Tom Bancroft’s Journey to Create the “Outnumbered” Comic Strip Book

One of the first drawings I remember being proud of was of Snoopy, in blue crayon. Unfortunately, my twin brother, Tony, also drew his own Snoopy (all in purple crayon) and we madly rushed to be the first to show our mother. We asked, “Which one is your favorite”? To which she promptly answered, “I love them both”.

That was the beginning of my competition with my brother and my love of comic strips. Those things combined in high school when we created comic strips for the school newspaper. We both loved comic strips- and cartooning- so it was a dream seeing our comic strips in print in the school paper. But, we were also competitive so it was always tough to get those strips completed without many arguments. “I want to pencil the strip- you do the inking and the lettering!”, was the weekly argument. The fun part was drawing it; the technical part was inking and lettering. More times than not, because I was fast at it, I tended to do the inking and lettering. Sigh.

In order to no longer fight over our mutual love of comic strips and cartooning, when we went to college we decided to split up creatively create our own comic strips. That freedom was enlightening and life-changing. I found that I could grow as an artist- and even more- as a writer, by working on my own. I think Tony found the same. That started what I thought would be a life-long career in comic strips. Then came Disney Animation.

Around that time, Tony and I discovered that not far from where we lived in Southern California was a school on the hill called California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and it was founded by Walt Disney. This was back in 1988 and at the time it was one of the only art schools in the country that taught character animation, and it was certainly the highest regarded. Through a chain of events, we ended up submitting our portfolios, getting accepted to CalArts and after a year and a half we got “discovered” by Disney Animation and went to work for them. It was the beginning of a fantastic 12 year career with the Mouse, working on some the best films of Disney’s Second Golden Age: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, and a few others. Even in the first couple years at Disney Tony and I still talked about leaving to pursue syndicated comic strips. We had an idea for two twin male characters (big surprise) that got into trouble all the time. We even created about two week’s worth of comic strips for a contest with King Features Syndicate, only to get it there a day after the deadline.

So, long story short, animation was a much-loved detour for me from creating a comic strip I would love and see in “print” one day. That day came about three years ago when, in the car on a long family trip, I shared with my wife Jennifer that I had been thinking about a comic strip about a guy (much like me) that lived in the wild world of women- his family of four daughters and a wife. I pitched her a few of the gags and she loved it. I told her that the newspaper business was failing and that cartoonists were loosing money left and right. It would be fun, but not worth my time. She said, “Why don’t you just do it and put it up on the web?” What? My wife was talking to me about webcomics? How did she even know they existed? I sure did, I read many of them- almost daily. Why didn’t I think of this? Of course! That was it. I was just going to create them for me (and my family, when they looked) and be happy with that. Long story short, that’s what I did for about two years.

I wrote and drew this comic strip (that you now hold in your hands in book form) posting it mostly weekly, but a few times bi-weekly, with no real goal in mind other than to experiment and scratch the itch from my childhood. It was grand. As you can see by the evolution from strip number 1 to strip 148, I think I grew as a gag writer a bit. I think I grew a bit as a cartoonist also. When I started (as you can see by the first few pages of this book) my initial comic strips where drawn in pencil. My original goal was to do them as quick as I could; this experiment wasn’t going to be about drawing, it was about the writing. But, the artist in me couldn’t keep that deal. I began taking longer on the drawings and soon I was digitally inking them. That experiment in digital inking didn’t last long either, I just couldn’t get the control and look I wanted, so soon I was hand inking the strips on Bristol board. Soon, I averaged about 2.5 to 3 hours per strip. If it was my “day job”, that would be fine but for a late at night, often at the last minute job it was a struggle some weeks. Still, it was some of the most fun and largest reward I’ve had as an artist and creator. I soon had a loyal following (not many, but about 1000 to 1500) of people that would read it as soon as I posted it every week. Reading the comments and seeing which gags “went over” was a joy.

Thank you all who read and enjoyed Outnumbered on the web ( Toward the end, I knew I was just too busy with other work to keep up and I didn’t want to start missing weeks and become “that guy”. Then, the goal became to get almost 150 strips so I could put this book together. Thanks to a great group of backers on Kickstarter, that dream has now come true! Thank you all for supporting, reading, laughing (with, not at, I hope), commenting, and backing Outnumbered! It has meant the world to me and a huge “check” off of my Bucket List- and one I wouldn’t mind coming back to one day.

All my best, Tom Bancroft