Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New Era for 'The Born Loser' Comic Strip

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New Era for 'The Born Loser' Comic Strip

Article excerpt

New era for |The Born Loser' comic strip

Chip Sansom takes over the NEA cartoon feature after working for 14 years with his father Art, who died last month at age 70

On July 4, "The Born Loser" creator Art Sansom died at the age of 70. That same day last month, his son Chip turned 40.

What would have normally been a happy occasion instead became a very sad one for the Sansoms. Yet Chip, who was extremely close to his father, didn't have much time to mourn. There was a comic to get out.

Because of Art's battle against liver cancer, "Born Loser" strips were being submitted to Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) less than three weeks before publication -- a very short deadline for syndication. So Chip, since July 4, has been working until 3 a.m. some nights to push the comic five or six weeks ahead once again.

"We had fallen so far behind, there was no time to take off," Chip said in a recent phone interview. "But it was very therapeutic in a way. There's something about losing one's self in the humorous circumstances of a comic. And the characters are like old friends -- who don't change, and don't die."

Luckily for Chip, he had plenty of preparation for assuming the reins of "The Born Loser" -- 14 years, to be exact. Chip began assisting his father in 1977, when the 1965-founded comic was less than half the age it is now.

Chip, who was unhappy with a life insurance company job he had started after college, first worked for two years as an unpaid "Born Loser" apprentice. After 1979, he got more and more involved in writing gags, drawing, and handling business-related tasks such as an answering fan mail. Chip's name began joining Art's on the comic about five years ago.

Once the Sansoms became full "Born Loser" partners, they did some strips together and others individually. Chip said it was his goal to copy his father's cartooning style as closely as possible, and he noted that "Born Loser" readers were rarely able to correctly guess which Sansom created a particular comic.

Chip recalled, "I took great pleasure in being told by someone that they thought my dad did a strip when I did it. It was the ultimate compliment."

Did Chip ever want to develop his own cartooning approach? "No, I was happy to follow my dad's style," he said. "I feel very comfortable with it." Chip added that it would not have been right to change a popular and well-established feature appearing in more than 1,200 papers worldwide.

The Ohio resident reported that he never studied art when attending Kenyon College and Case Western Reserve -- he majored in English and business -- but said he had "absolutely the best teacher in the world" in his father.

"|The Born Loser' has a deceptively simple style, but dad was actually a tremendous illustrator," said Chip. "He was originally hired by NEA as an illustrator."

Chip -- who also absorbed artistic skills from his late mother, a painter and interior designer -- added that Art was very adept at humor as well.

"Dad was a genuinely funny man," he declared. "He could be the life of the party."

And, last but not least, Chip said his father was a "very generous and giving person."

What his father was not was a "born loser"; Chip said Art did not model the comic's lead character on himself. …

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