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.



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