Eno L. Camino and his talking dog, Fang, lie side by side on the roof, staring up at the stars, pondering life’s imponderables.
Eno opines that the worst thing about being human is pants.
The worst part about doghood for Fang? “Paws really limit my range of rude hand gestures.”
The loopy duo live in “The Duplex,” a comic strip by Glenn McCoy. While cartoonist Darby Conley is taking a break from his daily “Get Fuzzy” strips, Eno, Fang and friends will take its place. New “Get Fuzzy” strips will continue to run each Sunday.
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McCoy, 49, is an award-winning cartoonist based in Belleville, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Laura, and their two youngsters, Molly and Jack. He has also gained national recognition as a conservative editorial cartoonist, but he says he likes to keep “The Duplex” a politics-free zone.
“People who are familiar with my editorial cartoons may look for politics in the strip, but they will be hard-pressed to find any,” McCoy says. “In the strip I just want to make people laugh.”
As an introduction, here are edited excerpts of our recent conversation with McCoy:
Q. How did you come up with your main man, Eno?
A. I drew this character in my sketch book, and he looked funny, like he had a lot of personality. And I immediately knew what kind of person he would be. That was Eno.
The next step in the process was to put him in an environment where he would be his funniest. I thought I should put him close to a woman he would always be trying to pick up.
Thus the duplex for proximity.
Yes, when I was streamlining the idea, it went from an apartment building down to a two-family dwelling. That way when these worlds collide there’s just a slab of drywall that separates them.
I have “duplex” on my license plates, kind of an ego trip. I figured people would say, “There goes the writer of ‘The Duplex’ comic strip,” but actually everyone thinks I’m in real estate.
How do you explain Eno L. Camino’s name?
It has an obvious ring to it, doesn’t it? The Eno part: I had a great-uncle named Eno. I liked the name, and it was different enough to stand out. But the similarities end there. I don’t want to besmirch my great uncle.
And Eno spells “one” backwards. I don’t know if that means anything.
Doesn’t the strip mostly focus on Eno and his dog, Fang, and not so much on the neighbors, Gina and her poodle, Mitzi?
It was supposed to be more of a 50-50 kind of thing with the duplex, but I quickly realized I’m not as deeply in touch with my feminine side as I need to be.
It’s morphed more into a buddy kind of dynamic with Eno and Fang. I like Fang’s duality. He’ll drink out of the toilet or dig in the yard, but he can also intellectualize and point out how Eno and others of his caliber aren’t too much higher on the evolutionary ladder.
What breed is Fang? It’s sort of hard to tell.
I think at one point I said he was a pit bull. I don’t know why. I’ve loved dogs my whole life, but I’ve never owned a pit bull.
Were you one of those kids who doodled and drew stuff all the time?
Yes, I was the one who drew all day. My school notebooks had many more drawings in them than notes. Even today when I’m not working on a paying job, to relax or wind down or on vacation I still sketch. There’s something therapeutic about it.
Where did the drawing bug come from?
I have an older brother Gary who also draws. He’s a cartoonist, and we work on another comic feature called “The Flying McCoys.” You always want to do what your big brother is doing.
And I had a grandfather who drew and who was very funny. He got me started drawing. He sat me down at his kitchen table when I was about 4. He placed a blank piece of paper in front of me, and he would have his own piece of paper. He would draw a line, and I would draw that line, until we each had a drawing of a naked woman. That was his way of teaching me to draw.
That’s how I’m teaching my son to draw, sans the naked woman.
What was your first big-boy job?
I was the art director for my hometown newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat. That job entailed a lot of page design, making maps, that kind of stuff.
I think eventually my boss realized I wasn’t very good at maps. Readers kept getting lost. He recognized my aptitude was more along the lines of drawing funny people pictures with large noses. He gave me the job of editorial cartoonist.
From that point the world sort of opened up to me. I wanted to explore every type of cartooning I could.
Were you inspired by other cartoonists?
The list is long, but some primary ones jump out. Charles Schulz is probably the most important and influential comic strip artists of all time, and I was fortunate enough to get to know him.
I was weaned on Charlie Brown books. I remember my brother Gary and I just poring over those books. We’d laugh at the cartoons, but we even sort of studied how the strips were structured, how he’d use the third panel out of four to time the punchline. And we’d memorize some of those punchlines and throw them back at my mom.
And Jeff MacNelly and Pat Oliphant are the two big editorial cartoonists who influenced me. Every young cartoonist tries to imitate Jeff MacNelly before they realize it’s futile. Then they develop their own style, and that’s what I did.
Where else could we see your work?
I’ve done several children’s books. “Penny Lee and Her TV” was my first. I’ve done greeting cards. I’ve worked on television projects for Nickelodeon and Disney. I do writing, character design and storyboards for movies, on “Ice Age,” “The Lorax,” “Despicable Me.” And I illustrate books for other authors. I just draw a lot.
For Kansas City Star readers, “The Duplex” will be the new strip. But I’m sure you realize you’ve been drawing it for 21 years, right?
(Gulp.) I know how Eno thinks so well now that I’m just trying to drop him in different situations. Even though it’s been that many years, I feel that the strip is just starting to fire now.