Need more 'Quality Time'? Check the comics

June 14, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

So this little girl in nursery school turns to the teacher and cries, "Mrs. Webster! Nathan is eating the endangered animal cookies!"

Welcome to the world of "Quality Time," a daily cartoon panel that begins today in The Sun.

Penned by Gail Machlis, a San Francisco writer and artist, the panel explores "the world of young professionals, their conflicts and ambitions," according to the Chronicle Features syndicate.

But Ms. Machlis says it often explores her own experiences, too.

"Most of the cartoons are not my personal life, exactly," she says. "But in part, it comes from being in a life that I don't feel completely a part of.

"Sometimes I feel like an onlooker."

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (majoring in French), Ms. Machlis went on to do graduate work at the Sorbonne in France and Mills College in Oakland.

"If you know anything about Berkeley, you know it's kind of out on the edge of things, trends," she recalls.

Yet several years ago she found herself surprisingly ensconced in the kind of comfortable life to which you might apply the cliche "yuppie."

Married to Don Brown, a periodontist, she was a mother with two kids. (Kyla and Liza are now 9 and 5, respectively, and get paid occasionally when their experiences end up in the cartoon, the author says.)

"When I was at Mills, I just did these cartoons that people seemed to like. I loved doing it, and thought, 'What if I turn it into something?' So I hired a baby sitter and gave myself the time to do a five-year plan."

She began by sending cartoons off to the New Yorker, whose well-established style of cartoon social commentary she admired.

"Two weeks after I got the rejections from New Yorker, I'd send them on out to others," she recalls.

An editor at the Sunday Punch section of the San Francisco Chronicle liked them, and in January 1989 "Quality Time" began appearing there weekly.

Two years later, the paper's Chronicle Features syndicate began distributing it, still weekly, and last October the syndicate prevailed upon her to make it daily.

The panel appears in the Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Seattle Times, among others.

In The Sun, Ms. Machlis' panel replaces the "Pluggers" cartoon.

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