Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Monday, December 16, 2019

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Alexandra Bowman

by Mike Rhode

My friend Bruce Guthrie recently attended a political cartooning event at Georgetown University featuring Matt Wuerker and KAL, which I had to skip due to a scheduling conflict. Afterwards, he made a point of introducing me via email to Alexandra Bowman, the student political cartoonist who organized it. In keeping with our attempts to learn more about local cartoonists, I asked if she would answer our usual interview questions.  Alexandra did so directly upon finishing her final exams, and I think you'll all be impressed by her answers.

1. What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I am a political cartoonist, children's book illustrator, and fine artist. The menu of galleries on my website is a bit unwieldy at this point.

I served as the Editorial Political Cartoonist for "The Hoya," the Georgetown University newspaper of record. I left this past fall to start my own political comedy show at Georgetown, "The Hilltop Show"--I create hand-drawn and digital graphics for the show. I was also recently hired as the Editorial Political Cartoonist for Our Daily Planet, a climate news outlet with a readership of 13,000 (my first cartoon was published here), as well as the Georgetown Review, an independent news source on campus.

I also have illustrated three children's books and do freelance work and commissions. My work has been published by BBC News, BBC Books, Penguin House UK, Puffin Books.

I serve as the Live Political Cartoonist for the Georgetown Institute of Politics for Public Service (GU Politics). My first event was this past September's MSNBC Climate Forum; I created cartoons and life drawings of candidates, including Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, throughout the two-day event. I also do freelance artwork for GU Politics. All my live cartoons, as well as my past work for "The Hoya" and other political pieces, can be found here.

2. How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I am partial to drawing/sketching my political cartoons and illustrations in pencil, inking, and coloring with alcohol markers and colored pencils. I'm becoming increasingly fond of coloring via Photoshop, as it's much faster and I don't have to wait three days for the Copic ink to come off my hands.

When making fine art, I enjoy using mechanical pencils for detail work. Oil paint and colored pencils are helpful for creating broad swathes of color.

3. When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in March 2000 in Sierra Vista, AZ. Yeah, I really haven't been around that long.

4. Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

As a current Georgetown undergraduate student, I am currently based in DC. I live in Kennedy Hall at Georgetown, which has only about half the leaks and rodent sightings as the other dorms. When I'm not fending off rat attacks, I live about 30-40 minutes from Washington D.C. in Fairfax, VA.

5. What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I took AP Studio Art in high school, and took an Oil Painting class last year at Georgetown. I've had a few extracurricular art classes here and there. My mom is an artist: she ensured that I always had access to art supplies and art books, and took me to museums on almost a weekly basis as a kid. I have also spent years teaching myself to draw. Every break from school invites the existential question of "how many coffee table-sized Art-Of-The-Movie books should I bring home?"

6. Who are your influences?

While teaching myself over the years, I have devoured art books and classically-illustrated children's books, particularly animation concept art books and anthropomorphic animal stories. Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Byron Howard, Jin Kim, Shiyoon Kim, Cory Loftis, Jim Davis, Christopher Hart, the illustrators of the Geronimo Stilton books (whose pseudonyms on the copyright pages have been tragically unhelpful), and Trina Schart Hyman. From a young age, I have been particularly enchanted by illustrations of anthropomorphic animals, especially those with a semi-realistic tone (e.g. the work of Beatrix Potter, Disney's Robin Hood, Zootopia, Aesop's fables illustrations, etc.).

Beatrix Potter and Jim Davis were my earliest influences. Whenever I draw an animal or a chubby character, its arms and paws/hands are (unintentionally) posed exactly like Garfield's. I drew Garfield all over my notebook and test margins in the fifth and sixth grades. And when I saw "The Hobbit:" when I was 12 (on December 22, 2012; yeah, I know), I became engrossed with Tolkien and Bilbo Baggins. I received a Bilbo Baggins bobblehead for Christmas three days later, and I decided to draw it that evening. I proceeded to cover my seventh and eighth-grade planners with drawings of Bilbo, and that doodle instinct has not since abated.

I've only begun to get into political cartooning recently, but I have long adored the work of the Washington Post's Ann Telnaes, Politico's Matt Wuerker, and The Economist's Kevin Kallaugher. I actually helped plan a GU Politics/Hilltop Show event this month hosting Mr. Wuerker and Mr. Kallaugher on campus; I delivered the event's opening remarks and introduced the cartoonists.

Vincent Van Gogh, Albrecht Durer, and Leonardo da Vinci are some of the biggest influences of my fine art.

7. If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I don't think I've been drawing professionally long enough to have had any major slip-ups or regrets. I think.

I am, however, at the stage (the "Early Life" section on Wikipedia?) that I will look back on in 5-10 years and wistfully think "If I had only known/done X at that time!" Advice from more experienced cartoonists is always much appreciated!

8. What work are you best-known for?

Live political cartooning at the Climate Forum was a pivotal moment in my artistic "career" (I'm 19, I squirm when I use that word). Since coming to Georgetown, I have immersed myself in political cartooning for multiple publications. I think if you were to ask someone who has a second-degree connection to me (socially or on LinkedIn) what I tend to draw, they'd mention "the girl who draws political cartoons and foxes and John Oliver and had that massive display in the library coffee shop once."

As mentioned, I was also recently hired as the Editorial Political Cartoonist for Our Daily Planet, a climate news outlet that John Kerry apparently reads every morning.

On a fun note, one of my drawings of the Fourth Doctor and K-9 was published by BBC Books and Puffin Books/Penguin Random House in an international anthology for sale in Barnes and Noble.

9. What work are you most proud of?

I'm particularly proud of my recent political cartoons, as I'm excited to have ventured into a field of art that I believe has more of a tangible positive impact on the world. I believe that political satire is one of the most effective means of reaching those who would not otherwise engage with the news in politics, as young people and the politically uninitiated are much more likely to engage with informational media if it is presented in an entertaining package.

