Stephan Thomas Pastis
January 16, 1968
|Alma mater||University Of California, Berkeley; UCLA School of Law|
|Occupation||Insurance defense litigation attorney (1993–2002)|
Cartoonist of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine (2000–present)
Stephan Thomas Pastis (; born January 16, 1968) is an American cartoonist and the creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. He also writes children's chapter books, commencing with the release of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made all the way through the 7th book, Its the End When I Say Its the End., which debuted at #4 on The New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Middle Grade Books.
Pastis was raised in San Marino, California. He started cartooning as a child; his mother brought him pens and paper to amuse him when he was "sick a lot" and had to stay in bed. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, earning a B.A. in Political Science in 1989. The following year Pastis attended law school at UCLA, where he received his J.D. He kept drawing all during this time, coming up with the first Pearls Before Swine character, Rat, during what he said was a boring class in law school.
When I wrote for him [Rat] it seemed pretty honest. It was the first character where I could really say what's on my mind. When I put it on paper, it's my voice. So it works for me.
From 1993 to 2002, Pastis was an insurance defense litigation attorney in the San Francisco Bay area, but quickly became disenchanted with the legal profession. He did not like its adversarial nature, nor "the anxiety and tension it produced," so in the mid-1990s he revisited his earlier ambition of becoming a syndicated cartoonist by submitting various concepts to syndication agencies. The Infirm,Rat and Bradbury Road, as well as others, were repeatedly rejected.
The character of Rat came from Pastis's earlier strip, Rat. The character of Pig, who is Rat's opposite, had been featured in The Infirm, which was about an attorney who numbered an evil pig farmer among his clients. Although Pastis had developed the characters, they were still just stick figures with jokes. One day in 1996, Pastis drove to an ice rink in Santa Rosa where Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, had his coffee every day. The meeting did not begin auspiciously, since Pastis blurted out: "Hi, Sparky [Schulz's nickname], my name is Stephan Pastis and I'm a lawyer." Schulz turned pale; he thought Pastis was there to serve him with a subpoena. However, he recovered, and Pastis remembers Schulz's graciousness:
I was a total stranger to him, and he let me sit down at his table and we talked for an hour. I took a picture with him. He looked at some of the strips that I had been doing and gave me some tips. Man, I was on cloud nine.
In addition to Peanuts, Pastis drew inspiration from Dilbert.
What worked for me personally was to study the writing of Dilbert. I just bought a bunch of Dilbert books and studied how to write a 3-panel strip. Then I showed them to a group of people who were acquaintances (but not quite friends) in order to get their honest assessment of which ones were funny and which ones weren't. As to the ins and outs of getting syndicated, I bought a book called "Your Career in the Comics" by Lee Nordling.
Pastis drew about 200 strips for the new comic and selected 40 of the best, but fearing more rejection, let them sit on the counter in his basement for the next two years. It was not until 1999, when he visited the grave of a college friend who had been a free spirit and had encouraged him to be the same, that he overcame his fear and submitted them to three different syndicates, including United Features. United took the unprecedented step of first running the strips on its Comics.com Internet site to gauge reader response. When Scott Adams, Dilbert's creator, whom Pastis had never met, endorsed the strip the response "went through the roof".
Pastis also credits Get Fuzzy cartoonist Darby Conley with contributing to the development of the strip. They met through their syndication attorney, and Conley taught him how to color the Sunday strips and add gray tones to the dailies.
Eight months afterwards, Pastis gleefully quit his law practice. Pastis attributes his dissatisfaction with the law in being helpful insofar that "humor is a reaction to and defense against unhappiness", and that wanting to get out of his job provided him with the impetus to create better comic strips so that he could get selected for syndication.
Fifteen years later, Pearls was still one of the fastest-growing comic strips, appearing in more than 650 newspapers worldwide. Pastis generally works five to nine months ahead of deadline, a rarity in the world of newspaper comics.
Pastis lives in Santa Rosa, California, with his wife and two children, where he is on the board of the Charles Schulz Museum, helping with merchandising rights issues and answering questions about Peanuts.
Schulz is to comic strips what Marlon Brando was to acting. It was so revolutionary. Before 'Peanuts,' the writing was physical, over the top, but Sparky goes inside the soul. His influence on me is enormous. I've taken his backgrounds, the front porch, the beach and the TV beanbag. Rat is Lucy, Goat is Linus and Pig is Charlie Brown. Sparky is a template, whether or not you know it, he's the template.
In June 2014, Pastis collaborated with Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, to do a week-long story line in which a second-grade girl named "Libby" wrote a few of Pastis's cartoon frames for him. After the strips were published, Pastis revealed that the artwork for three of the strips was in fact drawn by Watterson. In the last cartoon of the sequence, Libby explains to Pastis that she would not continue drawing comic strips, saying that "There's a magical world out there," a reference to the words spoken by Calvin in the final strip of Calvin and Hobbes.
Pastis's first treasury, Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic, was published in 2004. In addition to the content of the previous books, BLTs Taste So Darn Good and This Little Piggy Stayed Home, and Sunday strips in full color, Pastis included responses from readers and a section in which he explained why certain strips were not successful, and how he would have corrected the content. He continues to release the treasuries at the rate of about one every two years, with his ninth one, Pearls Hogs the Road, released in 2017. Each book in the series is subtitled "A Pearls Before Swine Treasury".
On February 25, 2013, Stephan Pastis released his first book aimed at younger readers, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, from Candlewick Press. Modeled after the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Timmy Failure follows the exploits of a young soon to be detective and his polar bear friend, Total, as they solve crimes in their local neighbourhood. A sequel titled Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done was released on February 25, 2014. A third book, Timmy Failure: We Meet Again, was released on October 28, 2014. The fourth book, Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection was released on October 6, 2015. The fifth book, Timmy Failure: The Book You're Not Supposed To Have, was released on September 27, 2016. The sixth book, Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants was released on April 25, 2017 and the seventh book, Timmy Failure: It's The End When I Say It's The End was release in Semptember 2018 which was said to be the end of Timmy Failure. Here is a list of books:
In April 2017, Disney will make a movie adaptation with Tom McCarthy directing and co-writing with Pastis. The movie will be released on Disney's planned streaming service. The film will shoot from July to September 2018 in Portland, Oregon.
Pastis was nominated for the National Cartoonists Society Newspaper Comic Strip Award for 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. He won the 2003 and 2006 awards. He was also nominated for The National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year for every year since 2008.