- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Every once in awhile, something comes along to shake up the everyday world, and this week it’s the announcement that Eugene cartoonist Jan Eliot is ending daily production of her locally grown and widely syndicated “Stone Soup” comic.

It’s that sort of good news-bad news scenario: Sisters Val and Joan and all their kith and kin - second husbands, feisty mom with the much-younger beau, kids with all their perversities and even a dog named Biscuit - will still be in full-color print on Sundays, but the last week of the daily black-and-white frames will run the week of Oct. 12.

Eliot could not immediately be reached for comment. But according to a news release from her syndicate, Universal Uclick, Eliot simply wants more time for herself.

“Every Monday morning, there it is, the blank paper that represents the seven comic strips that need to be created,” Eliot said in the news release. “I have reached a point in life where I’d like to be free of these daily deadlines - free to travel more, spend more time with family and friends, pursue other creative projects.”

Those could include writing, photography, marine science and scientific illustration, “but most of all, I’m looking forward to having just one great cartoon to create every week, to linger over the drawing and ideas and savor the fun of it.”

After all, she’s been at it for at least 25 years.

Before achieving syndication fame, Eliot was a single mom - a staple theme of the comic strip - working full-time, raising two daughters and trying to get off the ground a comic strip that resonated with people who understand that situation.

Her first effort was called “Patience and Sarah,” about a single mom and her daughter, that ran in 10 weekly and monthly newspapers.

Then, while working as a copywriter and graphic designer, she created “Sister City,” which appeared in The Register-Guard for five years. Then “Stone Soup” came along and was picked up in 1995 by University Uclick’s own previous incarnation, Universal Press Syndicate.

By now, life has changed for both Eliot and the strip; like Val and Joan, the real-life artist has remarried, and her own daughters are grown with families of their own. Eliot was born in 1950.

According to Universal Uclick, “Stone Soup” has a faithful following in more than 250 publications worldwide.

“For 20 years, I have held the most wonderful job in the world - making a living in art, creating a daily comic strip that I’m privileged to see published in newspapers,” Eliot told Uclick. “As someone who grew up fascinated by newspaper and magazine cartoons, it is hard to explain the private thrill I get seeing my strip on the funny page, hearing someone comment about it, receiving fan mail.”

But, like any job, even cartooning can become a day-to-day grind.

“It may seem like a small task, creating one cartoon a day, but it is herculean in many ways,” Eliot said. “The pressure to be good enough, funny enough, to create interesting-enough drawings, live up to the standards of great cartoonists I admire and share the comics page with, is not a small thing.”

Having been there herself, Eliot knows that one of the strengths of “Stone Soup” has been its art-imitating-life aspect, giving other single women who work, raise kids and try to make ends meet a way to celebrate their own accomplishments while enjoying the comparison - and humor - in Eliot’s graphic portrayal of their common bond.

Despite the nonstop effort, “I thought long and hard about relinquishing my daily spot on the funny pages,” Eliot said. “I fought to get there, after all. But 20 years is a long time, especially when it comes after my previous incarnations.”

Those, she said, included working “as a waitress, car salesperson, bookmobile driver, community college instructor, graphic designer and copywriter,” all of which contributed to her ability to connect with women in similar situations.

“I am not at all ready to give up my Stone Soup family, which is why I am looking forward to continuing the Sunday strips,” Eliot told Universal Uclick. “I am very grateful I have the opportunity to do that, and I hope my fans will continue to follow the fun and chaos of the Stone clan.”


Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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