10. What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I would like to be a broadcast journalist, news anchor, or political comedy talk show host. Writing for the latter would be an ideal intermediary position. I really admire how Jake Tapper has been able to tactfully combine his interests in strict news reporting and political cartooning by hosting both "The Lead" and his "State of the Cartoonion" segment.

I would also love to direct films for Pixar.

In the case of either life path, I would like to use my career to create meaningful media and/or entertainment, particularly for young people.

11. What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I'm blessed that I rarely have to deal with writer's/artist's block. Keeping a notebook and writing down ideas whenever they occur to me helps keep creative blockage at bay.

Watching a 2-D Disney movie or watching late-night comedy never fails to offer heaps of inspiration.

12. What do you think will be the future of your field?

I hope that illustrators and filmmakers who intend to create meaningful, character-building animated films for children enter the field of animation. I admire how Pete Docter has imbued the films he has worked on/directed (i.e. Wall-E) with his Christian faith.

I believe the future of political cartooning may lie with animated political shows, such as Stephen Colbert's underrated animated series "Our Cartoon President." The show has been more or less panned by critics, but each show is essentially a 30-minute moving political cartoon and deserves credit for being more or less the first of its kind.

13. What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Being a Georgetown student with newfound access to DC has given me a new perspective on the sheer quantity of phenomenal cons available to me. I'm eager to continue learning about new cons to visit, particularly those that focus on film-making and illustration

For a number of years I have attended AwesomeCon, where I have met Wallace Shawn, Cary Elwes, Chris Sarandon, Adam West, Burt Ward, and David Tennant. I met David Tennant while dressed as the Tenth Doctor; I gave him a drawing of Ten meeting Scrooge McDuck, which David said "was the pinnacle of all his work." I continue to share this story with my Uber drivers.

14. What's your favorite thing about DC?

Coming to Georgetown, I was concerned that DC did not have the media and/or entertainment presence of New York or Los Angeles. However, perhaps partially due to my interests changing since arriving on campus a year and a half ago, I'm realizing that DC's political focus makes it a media hotspot particularly well-suited to my own interest in politics. DC being where the action is in terms of current global chaos is also a plus.

15. Least favorite?

See previous sentence.

16. What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?


17. How about a favorite local restaurant?

My favorite restaurant of all time is Filomena in Georgetown. I am comforted knowing that my culinary tastes have been validated by Bono and Harrison Ford.

18. Do you have a website or blog?

My work can be found on and on Instagram (@alexandrabowmanart). I also tweet about illustration and current events under the handle @scripta_bene. I have a Facebook page for my work, which sends me notifications two or three times daily saying "Your followers have not seen a post from you in months." It's linked here if you're still interested.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Meet a Local Book Designer: A Chat with Barbara Sutliff

by Mike Rhode

Barbara Sutliff is a book and magazine designer and art director  who recently worked on an editorial cartoon book for the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC). On a tip from her husband, cartoonist Joe Sutliff, Barbara and I got together for an informal email interview.

I heard that local editorial cartoonist Matt Wueker was doing a book for a Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum exhibit in Columbus, OH? They have an editorial cartoon show that's only up for another month. Is that what it's for?

Yes it is based on the show, the AAEC has their conference there this coming weekend. The AAEC will have the book for sale. It was a very small print run for the conference, and the association plans to show it to some of the large book publishers that will be there in hopes of interesting them in publishing it on a larger scale, perhaps even an expanded version.

What's the title, and who's the author?

The title is Front Lines: Political Cartooning and the Battle for Freedom of Speech by The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. This is similar to the title of the exhibition, which was Front Line: Editorial Cartoonists and the First Amendment.

The editor of the book is Matt Wuerker, award winning political cartoonist from Politico and former president of the AAEC, and a friend of ours (Joe and I).
Back and front covers
How did you get involved? What did you do for them?

Matt saw Joe at an event and mentioned the project and asked whether I might be interested in designing the book. We talked and I was very excited to work on such a fun and important project. Matt was terrific to work with. After hearing his ideas for the look of the book, we talked  back and forth as I showed different options for the chapter design treatments, Once chosen, it was a really smooth collaboration—Matt was just finishing up getting the essays edited and finalized, while collecting hi-res versions of the many cartoons that he was organizing to go with each chapter/essay. 

Liz Donnelly drawing and table of contents
In the meantime I roughed out the book to get a firmer idea on page count for each chapter and for the overall book, including many cartoons chosen to go with each chapter. As I have designed and produced hundreds of publications over the years—this project was a great fit—Matt and I had a smooth back and forth with emails including pdfs of pages with notes attached with my questions, suggestions as well as his corrections, answers and suggestions. We also had periodic phone calls to go over the status chapter by chapter. I worked in InDesign and sent pdf proofs which as I mentioned, we added electronic sticky notes to for specific questions and to provide me with credit info for each piece etc. When everything was approved I made hi-res print quality pdfs for the printer. Matt already had this idea in mind for the cover—he provided my with his mockup in InDesign which I tweaked (I am a stickler when it comes to kerning and typography and Matt was thrilled with that attention to detail on my part!) It was a great experience, I loved designing and producing the book. Matt just told me he is putting a printed copy in the mail for me and I am so glad to hear that he is very happy with the printed edition.

How many images are in the book? Is everything from the exhibit in it? Was there anything tricky or difficult about the layout?

Pillars by Jimmy Margulies. August 16, 2018 from the exhibit


I counted 100 cartoons in the book not counting Matt’s cover cartoon. It also has essays by Joel Pett, Lucy Caswell, Roslyn Mazer, Rob Rogers, Ann Telnaes and Matt. 

