'cause I was doing some comic books, so I thought about it and said I should draw together a group of people. I did that and found people who met the Hector criteria: artists who are working hard at their own thing, working with comic strips and doing things that are really their own unique style. So I started asking people. Some said no, some said yes. We had a meeting and the first big Hector fight was trying to figure out what our name would be.
Were the original members people who had already been publishing?
Tom: Yeah, most had already been published artists. In the case of Melissa Standish, she had been Xeroxing her comic strips and putting them up on walls. That impressed me. Here's someone who deserved to be published. Yeah, they were working cartoonists. And of the original members, there's 3 of us left. Brian Comber, Laurie, and me were all at that original meeting fighting about what our name would be. Over the years, a lot of the Hector members have quit; some in a rage, frustrated at the way we do things. Others just tend to drop out and we lose touch with them.
Craig: Or they just stop sending work, we don't hear from them, and they're not invited back.
Tom: That's more of the case for people who are trying to develop into members. Most of the people who quit do it the way Harry did it, throwing stuff on the ground and saying "I quit!" and stomping on it.
Given the transitional nature of groups like this, especially with the rotating membership, why do you think Hector has survived for so long?
Craig: My feeling is Hector's survival is due to there being 1 or 2 core people who have nothing better to do with their lives. That would be Tom Motley.
Tom: Am I 1 or 2?
Craig: You're enough for 2. Someone like Laurie Murphy is simply around the arts scene for so long in Denver and doesn't move away. Brian's the same way, and if you tend to be around Denver for any length of time you're in most of the ongoing groups to survive. You become a member that gets drawn in or you create the group yourself because you're committed to being in Denver. Through inertia, I don't know.
Would you say it's the force of will of those few people that keeps it together?
Tom: Everybody's looking at me!
LoRe: Tom needs someone to boss around.
Tom: I'm one of those control freaks who likes to boss people around.
LoRe: It's kind of an honor to be in Hector. Even though we may be published in other places, it's a way of living your art. It's a lot of work.
Craig: And that's definitely part of it. After you get your work done and the art is published, either locally or elsewhere, you feel like you've really accomplished something. The nice thing is since we're a cooperative we've shared some of the work, so you feel like you've accomplished something and it keeps you coming back for more. Even if it does take 3 or 4 years to accomplish something grandiose or significant in your own mind.
What measure of success would you say Hector has achieved over the years? Not necessarily through wide distribution, but in other ways as well.
Craig: I'd say it's in publications that are unusual for one reason or another.
Tom: Yeah, we've managed to market our work far and wide. We'd like to do it more and on a regular basis. Over the years we've given a couple of weekly papers work. They'll run us for a year or so and then drop us. But that's nice to be published on a regular basis. As far as the creative thing, I like the idea of passing cartoons around and having people laugh and working around the room and new challenges. I think we've taken some steps toward developing a new kind of comic strip. That was always the goal; at least for me, for some of the members it really isn't. But I think we have done some things with cartoons that haven't been seen before. Brian's a pretty good example of an utterly non- traditional comic strip, introducing fine art styles. Actually one of the fights we've had with cartoonists we've invited to join us and who turned us down, is with people who see what we are and object to everything we stand for. The question is, "Should there be a higher level of art and literature in comic strips or are comics just fine the way they are?"