Behind the Pencil

Brian Barnett

hen I was 6-years-old, my mother gave me an instructional book, How To Draw Mickey Mouse and Friends, and I was off like a shot. Seeing the rough, fluid shapes sketched throughout the book created an emotional response in me. They made me feel good. It is still the frantic, unfinished pencil work of cartooning that my eyes find most appealing.

My first milestone as a cartoonist came in 1988 when I was 13-years-old. I mailed several cartoons to the premier newspaper in my area, The Journal Herald, and after waiting several months and getting no reply, I reluctantly gave up hope that anything would come from it. However, things turned around and my dream finally came true when, one day, out of the blue, the cartoon you see here was published.

This single experience had a tremendous effect on me. It gave me a solid direction for my creativity and artistic interests. For the first time, I understood that the characters living in my brain craved a regular audience.

I loved the simple, but rich format that comic strips provided. The opportunity to express serious ideas in a humorous way was another attractive feature. Comic strips seemed to offer more creative freedom and control than other formats such as comic books and animation. Also appealing to me was the idea of reaching a mass audience daily while working alone in the privacy of my own studio.

First Published Cartoon

In 1996 and 1997 I achieved regular publication in two local newspapers. Nevermind that these were small newspapers in a small town. For my growth as a cartoonist, I could not have asked for anything better. I had an audience of about 6,000 people. Imagine! Before the Internet was as widely used as it is today, an audience of this size was gold for a budding cartoonist! I quickly gained experience working under the pressure of constant deadlines, as well as learning to compromise with my editor. I also learned about the natural distortion of the printing process, and I became adept at adjusting my technique with a pen to end up with the cleanest effect. Most importantly, I learned to observe my feelings and the world around me so as to never run out of material.

To be perfectly honest, the timing of the Internet’s arrival used to make me sick to my stomach. You see, newspapers – the principal means of getting comics to audiences - had been around for hundreds of years, and yet here I was, just coming to the peak of my abilities as a comic creator, and newspapers were suddenly in their death throes. I was so disillusioned by this that I seriously neglected my creative side for a while.

But I never gave up completely. Over the last five-and-a-half years, The Apple Tower has been building and developing itself in my mind. Along the way I have started embracing the Internet as a wonderful thing - not for everybody, but definitely for seasoned creators who have paid their dues and developed certain skills.

When I finally sat down to pull together all of my resources for The Apple Tower, I was amazed at the accumulated material. There were over 56 completed strips, representing about 224 hours of penciling and inking. What this does not include are the countless hours sketching and flushing out ideas, writing, honing the characters’ personalities, determining the nature of the town, outtakes, false starts, dead-ends, etc. In short, this is an enormous investment of time and passion, which I am very pleased to present to you here, wrapped nicely with a bow on top.

Welcome to The Apple Tower! Just as I have had the pleasure of getting to know the citizens of Applegrove over the years, I hope that you too will become a regular visitor.

So, run around! Explore! And if you bump into Norman, tell him I said hello.


Brian Barnett

Creator, The Apple Tower

Email me