SARATOGA SPRINGS – Stephan Pastis, the cartoonist and creator of the comic strip, “Pearls before Swine,” will be visiting Northshire Bookstore for a discussion and book signing on October 14 at 6 p.m. He will be promoting his newly released book, “Timmy Failure: Sanitized for your Protection,” the fourth installment in his “Timmy Failure” series.
Despite his success in the comic world, Pastis didn’t start out as a cartoonist. He was a litigation attorney for almost ten years, but disliked it so much that he knew he had to make a change. His passion for cartooning began as a kid, but he didn’t pursue that dream until 1996, halfway through his law career. He finally found success with “Pearls before Swine,” which appears in over 700 newspapers across the country daily, and has a wide fan base.
“It’s like I don’t have a job. I get paid to do what I love. If anybody can get money for a hobby, they should, it’s fantastic,” said Pastis.
Pastis came up with Rat, one of the main characters in “Pearls before Swine,” when he was sitting in a class in law school. Pastis felt that Rat was too “overwhelming” by himself so he paired him with a sweet character, Pig, to balance it out. Pastis finds that using animals in his comics works as an advantage.
“I like working with animals because you get away with a lot more. There is a different level of scrutiny,” explained Pastis. “I can show Rat juggling knives, but if I show a young kid doing that, it makes it too real.”
Though using talking animals gives the cartoon an unrealistic element, “Pearls before Swine” has received its fair share of criticism and controversy. Comics about George W. Bush, ADHD and a llama named Ataturk that was perceived by many as racist towards Turks, have all received negative attention for their questionable messages. Pastis insists they are simply cartoons that give a frank, edgy view of the world, and he is no longer bothered by ruffled feathers.
“When you first start out, it shakes you up, then after a while, it just comes with the territory. People will always complain and a complaint free script would just be bland,” said Pastis.
While “Pearls before Swine” has contains humor more suited for adults, Pastis is breaking out of the box with his book series for kids, “Timmy Failure,” about an inept kid detective and his sidekick polar bear. The first book in the series, “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” spent over 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The fourth installment, “Timmy Failure: Sanitized for your Protection” was released Tuesday, October 6. “Timmy Failure” is now published in over 30 languages worldwide. “[Timmy] is geared toward reluctant readers, between the ages of 8 and 12. In the age group, kids are reluctant to read, particularly boys,” said Pastis. “Hopefully, it’ll make them laugh, and if they laugh, they’ll turn the page. It is somewhere between a novel and a comic, so it is not too dense. This is a wide genre that has taken off.”
Pastis has received positive feedback from teachers, parents and librarians, about how “Timmy Failure” has gotten their children to read.