It’s hard to imagine, and yet here we are at the start of a new decade. I wish you everything you hope for in this coming year. And it is my fervent hope that we can all work together to make this earth a better place for people and animals.
As you may know, 2019 ended with the MUTTS 25th anniversary monograph The Art of Nothing and with me touring a bit for the book. There were a few notable events: two in Ohio, two in NYC (NYC Comic-Con and at the Society of Illustrators), the Miami Book Fair, and two in Princeton, NJ (D&R Greenway and Labyrinth Books). Each event was incredibly special to me. My editor and friend, Charlie Kochman, interviewed me for the Miami Book Fair, and I was in conversation with renowned book designer Chip Kidd for both Comic-Con and the Society of Illustrators. Read more about the Labyrinth event on our blog.
The HSUS created this video of me in my studio, which they showed at their “To the Rescue!” NYC Gala in November when they presented me with their Voice for the Animals Award.
Chip Kidd has a love for koalas. In November he asked me if a koala had ever made an appearance in MUTTS, which was not the case. So I created a series in which Mooch dreamed of Australia and met Australian wildlife — with the Sunday page centered on koalas, a lighthearted theme. I sent them to my syndicate, King Features, for distribution to newspapers the week of January 20. (Newspaper comics are submitted more than a month in advance of publication.) Then the Australian bush fires began, and an unfathomable tragedy has ensued. A stark reminder of how fragile our world is and how quickly it can change. (Thankfully, I was able to pull this series from publication and have substituted it with different MUTTS strips.)
My heart goes out to Australia. The people, the animals, and the ecosystems. The devastation is truly overwhelming. Half a billion animals, some reports say double that, have already been killed. (And, independent of the fires, Australia’s forests are being bulldozed, all of which had already caused a vast majority of koalas to be lost.)
We all need to do more to help our beautiful planet and our fellow beings. There are organizations on the ground in Australia now, helping the animals who are still alive but have neither habitat nor food. Additionally, many animals who have survived are suffering as the result of burns and smoke inhalation. Donating to the Humane Society International at this link will get help to those animals, and it’s tax deductible in the U.S.
Some of you have written this week asking for Shtinky to speak up. I’ve already created new strips with Shtinky doing just that, but due to syndication requirements, these comics will not appear in newspapers for a few weeks. In the meantime, Shtinky will be active on social media helping to raise more awareness for animals.
Our thoughts, prayers, and actions are with Australia.