The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist ~ Fast Times

By James Donahue

One of the more challenging aspects of creating something editorial is keeping up with the fast-paced environment of the news cycle. If it’s an article, a cartoon, or even a letter to the editor, by the time the ink is dry or the send button has been pushed, is your point still relevant to the news of the day?

The big news story of the morning might be an afterthought by lunchtime. Did a major event happen on the other side of the country while you slept? It may be a topic on which you have an interesting opinion, but by the time you publish it may hardly seem valid. No matter what form you use to express your opinion, it’s best to move fast.

Write fast, draw fast, and send it to wherever it’s going just as fast. This hardly seems like a problem with the technology we have at our disposal. Most people have access to a computer, a tablet, or at the very least a smartphone, all which can be used for writing and publishing. Handheld technology can also be used to draw. A quick search yields a minimum of 15 drawing apps for the iPad alone, ranging in price from $0.99 to $14.99. The means to express yourself are certainly available; the real question is, do you have enough time to do it before your topic becomes passé?



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 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.