Kevin and Alistair have been characters that I've had for most of my life. Well, since 1984 actually, since the first day of college when I doodled them into my notes instead of paying attention to the lecture. Since then I've incorporated them into just about every artistic endeavour I've attempted. I've even written four (yes, four) rock songs about them! Mostly, however, they languished in some (pretty bad) comic-book style cartoons, including one where they fend off an attack by an alien race of John Lennons (you think I'm kidding, don't you?)
In 1991 I finally attempted to take cartooning seriously. I launched "Pet Sounds", which starred both K. and A. as a dog and cat trying to make sense out of Bay Area life. Much to my surprise, the Montclarion (and its associated newspapers) decided to take the strip on! Pretty amazing, considering it was inked with a ball point pen! After this ego-boosting little development, I decided to make a go at a syndicated strip despite the overwhelming odds. First step: start inking with a felt-tip. Once this major achievement was out of the way, I reworked "Pet Sounds", dropping the localized theme in favor of a more generalized American outlook. The syndicates demurred in unison.
After moving back to Las Vegas in late 1991, I attempted to do a comic book, entitled "The Boy Shop Pets." (Yes, it's a lame title, I know that now.) Again featuring Kevin and Alistair, it also introduced the characters of Ferris and Renata. The B. S. P. employed a generic theme of animals engaged in zany (but rather house-bound) adventures. I completed three stories before I realized I wasn't ready for the comic book world. Besides, my heart really lay in attempting a comic strip. I felt as if that was my natural medium, especially since my inspirations were more along the lines of "Bloom County" and "Peanuts" than say, oh, "Usagi Yojimbo."
So in 1992, after the Montclarion papers dropped "Pet Sounds", I felt encouraged to begin toying around with two comic strip concepts. The first concept came about when a friend of mine encouraged me to transform "Pet Sounds" into a strip where Kevin had a semi-psychotic owner. Yes. Well. The second concept had a more interesting genesis. Wolfram had been invented as a character for a potential "Boy Shop Pets" story. When that fizzled out, I kept the character and played around with my new five-animal roster.
At first they were going to be strays, aimlessly hanging around an alleyway, dealing with the world. Then I had a vision of Wolfram with a videocamera, leaping out from behind a garbage can, and asking Kevin a host of ridiculous Geraldo-type questions with a mike in one paw. "Is it true that Elvis was Michael Jackson's illegitimate father?" and so on.
Newshounds was born.
The concept took quite a bit of developing. The strays aimlessly hanging around an alleyway became strays aimlessly hanging around a TV station, albeit a TV station they seemed to own. Sam was introduced as the sportscaster, and another character named Abigail (a cat) was conscripted as the manager and owner of KPET. Wolfram became the anchordog of KPET news, Kevin became the cameradog, and Alistair the fiery social commentator. Ferris entered new employ as the janitor/lackey. And Renata... became a secretary.
It wasn't perfect. The art was even scarier than it is now, really busy and messy. The characters were much more strident and not quite as appealing. In those days, I was heavily under the influence of one horrible maxim: It's funnier if a character yells out a punchline, rather than just saying it. And I was really trying my best to develop a "style" for my human characters, which as a result made them dreadfully undefined.
So, it was no surprise when along with "Man's Best Friend", it was rejected.
1993: "Newshounds" Mark I behind me, I concentrated on gag cartoons and such until I felt ready to overhaul both concepts with better, fresher art. Abigail was ditched in favor of Lorna, who as the pets' human owner would provide a liaison between these weird animals and the even weirder humans. Renata became KPET's co-anchor. Alistair was toned down a bit in order to make him not quite so repellent. Plus, I stopped using photocopied panel borders, and started employing Bristol Board and Zipatone. As Newshounds Mark II began to shape up, I felt I had something mildly workable.
Well, unfortunately, I didn't quite count on suddenly going through some intense personal problems. (Basically a lot of my problems were rooted in my utter detestation of living in Las Vegas.) As a result, I had no real confidence in anything I was doing. Looking back, those early Mark II strips were a bit of a mess. And I knew then that if my cartooning career was going to survive, I would have to work on both my art and my gags. In desperation I dropped "Man's Best Friend" (which by that time had completely lost its appeal for me) and made a Herculean effort to focus all my attention on improving "Newshounds" Mark II until it became something remotely like a good comic strip.
Over the next three years I continued churning out strip after strip, refining things as I went. Things started looking up when I moved back to the Bay Area in early 1995, and I took to drawing more strips with a renewed passion. Then, in Fall 1996, "Newshounds" was taken on by Future Features Syndicate. With respect to that, I decided to alter the strip's look for the third and final time. It wasn't much of a look change: I stopped using Zipatone, shrank their feet a tad, and changed Wolfram's forelock. Plus I decided to use thicker strokes and work at a larger scale: 5" by 16 1/4", which is 125% the accepted standard of 4" by 13". This became "Newshounds" Mark III.
However, one day in Spring of 1997, I was perusing the Web, and discovered... online comics! Particularly a fun and adventurous comic called "Mayberry Melonpool." By the time I had finished surfing the Melonpool website I had firmly decided to turn "Newshounds" into a web comic, especially since newspapers' lack of interest in these silly animals wasn't getting me anywhere, at least not creatively. Day after day, the Internet opened new doors to me. I met Albert Temple, an endless fountain of encouragement, and he stoked my enthusiasm to get the strip going. Finally, with the help of my brother Allan Dye, Newshounds Mark III began in earnest on November 1, 1997.
In November 2002, I decided that after five good years, it was time for a change. Newshounds Mark III officially wrapped up on January 3, 2003. In the meantime I took the time to redesign the characters based on changes I'd wanted to make for a long time. March 3, 2003 is the official start date for Newshounds Mark IV. Onward and upward into the future! Excelsior!