From what the Bell tolled

Thanks to Xavier for offering me the guest blogging spot. Ironically, Xavier caught me during a week where I’ll mostly be celebrating the field of print cartooning- the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists is holding its annual convention here in the lovely swampland of D.C. this year. Hopefully I’ll have some stuff to talk about.

Like many of my fellow editorial and alt-cartoonists who appeared in Attitude 3, a lot of our status as “webcartoonists” is based on default: we stick with the print format, but no one really wants to print us. I’m sure you don’t need the guest blogger to get into the advantages the web has over print as far as publishing and distribution goes. I can say a lot about the do’s and don’ts of print comics, especially as someone with a longer history of failure than success, but I suppose it would be good to start off here with a webcomics story. So here’s the story about how I started reading webcomics.

When I was an animation student at NYU, I scored an internship in Fall 2002 at Nickelodeon’s web department. (If by any chance you remember going to five years ago and playing an online game tied into The Rugrats Go Wild, the animation of those giraffes? All me, baby.) There are two things I realized from the internship: one, that I really enjoyed coming up with creative ideas for cartoons, and two, what webcomics were all about.

One of my superiors was a guy who, in addition to doing some great Flash work for, had a very ADD-ish habit of doodling all the time. During meetings, during coffee breaks, at his desk, and so on. He was drawing little monsters on index cards, and just started pasting them up on the walls of his cubicle. Dozens of them. Little fish things, tiny clawed rodents- stuff that cross a brilliant line between repulsive and adorable.

So, honestly, and I admit how stupid this is, I didn’t really rationalize “webcomics” until he told me how he had started this little site where he put up the drawings, let people rate them, and so on. He had some friends who were doing comics too, and had their own websites, and I started reading those. Around the same time, I realized that I needed to do a lot more with my cartoon than post a comic on my website every week and then ignore the internet. It was around that exact same time that I started blogging- not as much because I liked blogging, but because I needed something to keep people entertained in between poorly-drawn student newspaper cartoons.

So while I certainly can’t say I’m a successful cartoonist now, five years later, I like thinking about how far other people have gotten. Even without a publication deal, I’m still happily doing cartoons, I’m getting one done every week, with pickup in a publication and a website every now and then. I celebrated my first major reprint this year when the L.A. Times ran a cartoon. It’s an awesome feeling, and it’s also awesome to see others do well too. I’m still checking Andrew Bell’s site every week to see how much more awesome he’s gotten since the days I saw his index cards on the wall of a cubicle.

God, I really should have asked him back then for one of them, shouldn’t I?