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  • Cartoons are basically short stories.

  • I tried to find one that didn't have a whole lot of words.

  • Not all of them have happy endings.

  • So how did I get started cartooning?

  • I doodled a lot as a kid,

  • and if you spend enough time doodling,

  • sooner or later, something happens:

  • all your career options run out.

  • So you have to make a living cartooning.

  • Actually, I fell in love with the ocean when I was a little boy,

  • when I was about eight or nine.

  • And I was particularly fascinated with sharks.

  • This is some of my early work.

  • Eventually, my mom took the red crayon away,

  • so it was [unclear].

  • But I'd like to relay to you a childhood experience of mine

  • that really made me see the ocean differently,

  • and it's become the foundation of my work

  • because, I feel like, if in a day,

  • I can see the ocean differently,

  • then I can evoke that same kind of change in others,

  • especially kids.

  • Before that day, this is how I saw the ocean.

  • It's just a big blue surface.

  • And this is how we've seen the ocean since the beginning of time.

  • It's a mystery.

  • There's been a lot of folklore

  • developed around the ocean,

  • mostly negative.

  • And that prompted people to make maps like this,

  • with all kinds of wonderful detail on the land,

  • but when you get to the waters edge,

  • the ocean looks like one giant puddle of blue paint.

  • And this is the way I saw the ocean at school --

  • as if to say, "All geography and science lessons

  • stop at water's edge.

  • This part's not going to be on the test."

  • But that day I flew low over the islands --

  • it was a family trip to the Caribbean,

  • and I flew in a small plane low over the islands.

  • This is what I saw. I saw hills and valleys.

  • I saw forests and meadows.

  • I saw grottoes and secret gardens

  • and places I'd love to hide as a kid,

  • if I could only breathe underwater.

  • And best of all, I saw the animals.

  • I saw a manta ray that looked as big as the plane I was flying in.

  • And I flew over a lagoon with a shark in it,

  • and that was the day that my comic strip about a shark was born.

  • So from that day on, I was an ordinary kid

  • walking around on dry land,

  • but my head was down there, underwater.

  • Up until that day,

  • these were the animals that were most common in my life.

  • These were the ones I'd like to draw --

  • all variations of four legs and fur.

  • But when you got to the ocean,

  • my imagination was no competition for nature.

  • Every time I'd come up with a crazy cartoon character on the drawing board,

  • I'd find a critter in the ocean that was even crazier.

  • And the differences in scale between this tiny sea dragon

  • and this enormous humpback whale

  • was like something out of a science-fiction movie.

  • Whenever I talk to kids, I always like to tell them,

  • the biggest animal that ever lived is still alive.

  • It's not a dinosaur; it's a whale,

  • animals as big as office buildings

  • still swimming around out there in our ocean.

  • Speaking of dinosaurs, sharks are basically

  • the same fish they were 300 million years ago.

  • So if you ever fantasize about going back in time

  • and seeing what a dinosaur looked like,

  • that's what a dinosaur looks like.

  • So you have living dinosaurs

  • and space aliens,

  • animals that evolved in zero gravity in harsh conditions.

  • It's just incredible; no Hollywood designer

  • could come up with something more interesting than that.

  • Or this fangtooth. The particles in the water

  • make it look like it's floating in outer space.

  • Could you image if we looked through the Hubble Telescope

  • and we saw that?

  • It would start a whole new space race.

  • But instead, we stick a camera in the deep ocean,

  • and we see a fish, and it doesn't capture our imagination

  • as a society.

  • We say to ourselves,

  • "Maybe we can make fish sticks with it or something."

  • So, what I'd like to do now

  • is try a little drawing.

  • So, I'm going to try to draw this fangtooth here.

  • I love to draw the deep sea fish,

  • because they are so ugly,

  • but beautiful in their own way.

  • Maybe we can give him a little bioluminescence here --

  • give him a headlight,

  • maybe a brake light,

  • turn signals.

  • But it's easy to see why these animals

  • make such great cartoon characters,

  • their shapes and sizes.

  • So some of them actually seem to have powers

  • like superheroes in a comic book.

  • For instance,

  • take these sea turtles.

  • They kind of have a sixth sense

  • like Superman's x-ray vision.

  • They can sense the magnetic fields of the earth.

  • And they can use that sense

  • to navigate hundreds of miles of open ocean.

  • I kind of give my turtle hands

  • just to make them an easier cartoon character to work with.

  • Or take this sea cucumber.

  • It's not an animal we draw cartoons of

  • or draw at all.

  • He's like an underwater Spiderman.

  • He shoots out these sticky webs

  • to entangle his enemy.

  • Of course, sea cucumbers shoot them out their rears,

  • which, in my opinion, makes them much more interesting a superhero.

  • (Laughter)

  • He can't spin a web anytime; he's got to pull his pants down first.

  • (Laughter)

  • Or the blowfish.

  • The blowfish is like the Incredible Hulk.

  • It can change its body

  • into a big, intimidating fish

  • in a matter of seconds.

