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Turning comics into a career

Mark Parisi, author of Marty Pants visits the Nashua Public Library

By Adam Urquhart - Staff Writer | Jun 27, 2018

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Mark Parisi, artist and author of Marty Pants, points to one of his Off the Mark cartoons he has displayed on the screen during Tuesday his presentation at the Nashua Public Library.

NASHUA – Cartoonist Mark Parisi never exactly found himself inspired to write a normal chapter book, as he instead used his drawing abilities to create a unique children’s series called Marty Pants.

Parisi stopped by the Nashua Public Library on Tuesday afternoon to talk to kids about his two Marty Pants books, his comics leading up to the books, sign books and highlight the new book in his series that’s set to be released in October.

Growing up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Parisi remembers entering a comic contest when he was 11. His comic ended up being chosen, and ran in a newspaper. He recalled the excitement when he saw his cartoon in the paper. When another contest rolled around, he submitted a second cartoon, again having that one published.

However, on his third submission, he was rejected, and didn’t submit again.

“I was crushed,” Parisi said of being turned down for submission. “If you want to be an artist,you have to deal with rejection.”

Having dealt with that rejection, years later he found himself still drawing, only now he had a graphic design degree from Salem State College and some experience under his belt from doing different odd jobs.

However, he chose cartooning for his future, letting the pencil lead his path forward, until 1987 when his comic panel, “Off the Mark,” published for the first time. Now, those daily cartoons are published daily.

He said a lot of the cartoons he does for Off the Mark are parodies and he will sometimes use inanimate objects or animals in those cartoons. He said he sets them up the same way people are trained to read books, top left to bottom right, with text bubbles at the top and the funny stuff down in the bottom corner. He said he does his thinking outside of the house, and will go to a cafe weekly to sit and draw up cartoons, words and phrases that he then turns from idea to comic.

Eventually, HarperCollins Publishers took notice of his Off the Mark cartoons and contacted him about the possibility of putting together a book.

He was in a bookstore one day when he found a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book on one of the shelves and began flipping through it.

“I thought to myself, if I’m going to write a book, it would be that type of book,” Parisi said.

He said he enjoyed the format of the book with both text and pictures filling the pages between each cover. So, he got to it, and began the discussions with his editor, sending over chapters for review. He said that back and forth went on for a while, taking him a couple of years to develop the characters for Marty Pants. He said after some time, he began getting used to writing a longer story as opposed to just one moment in time. So, he came up with the main protagonist for his series, Marty, an artist who loves his cat, always thinks he’s right and whose favorite thing to do is save the world. Other characters include Jerome the cat, who is based off a cat he had growing up; Officer Pickels, who is based off an officer in his hometown growing up; Mr. McPhee, who is based on a teacher he didn’t like in school and others.

Many of the characters stem from his youth, and he said sometimes people will ask him if Marty is supposed to be him, especially because they have the same initials “M.P.”

“Decide for yourself if he’s supposed to be me,” Parisi said with a smile.

Near the end of the presentation, using a marker, Parisi turned to a white board and taught the kids how to draw both Marty and Jerome. He drew both characters twice, once with his eyes open and once with his eyes closed, before switching from the marker to a pen to sign books for children at the end.

The first two Marty Pants books are “Do Not Open!” and “Keep Your Paws Off!” The third book, “How to Defeat a Wizard,” is set to be released Oct. 30.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.

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