I didn’t know whether the book included everything from the exhibit, since I didn't see the show, but Matt says, "No....  And many of the cartoons in the book are not in the show. It's by no means a catalog of the show.  We just used that as a jumping off point.”

The tricky thing for me was incorporating many horizontal cartoons into the design without having the option of going across the gutter of a perfect bound book like I might when designing with photographs, which can have impact across a spread—but obviously that doesn’t work with cartoons with words. I created a grid with an appropriate width for type, on a square page which allowed for a narrow outside column to be used for pull quotes and to have the flexibility to use the full width including the narrow column for cartoons to jut out beyond the type column. It works as many of the cartoons are horizontal and allows for variety in the design of each spread with varying sized art along with the text and pull quotes drawing the reader to important ideas from the chapter and that act as design elements on the page as well. I guess the other tricky thing that comes to mind is that the chapters were mostly cartoons with an essay flowing through them as opposed to a text-heavy book punctuated by spot illustrations. So the challenge was to keep the continuity of the words flowing around the cartoons which meant jumping the words around a spread or two of just art so that the cartoons and words complemented one another.

Barbara Sutliff is available for full-time or freelance work. Contact her via

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Meet a Local Comics Writer: A Chat with Emily Whitten

by Mike Rhode

Emily Whitten is a long-time comics journalist who's just made the jump to writing comics herself. Her new book, The Underfoot, co-written with Ben Fisher and drawn by Michelle Nguyen came out yesterday in comic book stores and will be for sale more widely in two weeks. Emily answered our usual questions, with a few additional ones specific to her new book.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

 I am co-creator and co-writer of The Underfoot, a new original graphic novel series about intelligent hamsters surviving in a post-apocalyptic world full of danger and mysteries, but also friendships and fun. The series is published by Lion Forge Comics, and Book 1, The Underfoot: The Mighty Deep, is out April 10 in comics shops, and comes out from Amazon and all other sellers on April 23. The Underfoot: The Mighty Deep focuses on the Hamster Aquatic Mercenaries (H.A.M.) and their quest to aid their badger allies in saving their homes. (More on that below!)

I've also written several parody/commentary webcomics for the likes of and – "Deadpool Presents the Oscars" was particularly fun to write. (Fun facts: I wrote an entire column advocating for Ryan Reynolds to play Deadpool over on Reelz way back in 2010, and had Deadpool taking out Green Lantern with a headshot in a webcomic in 2011. You're welcome, Deadpool 1 & 2 movies.)

In addition, I'm a genre entertainment journalist, and regularly cover comics and genre-related news and convention panels, as well as interviewing other creators and moderating convention panels, which I really enjoy. My journalistic work is featured on, Movers & Shakers Unlimited, The Fantastic Forum radio show, The CCC Podcast, The Great Geek Refuge, and the Made of Fail podcast.

How do you do it? As you're a writer, do you do a full script? Longhand, computer, or some combination?

Primarily on the computer and phone. I adore track changes in Word,particularly for collaborating; and the phone is great both for drafting script bits during my commutes, and for the many, many
messages that my Underfoot co-creators and I send back and forth. For both The Underfoot and my webcomics, the format is a full script. For The Underfoot, we tend to get very specific in some descriptions, as that comic is grounded in real-world science, nature, and location references, and those details matter. But even with detailed scripts, I do love seeing what new twists artists bring to the process, and the artists I've worked with consistently surprise and delight me with their creativity and talent. They make anything I can imagine look even better.

How did the three of you begin working together?

The short version is that I had a Twitter account where I was tweeting as my hamster Izzy, and at that time I reviewed a miniseries comic of  Ben Fisher's called Splitsville, which I really enjoyed. Ben found my hamster account and started writing back to Izzy as another hamster. Eventually we had some actual human being conversations as well (haha) and realized we should really write a book about all the ideas we were having about hamsters, adventures, and weird science. At the time when we needed to find an artist, Ben suggested Michelle Nguyen, who he'd worked with on the Grumpy Cat and Pokey comics. Her art works really well with our book, and thus, the creative team solidified.

Shout-outs also to Thom Zahler, who's an established comics creator in his own right and also is our letterer for the book. Michelle's partner Adrian Ricker assisted with the color flatting process, and illustrator Eric Orchard created our world and burrow maps. It's a great team, and made better as well by the editors and team at Lion Forge.

When you were writing it with Ben Fisher, how did the process work?

Ben and I bounce a lot of ideas off of each other. We then do rough story and character arcs, tighter detailed outlines, and full scripts. There are several stages of editing after that to get the scripts just right. There's a lot of text, call, and email traffic involved.

And then what did you give Michelle Nguyen to work from? A full script?

Michelle gets a full script, and we try also provide resource and photo references for anything very specific we are asking of her. Of course, some of the things we ask for have no known references, so I know that's part of Michelle's adventure in illustrating The Underfoot.

How did you decide to move from writing about comics to making them?

I like to write, period, and I like writing about creators and creative properties I enjoy or admire. I like that so much that I'm still trying to make time for it amidst the launch of The Underfoot.
But I've also written creatively for much of my life, in poetry, short fiction, and webcomics, so that creative process isn't new to me. Regarding a long-form larger comics work, I hadn't quite hit on an
idea that drove me to complete it at a particular point before The Underfoot. It can also be daunting to create such a vast world and set of works as we are crafting with The Underfoot, especially on your own. But working with Ben makes it super fun, and that's honestly what caused the jump – having a creative partner who feeds on my excitement about the ideas and gives me that excitement right back. Adding Michelle to the mix just made it even better. I am very fortunate to have found these collaborative teammates to work with.

I see you set the book in DC. Why did you use DC? Are you the only DC-area person on the team?

