Friday, January 2, 2015

N&R announces new daily comic; artist got his start here

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“Non Sequitur” joins the News & Record’s daily comics lineup today, marking a homecoming of sorts for its creator.
“The News & Record was my first newspaper job and where I started my career,” said Wiley Miller, 63.

“I really enjoyed that time learning the newspaper industry,” said Miller, who went by David Miller when he worked as a staff artist for the Greensboro Record, the afternoon newspaper, from 1976 to 1978.
The city editor at that time, Alfred Hamilton, fondly remembers Miller.
“I knew almost from Day 1 this was something out of the ordinary as far as talent,” said Hamilton, 71. “I knew he was special.”
Hamilton still has some of Miller’s artwork from his time in Greensboro. A favorite depicts former Tar Heel coach Dean Smith with all of the ACC mascots.
Some local kids got a keepsake from the cartoonist after he visited their school in 1978.
After receiving a batch of thank-you notes from the third-graders, Wiley made each student a 5-by-7- inch cartoon.
“Non Sequitur,” which already runs in the Sunday comics section, received 74 percent of the votes in the News & Record’s survey to pick a replacement for the daily “Doonesbury,” now in reruns.
The Sunday “Doonesbury” will continue.
A California native, Miller also grew up in Washington and attended Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I was one of those kids who was always drawing in class as a youngster, getting in trouble,” he said. “I loved art as far back as I can remember.”
He was the cartoonist for his high school newspaper.
“I remember fighting with my two brothers over who got the comics section of the newspaper to read first,” Miller said.
After living in California for a while, he moved to Richmond when he got married and then to Greensboro.
Miller left the Record in 1978 to take a newspaper position in northern California as a staff artist and editorial cartoonist, and his work became syndicated not long after. He worked at several newspapers over the years across the United States, , as well as independently.
Miller created his first comic strip, “Fenton,” in 1982 and launched “Non Sequitur” in 1992.
“I decided to take all my past work as a magazine gag cartoonist, newspaper cartoonist and editorial cartoonist and mix it together,” he said of “Non Sequitur.”
The strip was turned down by all major syndicates except the Washington Post Writers Group.
“It was an immediate hit,” Miller said.
He described “Non Sequitur” as “all over the place,” sometimes including dialogue and sometimes not.
“One week it may be a single panel gag and editorial in nature the next,” Miller said. “This concept lets me go wherever my creativity takes me.”
He said he enjoys not knowing what’s coming next.
“It’s fun creating by the seat of my pants and seeing where it goes,” Miller said. “If you get bored, it will show in your work.”
Miller, who lives in Maine, has won many awards over the years for his cartoon work, but his proudest accomplishment is receiving the coveted National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in May.
“It’s the Oscars of our profession, the highest honor,” Miller said. “I was so surprised and honored.”
While Miller said creating “Non Sequitur” keeps him working seven days a week, he makes time to enjoy a walk with his wife and dogs every morning, spoil his first grandchild who recently turned 1 and play a little racquetball at night.
He also found the time to write a series of children’s books based on one of his Sunday strips, and the books are being turned into an animated film, “The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil.” Miller said he looks forward to working with animators on that project.
Miller said he doesn’t see retirement in his future any time soon, as he continuously receives mail from readers begging him not to end his comic strip.
“This is a profession you don’t retire from; it’s something you die from,” he said with a laugh. “This isn’t a job, but it’s what we are; it’s who we are.”
Contact Jennifer Atkins Brown at (336) 574-5582.
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