Newspaper Cartoonist Drawn Into Television, Movie Deals By CARLOS MARTINEZ Staff Reporter Steve Moore always liked to doodle. So when the then-reporter for the Maui News started a sports-related comic strip to break up the tedium on the statistics page of his paper’s sports section, even Moore’s colleagues knew he was on to something. Today, Moore’s “In the Bleachers” comic strip is in more than 200 newspapers nationwide with plans for a half-hour animated series on ESPN and films for Moore’s other projects. “I really had no formal training and I just took it up because I liked to draw and it kind of grew from there,” said Moore, a La Canada Flintridge native and a longtime resident. Moore’s recent deal to write the “In the Bleachers” TV show is the latest in a series of moves pushing the writer’s work into television and films. Earlier this year, Moore signed a deal with Sony Pictures to write “Open Season,” a film featuring three-dimensional computer animation, like “Shrek,” and “Toy Story.” That followed another deal with the British Broadcasting Corp. to produce a children’s show, called “Metalheads,” about a bunch of odd teenagers who live in a castle in the middle ages. “But the comic strip is the one that gets all the attention,” Moore said. “It’s the beast I have to feed every day.” Unlike top cartoonists like Jim Davis, who created Garfield, and the late Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts who employed several artists, Moore draws his strip every day for an estimated 200 newspapers around country. “I’m pretty much it,” Moore said with a shrug. “I have to work every day to keep things going. There are very few cartoonists that don’t have to.” Unusual deal Moore’s jump from newspaper comic strip to television is highly unusual, said Candy Monteiro, a talent agent and partner with the Monteiro Rose Talent Agency in Woodland Hills. “It’s very difficult to peak the interest of Hollywood unless you have a lot of motivation and talent,” she said. Marty Krofft, veteran children’s television producer, said cartoonists, like others must show how unique their characters and concepts are if they hope to get deals in Hollywood. “You have to show that you have something that people will respond to like great characters and great story ideas,” he said. Born in Denver, Moore grew up in La Canada Flintridge where he attended St. Francis High School before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Oregon State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Oregon University. “I did political cartoons back in college, when I worked for the campus newspaper,” he said. “I always loved Mad Magazine and Don Martin, but when I ran into cartoonist B. Kliban I saw that it was my kind of humor and I loved that offbeat stuff,” he said. Bernard Kliban, who went by the name B. Kliban, was famed for his unusual cartoons in Playboy and in his own books featuring drawings of cats. After working at a twice weekly newspaper in Oregon, where he was a reporter and occasionally did story illustrations, Moore moved to the Maui News before getting a job at the Los Angeles Times in 1985. By then, “In the Bleachers” had begun blossoming and Moore was hailed as an editor who could also draw a comic strip. “Around that time ‘The Far Side’ had already started and Gary Larsen had kicked open the door for that kind of humor,” Moore said. Moore’s comic strip focused on the unusual related to sports themes in some way. Juggling jobs By 1996, Moore had grown weary of writing and editing news stories during the day and drawing his comic strip at night. The task of producing a comic strip that ran daily in more than 200 newspapers was becoming a difficult chore for Moore who was already dealing with having enough time to devote to his wife and small children. “I was already thinking about getting a show made about In the Bleachers, but it seemed a long way off at the time,” he said. But last year, Moore met with veteran animation producer John Carls who took an interest in Moore’s off-the-wall comic strip and immediately saw the potential of developing a half-hour television show based on the strip. “I saw it as something that would work for ESPN,” Carls said. Although a decision is still pending for the show, Carls said it will feature similar humor as that used on the comic strip, but with recurring characters. “On the show you have to have recurring characters or it won’t work as well,” he said. Carls and Moore have also teamed up for the animated film “Flushed Away,” now in development at Dreamworks.