I'm the only D.C. local, and a lot of the local details come from what interests me about this city. D.C. is perfect for the origin story we are telling about the hamsters, and my experience living in this government town for sixteen years provides me with some strange local references to draw on. There were discussions early on about where to set the book – but after we had a few ideas that would only  work in this area, it just evolved into the setting it has now. That's not to say we may not explore other locations in the future, of course.

This is book 1 - how many books are planned?

We are working with Lion Forge on a trilogy, and Book 2 is already in the works. We have enough story ideas for several more books after that, though, so we hope people support and enjoy the first books of The Underfoot series enough that we can keep on making them!

Ok, back to your biography, when (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I'm a child of the '80s, born right here in Washington, D.C.

Why are you in the Washington area now?

I went to law school at The George Washington University, and have been working as an attorney in the area ever since.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I have no formal training in cartooning, but a heck of a lot of training and practice in writing. I've been writing (and reading, voraciously) ever since I can remember. I believe that all education, training, and life experience, even if it's in other areas, can add to a creator's work. Experiences like being Co-Editor-in-Chief of the high school literary magazine, in which my poetry and short fiction as also published; completing a degree in journalism but also taking a creative writing class simply because I had the opportunity to (thank you, broad and flexible curriculum of Indiana University Bloomington); and being trained as a legal writer and taking a few of the odder and more fun class offerings in my third year (Law and Literature was well worth it) gave me a flexibility with and understanding of different styles of writing that I really value. Over the years my blogging, parody Deadpool writing, journalistic work, legal writing, and other types of creative work have all been training.

When it came to writing scripts, I started doing it, as I start doing much of the work I most value, for the fun of it. It's a joy to me that others then wanted to publish what I wrote or collaborated on. I continue to learn and get my training on the job – which is another common thread in my life's work. I'm very much a person who values education but loves learning by trying, experimenting, and doing.

Who are your influences?

In the comics realm, early influences include Superman, the X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Batman. In law school I got seriously deep into Deadpool, and overall these days I'm a big Marvel fan, but will never give up my Superman love, and also have a big squishy soft spot for Harley Quinn. V for Vendetta is an excellent book, Maus is heartbreaking, Spy vs. Spy makes me inexplicably happy, and Calvin & Hobbes makes me happy in ways I wholly understand. Hark! A Vagrant makes me smile and learn, Heart & Brain is so very me, Sarah's Scribbles I'm guessing we can all identify with now and again, Catana Comics is adorable, and I've just recently discovered the endearing Strange Planet. Wait – I think I have digressed into simply, "What comics do you like to read?" Sorry!

Actually, I can never tell what's going to influence me, so let's just keep rolling on things I like to read. In prose literature, I treasure classics. Favorites include A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, As I Lay Dying, The Great Gatsby, Hamlet and Macbeth, Heart of Darkness, Catch-22, To Kill a Mockingbird, Candide, Things Fall Apart, The Little Prince, Cold Sassy Tree, The Color Purple, and the Austins and the Brontes. I'm a big sci-fi and fantasy fan – Terry Pratchett is notoriously one of my diehard favorites, and also Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Philip K. Dick, Diana Wynn Jones, Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Richard Adams, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, Stephen R. Lawhead, Mary Stewart, Peter S. Beagle, Jim Butcher, Elizabeth Moon, C.S. Lewis, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut. I'm a big Sherlockian nerd and a reader of Arthurian and Welsh legends; and the People series of books by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear are fascinating re-imaginings of Native American life. Favorite poets include T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Henrik Ibsen, Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas, e e cummings, John Donne, Lewis Carroll, and William Carlos Williams; and in political science we should all read Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and marvel at his predictive abilities.

I know as soon as this interview is published I will remember a million more creative works I have loved. I send my gratitude out to all of them for making me who I am today. I hope to meet many new creative works as I continue my life. They will undoubtedly all influence me somehow.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I wouldn't change anything big – but I might go back in time every now and again and remind myself that sometimes even I, a person who always likes to have several projects going at once, can spread my time and energy too thin! …But honestly, I am who I am and past me probably wouldn't listen to future me, anyway.

What work are you best-known for?

Hopefully, The Underfoot soon! I'm currently most known for my genre journalism work.

What work are you most proud of?

I'm definitely most proud of The Underfoot. With Ben Fisher, Michelle Nguyen, and others, we have created a complex world, seven years in the making, of which the 160-page The Mighty Deep is only the beginning. We are constantly developing our larger story, adding new things for readers to discover, and finding out more about our characters. It's a ton of fun and The Mighty Deep came together beautifully with Michelle's expressive art.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I have a Superman story in my head that I think would be challenging but amazing to write. I've had a lot of practice unofficially writing Deadpool purely for my own fun and would get a big kick out of trying it for Marvel sometime. I've got another couple of original comic book story ideas waiting in the wings for when time allows. And I've got a couple or so prose novel ideas and short story ideas I'd love to find the time to finish. We'll see what happens next!

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I find that creating with my hands gives me a good break from creating with my words, so crafting is nice, and I also like building those Metal Earth models. Also, research. I love learning weird new facts through research.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Assuming that means comics, people keep trying to predict it and I'm not sure we've quite got it yet. It isn't fully digital, because some of us just like holding books. It isn't just books, because hey, digital is handy. It isn't just motion comics, or webcomic apps… I like to think the future holds a lot of what the past has – experimentation, storytelling in different ways, and stretching the medium when needed to express what you need to.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con or others? Any comments about attending them?

I've attended Awesome Con since the beginning, as press, con staff, panelist, and con moderator. It's a great con that grows every year. I like their balance of comics, celebrities, and pop culture, and their emphasis on science content. I've only gotten to go to SPX once, but enjoyed wandering its offerings. And Baltimore Comic Con is the nearest con that remains primarily focused on comics themselves. It's a favorite of mine.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I just visited the Tidal Basin during peak cherry blossom time, and despite the crowds, it really is beautiful. I love the free museums, the European style of the city, the history, and the great opportunities for enjoying the arts and various types of cuisine and culture.

