New comic strip `F Minus' is a plus for The Sun

January 01, 2007|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Sun reporter

Hello, F Minus. Goodbye, FoxTrot.

A new comic strip - F Minus - makes its debut in The Sun today. Tony Carrillo's off-kilter look at everyday life is replacing FoxTrot Monday through Saturday. (Bill Amend, FoxTrot's creator, recently announced that his strip will run only on Sundays, allowing him time to pursue other interests.)

"It's dry, a little bit deadpan, kind of sarcastic," Carrillo, 25, says of his strip, which today appears on Page 6C. "I try to stay away from precious moments. ... Lots of comics out there go for the sweet [view of life]. I prefer to go for the sour."

F Minus had its sour beginnings when Carrillo was an art major at Arizona State University in Tempe. His passion for drawing prompted him to develop the cartoon, which the college's newspaper, The State Press, carried for two years.

Carrillo's big break arrived in 2004 when he won the inaugural online comic strip contest by mtvU, MTV's 24-hour college network. More than 200,000 online votes were counted, and Carrillo beat out hundreds of college students.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, was one of the judges, and the prize was a six-month development deal with United Feature Syndicate. F Minus went into syndication about a year ago.

So far, more than 70 newspapers have picked up the strip. Lisa Wilson, general manager of syndication for United Media, which owns United Feature Syndicate, says, "It skews kind of young. It's perfect for that [18-to-34-year-old] demographic newspapers are trying to reach."

Carrillo, who lives in his native Arizona, says he simply tries to make every comic panel funny to himself.

"If I stick to things that make me laugh, there's going to be other people who think it's funny as well," he says.

He says he avoids the obvious joke. And he doesn't like punch lines.

"I don't want political humor or pop culture humor," Carrillo says. "In 10 years, those comics aren't going to make any sense. I want my comics to be funny 10, 20 years from now."

carl.schoettler@baltsun.com

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