Cartoon Commentarian

Undaunted by rejections of his counterculture comic, Alex's Restaurant, Peter Sinclair just kept on drawing

| September-October 1999

Peter Sinclair sits in his basement office, flanked by the two crucial elements of his trade. On one side is a drawing table with its clutter of papers, a finely tipped brush, and an open bottle of ink. They are the tools of a cartoonist, the kind that have been used for as long as people have been drawing cartoons.

Along the opposite wall is a high-speed computer with a scanner and electronic drawing pad. Without it—and the Web access it provides—Sinclair's cartoon strip might have died a quiet death following its brief syndication in the mainstream press nearly a decade ago.

But the "100 percent natural, holistic, organic" strip called Alex's Restaurant didn't die. Technology, and Sinclair's persistent belief that his strip sheds comic light on a profound cultural shift, kept it alive.

The son of political activists, Sinclair grew up in Midland, Michigan, about 130 miles north of Detroit. Now 46, he lives there still with his wife and two children in a solidly middle-class ranch house featuring a large, well-tended garden—broccoli, squash, tomatoes, a large berry patch.

Downstairs, with the low rumble of clothes tumbling around the dryer providing background noise, Sinclair tells how his passion for drawing collided with economic realities after his college years in Ann Arbor, and how he satisfied himself with submitting political cartoons to the local daily while working as a paramedic. He even considered a job as an editorial cartoonist for a newspaper in upstate New York.

Then the inspiration for Alex's Restaurant hit, and "I decided the real money is in cartoon strips," says Sinclair, laughing.