Least favorite?

The traffic? Probably the traffic.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

Air and Space, Natural History, and American History are my favorite classic Smithsonian museums – but the American Indian and African American museums are two somewhat more recent additions that I think are also really great. I love Teddy Roosevelt Island and the FDR Memorial; but also just the Mall in general, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the WWII Memorial…I mean, there are so many to see. It's hard not to include them all.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

Shout-outs to Ragtime, Ireland's Four Courts, and Bayou Bakery, in all of which I have written parts of The Underfoot and other things. Wilson Hardware is another favorite. I could probably keep going… There are also a ton of places in D.C., Shirlington, Alexandria, etc. that are great, and always new places to try.

Do you have a website or blog?

I've had several sites and blogs over the years. It's a work in progress, but currently I'm building, and intend to archive or link all of my work on various other sites
there. You can find a fair amount of my journalism at ComicMix here: Lion Forge has a page for The Underfoot:

Here also are other selected pre-launch Underfoot interviews:

SYFY Wire Live Stage (video):

Westfield Comics Blog (interview):

Great Geek Refuge (podcast):

The Comics Culture Cosplay Podcast:

Pop Culture Squad (interview):

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Deandra "Nika" Tan (updated)

from her Instagram feed
by Mike Rhode

Deandra "Nika" Tan's work is being exhibited in Arlington's Aurora Hills Library for two months, ending next week. Her artist's statement for the small exhibit reads:

Deandra "Nika" Tan is a Virginia-based writer and artist who primarily leverages the medium of comics to tell her stories. Her visual art style combines elements of Japanese manga and vintage art illustrations, which she then further adapts to fit the tone of whatever project she's working on. Initial concept work is done traditionally with a pen and paper, whereupon the comic is drafted and completed on a tablet computer. Recurring themes in her stories explore the tensions between romantic and familial relationships and the desire for societal recognition.

I stopped in to see the exhibit, and upon seeing that she was doing minicomics, I reached out with our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I primarily do long-form digital comics. My stories range from slice-of-life to sci-fi/fantasy to mystery and suspense. Right now, I’m engaged with digital publisher Tapas Media to produce “Signals,” a crime comic with a telepathic detective as the heroine, for their mobile app. The eventual goal with most of my stories is to get them into print, however.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

All computer! I have a Wacom tablet computer that I bring with me wherever I go. Sometimes traditional pen and ink are good for combating writer’s block, or sketching out thumbnails for an upcoming chapter, but it’s all finished digitally.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in New York City in the early 1990s. I spent most of my life in the city, moving down to the Washington area only in 2016 when my partner relocated for work.

What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I lived in Arlington for 3 years and just recently moved to Vienna. Still got a whole bunch of boxes left to unpack!

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

This is a tough one, haha. I’ve taken art classes all my life in school, but they don’t really prepare you for the specific skills that comics require. Studying film in college helped me a lot with the conventions of setting up scenes. Pacing and frame layouts are something that I’m still actively working on.

How did you get your work exhibited in Arlington's Aurora Hills library?

So the Aurora Hills Library was just a few blocks from my first apartment in the Washington DC area. I actually volunteered there for three years, helping them pull books off shelves for circulation. One of the librarians who worked there, Tom, asked me recently if I’d be interested in exhibiting any of my work, and I said yes! It’s really cool bringing that full circle and being able to share my art in a space that I’m familiar with. The final exhibition date is March 28th (next week!). After that, there will be a second run in the Columbia Pike branch from the beginning of June until the end of June.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I’ve got a couple ideas for graphic novels I’d like to pitch at some point, but I think in the immediate future, once my current project is complete, I’d like to work on a variety of short stories. I feel like I’m still in the middle of developing my style and voice as a creator, and short stories are a great low-commitment way of doing that. I’ve participated in a few anthologies (1001 Knights, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, Pros and (Comic) Cons), and I’m toying with the idea of organizing my short stories in a similar thematic way. Or maybe I’ll just indulge whatever inspiration strikes. Who knows!

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

So I’m fortunate in a sense that I’ve never dealt with writer’s block while in the middle of a webcomic. I just don’t have the luxury. I did, however, have a terrible time committing to a storyline for “Signals” ahead of its launch. Every time I came up with an outline, either a new idea would strike, or something would fall out of place. I found myself in a position where I was just reorganizing the story into different iterations for the sake of it. Finally, I just gave Tapas Media a date to start publication to light a fire under my tail. If not for that, “Signals” would probably still be in development hell.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I think it’s very positive! More and more people are discovering independent and creator-owned comics, and I feel that recognition of their literary value is growing in schools and libraries. That said, the comics community can still be quite insulated from the mainstream. We haven’t yet gotten to the point where picking up a bestselling comic is as common as reading a bestselling book or going to watch a blockbuster in theaters.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con or others? Any comments about attending them?

I regularly go to SPX since a lot of my comic friends use that as an excuse to get together and hang out, even if we’re not planning to sell anything. I’ve also gone to Awesome Con and Otakon, but strictly for business. I’d love to attend one year just for fun and actually attend some events. When you’re there as an artist to sell, you pretty much never leave your table except to eat.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

Actually, rather than go to any one monument or museum, I just like to walk around the Mall. Nighttime is a great time to go; it’s less crowded, and they do a killer job with the lights. Then afterward maybe grab some unusual ice cream flavors at Pitango Gelato.

Do you have a website or blog?

Yep! You can check out my work at

I forgot to ask - why the penname "Nika"?

