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Stone Soup Creator Retires After 25 Years Drawing Laughs

Jan Eliot

After 25 years, Jan Eliot, creator of the comic Stone Soup, is retiring. Her final Sunday strip will appear this weekend.

Stone Soup features the adventures of single mom Val, her sister Joan and their extended family. Eliot told KLCC it took her a long time to get her strip published back when she was a single mom of young kids, like her character Val. She said the the local weekly The Willamette Valley Observer picked up an early strip called Patience and Sarah. Then the Register Guard published “Sister City” in its Oregon Life section. Meanwhile, she sent strips to Universal Press Syndicate every six months.  

Credit Jan Eliot

“It took 4 years of lobbying them to convince them that there was enough potential there.” Eliot said. “And, unbeknownst to me, on their end, Calvin and Hobbes was about to retire. So, they were looking for a few new strips to have things to sell when that real estate was empty. So, I lucked out, in ’95 when he retired, I launched. And very fortunately for me, after about six months of working with the syndicate with an introductory packet the strip sold well and I was in enough papers after about six months to quit my day job which was wonderful!”

At its peak, Stone Soup was in 300 papers in six countries. Eliot stopped doing the daily comics five years ago and moved to Sunday only. Eliot said while it was considered a “family” strip, she was able to tackle issues like school funding, health care, job loss and other things that affect families.

I'm so lucky to have been able to be able to have done a creative thing for my career, to be able to make a living through art.

“Initially, I wrote very much out of my life when I was, kind of, Val, Holly and Alex, was kind of my life, a very long time ago.” Eliot said. “I was a divorced working mom with two daughters. But the strip grew really into its own thing and those characters are very much their own people and as I grew the family over time it just took on a life of its own. I tried to keep it very honest and I think it had real appeal because it was a really honest strip.’

Now Eliot is ready to say goodbye to regular deadlines.

“It was a wonderful career. I’m so lucky to be able to have done a creative thing for my career, to be able to make a living at art.” Eliot said. “But the deadlines are maybe hard to comprehend unless you’re in it. It’s so incessant that you have deadlines every week. You know, I’m just ready to be free of that. And I also feel like I’ve kind of said everything I really needed to say. And I’m ready to let other people speak and I’m going to fart around.”

Credit Jan Eliot
Eliot tells KLCC she initially modeled her character Val after herself, a divorced mom with two daughters.

Eliot expressed appreciation for the support of her community and the Register Guard’s former publishers.

“I really am so grateful that all those years ago the Bakers gave me a shot and I did it here in Eugene.” Eliot said.  “It’s been a really, really supportive environment and it’s really been wonderful.”

While she’s no longer doing a regular comic strip, Eliot said she’ll still be drawing and making art. Jan Eliot’s final Stone Soup strip will be in papers this Sunday.

Copyright 2020 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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