Sandbox- Progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation.* How does New York play a role as a social character in your art since you moved there?
Dan- New York City has played an enormous role in my life and thus, in my cartoons. The people one meets here on a daily basis, the pulse and personality of the city, the creative energy that is evident at every turn, all these things conspire to shape one’s perceptions in a powerful way. One direct way in which I have been influenced by the city is in the people I have met. The city is teeming with creative people in every field, well-known and novices alike. As you attend parties, art openings, fund raisers, comedy shows, theatrical performances, whatever, you quickly begin to meet them which leads to exchanging ideas and inspirations and your being invited to more events and meeting more creative people and before you know it, you’re in the mainstream with the big dogs. This kind of connection with other creative minds is invaluable and something you can’t get just anywhere. There are only a handful of places on earth with this kind of artistic atmosphere.
Sandbox- Of all your strips you drew all these years, which one would be a perfect epitaph to sum up your life?
Sandbox- If you were 26 today, and as a reflect on your own children’s growth as individuals would you take a different direction as an artist today?
Sandbox- You handle in your strip some very serious issues that would offend many partisan groups, have you ever been seriously threatened by any group who did not agree with you?
Dan- I’ve been insulted many times but never threatened. Most people are capable of complaining but not actual violence so I figure the odds are in my favor that nothing serious will ever come of my editorial stances. Seems like a nutjob would rather go after an actual editorial cartoonist, someone who is offending them on a daily basis, than a guy like me who interjects controversy into my work only a couple times a month.
Sandbox- Many artists do commissioned jobs. What was the strangest request you received or you did not feel right with?
Dan- Hasn’t happened.
Dan- I’m not fond, or even tolerant of simple, non-representational work like that of Mark Rothko. I can’t look at a solid red canvas hanging in a museum without wondering if a song with only one note, or a book that consisted of only one word would ever even be published, much less receive acclaim.
Sandbox- As a moral compass where do see yourself shifting from your original beliefs instilled from your parents?
Dan- The biggest shift would be in the area of religion. I was raised Catholic and took religion seriously as a youth. Accordingly, I read a lot about world religion and theology, traveled, experienced the culture of various spiritual beliefs firsthand and have become agnostic as a result. As cliche as it sounds, I have come to believe that organized religion has done far more harm than good, both to individuals and to society. Like all human endeavors, a small handful use it for good, the vast majority use it as an excuse not to think or act on their own. My veganism and animal rights beliefs are different than the way I was raised, too, of course, but I don’t think that it is really such a shift from my parents’ beliefs. They would never perpetrate or tolerate animal abuse in their presence, they just don’t realize how much misery their lifestyle choices really cause. It’s more a matter of education than belief.
Sandbox- In the grand scheme of things where do you see yourself in the universe as an individual?
Dan- No one person amounts to anything at all on the grand scale of the universe. The most famous and powerful persons who ever lived are still a nano-second blip in the grand scheme. But each person makes a huge difference in the world around them for the few moments they are here and that is important. For that reason, I try to make compassionate choices whenever possible by not buying products of any kind that result from the death or misery of another being. That goes all the way from not buying shoes made in a sweat shop in Indonesia to not eating the tortured corpse of a chicken. I also try to make positive contributions to society in the form of art and humor. Making people laugh and/or think is a good thing in my view.
Sandbox- What one thing would you do to change society as a whole?
Sandbox- Do you find yourself getting more respect as a cartoonist today as compared to those cartoonists when you started? It seems that mainstream is giving cartoonists more respect with gallery shows, graphic novels, and more movies based on comics or is society just getting lazier with computers and are reading less?
Dan- Yes, I think cartooning is experiencing a wonderful renaissance which I am happy to see. With few exceptions, I believe newspaper cartoons have gone steadily downhill since their golden age in the early and mid 20th century, but other forms have taken off in wonderful ways. Graphic novels and underground comics are coming of age in a big way.
Sandbox- What celebrity came up to you and was a fan of your work and you were surprised to find out?That has happened to me a few times and it’s always a thrill. The ones that stand out in my mind are Charles Schulz, Dennis Kucinich, Alicia Silverstone, Daryl Hannah, and Bill Maher. Not all of these people “came up to me,” but it was very gratifying upon meeting them to find out that they were familiar with my work and liked it.
Dan- If you were to take a comic strip from any newspaper and a major cartoonist fell ill one day and called you to replace him for a few months. Which cartoonist would you replace and why.It’s hard enough to do my own cartoon every day. The thought of doing someone else’s makes me a little queasy.
Sandbox- As a young lad which comic book artist or comic book strip artist really like and you wanted to emulate him later in life?
Dan-I’ve always been a fan of the character design of the newspaper strip, Tumbleweeds. I used to draw those characters in my early teens. Whatever you might think of the feature, TK Ryan has a unique and superior design sense that you just don’t see in newspaper comics. I still look at it every day just because I enjoy the art.
Sandbox- Do you have any favorite young cartoonist who just started?
Sandbox- Forbes declared Charlie Shultz behind Elvis as a top grossing dead celebrity last year? Do you find he prostituted his art to anybody with a checkbook unlike Bill Watterson and what became of Bill?
Dan- I’ve never blamed Schulz for licensing his work, nor admired Watterson for not doing so. I don’t see how selling something makes it less valuable, never have. If you want a piece of fine art, buy the original cartoon and hang it on your wall. If you can’t afford that, buy a licensed product and hang (or wear) that. It’s a cartoon, for god’s sake, not a religious relic. In my opinion, Watterson took himself way too seriously, something far too many humans do.
Sandbox- Do you think his legacy with Calvin will live a long time and do you worry about Bizarro’s own legacy in the milieu that you are in. After you are long gone, what do you want people to remember Bizarro for being. A comic strip or a social conscience?
Dan- I have no idea what his legacy will be, nor mine for that matter. I’d like to think that people will remember my art for a time after I’m gone, but there’s no telling. You do the best you can and history has its way with you. I suppose that view is all part of my not taking myself too seriously motto. Either way, I won’t be here to care.
Sandbox- Thank you for your time in the Sandbox Dan.
Dan- Thanks to you, Mr. Sandbox. I’ve had a lovely time.