He was drawn to writingCraig MacIntosh makes his living with drawings, but his latest project is all about words.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Craig MacIntosh makes his living with drawings, but his latest project is all about words.
MacIntosh has been the artist for the Sally Forth comic strip since 1992. Since 1986 has worked with partner Steve Sack on the Sunday activity strip Doodles. But these days he’s most excited about the upcoming release of The Fortunate Orphans, his first novel.
As a kid, MacIntosh was fascinated by photos from World War II. So maybe it’s no surprise his first attempt at fiction draws its inspiration from there. The novel starts at the Battle of the Bulge, with an incident known as the Malmedy Massacre in which 90 Allied prisoners of war were executed by their German captors.
From there, MacIntosh’s story jumps to the present, where survivors of the massacre have located the German officers responsible for the murder and plotted their revenge.
It’s subject matter a whole lot more grown up than the family-friendly comic strips and silly riddles he deals with most days.
MacIntosh spent months researching the book. He worked with RHS French teacher LaRae Ellingson, who makes frequent trips to France, to get some of the locations right. A friend who works for the FBI pointed him in the right direction on ballistics and crime scene investigation and a retired general who lives down the street in MacIntosh’s Evermoor neighborhood provided some of the inspiration for one of the characters.
“It was a lot of fun,” Macintosh said.
Writing isn’t entirely new for MacIntosh. When he worked as an editorial cartoonist in Dayton and Minneapolis he wrote the occasional feature story. For 16 months after Sept. 11 he wrote Sally Forth while the strip’s New York office was closed.
Writing doesn’t come as naturally as drawing for MacIntosh, but as a voracious reader he enjoyed the challenge of creating something he thought people would enjoy reading.
“I loved the writing part. I loved trying to make the words work together. To create a story that would interest people,” MacIntosh said. “I thought I got a good story and a good writing style in there.”
MacIntosh has had enough fun with this book he’s already got two more in the works.
“I know some writers — newspaper writers — who have said cartoonists can’t write,” MacIntosh said. “That’s not true.”
The day job
Still, it’s drawing, not writing, that takes up most of MacIntosh’s time. He grew up loving to draw. When other kids entered their teens and moved on to other pursuits MacIntosh stuck with his pen and paper.
“Maybe I recognized I had a talent for it,” he said. “If you can draw people are asking you to do a lot of stuff.”
MacIntosh got into editorial cartooning in Dayton and then in Minneapolis. Over the years sent out comic strips to syndicates without much success.
In 1986, MacIntosh got together with Sack on what was then called Professor Doodles, a Sunday comic that had mazes, word finds and other activities for kids. The strip got picked up, and it’s kept MacIntosh busy ever since. Sack handles the main panel. MacIntosh for three smaller panels that include riddles and other items. That means he gets lots of letters from kids hoping their riddle will get published. He picks a few of his favorites and provides illustrations to go with them.
MacIntosh has seen just about every possible variation on every groan-inducing riddle you can think of, and he loves it. He gets riddles submitted from all over the world.
“Even if they can’t read the English, they can read the drawing,” MacIntosh said.
MacIntosh and Sack went to Sally Forth creator Greg Howard, a Twin Cities resident, for legal advice when they started Professor Doodles. Howard asked MacIntosh to take over art responsibilities in 1992.
Over the years, MacIntosh has gotten attached to the characters.
“It’s a little hard sometimes to remember this is a comic strip,” MacIntosh said. “The writer in New York sent me a couple strips where he had Sally cursing. I wrote him back and said, ‘Sally doesn’t cuss.’ I don’t know if he really understood who Sally Forth was.”