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John Rose (inset) is the third cartoonist in the 95-year history of Snuffy Smith. He works on the strip from his home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
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Perhaps one of the most famous hillbilly moonshiners is a short little guy with an oversized black hat. Snuffy Smith comes to life each day in the comic strip pages along with his wife, Loweezy, their baby Tater, nephew Jughaid, and neighbors and friends in the town of Hoot ‘n Holler.
Hoot ‘n Holler could be just about anywhere in Blue Ridge Country area, but cartoonist John Rose pinpoints the Great Smoky Mountains around Tennessee as a place offering real life inspiration for the fictional town.
“In my mind, I think of Pigeon Forge because that’s been a place we’ve vacationed since I was a child,” says John Rose. “It’s a place that’s inspirational to me, but I do live in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and the mountains here are wonderful too.”
Rose is the third cartoonist to craft the lives of Snuffy and his friends. He follows Billy DeBeck, who created the strip in 1919, and Fred Lasswell, a long-time assistant who took over after DeBeck’s death in 1942. The cartoon is now in its 95th year making it one of the longest-running comic strips in history.
When Rose was in college he met Mike Peters, the cartoonist who draws the Mother Goose and Grimm strip, and identified cartooning as a valid career direction. He already had cartooning experience drawing for his school papers.
He began practicing drawing Snuffy Smith and the rest of his cartoon clan. Rose sent samples to Lasswell who in turn offered him a job as an inking assistant. He said he loved the way Rose drew big noses.
Barney Google – originally the strip’s star – was phased out after Snuff Smith came on the scene in 1934. Rose says that’s the biggest question he receives from readers “When will Barney be back?”
“In 2012, I asked King Features if we could bring him back for a visit,” says Rose. “It was very successful. Now I bring him and his horse Spark Plug back every year for a two-week visit.”
Snuffy has now moved into the digital age. If the strip doesn’t appear in a certain hometown newspaper, readers can see it online every day at snuffysmithcomics.com.
Rose is also proud of the first collection of his strips, published in 2013. “The Bodacious Best of Snuffy Smith” features more than 350 of Rose’s favorite strips from 2004 to 2013.
Rose works 8 to 5 daily, as well as some weekends, as he draws the strip and comes up with the story line. He says his ideas often come from his own life.
“There are parts of my life and parts of me reflected in it,” says Rose. “I love to fish and enjoy writing the fishing stories. I also come from a large family and that’s important to me. Snuffy’s family may be poor, but they have love and humor and that’s all that really matters.