Margaret Shulock, Six Chix Cartoonist and Comics Writer

April 14, 2006

    The route to becoming a cartoonist is often surprising. Sometimes the way is curving, twisting, a landscape of hills and valleys with the original destinations turning into different and mysterious side roads. A straight line toward a well-planned future in something uninspiring just might lead to the bend in the road and to artistic development. This rings true for Margaret Shulock, who found cartooning to be the surprising destination in mid-life. The journey brought Margaret to a place as one of the creators of Six Chix. It also brought other fascinating creative work, too.

    Celebrating her 50th birthday in 2000, Margaret also celebrated earning a spot as one of King Features Syndicate's Six Chix. She had been working in the medical industry for years when she burned out on that career. She and her husband Jim - a navy man who was a submariner in the 1960s - took up not-so-successful farming near Friendship, in southwestern New York State not too far from the Pennsylvania state line. A doodler from childhood, Margaret drew postcards for her parents, then created a calendar in 1996. *(1) Her calendar was seen by someone with a good eye for comics who suggested that she send her work to King Features Syndicate for examination. It didn't take long to get a response.

    Jay Kennedy, Editor in Chief of King Features, accepted some of her work for publication on the first submission.

    Acceptance was a pleasant surprise. Margaret expected rejections, long periods of trying to get attention and then maybe "you find a small syndicate that will put up with you." She received so much more.

    With several other women cartoonists doodling in the wings, Kennedy came up with the brilliant idea to combine them as joint creators of the Six Chix comic strip. Assigned the Tuesday Chick, Margaret joined Stephanie Piro, Isabella Bannerman, Rina Piccolo, Kathryn LeMieux and Ann Telnaes as the team to debut Six Chix in 100 newspapers - a grand showing for a new strip, by the way - in January of 2000. (Ann Telnaes recently moved on and Carla Ventresca is now filling the Thursday shoes.) Each cartoonist was assigned one day a week plus a Sunday every six weeks. Being women, it was suggested that they need not fall back on diet or in-law gags. "I think the hardest concept for me to figure out was what really is a women's cartoon. That kind of scared me for a while, like, maybe I won't ever get this," said Margaret on Alternet.org in April 2000. *(1) While each cartoonist of Six Chix has a different style and feel to her work, the common thread is the use of female leads.  The growing number of fans approve.

Shulock

    Living on a farm with chickens and other critters to care for, cartoons coming from Margaret's imagination at first often featured animals. In an interview on Hearstcorp.com, she noted that her drawings have become more detailed and make more use of people. "I'm drawing for a larger audience now. I want to make it worth the reader's time." *(2) Her skills as a cartoonist are becoming honed and well-refined. Her humour is thoughtful and funny, and her drawings are those of a smooth, well-practiced professional.

    Margaret enjoys her cartooning work immensely. "To be part of the Six Chix is wonderful. I can see myself doing it at 80!" *(2) Her intriguing career now also encompasses work on other comic strips. She has been enlisted to join cartoonist Frank Volle as the writer for "Apartment 3-G", a long-running, soap opera-style comic strip. Margaret also works with cartoonist John Rose on the legendary "Snuffy Smith" comic strip; Rose creates the art while Margaret writes the gags. All three under the King Features Syndicate, the strips are enjoyed and treasured by fans in newspapers and publications around the world.

    But wait... the list is not finished yet! The busy Margaret also creates three comics a week plus editorial comics for the Olean Times Herald in Olean, New York.

    In a sad turn of events in 2003, Jim, Margaret's beloved husband, died at the young age of 59 after a long illness. He also left behind two sons. Margaret continues to live on the farm in the "wilds of New York State", creating her marvelous brand of cartoons.

    We're glad you made the trip, Margaret.

Sources:

Daily Six Chix - look for Margaret Shulock on Tuesdays:
http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/sixchix/about.htm

Six Chix website:
http://www.thesixchix.com/pages/3/index.htm

Check out these two sites for more articles about Six Chix:
*(1) http://www.alternet.org/story/231/ (Link broken)
*(2) http://hearstcorp.com/pdf/athearstspring2004.pdf (Link broken)

Get Six Chix stuff, including copies of Margaret's strips, T-shirts and mugs:
http://www.cafepress.com/sixchix

© Susanna McLeod 2006
TheCartoonists.ca