Zack Hill comic strip has CV roots

Posted by on Nov 19th, 2010 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

The nationally syndicated Zack Hill has been a regular comic strip in these pages since this paper started, but how many of you knew the strip is locally produced? The strip is written by CV historian John Newcombe, who produced the very popular local history film “Rancho La Cañada.”

Last week one of the “Letters to the Editor” in this paper noted the strip and its unusual storyline in which the dog character will be receiving a pacemaker. You’ll be interested to know that the storyline is based on truth, and it is Newcombe’s own dog Cagney who has the pacemaker.

John Newcombe and his wife Francis are both involved in the entertainment industry. Francis creates those “opening logo” scenes for network television shows, where the show’s title spins and sparkles, before settling center screen. John produces independent films and writes screenplays, but his bread-and-butter for the last 8 years has been writing the Zack Hill comic strip, with Arkansas-based artist John Deering supplying the pen and ink.

For the characters and storylines in the strip, John takes inspiration from his own life. The mom in the strip has characteristics of John’s wife Francis. The boardinghouse storyline has connections to John’s family history, and Zack himself, although based on John Deering’s son, will soon have Newcombe inspiration as John and Francis have a new son.

But lately the comic’s star has been Zack’s dog Cagney, who is the artistic personification of John’s own Boston Terrier Cagney. The storyline of Cagney receiving the pacemaker is absolutely true, as Cagney has a pacemaker, donated from a human donor, which was implanted in the ailing dog about two years ago. It’s true that the pacemakers are from human donors, as pacemakers are not produced specifically for dogs, but the human ones work just fine. What a nice thing to do with a still-functioning pacemaker that otherwise would be wasted with burial or cremation.

John has donated use of the comic to the CV Weekly, as he loves this little paper and wants to give whatever he can to see it succeed. There’s a little selfishness attached though as John likes the idea of reading his strip in his hometown newspaper. It alternates weekly with another locally produced comic strip. Zack Hill can also be read in most big metro newspapers across the US, one of the only exceptions being, much to John’s annoyance, the LA Times (shame on you Times!). It can also be read on the internet at sites like or

You might also see John Newcombe out on the street as he’s an avid local walker and jogger. Look for the handsome young man with two Boston Terriers (Cagney and his other Boston Terrier Rudy). You might catch him pushing a stroller as well, containing his beautiful new son.

I’ve got some space left here so I wanted to mention a couple local doings, both in Montrose.

First, to bring you up to date on progress on the new Trader Joe’s in Montrose. Work seems to be at a standstill, and it’s not because they unearthed an ancient Indian burial ground, as one local recently told me. The lot will be leased to TJ’s, but is still owned by the City of Glendale. Since Glendale is almost daily the target of liability lawsuits, they want to make sure the lot is squeaky clean before giving the green light to construction. The site was a car dealership with service shops, so the ground needs to be scoured for gas and oil contaminants, plus the old retaining walls on the backside need repair. TJ’s will still open next year as scheduled.

And one other thing – you’ve got to sample the incredible new “rockin’ cupcakes” at Rocky Cola Café! They’re made fresh there each day, and include such weird flavors as Rootbeer Float, Orange cream, and Oreo Cookie. If you get fat on ‘em, it’s not my fault!

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