On the Mark with Lots of Laughs ; Meet Mark Parisi, Who Draws Cartoons That Appear in Newspaper Comic Pages around the US

Article excerpt

It's 2:30 a.m. but Mark Parisi isn't fazed. He's in a world of talking cats, whoopie cushions, medieval knights, and 'zilla monsters. He's trying to finish up one more cartoon before heading to bed.

He says that working into the wee hours of the morning is pretty typical for him, especially with a deadline coming up. "I've got to get it done."

Mr. Parisi is the creator of "Off the Mark," a daily comic strip that appears in more than 100 newspapers nationwide. Comic-strip cartoons are a newspaper tradition that's more than 100 years old.

"The comic strip was conceived in the 1890s as a way to sell newspapers," says Lucy Caswell of the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library in Columbus.

She says that although comics were first created for adults, kids also enjoyed reading them.

"And whenever a cartoon is particularly appealing to kids, the cartoonist is doing his job well," she adds.

Deadlines, deadlines

Back in his studio at his Melrose, Mass., home, Parisi is looking for something that makes him laugh so he can make it into a cartoon. Although it's April, he's working on cartoons for May. They have to be completed and sent to newspapers in a couple of weeks.

Parisi must draw about one cartoon a day. He enjoys being able to work at home alongside his wife, Lynn, and spend time with his 12- year-old daughter, Jennifer, after school.

But it's not all play for the man who created "Off the Mark" in 1987. Parisi admits that coming up with humorous topics for cartoons day after day isn't always easy.

That's why "I doodle just about any idea I get, no matter how bad," he says. "Sometimes the idea is all there, other times it needs some work. And sometimes there is no hope."

When that happens, Parisi relies on his three cats. They're funny, and "they're really easy to work into cartoons," he says.

He knew from the time he was a kid that cartooning was his thing. He got the bug after reading a comic strip about a "loveable loser" named Charlie Brown. The strip, "Peanuts," was created by Charles Schulz, and "I immediately wanted to draw it," Parisi says.

Today, an original "Peanuts" cartoon signed by Schulz hangs in his studio.

Parisi's method of making cartoons is unusual. He draws six at a time on the same single sheet of Bristol board (a thick, smooth paper used by artists). …