The Cover That Wasn’t

Eight years ago, back in 2003, I drew my cover for the first Pearls book, BLTs Taste So Darn Good.  Looking on some of the more recent covers, like the one for the next treasury, it now looks almost quaint.



This cover has always bothered me because it’s too plain and just not that funny.  And that’s because it’s not the original cover I drew.

This is:

I can’t remember who it was, but someone at either my publisher or syndicate decided it was too confusing to have these other people on the cover because it implied they were regular characters in the strip, which they weren’t.  I just thought it made it funny to have all these people repulsed by a pig eating a pig.

But I was new, and didn’t want to rock the boat, so I went along with their suggestion and nixed all the people.  But I’ve always regretted that.  Because looking back on it, I like the second version better.

And now you know the rest of the story.

A Response from the Creator of ‘Dennis the Menace’

The creator of “Dennis the Menace” himself was kind enough to send me this email this morning, which he said I could reprint here.


From:     Marcus Hamilton
Subject:     Same gag
Date:     January 27, 2011 7:38:23 AM PST
Hi, Stephan,

I saw on your blog that Dennis and Margaret “relived” the same gag that you had done 9 years ago.
The question is, “was it a coincidence, or a swipe, or a compliment???”

Actually, when I chose that gag from one of our writer’s submissions, I was not aware that it had been used before.

If I had known that, I wouldn’t have accepted it. But I do believe it was a case of “creative minds” coming up with the same, or similar, idea.
Over the years, there have been several occasions where I have seen “mirror” situations of gags occurring the same day in the comics.

Please be assured that there was no intention to copy. If I had intentionally “swiped” the gag, it would have been done as a parody and would have included a credit line, “with apologies to Pearls Before Swine.”

Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Here’s a tho’t…you could have rat and pig reading the comics and commenting that Dennis is more intelligent than dumb ol’ Margaret, ‘cause he gets his common sense from reading Pearls!

Keep up the good work,
Marcus Hamilton

Two Cartoons, Living or Dead.

Almost nine years ago today, I ran the strip that is probably now the most closely identified with Pearls.

Today, I’ve had a number of readers point out this Dennis the Menace to me.

The funny thing about comics is that stuff like this happens all the time.  I know that Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur) and I have even run the same joke on the same day, a few weeks after Dave Coverly (Speed Bump) ran the exact same joke.   Of course, I’ve also had the bad kind of “coincidence” where someone has taken one of my three-panel strips and copied it word-for-word.

What’s your opinion here?  (But be nice.)

I Am Healthy as a Bear

There’s nothing worse than a guy who brags about what great health he’s in.

That said, I’m in great health.

By that I mean I’m getting about 20,000% of the daily recommended allowance of Vitamins A, B, C, D and a whole bunch more.

I’d like to tell you it’s because I’m eating a lot of broccoli and apples and prunes.

But the truth is different. It’s this:

I’ve discovered my children’s bottle of Gummy Bear vitamins.

I am popping them like jelly beans.

I’m thinking there have to be some side effects to eating this many vitamins, like maybe losing the use of your liver (so kids, don’t try this at home), but the upside is that they taste great.

And I haven’t even mentioned the benefits of the joy I experience when I ask the little bears, “Who’s the greatest dad in the Pastis family?”, which they always fail to answer, forcing me to bite their little heads off. (I’d like to say I do that to amuse my kids, but the truth is I do it when I’m standing by myself in the kitchen.)

I guess I’m telling you all this so that if in the next few days, you hear I’ve OD’ed on some drug, it wasn’t on purpose.

It was for the yummy gummy bear taste.

The Pearls Blows Up Outtakes

I’m often asked if the videos I film with Andrews McMeel Vice President John Glynn are staged.  Actually, the question I get asked is, “Is John Glynn really that much of an asshole?”

Well, yes, John is that much of an asshole.  But in the videos he is only acting like one.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the videos, the first one is here:

And the second one is here:

And now, as proof that it is in fact all staged, I present the many screwed-up takes from the filming of the last video, complete with all the profanity, beer-drinking and overly violent door-slamming that makes working with me and John such a joy.


Alright, Fine. I’ll Come Visit You (aka Booking Stephan To Speak At Your Event)

For the first time since the strip began back in 2002, I’m now emerging from my hermit shell and booking a fair number of speaking engagements.

I talk about the strip, tell the strange tale of how I went from being a lawyer to a syndicated cartoonist, show a number of readers’ favorite strips, and of course, talk about some of the strips that weren’t big hits  (including some of the angry mail they generated).  It’s inspirational, it’s funny and it’s better than just sitting with a bunch of people in a quiet room.

So book me now, because I may just return to my shell.

For fees and other info, send an email to:

Filling in the Blanks

A reader recently pointed me to this letter to the editor printed in the Appeal-Democrat, a newspaper in Marysville, California:

Letter: Comics change strikes a nerve

January 02, 2011
Your comics section would be greatly enhanced if you left a blank space in each location currently occupied by “Get Fuzzy,” “F-Minus,” and “Pearls Before Swine”: the clean white paper would be a significant improvement in each case. Add “Stone Soup” back to the format and you will have raised the quality of this section by an order of magnitude.

(Name deleted)

Dobbins, California

That got me to thinking.  Would it be better?

Here is the comics page with Pearls Before Swine:


And here is the comics page without it:


If you ask me, that’s an odd layout.

But then I did some more thinking.  What if a reader used the space?

For example, to write down their grocery list:


Or play tic-tac-toe:


Or perhaps to write commentary about other strips:


Best of all, it would be a great place for my wife Staci to write me a friendly little love note:


So to my anonymous friend in Dobbins, California, I say this:  I think the deletion of the strips was the right move.  But the leftover blank space is an oddity that perhaps you didn’t fully think through.
Fortunately, I have.  And now we’re on to something.
Excuse me while I write a letter to the editor.

If It Looks Like a Duck, and Walks Like a Duck, It Must Be a Bad Christmas Present

I buy my wife bad Christmas presents.  So this year she reciprocated with this:

It’s a stuffed duck.

I thought that was odd, but then my nine-year-old daughter topped her by getting me 15 of these:

They’re miniature babies.

As if that was not enough, my son Thomas then combined the two to form a very disturbing art piece, which I’ve titled “Assault Upon the Duck.”

Thomas says it’s not an attack.  He says the babies are worshiping the duck.

I find that hard to believe given what looks to be a clear attack upon the duck’s head:

Not to mention the valiant charge of the babies up the back:

Thomas says the proof of the babies’ idolatry is shown by the congregation of babies around the duck’s foot, which I have to admit is a pretty compelling argument.

So for those of you who think my comic strip is strange, it’s nothing compared to my family.

God bless us all.