And I’d like to especially thank all the loyal Captain Zero fans! Thank you so much for reading.
Click on image to enlarge
Jeff Bonty wrote a wonderful tribute http://daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=477697&query=bonty in his column.
And the whole newsroom surprised me with this Page 1 story http://daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=477835&query=our%20hero written by the ever-versatile Dimitrios Kalantzis.
Steve York answers a bunch of questions from Jeff Bonty
Jeff: How did you come up with Captain Zero?
Steve: In 2001, just a few days before the launch of our new Think section, I
was surprised with the news that the plan to have my weekend editorial
cartoon appear in color on the front of the section had been
drastically changed. Due to layout limitations, I was now being given
a space running along the bottom of the page. Rather than try to
reformat my editorial cartoon to fit this space every week, I
suggested that I be allowed to do a local comic strip, instead. They
agreed (with a certain amount of skepticism, I think), but it was
already Friday, August 3. The page was being preprinted on the 8th,
which meant I had 3 work days to develop a strip from scratch, create
the characters, and have the first strip written, penciled, inked and
colored. This on top of my usual daily editorial cartoons, I might
add! I remember sitting out in my backyard that Saturday doodling and
skimming through old sketchbooks. Since goofy superheroes were a
recurring theme in my drawings, I hit on the idea that Kankakee needed
its own superhero. A few days later, the first Captain Zero was
Jeff: Was it by design that Captain would have a side kick?
Steve: No, it didn’t occur to me. But thankfully, a wonderful coworker (a Mr.
J. Bonty) suggested early on that CZ get a dog. So Sparky was
initially introduced as a robot dog. That only lasted a handful of
weeks until I redesigned him as a full-fledged robot sidekick.
Jeff: Who is you favorite character other than Captain and Sparky?
Steve: There’s not many other regularly recurring characters, really. There’s
CZ’s dad (Doc Derringdew), and the pessimistic villain Gloomy Gus. But
my favorite is Chelsea, the scrappy 8-year-old girl who’s from a
thoroughly dysfunctional family. She is based on a couple of girls my
own children knew several years ago. At some point in the strip,
Chelsea started attending church and is now a faithful Christian,
which is something of a rarity among comic strip characters.
Jeff: Did you have aspirations to draw a comic strip?
Steve: Absolutely! It’s something I’ve wanted to do since my grade school days.
Jeff: Do you get suggestions from readers/fans?
Steve: Occasionally, but I try to do all the writing myself. But I love
getting drawings of Captain Zero and Sparky from fans, so please keep
sending them in!
Jeff: Is it hard to believe its been 10 years already?
Steve: It’s been 10 years? Are you serious? Wow, it make my head swim to
think that I’ve been doing this for a decade now. I should probably
get Sparky in for a tuneup really soon!
Jeff: What is in store for Captain Zero?
Steve: I never know week to week what he’ll be up to. But I’d like to see his
dad make more appearances, and CZ may have some more villains to face,
as well. Recently he’s had to battle The Weathernator (who is
convinced he controls global weather patterns) and Miss Skeeter (who
plagues Kankakee County with a horde of trained mosquitoes). I’m sure
there are more bad guys out there waiting to take on CZ!
Jeff: Does your family suggest story lines?
Steve: Certain incidents (and accidents) involving my family have found their
way into Captain Zero, although I change enough details to protect the
innocent and embarrassed. Last year I introduced CZ’s new pet, Domino
the Wonder Dog (a mere 9 years after Jeff first suggested it), and
Domino closely resembles our own dog, Coconut. We have another dog,
too, and the kids have been after me for some time to find a way to
get Luna in the strip, as well. Maybe Gloomy Gus could use a dog?
Jeff: How close are the characters to you or others you are close to?
Steve: They didn’t start off this way, but both CZ and Sparky are essentially
me. Sparky is a sarcastic yet amiable die-hard Cubs fan, while CZ is
suave, handsome, famous and heroic; so yes, they’re me in a nutshell.
(OK, actually Captain Zero is a real dweeb. But surely I don’t
resemble him in THAT way!)
From 2001, this is the original drawing used to present the strip to management. Although originally named Citizen Man, I enlisted the help of my brother, Don, who quickly came up with a list of around 50 names (all of them better than “Citizen Man”!), from which the name Captain Zero was selected.