Sixteen-year-old Jeremy Duncan is a high school freshman and an aspiring musician. He daydreams about the day when his band, Goat Cheese Pizza, records their first monster hit single and they all pile into his van for their cross-country, sold-out concert tour. Between naps, study hall and band practice, Jeremy still manages to find time to be the star of the hugely popular comic strip, Zits.
Jeremy is a good kid. He is intelligent and kind, yet he still has the attitude that one would expect from a teenager. His unpredictable mood swings and monosyllabic answers to his parents’ mild-mannered questions often leave them baffled and bemused.
Created in 1997 by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Jim Borgman and Reuben Award-winning cartoonist/writer Jerry Scott, Zits appears in more 1,600 newspapers worldwide in 45 countries and is translated into 15 different languages. The comic has an estimated daily readership of more than 200 million readers. Zits is the only strip in comics history to achieve that milestone in the short span of nine years.
The creators, who are parents themselves, have a keen insight into the many physical and emotional changes that teens go through during adolescence, and they have the gift of addressing these common dilemmas with compassion and humor.
Frequently Asked Questions about Zits
What made you start the Zits cartoon?
Jerry: I was attending a party one night when a bedraggled-looking neighbor staggered up to me. His hair was askew, his shirttail hung loose, and he had the shell-shocked look in his eyes that you see in some WWII veterans when you mention the beaches of Anzio.
“If you ever want to do another comic strip,” he said in a voice that invoked unspeakable horrors, “do one about teenagers.”
Any subject so terrifying must be equal parts funny, I figured, and on that premise Jim Borgman and I sat down and created Zits. It is intended as our daily message-in-a-bottle sent to those poor souls marooned on the desert islands of teenager parenthood. You wouldn’t believe how many emails we get saying, “Thank God! I thought we were alone!”
How do you start your process of drafting a new strip for the series?
Jerry: I lock myself in my teenager head and start getting surly. Once I’m there, I step outside and listen.
What have been some personal inspirations?
Jim: I’ve been inspired by dozens of cartoonists, artists and writers in developing my own creative voice. A partial list: Walt Kelly (Pogo), Ronald Searle, Mort Drucker (MAD magazine), George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Bill Watterson (C&H), Bruce Springsteen, John Steinbeck, Kathe Kollwitz, Jeff MacNelly, Pat Oliphant and tons of other editorial cartoonists.
Jerry: Me, too. Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Lynn Johnston (For Better or for Worse), Jim Borgman (editorial cartooning, Zits and plain old good conversation), John Irving (so many great novels), Lucian Freud (painter), Ed Mell (painter), The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Carole King and lots more.
How did the characters’ personalities develop?
Jerry: Everything is an evolution. You begin by assigning personality traits that make sense structurally, then the characters either grow into them or shake them off and go in a different direction. After awhile, they’re just people you can hear talking.
Jim: Drawing-wise, Jeremy sprang full grown into the world, give or take a couple of haircuts. Mom and Dad rose from the primordial parental ooze.
What, according to you, makes these strips funny?
Jim: Jerry’s got a remarkable way of hearing authentic voices in his head, not the canned sort of sit-com banter so many others slip into. When he sends me the first draft of the strips I’m always struck by how honestly he has played out the action, invariably with an unexpected payoff.
Jerry: At the risk of making this sound like a Mutual Admiration Society, Jim’s drawings always make me laugh. He puts a spin on the art that’s both authentic and impossible. Great stuff that deserves a lot more space than it gets on the shrinking comics page.
Who would be your funny person and why?
Jerry: I think Dimitri Martin is funny, Stephen Wright made me laugh, Sara Silverman in a kind of cringe- I-hope-my-mom-isn’t-seeing-this kind of way. What just makes you die laughing?
Jim: A can of Flarp “Noise Putty” that my son gave me for my birthday. Car Talk on NPR, David Sedaris, sometimes a Coen brothers movie.
Jerry: Jim and I can crack each other up on the phone. The Onion strikes me as hilarious a lot of the time. I agree with Jim about David Sedaris. I worked with the writers on a TV show based on my other comic strip, Baby Blues (done with my partner Rick Kirkman) and found that TV writers can be really funny, despite what you see on TV.
What do you hope people get from Zits?
Jerry: A laugh. A warm feeling. We like to think the strip can be a sort of societal mirror, and that people might gain a little understanding from that reflection.