Daniel Boris is the creator of Hoxwinder Hall. A comic about a ten year old boy Bryon Hoxwinder who (tries) to make a pet out of a baby alligator named Dozi. Of course conflict occurs when Bryon’s naturally popular 16 year old brother enters the scene.
Daniel has studied Fine Art at George Mason University and graduated from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Daniel is a professional artist, top 5 finalists of the Washington Post Cartoonist Contest and now one of the top contenders to be syndicated through The Cartoonist Studio. I was excited to ask Daniel some questions about Hoxwinder Hall and the world of comics, and here is the interview.
David: Daniel you have studied Fine Art and have an excellent Art portfolio. When did you become interested or decide to become the creator of your own comic strip?
Thanks for the kind words! The only reason I wanted to become an artist was to eventually have my own comic strip in newspapers. Like most kids, I had a love of the comic’s page. So I just started drawing and copying all my favorite comic strips. I later discovered comic books and artists like Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, and Boris Valejeo. Their incredible art opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Still, comic strips were what I loved most.
David: What was the inspiration behind Hoxwinder Hall when you first started developing the comic?
I first started developing the idea for the strip when I was in art school, mid 1980’s. When I began thinking about a premise for my own comic strip, I reflected on all the comics that I loved reading the most. I began considering WHY it was that I loved those strips so much? A common theme immerged; nearly all of them involved humans and talking animals. It’s just natural to see humans and animals talking to each other because people have been interacting and communicating with animals since the beginning of time. We talk to our pets, and most would swear that they can talk back to us.
From there I started racking my brain about what KIND of pet HAS NOT been shown in the comics before? Eventually it occurred to me that lots of people keep reptiles as pets. The whole “animal in an aquarium” idea came to mind, and after ruling out the usual suspects (turtles, lizards, etc.) I began playing with this idea: What would happen if a kid brought an ALLIGATOR back from a Florida vacation? Suddenly the creative flood gates opened up and all the possibilities came rushing in! That is when I created Dozi the alligator. The name is the word “Izod” spelled backward, and it just sounded perfect. Not to get corny here, but as an artist I think my creation of Dozi was one of those moments of clarity; a sort of “flash of brilliance”. Dozi is the heart of my strip and the reason people enjoy it so much.
David: Hoxwinder Hall has been in the making for over 20 years, how do you feel you and the comic have grown?
The Hoxwinder Hall people see today is very different from the one way back then. When I originally submitted the strip to newspaper syndicates, Dozi was portrayed as a much older alligator, and the premise revolved around Byron being a college freshman who brings this pet to school with him. Looking back now, the whole strip really did not work. It wasn’t believable. I mean, c’mon. How in the world could anybody seriously bring a grown alligator to college with them?
When I heard about the Washington Post contest, I decided to revise my entire premise, making Dozi a much younger gator, and Byron a young kid. Suddenly it all worked! I think that was validated by the Post contest – and being selected as a Top 10 Finalist by distinguished industry professionals, and then being voted into the final Top 5 by the public.
Also, I have grown a lot as a Writer. Writing is probably the most important, and previously most elusive, piece of the puzzle for me. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve finally managed to get a better feel for how to effectively construct a gag, with a better economy of words.
David: With the advent of Newspapers having such a hard time and most people gaining information from the internet, what future do you see for Daily Comics?
That’s the biggest question, isn’t it? If I had been in this position a decade ago, I’d be salivating and ready to quit my regular day job if I got a shot at syndication. Unfortunately, today the scenario for newspapers isn’t so rosy. The internet has put traditional newspapers in a tough spot. It’s a shame because everyone still LOVES reading the comics. The trouble is that now everybody expects to get their content for free, and that is not good for anybody that creates original content. Nobody wants or likes to work for free, and quite frankly nobody should.
I still see comic strips in our lives, but things are changing fast, including the delivery platform, and business model for creator compensation. I have faith that we’ll reach an equitable arrangement between readers and content creators.
I also have a solid idea for an animated feature film based on my strip, along with children’s books and other things. I look forward to exploring all of those possibilities, but first I would really like a syndicate to take a chance on me! I KNOW Hoxwinder Hall could be a HUGE hit if given a shot at a national (and international) audience!
David: In your opinion, what do you think cartoons and comics express that no other art form can?
I think comics allow society to laugh at itself. Whether it’s a quick chuckle in the morning before we head out the door to school or work, or a smile when taking a break at our computer during the day, people need to smile if only to stay sane. Comic strips offer an easy way to take a mental breather and – if only for a few minutes – immerse ourselves in our favorite characters.
I guess it’s very similar to what we do when we go see movies. Instead of watching strips of film, we look at strips of comics. Film strips / comic strips… Hey! Did I just discover something there?! Ha-ha!
David: One last question, who is some of your favorite cartoonist and hero’s in the comic’s world?
There are so many artists/cartoonists who I admire and inspire me: Frank Frazetta, Walt Kelly, Tex Avery, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, Glen Keane, Pat Oliphant, Charles Shultz, Gary Larsen, Bill Watterson, Berke Breathed, Richard Thompson, Lynn Johnston, Pascal Champion, Britney Lee… the list could go on and on!
David: So many talented people I have such respect for! Thank you Daniel for sharing with us today. Check out Hoxwinder Hall comic at the link below and join his fan page on Facebook!