RIPLEY - Kids today can still find their dream and achieve it if they will commit themselves to work, study, learn and try as best as they are able ... or is that "Abel?"
Duane Abel, the creator of the weekly comic strip "Zed," brought a message of hope and optimism to Ripley Central School students last Wednesday, Oct. 10 in his presentation, "Draw Your Own Destiny."
The hardest thing kids face today is "self entitlement," Abel said in an interview before his presentation.
Photo by David Prenatt
Duane Abel, the creator of the weekly comic strip “Zed,” brought a message of hope and optimism to Ripley Central School on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
"They feel they need everything handed to them," he said. "Kids need to know there is no substitute for hard work when it comes to achieving your dreams. Talent won't get you there. Luck won't get you there. Who you know won't get you there. Only hard work will win out."
Abel should know. He had his first cartoon published in the local newspaper when he was 10 years old. He created "Zed" when he was 15, getting it published in the local newspaper.
"I said, 'This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life,'" he said. "It's not talent, it's guts. You have to have guts to put yourself out there."
Abel became the youngest cartoonist in history to be syndicated when he signed with Future Features Syndicate shortly after creating "Zed." He continued to promote "Zed" while he pursued a theatrical degree from the University of Akron. At the age of 25, he then founded his own publishing company, "Corkey Comic," which takes its name from his nickname for his wife, Coral.
It all comes down to four words Abel said have shaped his life. As a teenager, he sent letters to all his favorite cartoonists asking for advice. One day he received a small card "no bigger than a baseball card." It came from Bud Blake, the creator of the strip, "Tiger." On it was written, "Work, Study, Learn and Try."
"My wish for all of you is that you find something you love to do and you use these words to achieve it," Abel told Ripley students in grades seven through 12. "Many adults hate their jobs, because they did not commit themselves to following their dream."
Once students find their passion, they must actively pursue it, Abel said. This is why "work" is so critical.
"Whatever your dream is, you should be working toward it every single day," he said.
One then needs to commit oneself to studying.
"Study your passion," Abel said. "Study everything around you to make yourself a better person. Study and listen and watch everything around you."
Abel told the students the most important thing in his wallet is his library card, because it's where he goes to learn.
"This word is so important," he said. "Learn everything you need to have the dream job you will love."
"Try" is the most important word of all, Abel said.
"Whatever your goal may be, you can never give up," he said. "I never wanted to give up."
But who is this "Zed" who has been Abel's passion?
"He is walking, talking dryer lint," Abel said with a laugh. "My drawing board was always in the basement beside the washer and dryer."
Abel said he has a very personal relationship with Zed.
"I've known him longer than my wife or my kids," he said. "Zed is the icing on the cake. It's not satire. It's not political. It's a wholesome, family comic strip. Zed is the kind of guy I wish I could be - hopeful, optimistic and wide-eyed. He is just about the best friend I could have."
Abel lives in Carrolton, Ohio, with his wife and his two sons, Zackie and Clayton.
"Luckily, they have no desire to be cartoonist," he said.
He intends to keep writing "Zed" throughout his lifetime. He noted a cartoonist named Russell Johnson wrote a strip named "Mr. Oswald" for 65 years until he was 95 years old.
"I think I can beat that," Abel said.
"Zed" has been compiled into four books so far. A Christmas book will be out in less than two weeks.
"I would love for 'Zed' to be an animated show or to be on Broadway," he said. "Anything to get people to know Zed, but to keep it on a grassroots level.
"The great thing about drawing a great cartoon is that you don't have to be a great artist, but a great writer," Abel told the students. "I was so confident in my own skin. I was so happy with who I was that I did not care what others thought of me."