The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist ~ Cartooning in the World Today

By James Donahue

The basic premise of I’ll Kick Your Ass is that Ass-Kickin’ Jim kicks the ass of someone who has said or done something stupid. In the fast-paced world of social media, there is rarely a shortage of targets.

He has kicked the ass of Representative Todd Akin for using the term “legitimate rape,” Avril Lavigne for getting engaged to the lead singer of world’s-worst-band Nickelback, and the always frustrating Autocorrect feature of today’s smartphones. Those are all pretty straightforward, but sometimes it’s not so simple. When national tragedies occur, like the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut or the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, things get tricky.

I was asked the day after the Boston Marathon if I was going to draw a strip about it. My response at that point was that I didn’t know who the strip would be about since the suspects had not yet been identified.

That was the easy answer, but it goes further than that. I considered where the focus should be during such a horrific event. When so many have suffered, I shy away from drawing something that focuses the attention on myself or the strip, even if it’s well-meaning.

I drew a 9/11 strip this past year recounting my own personal experiences of being in downtown Manhattan that morning. I detailed my story and thanked the brave first responders. When I was done, I sat back and really questioned whether I was doing the right thing. Was this about me or the heroic actions that took place that awful day? I ended up putting the strip online and the response was overwhelmingly positive. But it was also 11 years after the attacks had taken place.



The Crusty Curmudgeon’s Comic Classics ~ When Batman Met Captain Beefheart

© 2013 Paradox Productions LLC

Detective587-00 About a year and a half ago, around the time the Arkham City video game was released, a gamer friend asked me to recommend some Batman comics, as the game had stirred a bit of a thirst in him. My first thought was (obviously) the Frank Miller stuff; then (naturally) the work of Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams; and (of course) the Steve Englehart-Marshall Rogers run. Then I added a more personal recommendation, one that I’m not sure many are aware of: The John Wagner-Alan Grant-Norm Breyfogle run that got its start in Detective Comics in 1988.


The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist

Welcome, readers, to the first installment of Pronto’s newest column, The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist, written by artist James Donohue. Watch for it every other Monday. Want to see more? Check out more of his writing in his own blog, and see his art, illustration, and comics on his website.

The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist: Introduction

By James Donahue

Art is hard. Whether you are a painter, a sculptor, a dancer, or a comic book artist, none of it is easy. Doing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, or scrubbing the tub is easy. Those are things I resort to when the art isn’t working out.

I make a web comic strip published primarily on Facebook called “I’ll Kick Your Ass.” It seems simple enough, but it’s harder than it looks. Somehow in three panels (sometimes six), I need to give the main character, Ass Kickin’ Jim, a reason to kick a particular someone’s ass.

I studied art in college but did not study cartooning, comics, or sequential art. I grew up reading comic books and spent a good portion of my teens and early twenties working in a comic book shop. I started out reading mostly super hero books like GI Joe, Spider-Man, X-Men, and a few others. As time passed, I starting reading books from the Vertigo imprint like Doom Patrol and Sandman. I was a huge fan of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. I also started to gravitate toward independent books like Dave Sim’s Cerebus and the works of Dan Clowes, as well as autobiographical comics by Peter Bagge and Joe Matt.

Even through all that I never really saw myself as a comic book artist. It seemed too hard: I was always impatient as an artist and the detail that went into comic books just never suited me.

Through an ironic nickname, a connection to the student newspaper in college, and some pure silliness, the character of Ass Kickin’ Jim (AKJ for short) was born. He had a short run in the school paper and was recently revived in the form of an online comic strip. AKJ’s mission is to kick the asses of the stupid, evil, and downright annoying. His victims have included Senator Todd Akin, Singer Nicki Minaj, and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. Sometimes the victims present themselves very easily, other times it’s harder to find someone who deserves an asskickin’.

With this column, I hope to explore the challenges presented to an artist creating a cartoon/comic strip who isn’t trained in the art of cartooning. Things like: the challenge of keeping a strip timely, interesting, and funny; how political I should be; when and how the strip should evolve; and the challenges of promotion and figuring out the end goal beside having fun and making people laugh.

Art is hard. I need to go do some now.

…Or maybe I’ll just scrub the toilet.



The Crusty Curmudgeon’s Comic Classics ~ Omega the Unknown: Greatest Comic Book Ever? Part II

Click here to read Part I of David Torsiello’s article on little-known 1970s Marvel title Omega the Unknown.

Omega the Unknown: Greatest Comic Book Ever? Part II
© 2013 Paradox Productions LLC

Ostensibly a super hero comic, one quickly discovers otherwise after reading the first issue of Omega the Unknown. We’re given five pages of Omega, nine of James-Michael, and then four pages at the end with both of them together. So who’s the real star of this book: the super hero or the kid?

The answer is the kid. As Gerber explained in the first-issue text page: “It began as the simplest of ideas: a strip whose protagonist would be a twelve-year-old boy. Why? Because there weren’t any such strips extant, for one thing. And for another, I’d always resented the lousy treatment kids had received in comics over the last three decades.”