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If you want to know how wild and twisted Leigh Rubin’s mind is, you can pick up a copy of the Nipomo cartoonist’s new book when it’s officially released on or about

April 20.

Or, you can hear Rubin speak about the creative process of creating his syndicated “Rubes” cartoons Thursday evening at the Santa Maria Public Library.

Or you can do both: Rubin said he plans to have copies of “The Wild and Twisted World of Rubes” available for purchase when he speaks that night.

The new book is a retrospective of his “Rubes” from more than 20 years of capturing the hidden world of cows, dogs, cats, chickens, cavemen, biblical characters and just plain strange people.

“The publishers asked me to pick out my favorite 240 cartoons,” Rubin said recently before leaving for several speaking engagements in Kansas. “I had to go through 9,000 cartoons.

“It was fun but exhausting,” he said, noting that once he picked out several hundred of his favorites, he had to go back through them to narrow the list down to fit the 240-page book.

“I don’t want to do that again,” he joked, although he does hope there will be many more such books. “Except the next time one comes out, it will be a new set, so I won’t have to go through these 240 again. But then, another year will have passed and I’ll have another 360 cartoons to go through.”

Rubin said the new book contains cartoons from every year he’s drawn the single-panel “Rubes,” which he originally self-syndicated but is now distributed to more than

400 newspapers worldwide through Creators Syndicate.

It’s his 16th book and a follow-up to such titles as the award-winning “Wild Life of Love” and “The Wild Life of Cats,” as well as “The Wild Life of Dogs” and “Rubes Then and Now.”

“It’s full-color and kind of a neat size,” Rubin said of the new book. “It’s really thick, but it’s perfect for airplanes.”

Airplanes — or, more precisely, airlines and the frustrations of dealing with them — are a recurring theme in Rubin’s dry-humored discussion of his upcoming speaking engagements.

At those engagements — like the one coming up in Santa Maria — he focuses on the creative process.

“I kind of go through the whole history (of Rubes), but what I focus on a lot is creativity and problem solving and looking at things from different angles,” he explained.

“It’s not just about coming up with the cartoons,” he continued. “It’s an important lesson in anyone’s life. If one has trouble dealing with a problem — like an airline — one has to find a different route, so to speak.”

Rubin said coming up with an endless string of funny situations for “Rubes” is a type of problem he solve on a daily basis.

“People just think I sit around a doodle all day,” he said. “But it’s hard work. ... It used to be I did not go to the drawing board until I had an idea. But about 10 years ago, that stopped.”

Now, he said, he just sits down and begins putting images on those blank sheets of paper.

“I just start sketching,” he said. “I may start out with a chicken and end up with a guy bowling. Who knows where it will come from?”

To hear Rubin speak

  Leigh Rubin will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday in Shepard Hall of the Santa Maria Public Library, 421 S. McClelland Street, Santa Maria.

 The event is open to adults and students age 14 and older and is free, but tickets are required for admission because seating is limited.

 Free tickets are available in the children’s room of the library. Tickets may be reserved by phone by calling

925-0951 but must be picked up the same day.

To buy the book

 “The Wild and Twisted World of Rubes” may be ordered in advance or purchased following its release on Amazon.com.

 Copies are $10.11, plus shipping and handling charges.

 To order, visit www.amazon.com/Wild-Twisted-World- Rubes-Collection/dp/0740791567/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_10

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