Frank Cho Interview Interview

Frank Cho is the creator of the popular syndicated comic strip Liberty Meadows, which appears daily in newspapers and on the creators.com web site. This month, Insight Studios Group is collecting the strips from the beginning in a bi-monthly comic book. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Cho about Liberty Meadows

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: For those unfamiliar with Liberty Meadows, what can you say about the strip?

Frank Cho: Liberty Meadows is a semi-sequel to University2, which was my college strip. It takes place in an animal sanctuary and all the original cast from University2 are there. These are animals who have lost their homes or who have some kind of emotional or psychological problems. Brandy is the primary caretaker, and Frank, who is now a human (he was a duck in University2), is the vet.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: Who are some of the other characters in the strip?

Cho: There's Dean the pig. He's in Liberty Meadows for detox. There's Ralph, who's now a midget circus bear; he was a hostile gerbil in University2. There's Leslie, who is now a hypochondriac bullfrog. In University2 he was Leslie the laughing lima bean [laughter]. My syndicate wanted me to change him from a bean to an animal because they said a walking and talking bean didn't make sense [laughter]. I tried to explain to them that this is just a cartoon, anything can happen. But somehow they didn't quite grasp the concept. So I said fine and changed him. There's also Truman, a duckling, and Oscar, the wiener dog. Those are the major characters.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: As you said, Liberty Meadows came out of University2, which is offered in a new collection this month with some additional strips. Are these new strips or strips that had never been reprinted before?

Cho: I'm doing two new pages, which I'm still drawing. In the original printing of University2, the last two pages were fill-ins at the last minute. It just didn't make sense. It was a little 2-page horror story. When I printed the book, there were these two blank pages and I had this 2-page story which I had already done, so I added that in instead of having the blank pages. Now I'm taking that out and putting in two new pages of strips. Unlike the regular University2 strips, which are 4 panel gags, these are going to be one page strips. It's like a big, giant Sunday format.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: Was it difficult making the change from doing a college strip to a nationally syndicated strip?

Cho: It was very difficult [laughs]. I'm still having problems. I write jokes that make me laugh, and my syndicate editors think they're often offensive [laughter]. So I have to water down Liberty Meadows for the mass consumption. But in the Liberty Meadows comic book, which is going to be reprints from week one till now, I'm changing a lot of the published punchlines back to their original form. Of course, we can't guarantee that all the punchlines will go through again, because my syndicate has the final say so in this matter, so they may censor my punchlines again. But they've been pretty good about me changing punchlines. I guess they know that the comic book fans are different than the comic strip fans.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: Was the change of Frank from a duck to a human something you had to do for the syndicate, or was it something you decided to do on your own?

Cho: It was my syndicate. When I first proposed the strip to my syndicate, they said this is great, but you have to change the duck character because we can't have a duck having an intimate relationship with a woman in a family newspaper. I knew that was going to be one of the big problems, so I said I'd change it. No problem. But the funniest changes that I had to do when I first started Liberty Meadows involved Brandy. I drew five weeks worth of strips and gave them to my syndicate. My syndicate sent most of them right back with post-it notes stuck to Brandy's figure with arrows pointing to her breasts and butt saying reduce breasts, reduce buttocks [laughs]. So, for five weeks worth of strips, I had to go back and white-out Brandy's breasts and butt and make them smaller. In the last year or so, I've brought Brandy pretty much back to her original self. I've been increasing it little by little.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: Have you ever had a strip out-and-out rejected?

Cho: Yeah. About a dozen I think. Usually, I take those and play around and redo the strip. Change something here, change something there. And then it will barely get approved.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: Is there a chance you might be able to reprint any of those in the comic book?

Cho: I might. Since I'm changing punchlines, I'm also changing the original visuals, so there's a chance, but I'm not sure if my syndicate's going to go for it. Some of the stuff that they rejected was pretty funny, but pretty harsh.

Westfield: Why did you decide to collect Liberty Meadows as a comic book instead of as a trade paperback?

Cho: It's my syndicate's doing. My syndicate is holding off on the rights to print it as a trade paperback because they want the rights. Mark Wheatley had this brilliant idea of buying back the rights and publishing it in comic book form, since they're not going to give me the rights to do it as a trade paperback. I have complete control over the comic book, except for the final approval [laughter]. Some of the strips are going to be arranged in a different sequence. When I first drew the strip, some of the strips were kinda out of sequence because of deadlines. So it will flow a lot better.

Westfield: Will you be printing Sunday strips in color?

Cho: There will be eight Sunday strips per book and one of them will be in color. The best ones.

Westfield: How do you feel about having Liberty Meadows on the web on your syndicate's site?

Cho: I'm fine with it. About half of my readers are from the web. Right now, Liberty Meadows is in about 30 papers and 5 countries, and a lot of the readers' local paper doesn't carry Liberty Meadows, so they go ahead and download it from the web. It has actually doubled my readership.

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows
TM & © 1999 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Westfield: Do you have any favorite targets to go after in the strip?

Cho: Actually, I like to go after other comic strips. I really shouldn't mention any names [laughs], but you'll know who some of my favorite targets are. Some of the big name cartoonists who I believe have completely sold out and have been on cruise control for the past two decades or something. Those type of old-time cartoonists I like to poke fun at. And I often get into trouble.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Cho: Eat your vitamins, keep your nose clean, and stay out of trouble [laughs]. And buy my book!