Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So You Want to be a Cartoonist

In my early years after high school I wanted very much to be a cartoonist. But I couldn't focus. I was infatuated with the notion of being a comic strip artist or a gag cartoonist or a comic book artist. Ya just can't be all three, or at least not all at once. But I sent cartoons out to the New Yorker and SatEvePost, a strip concept to a couple of syndicates, and some sample pages to DC comics.

Well, I got a pile of rejection slips (geez, I was only 19), but the nicest rejection I got was from Julius Schwartz, top editor for DC comics, for my Superman story. I had sent a properly typed story, with panel breakdowns and a couple of inked pages. I received a really encouraging letter from Schwartz along with a photostat (anybody remember those?) of cartooning tips by Joe Kubert, which was also showing up in print in comics at that time.

Cartooning is a very difficult sport, but if I'd stuck with it I may have made a name for myself, somewhere, somehow. As it was, my number (50) came up for the draft, wherein I joined the army. I was placed as an illustrator (Military Occupational Specialty: 81 Echo), where I learned the trade on a fast track, starting as a combat artist and graphic journalist.

Subsequently, as an illustrator for 40 years, I got to draw a few cartoons along the way, but nothing like I once dreamed of.

I admire all of you professional cartoonists and all the work (and focus) that it took to get where you are.

Above is the page that saw a lot of print, but was also sent out, from DC, to aspiring cartoonists. I think this was just prior to the founding of Kubert's school of cartooning.


M. D. Jackson said...

You're not alone. I am a writer and an illustrator, so you think I'd be able to produce a story told in comic panels.

Nope. Just can't get the hang of it. Either I use too few pictures or too many words (or vice versa). Can't seem to find a balance between the two.

Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Plus there's just the day to day flow and continuity of style and wit and purpose. Ya just got to hit the mark all the time. I think I could turn out some really great panels, if I could take 6 months for each one (well maybe not quite that long--but I wouldn't be able to make a living at it).

M. D. Jackson said...

Yeah, that's the same with me. The panels I would do near the end of a project would end up looking wildly different from the ones that I started with.