Cartoonist Chad Carpenter celebrates 30 years of Tundra comics

Cartoonist Chad Carpenter celebrates 30 years of Tundra comics
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:39 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Since he started putting pen to paper, cartoonist Chad Carpenter has always loved to draw and with nearly 10,000 comic strips under his belt, he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Carpenter said he decided he wanted to become a cartoonist at the age of 11 after he saw his first Garfield book.

“I kind of concentrated on thinking about how to do that. Grew up here in Alaska, so I didn’t have other cartoonists to really, you know, help me,” he said.

After graduating high school, Carpenter moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he met some very well-known cartoonists who helped get his career pointed in the right direction.

By 1991, Carpenter’s life was back in Alaska, where his comic strip Tundra was officially born.

“I wanted to come up with a one-word title that would, basically kind of encompass what Alaska, you know — when you hear Tundra, you think of Alaska and kind of keep it simple,” he said.

Over the years, Carpenter said his drawings have evolved and he’s always trying to perfect his craft, not to mention keeping up with the times and technology.

“When I first started there was hardly any cell phones, and so I hardly did any cell phone-type cartoons,” he said. “But as things change, it’s like ‘Oh I can delve into that world,’ I can change that and how the language changes.”

This year marks Carpenter’s 30th anniversary creating Tundra comics. His new book is filled with some of his favorite comic strips from over the years and also includes a full-circle moment — the foreword is written by Garfield creator, Jim Davis.

“Because of him, that got me started, so that really is kind of a nice little touch there,” Carpenter said. “Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.”

When it comes to the characters in his comic strips, Carpenter likes to draw what people can identify with, which is mainly Alaskan animals and scenarios with a funny twist. He said, uninterrupted he can draw a comic strip in 10 minutes, but getting the idea can take anywhere from a full day or it could be as fast as five minutes. You might also notice more of one animal in his comics than all the others.

“Bears are my favorite to draw, and the bears have the best — they just have such great character,” he said.

Carpenter also has a favorite comic strip.

“My ‘play dead’ cartoon, which is a bear, involves a bear and a couple hikers,” he said. “I think that’s my all-time favorite one ... it’s just two words, the whole picture says it all, and I like the way it came out.”

Tundra is syndicated in more than 500 newspapers around the country, and Carpenter has released 30 books featuring the comic strips. His merchandise has expanded to calendars, games, steel thermal mugs and much more.

Even after all these years, Carpenter said he’s still amazed at how many people are surprised he lives in Alaska.

“They just assume that I’m drawing it out of California or something,” he said. “It’s like yeah this is... this is home.”

Carpenter has a booth set up inside the Dimond Center Mall on the main floor, near the bottom of the escalators. He said he will be there through Dec. 24 during mall hours.