I first started publishing the webcomic that would become "Love Debut!" without any clear idea of what I was doing or how long I'd keep it up. At the time, many other creators publishing manga-inspired webcomics had Japanese-derived pseudonyms, so I just went along with that and adapted the name "Nika" from an character I had come up with as a kid. Later, when I returned to comics after graduating college, it made sense to use the name to keep my comics and my "professional" life separate. I might consider retiring it once "Signals" is complete, but hard to say. At this point, the name feels pretty comfortable and familiar.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Catching up with Shannon Gallant

by Mike Rhode

Next month, I'll be moderating a Nerds in NoMa panel on March 12th on "Comic Converts: The World of Comic Illustrators in D.C.” One of the attendees will be Shannon Gallant, a local comic book artist whom I've interviewed several times. He recently finished his work for the miniseries G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero vs. the Six Million Dollar Man.

So what's new?

I’m contributing strips to Beano (the UK kids magazine), I’ve got an issue of Ghostbusters coming out in April as part of the anniversary celebration of the franchise, and I’m doing a fill in issue for GI Joe:Real American Hero.

You're known for your work on GI Joe in America, with a long run drawing it for IDW. How did you begin working on a traditional British comic?
Ned Hartley, who used to be an editor at Titan Comics (where I drew Shrek, and Torchwood) is a contributing writer for BananaMan in Beano; some might know the cartoon that aired on Nickelodeon alongside Danger Mouse. He recommended me, and after some audition pages, I’m getting to fill in for a few artists on maternity leave. As a friend said to me, let’s hope the regular artists continue to expand their families!
Any idea how people can buy it in the States?

The easiest way I know that someone can get Beano is digitally through their app. Otherwise, it would be a hunt for a store that specializes in British imports, or a comic shop that does the leg work. I barely have any because the company doesn’t send copies. I’ve had friends who were traveling, or have relatives, smuggle... I mean, bring some over. Weird thing is, it’s the highest circulation comic I’m involved with. Last issue apparently almost hit 50K. 

Here are some scenes from the Ghostbusters comic dropping in April. This was fun, because I got to ink it all myself, both cover and interiors. My upcoming GI Joe work will have an inker on my pencils. 

Which GI Joe title are you on? 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Malaka Gharib

by Mike Rhode

Next month, I'll be moderating a Nerds in NoMa panel on March 12th on "Comic Converts: The World of Comic Illustrators in D.C.” One of the attendees will be Malaka Gharib, and I must confess to not being familiar with her work previously, even though she has a book I Was Their American Dream coming out soon from Penguin Random House which describes it thusly:

One part Mari Andrew, one part Marjane Satrapi, I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir is a triumphant tale of self-discovery, a celebration of a family’s rich heritage, and a love letter to American immigrant freedom. Malaka Gharib’s illustrations come alive with teenage antics and earnest questions about identity and culture, while providing thoughtful insight into the lives of modern immigrants and the generation of millennial children they raised. Malaka’s upbringing will look familiar to anyone who grew up in the pre-internet era, but her particular story is a heartfelt tribute to the American immigrants who have invested their future in the promise of the American dream. The daughter of parents with unfulfilled dreams themselves, Malaka navigates her childhood chasing her parents’ ideals, learning to code-switch between her family’s Filipino and Egyptian customs, adapting to white culture to fit in, crushing on skater boys, and trying to understand the tension between holding onto cultural values and trying to be an all-American kid. I Was Their American Dream is at once a journal of growing up and a reminder of the thousands of immigrants who come to America in search for a better life for themselves and their children.

Sounds good, right? Here's her short bio, grabbed from Catapult, where she has a cute slice of life travel story, Special Request:
Malaka Gharib is a journalist at NPR. She is the author of "I Was Their American Dream," a graphic memoir (Clarkson Potter, April 2019) about being Filipino-Egyptian-American. She is the founder of The Runcible Spoon, a food zine, and the co-founder of the D.C. Art Book Fair. She lives in a rowhouse with her husband in Washington, D.C. 

She's answering our usual questions before the talk.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Comics and spot illustrations, also flash installations and little zines.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Traditional pen and ink and compute.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?


Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

Work! But it's become my home, have been here for a decade. Kingman Park.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

None, but I've been doodling and making cartoons since I was a kid. Comics and zines started in high school in Southern California.

Who are your influences?

Roz Chast, Marissa Moss, Adrian Tomine, Christoph Niemann, Maira Kalman, Mari Andrew.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Go to art school!

What work are you best-known for?

The Runcible Spoon, my zine about food. We got profiled once in the New York Times and it was honestly my proudest moment. And now my forthcoming graphic memoir, I Was Their American Dream, about being first-generation Filipino-Egyptian-American. My book will be on sale at Solid State Books on April 30, the publication date [note that this is an event that Malaka will be speaking at].

What work are you most proud of?

My little zines that I make on my Instagram continue to delight me

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Children's books, game books. I've got an idea for a new book called 101 Impossible Games And How To Play Them.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I think about how writing or drawing is all about discipline, but that it takes as long as it needs to take -- and that blocks are part of the process.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

For print zines and comix? I think it will be like vinyl, rare and cultural phenomenon, so then perceived as special.

What local cons do you attend? DC Zinefest? The Small Press Expo, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Those, of course, and the event I cohost: the DC Art Book Fair (July 7 at the National Museum for Women in the Arts).

What's your favorite thing about DC?

The feeling of seeing the National Monuments on the taxi drive from DCA to home, and knowing that this beautiful, fucked up city is mine.

Least favorite?

The color palette of the city in winter.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

The atrium in the National Gallery of Art for a coffee.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I like the meatloaf at Ted's Bulletin.

