Stephan Pastis

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Stephan Pastis
Stephan Pastis.jpg
Stephan Thomas Pastis

(1968-01-16) January 16, 1968 (age 53)
Alma materUniversity Of California, Berkeley; UCLA School of Law
OccupationInsurance defense litigation attorney (1993–2002)
Cartoonist of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine (2000–present)

Stephan Thomas Pastis (/ˈstɛfən ˈpæstɪs/;[2] born January 16, 1968) is an American cartoonist and former lawyer who is the creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. He also writes children's chapter books, commencing with the release of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made all the way through the seventh book, It's the End When I Say It's the End,[3] which debuted at #4 on The New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Middle Grade Books.[4]


Pastis was raised in San Marino, California.[5] He started cartooning as a child; his mother brought him pens and paper to amuse him when he was "sick a lot" and had to stay in bed. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, earning a B.A. in Political Science in 1989. The following year Pastis attended law school at UCLA, where he received his J.D.[6][7] He kept drawing all during this time, coming up with the first Pearls Before Swine character, Rat, during what he said was a boring class in law school.[8]

When I wrote for him [Rat] it seemed pretty honest. It was the first character where I could really say what's on my mind. When I put it on paper, it's my voice. So it works for me.[9]

From 1993 to 2002, Pastis was an insurance defense litigation attorney in the San Francisco Bay area, but quickly became disenchanted with the legal profession. He did not like its adversarial nature, nor "the anxiety and tension it produced,"[8] so in the mid-1990s he revisited his earlier ambition of becoming a syndicated cartoonist by submitting various concepts to syndication agencies. The Infirm,[10] Rat[11] and Bradbury Road,[12] as well as others, were repeatedly rejected.

Pearls Before Swine[edit]

The character of Rat came from Pastis's earlier strip, Rat. The character of Pig, who is Rat's opposite, had been featured in The Infirm, which was about an attorney who numbered an evil pig farmer among his clients. Although Pastis had developed the characters, they were still just stick figures with jokes. One day in 1996, Pastis drove to an ice rink in Santa Rosa where Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, had his coffee every day. The meeting did not begin auspiciously, since Pastis blurted out: "Hi, Sparky [Schulz's nickname], my name is Stephan Pastis and I'm a lawyer." Schulz turned pale; he thought Pastis was there to serve him with a subpoena. However, he recovered, and Pastis remembers Schulz's graciousness:

I was a total stranger to him, and he let me sit down at his table and we talked for an hour. I took a picture with him. He looked at some of the strips that I had been doing and gave me some tips. Man, I was on cloud nine.[5]

In addition to Peanuts, Pastis drew inspiration from Dilbert.

What worked for me personally was to study the writing of Dilbert. I just bought a bunch of Dilbert books and studied how to write a 3-panel strip. Then I showed them to a group of people who were acquaintances (but not quite friends) in order to get their honest assessment of which ones were funny and which ones weren't. As to the ins and outs of getting syndicated, I bought a book called Your Career in the Comics by Lee Nordling.[13]

Pastis drew about 200 strips for the new comic and selected 40 of the best, but fearing more rejection, let them sit on the counter in his basement for the next two years. It was not until 1999, when he visited the grave of a college friend who had been a free spirit and had encouraged him to be the same, that he overcame his fear and submitted them to three different syndicates, including United Features. United took the unprecedented step of first running the strips on its Internet site to gauge reader response. When Scott Adams, Dilbert's creator, whom Pastis had never met, endorsed the strip the response "went through the roof".[9]

Pastis also credits Get Fuzzy cartoonist Darby Conley with contributing to the development of the strip. They met through their syndication attorney, and Conley taught him how to color the Sunday strips and add gray tones to the dailies.[9]

Eight months afterwards, Pastis gleefully quit his law practice.[8] Pastis attributes his dissatisfaction with the law in being helpful insofar that "humor is a reaction to and defense against unhappiness",[8] and that wanting to get out of his job provided him with the impetus to create better comic strips so that he could get selected for syndication.[9]

Fifteen years later, Pearls was still one of the fastest-growing comic strips, appearing in more than 650 newspapers worldwide.[13] Pastis generally works five to nine months ahead of deadline, a rarity in the world of newspaper comics.[14]

Pastis lives in Santa Rosa, California, with his wife and two children, where he is on the board of the Charles Schulz Museum, helping with merchandising rights issues and answering questions about Peanuts.

Schulz is to comic strips what Marlon Brando was to acting. It was so revolutionary. Before ‘Peanuts,’ the writing was physical, over the top, but Sparky goes inside the soul. His influence on me is enormous. I’ve taken his backgrounds, the front porch, the beach and the TV beanbag. Rat is Lucy, Goat is Linus and Pig is Charlie Brown. Sparky is a template, whether or not you know it, he’s the template.[15]

In 2011, Pastis cowrote the Peanuts special Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown.

