Mark Tatulli, Creator of Heart of the City

22 August 2003

   Fashioned from the perspectives of a little girl and her busy single mom, Heart of the City contains all the wisdom, frustrations and laughter to be found in raising a precocious child. From Heart’s determination to find her mother a boyfriend to the Italian nanny’s great cooking, we would be certain the comic strip has a woman’s sensitivities, a real female cartoonist’s view of the world. Right? Nope. Heart of the City is created by a man.

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    Mark Tatulli is the talented and imaginative spirit behind the brush-and-ink cartoon characters of Heart of the City. (He uses a brush to do his line work, rather than pen or marker. It gives his art a distinctive touch.) The comic strip is gradually building a strong following, with fans becoming firmly hooked on the cartoonist’s practical every-home style of humour in a very short time. The adorable Heart, drawn in her favourite snagged black leotards and pink tutu, captures the imagination of readers young and old. Her facial expressions are reminiscent of the rascally Calvin character of “Calvin and Hobbes” created by Bill Watterson, and the wording is occasionally similar. But the comparisons end there. Heart of the City has taken on a life of its own in the big-city setting of Philadelphia, and has danced along its own unique pathway.

    Heart of the City danced onto Mark Tatulli’s drawing board in 1997. Universal Press Syndicate editor Greg Melvin said, on the site, that “Mark’s talent leapt from the page. The artwork is first-rate, but more important than simply being well drawn is this strip’s inherent warmth.” *(1) Heart of the City debuted to an enthusiastic reception in newspaper comics pages in November 1998.

    Tatulli is not new to the cartooning element. He had two other comic strips published before developing Heart of the City, the first one in New Jersey’s Burlington County Times and a second comic that reached national syndication. “Bent Halos” was a strip with religious overtones, the central characters being two particularly spunky angels. “Bent Halos” began its publication run in 1996 as a replacement for the retired “Calvin and Hobbes” strip. Both of the strips now seem to have evaporated from circulation.

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    In sharing advice for wannabe cartoonists on Spoke Online, Tatulli said, “Create as professional a submission package as possible and submit to all the large syndicates. Don’t let rejections get you down.” He noted that making a good impression on the syndicate editors is of importance and “The best bet is to write what you know and hope for the best.” *(2)

    Cartooning is not Tatulli’s singular occupation. He is a creative director with Banyan Productions, working on the post-production of contemporary television shows such as “Trading Spaces” and “A Wedding Show.” Previously, he also worked as an animator and filmmaker. Tatulli has received three Emmy Awards for his uccessful television efforts.

    With his wife, two daughters and a son, Mark Tatulli has a steady source of inspiring comedy right in his own Sewell, New Jersey home. From his male standpoint, Tatulli seems to truly understand what life is all about for a single mother and her clever and imaginative kid. Heart of the City is one of those endearing special cartoons headed towards top ratings with lots of good giggles.

Read Heart of the City comics:

Advice from Mark Tatulli and several other cartoonists:
*(2)    (Link broken)

Check out the first book of Heart of the City:

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© Susanna McLeod 2003  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on