Kirk Walters was certain his career would be in movies. He majored in film at Penn State University and wrote screenplays, hoping they d be picked up by a major studio. And when the opportunity arose for Mr. Walters to show off his scripts to Hollywood legend Julius Epstein, who wrote one of the great screenplays, Casablanca, it seemed like his big Hollywood break had arrived.
Perhaps as a back-up career Mr. Walters would consider cartooning, so he also brought along cartoon strips he created, since Mr. Epstein was a cartoonist, too.
After reading the screenplays and looking at the cartoons, Mr. Epstein told Mr. Walters how much he enjoyed the latter.
I got the hint, Mr. Walters said.
The hint, as it were, turned out to be a good one for Mr. Walters, who has been The Blade s editorial cartoonist for nearly a quarter-century, with his work syndicated to 350 newspapers nationwide, including the Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Chicago Sun Times. In 1988 Mr. Walters launched the hyper-local weekly strip Maumee Dearest in The Blade, which delves into area politics. He also recently illustrated a cartoon book about Toledo s colorful, quotable mayor, Carty Finkbeiner.
And now Mr. Walters is at it again with a new Sunday cartoon strip, Frogtown, debuting today on the front page of The Blade s funnies.
Frogtown is a slice-of-life cartoon about the little things in life. It features a 35-year-old down-on-his-luck father, Scooter McFlak, who recently lost his job, his marriage, and his home. Scooter decides to pack up his belongings and move with his 7-year-old son, Mikey, out of Miami and back to his hometown of Toledo to live with his father, Jack McFlak. If that name sounds familiar, it s because Jack is also the featured character in Maumee Dearest. Jack has just settled into his life as a widower and is growing to appreciate having the home to himself. If he puts a remote control down on the table, he knows that s where it will be the next day, Mr. Walters said.
Then Scooter and Mikey show up at Jack s door and life changes for everyone in funny and sometimes touching ways. Frogtown, in fact, is a celebration of life and its many ups and downs, Mr. Walters said.
It s a strip about dealing with perseverance, dealing with adversity. Yes, you do hit bottom at some point, but you do recover, he said.
In fact, Scooter s undying optimism mirrors Mr. Walters own belief that things always work out for the better.
I m perpetually optimistic, which is a bad thing to be if you re an editorial cartoonist. They re usually dour and crotchety, said the 54-year-old single father of four children ranging in age from 13 to 19. I tend to look forward to the opportunities that present themselves.
Like Maumee Dearest, Frogtown was created with northwest Ohioans in mind, with each strip containing a local reference, including Swan Creek Metropark or the Toledo Hospital emergency room.
Mr. Walters said he hopes the localized strip also develops the same enthusiasm among Blade subscribers that Maumee Dearest enjoys, and that it shares a similar longevity, with readers waking up on Sundays eager to read the strip to see if their hometown is given a shout-out on the funny pages. If nothing else, Mr. Walters, who flunked a junior high school art class because he wouldn t draw what his instructor wanted, said Frogtown gives him more room for artistic expression, and in color no less.
They gave me a quarter-page to draw and crayons to draw with, he said. How can you pass up the opportunity?
Contact Kirk Baird at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6734.