In June 2014, Pastis collaborated with Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, to do a week-long story line in which a second-grade girl named "Libby" wrote a few of Pastis's cartoon frames for him. After the strips were published, Pastis revealed that the artwork for three of the strips[16][17][18] was in fact drawn by Watterson.[19] In the last cartoon of the sequence, Libby explains to Pastis that she would not continue drawing comic strips, saying that "There's a magical world out there," a reference to the words spoken by Calvin in the final strip of Calvin and Hobbes.[20]


Pastis's first treasury, Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic, was published in 2004. In addition to the content of the previous books, BLTs Taste So Darn Good and This Little Piggy Stayed Home, and Sunday strips in full color, Pastis included responses from readers and a section in which he explained why certain strips were not successful, and how he would have corrected the content. He continues to release the treasuries at the rate of about one every two years, with his ninth one, Pearls Hogs the Road, released in 2017. Each book in the series is subtitled "A Pearls Before Swine Treasury".

  1. Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic (September 2004, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 0-7407-4807-6)
  2. Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My! (September 2006, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 0-7407-6155-2)
  3. The Crass Menagerie (April 2008, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 0-7407-7100-0)
  4. Pearls Sells Out (August 2009, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 0-7407-7396-8)
  5. " Pearls Gets Sacrificed" (September 2015)
  6. Pearls Hogs the Road (April 2017, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 1-4494-8366-6)
  7. Pearls Takes A Wrong Turn (October 2018, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 1-4494-8936-2)
  8. Pearls Goes Hollywood (March 24, 2020, Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 1-5248-5561-8)

Timmy Failure[edit]

On February 25, 2013, Stephan Pastis released his first book aimed at younger readers, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, from Candlewick Press. Modeled after the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Timmy Failure follows the exploits of a young soon to be detective and his polar bear friend, Total, as they solve crimes in their local neighbourhood. A sequel titled Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done was released on February 25, 2014. A third book, Timmy Failure: We Meet Again, was released on October 28, 2014. The fourth book, Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection was released on October 6, 2015. The fifth book, Timmy Failure: The Book You're Not Supposed To Have, was released on September 27, 2016. The sixth book, Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants was released on April 25, 2017 and the seventh book, Timmy Failure: It's The End When I Say It's The End was released in September 2018 which was said to be the end of Timmy Failure.

  1. Mistakes Were Made (February 2013)
  2. Now Look What You've Done (February 2014)
  3. We Meet Again (October 2014)
  4. Sanitized For Your Protection (October 2015)
  5. The Book You're Not Supposed To Have (September 2016)
  6. The Cat Stole My Pants (April 2017)
  7. It's The End When I Say It's The End (September 2018)

Film adaptation[edit]

In April 2017, Disney started work on a Timmy Failure movie with Tom McCarthy directing and co-writing with Pastis.[21] The film was released on Disney's family-oriented streaming service Disney+ in January 2020.[22] The film was shot from July to September 2018 in Portland, Oregon.[23]


Pastis was nominated for the National Cartoonists Society Newspaper Comic Strip Award for 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. He won the 2003 and 2006 awards. He was also nominated for The National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year for every year since 2008. Pastis won the 2018 Reuben Award.[24]


  1. ^ "Stephan T Pastis, Born 01/16/1968 in California |". Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  2. ^ Pearls Blows Up, a Pearls Before Swine film by Stephan Pastis
  3. ^ Cavna, Michael (February 25, 2013). "'Pearls Before Swine' creator takes on Timmy Failure in new series of kids' books". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 15, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  4. ^ "Best Sellers: Children's Middle Grade". The New York Times. March 17, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Hartlaub, Peter (September 16, 2005). "Cartoonist Stephan Pastis cast aside his career in law to put Pearls on the comics page". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  6. ^ "Stephan Thomas Pastis – #168717". Attorney Search. The State Bar of California. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  7. ^ Pastis, Stephan (March 18, 2011). "Comic for March 18, 2011". Pearls Before Swine. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d "Interview: Stephan Pastis: Attorney Turned Cartoonist". JDBliss. November 2006. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d Smith, Richard L. (2006). "Stephan Pastis: Animal Attitude". Crescent Blues. 9 (1). Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  10. ^ "Cartoons and Funnies – The Infirm". Archived from the original on September 5, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  11. ^ Pastis, Stephan (2004). Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7407-4807-3.
  12. ^ "Cartoons and Funnies – Bradbury Road". Archived from the original on September 5, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Pastis, Stephan (30 December 2008). "About". The Official Pearls Before Swine Blog. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  14. ^ Pastis, Stephan (April 27, 2009). "About". The Official Pearls Before Swine Blog. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  15. ^ Dreesen, Kathleen (September 2, 2006). "A pig, a rat and a goat". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  16. ^ "Pearls Before Swine". 4 June 2014.
  17. ^ "Pearls Before Swine". 5 June 2014.
  18. ^ "Pearls Before Swine". 6 June 2014.
  19. ^ Stephan Pastis (7 June 2014). "Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did".
  20. ^ Cooper Fleishman (7 June 2014). "'Calvin and Hobbes' creator Bill Watterson's secret return to comics". The Daily Dot.
  21. ^ Kroll, Justin (25 April 2017). "'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy Eyeing 'Timmy Failure' at Disney". Variety. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  22. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (February 8, 2018). "Disney Unveils Inaugural Streaming Service Launch Slate To Town; No R-Rated Fare". Deadline. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Stephan Pastis Wins Reuben Award for 2018 Cartoonist of the Year!". Retrieved May 31, 2021.

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