Do you have a website or blog?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Meet a Visiting Comic Book Writer: A Chat with Nejc Juren of Slovenia

by Mike Rhode

Early next month, DC will have the rare treat of two Slovenian cartoonists visiting to sign their Animal Noir graphic novel and open an exhibit of comic art at the Embassy of Slovenia. Last week, we interviewed Izar Lunaček.Today, we chat with Nejc Juren, the co-author of Animal Noir.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write scripts. I'm so bad at drawing that I never dared to hope I could do any work in comics. However, I've always loved comics, and since I consider myself more of a storyteller then a writer, I jumped at the chance when Izar suggested we tell some stories together in comic book form. I truly believe comics are one of the best storytelling mediums. The possibilities here are endless.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I try to adapt to the process of the illustrator. If he needs a panel by panel script, I try to write it that way, but I prefer the process to be more loose. I tell the illustrator the broad story and then I let his visual ideas guide and shape the script. With Izar, the process was just incredible. When we did Animal Noir we spent a couple of months just world-building. We really went into the foundation of the world those animals created. Then we created the long arc of the story (which has yet to be told and I guarantee is really epic) and only then all the small arcs, the first of which came out last year from IDW.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1982. Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia and a socialist country. Yugoslavia dissolved when I was 8 years old and I grew up watching a lot of American television.

Where do you live now?

I live in Ljubljana, our nation's capital.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I always got the worst marks in drawing. But I also always got the worst mark in music and now I make ends meet by writing comic scripts and running a semi-popular swing band. As for formal education, I finished law school.

Who are your influences?

René Goscinny, Allan Moore, Joan Sfar, Christophe Blain.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I don't think I'd change anything. I kinda take it like this: it takes around 20 years to become a good storyteller. So that's a really long journey. And the more you meander, the more you get lost and side-tracked, the more walls you hit, all that should - by this theory - just add to your journey. That's why I'm trying to cherish all the wrong turns I take.

What work are you best-known for?

In comics, it's Animal Noir. However, in Slovenia I'm more known as a musician. This is my band, Počeni Škafi, if you want to check us out. I write all the lyrics and most of the music. In English, it means The Cracking Buckets. Our original singer's surname was Škafar, which means the bucket maker.We have an album on Spotify and all the other streaming sites, but a good sample is here:

What work are you most proud of?

You'd make me choose among my children? Okay, check this video out. It's the first thing Izar and I did together. Dive is a short comic that was done as a music video for Fed Horses, a band I also write lyrics for. I'm really happy the way it turned out but I don't think the Youtube algorithm likes it too much.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Izar and I are working on a comic called Thursday Girl that I think will be great. We're hoping to find a publisher soon so we can get our claws into it. I'm also preparing a collection of short stories that's going to get released next year.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I stop and let my brain solve it on it's own. I have a constant writer's block and usually resolves it self around deadlines. Or I find that a long walk or a long shower really helps.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Who knows? But stories will always be important. And if by some chance the world gets overrun by amazing storytellers and will have no use for me, I'll just go back into law.

What conventions do you attend?

I usually go to the Angouleme festival in France. It's super nice.

Have you visited DC before?

Yes. I visited in 98. I was an international student at the Governor's school of South Carolina and we make a field trip.

If so, favorite thing? Least favorite? If not, what do you want to do?

I remember putting my finger into Einstein's nose.

If you've visited, what monument or museum do you like?

I guess the answer is again Einstein. I'm not into the big phallic monuments. I did enjoy the Air & Space Museum.

What can you tell us about your book that you're signing at Big Planet Comics?

One of Goodreads reviewers called it: so intensely overthought that it's hard to tell if it's good or just totally insane. I guess that's my work.

Did Animal Noir when we appear in the United States, or did it appear in your country first? How did you guys bring it to the attention of IDW? Did you do the English script yourselves?

Animal Noir came out in the US first. Some publishing houses in Slovenia liked it, but none wanted to risk the investment. The Slovenian comics market is very small. Our original plan was to find a publisher in France and the first few pages were drawn in a little larger format. When IDW showed interest, we adapted it to the floppy format and we re-wrote the script to fit it into 20-page episodes.

Izar met Ted Adams at the comics festival in Barcelona, pitched him the story and showed him a few pages. Ted liked it so much, he also took on the editing duties. It was surreal for us.

Yeah, we wrote Animal Noir in English. When in came out in Slovenia 6 months later, we needed to translate it into our mother tongue. Moreover, when we did the world-building we named everything in English with some reckless abandon, so we put ourselves in some tight spots when we needed to translate those names into Slovenian.

Do you have a website or blog?

No. But you can follow me on Instagram.

As Izar Lunaček noted on our blog last week:

The first days of November will see a double hit of Slovenian comics descend on Washington DC. On Thursday November 1st at 7PM, Nejc Juren and Izar Lunaček will swing by Big Planet Comics on U St., NW to talk about and sign their book Animal Noir, a comic thriller about a giraffe detective in a world of lion politicians and hippo mobsters that came out with IDW last year, and on the 2nd the same guys will open an exhibition on the vivid history of their own country's comics scene at the Slovenian embassy on California Street. Admission to both events is free and food and drinks might be served. Come on, come all, it'll be wonderfully fun! 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Chat with Dan Rosandich, Cartoonist for Hire

by Mike Rhode

I got a tip that cartoons were included in a US Capitol Visitors Center exhibit about the 'Separation Of Powers.'  I was able to track down cartoonist Dan Rosandich, who confirmed that the cartoons were his work, but that he wasn't contractually allowed to talk about doing them. Instead, he answered our usual questions for a visiting cartoonist.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I do cartoons that are gag panels and I keep myself "on call" for assignments as I get requests for special custom cartoons through my online web catalog and portfolio pages. I'm currently illustrating a logo for a micro-brewery out east and am almost finished.

