Robot Funnies pays special tribute to the one and only Dick Szmels!
When Turd Circus premiered January 16, 1962 in newspapers across the country no one could have predicted the immense popularity it would enjoy over the next four decades. The gentle humor and broad appeal of this simple strip about the antics of an everyday family of turds has made it the favorite of millions of readers of all ages.
Dick Szmels was born in Port Manteu, WA on July 23, 1931. His early work included working as an assistant for legendary cartoonist Pat Chadams on My Gal, Flabby and also lettering Lil’ Snottie for Harold Schoom. In 1961 he sold the idea for Turd Circus to Ted "Tootie" Winks, the blustery Editor in Chief of The Tribune Syndicate, and the rest is history.
Dick retired in 2003 and passed on the daily duties of creating the strip to his son, Chit Szmels. Today Turd Circus runs in over sixteen hundred newspapers and seventy-three languages world wide.
How did you come up with the idea for "Turd Circus"?
Well, I needed a job and so I called ‘Tootie’ at The Tribune and told him about this idea I had for a strip…
…A strip about a family of turds.
No, no. I hadn’t come up with the turds at that point. In fact, I was trying to be fairly vague about the strip because I didn’t have any real ideas yet. I told him it would be a family strip. You know…kids and stuff like that.
And he bought the strip?
Yes! He must have been in a good mood or something because usually ‘Tootie’ was a real bastard! (both laugh). You know what I mean! (more laughter).
Anyway, ‘Tootie’ bought the idea and sent me $1200 advance to begin working on six months worth of strips. That’s how I got into syndication.
Tell us about the creation of the strip. What creative processes do you employ in the launching of a new strip?
"Creative processes"? We didn’t have any fancy-shmancy self-help books full of two dollar words back in those days! You created strips by the sweat of your brow! Work, work, work! (both laugh). We didn’t know from "creative processes"! (still laughing).
Anyway, I woke up one day and realized the deadline was three days off and the twelve hundred bucks was long gone so I started work on the strip.