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Off the Beaten Career Path

A Shrinking Drawing Board for Cartoonists

Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page K01

What do you get when you cross "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Isaac Bashevis Singer?

You get cartoonist Barry Deutsch's latest project, an online comic book called "Hereville," about "the magical adventures of a 12-year-old Hasidic girl fighting monsters."

Deutsch, 36, is best known as the creator of the left-wing political comic strip "Ampersand," which began in the Portland State University student newspaper in the late 1990s. The weekly strip won two Oregon Newspaper Association awards and the Charles M. Schulz award for college newspaper cartoonists.

While Deutsch, of Portland, got his start with political cartoons, he has mostly moved on to other things, including the "Hereville" contribution to Girlamatic.com, a subscriber-based online comic magazine.

He still draws a regular political cartoon for "Dollars & Sense," a leftist economics magazine.

Deutsch works eight to 20 hours a week on cartoons, more if you include research. (He also works as a wedding coordinator.)

Deutsch has taken numerous college-level art classes, including a few at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he studied with Will Eisner, "one of the greatest cartoonists of all time." (Eisner created the venerable "Spirit" comic published in newspapers from 1940 to 1952. World War II veterans may also recognize him as the hand behind cartoons distributed by the government to boost soldiers' morale.)

The pursuit of a career in comics is arduous, Deutsch said. "Right now, the comics industry is in terrible shape. Many of the most talented cartoonists out there -- people like [fellow Girlamatic cartoonist] Jenn Manley Lee . . . have never earned a full-time living as a cartoonist. There's no longer an infrastructure to support more than a tiny number of up-and-coming cartoonists, which is unfortunate, because the talent base out there is enormous."

-- Mary Ellen Slayter

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