  • I'm going to draw this blowfish uninflated.

  • And then I'm going to attempt

  • onscreen animation here.

  • Let's see.

  • Try and inflate it.

  • (Laughter)

  • "You talkin' to me?" See, he can inflate himself

  • when he wants to be intimidating.

  • Or take this swordfish.

  • Could you imagine being born with a tool for a nose?

  • Do you think he wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says,

  • "Somebody's getting stabbed today."

  • Or this lionfish for instance.

  • Imagine trying to make friends

  • covered with razor-sharp poisonous barbs.

  • It's not something you want to put on your Facebook page, right?

  • My characters are --

  • my lead character's a shark named Sherman.

  • He's a great white shark.

  • And I kind of broke the mold with Sherman.

  • I didn't want to go with this ruthless

  • predator image.

  • He's kind of just out there making a living.

  • He's sort of a Homer Simpson with fins.

  • And then his sidekick

  • is a sea turtle, as I mentioned before, named Filmore.

  • He uses his wonderful skills at navigation

  • to wander the oceans, looking for a mate.

  • And he does manage to find them,

  • but great navigation skills, lousy pick-up lines.

  • He never seems

  • to settle on

  • any particular girl.

  • I have a hermit crab named Hawthorne,

  • who doesn't get a lot of respect as a hermit crab,

  • so he kind of wishes

  • he were a great white shark.

  • And then I'll introduce you to one more character,

  • this guy, Ernest,

  • who is basically a juvenile delinquent

  • in a fish body.

  • So with characters, you can make stories.

  • Sometimes making a story is as easy

  • as putting two characters in a room

  • and seeing what happens.

  • So, imagine a great white shark and a giant squid in the same bathroom.

  • (Laughter)

  • Or, sometimes I take them to places

  • that people have never heard of because they're underwater.

  • For instance, I took them skiing in the Mid-Atlantic Range,

  • which is this range of mountains in the middle of the Atlantic.

  • I've taken them to the Sea of Japan,

  • where they met giant jellyfish.

  • I've taken them camping in the kelp forests of California.

  • This next one here,

  • I did a story on the census of marine life.

  • And that was a lot of fun because, as most of you know,

  • it's a real project we've heard about.

  • But it was a chance for me to introduce readers

  • to a lot of crazy undersea characters.

  • So we start off the story with Ernest,

  • who volunteers as a census taker.

  • He goes down and he meets this famous anglerfish.

  • Then he meets the yeti crab,

  • the famous vampire squid -- elusive, hard to find --

  • and the Dumbo octopus, which looks so much like a cartoon in real life

  • that really didn't have to change a thing when I drew it.

  • I did another story on marine debris.

  • I was speaking to a lot of my friends

  • in the conservation business,

  • and they --

  • I asked them, "So what's one issue you would like everyone to know more about?"

  • And they said -- this one friend of mine said,

  • "I've got one word for you: plastic."

  • And I told him, "Well, I need something a little sexier than that.

  • Plastic just is not going to do it."

  • We sort of worked things out.

  • He wanted me to use words like polyvinyl chloride,

  • which doesn't really work in voice balloons very well.

  • I couldn't fit them in.

  • So what I did was I made an adventure strip.

  • Basically, this bottle travels a long way.

  • What I'm trying to tell readers

  • is that plastic doesn't really go away;

  • it just continues to wash downstream.

  • And a lot of it ends up washing into the ocean,

  • which is a great story if you attach a couple characters to it,

  • especially if they can't stand each other, like these two.

  • So, I sent them to Boise, Idaho,

  • where they dropped a plastic bottle

  • into the Boise sewer system.

  • And it ended up in the Boise River

  • and then on to the Columbia River

  • and then to the mouth of the Columbia

  • and to the Pacific Ocean

  • and then on to this place called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch --

  • which is this giant Pacific gyre in the North Pacific,

  • where a lot of this plastic ends up floating around --

  • and then back onto the lagoon.

  • So that was basically a buddy story

  • with a plastic bottle following along.

  • So a lot of people remember the plastic bottle anyway,

  • but we really talked about marine debris and plastic

  • in the course of that one.

  • The third storyline I did about a year and a half ago

  • was probably my most difficult.

  • It was on shark finning, and I felt really strongly

  • about this issue.

  • And I felt like, since my main character was a shark,

  • the comic strip was a perfect vehicle for telling the public about this.

  • Now, finning is the act

  • of taking a shark, cutting the valuable fins off

  • and throwing the live animal back in the water.

  • It's cruel, it's wasteful.

  • There's nothing funny or entertaining about it,

  • but I really wanted to take this issue on.

  • I had to kill my main character, who is a shark.

  • We start with Sherman in a Chinese restaurant,

  • who gets a fortune that he's about to get caught by a trawler,

  • which he does.

  • And then he dies.

  • He gets finned, and then he gets thrown overboard.

  • Ostensibly, he's dead now.

  • And so I killed a character that's been in the newspaper for 15 years.