I also recently finished a magazine cover for a small trade journal based in Illinois (their October issue in fact)

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I am old school, based on drawing these illustrations for 40+ years now. I have tried many drawing nibs, dip pens, markers and micro-tip felt pens and am comfortable using the Rapidograph technical pen. Normally I pencil in a gag cartoon, ink it in using the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph and let that dry and later I clean it with a soft eraser. I then scan the artwork into Photoshop. I still use Photoshop version 6.0....very antiquated, but it works for me and I can format high resolution cartoon files and store each image into an appropriately named folder on my hard drive for easy access and retrieval.

I used to use Higgins Waterproof India Ink for coloring work but it's an obsolete practice I think.... no editor wants to have to get an originally illustrated watercolor, than have to either scan it or make a transparency from it, when all they really need to do is take any properly-formatted files supplied from the cartoonist and import it into their digital publishing software they lay their publication out with.

Technology has really revolutionized the cartooning business from that standpoint. But it's creating original paper images that I like... I could do it all on a Cintiq I guess, but what would I have to hold in my (ink-stained) hands afterwards?

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1957 north of Detroit, Michigan.

Where do you live now?

I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (aka Yooperland!)

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I never went to any fancy art school or had a formal college course in art... I immediately began sending out cartoons to magazines while in my last year of high school and sold one to a trade magazine based in NYC and was "hooked". I still can't describe the feeling you get when you aspire to something you want, and get an acceptance. You immediately get that "I have arrived" overwhelming feeling. And when it happens to a kid, that makes the impact all that much greater and memorable.

It really motivates you.

Who are your influences?

I discovered underground comics as a kid and liked their freedom of expression from the get-go. Robert Crumb's work blew my mind....his attention to detail was / is so great....the cross-hatching and use of black to make characters "pop" is so unique.

The usual comic strip influences were of course Schulz who had already published many Peanuts anthologies which were huge coffee table size books and I'd go to the library to check them out and leaf through them, absorbing all the in depth line art and the way he'd box in each panel, ever so carefully while smelling the light mildewy odor mixed in with the inks that eminated off each page....I thought I was in nirvana.

I'd also graze all the back copies of The New Yorker at my high school library and was enthralled with a guy names Marvin Townsend whose gag panels appeared in all the Weekly Readers I'd go through as a kid.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Get a good formal art training or training in architectural design. It would be an asset in making future artwork look much better and in today's digital realm, that training might assist in getting work in other areas of illustration.

Overall, I think I got in the freelance business when there was less competition and cartoonists seemed more willing to share and help one another. Nowadays it's very competitive....especially with everyone having their own online portfolios they can show to get work.

What work are you best-known for?

Probably 'Pete & Jake' which is a cartoon panel I do for World Fencing Data Center based in Austin, Texas. I have illustrated the cartoon about two bumbling fence installation workers who work for the fictitious Boss Fence Company and their cantankerous 'boss' who also appears regularly in the cartoons in each monthly issue of World Fence News.

 I started in 1995 and just last week finished the latest package of 40 new panels and am just now creating some special color Christmas cartoons for the upcoming holiday season.

They sometimes run a few cartoons in an issue and the following month dedicate a full page to all kinds of panels and a "Best Of" series of cartoons that have appeared in previous issues.

Their editor and publisher are big aficionados of the single panel gag concept and I've also done oodles of strips and other various multi-panels for them. They are a great regular client of mine.

Advertisers seeing my work have also reached out and assigned work used for promoting their own fence or safety-related products.

What work are you most proud of?

Overall, I have to say my entire "body" of work. I have well over 5,000 cartoons I make available throughout my online catalog and my site also acts as a promotional tool in order to get assignments for book illustration work and other custom created cartoons I offer.

But aside from what is online, I have an extensive portfolio of previously published book  illustrations, direct-mail projects of illustrated, images for marketers, consultants and facilitators have used numerous cartoons of mine, including custom cartoons for books and presentations, social media, web sites, email "blasts" and more.

I've illustrated everything from book covers and magazine covers to package design and t-shirt illustrations.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I would love to publish my own hard-copy catalog. I once had Don Martin of Mad magazine send me his little catalog offering his originals for sale. It was insane, but it was an impetus for a new idea I always had in the back of my mind.

Only my "catalog" would offer cartoons that advertising agencies could buy for whatever usage they request licensing those specific cartoons for. That hard copy booklet could also be used as a portfolio I could sell if I ever visited a city and went into ad agencies on my own time.

I am still considering my options in regards to it because it takes planning, such as how to acquire names and addresses of the right people to get the catalogs to, what the expense would be (not just for printing) but for getting all the right contact names and then shipping them out.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I spread things out. I have a subscription to SalesFlower which is an online database that allows you to choose different Standard Industrial Classification codes (SIC codes) of businesses. I pick out phone numbers of art directors or creative directors and make cold calls.

If not that, I switch gears and re-draw old cartoons that never sold or do work I never had time to focus on, such as giftware designs for POD sites (publishing on demand) like Cafe Press or Zazzle (I have accounts with both, but favor Zazzle over CafePress).

If not that, as you well know, paperwork is overwhelming...just cleaning up paperwork can be a relief....focusing on that can have a big impact on changing your outlook to a more positive one.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

The future of cartoons will definitely trend towards digital and the internet. The newspapers have dwindled to the point where comic strips are less and less important based on many sites like GoComics have taken up promoting those cartoonists online. GoComics isn't interested in my work I don't think, but I know of know fellow artists who report making money through that platform. That's not to say that they aren't trying, but I feel it's more in each respective cartoonist's court, to promote themselves. Build their own sites and display their work to the world on their
own...don't be part of a collection where you get lost in the shuffle. I'm not sure that's good. Your work will have it's own uniqueness if it stands alone and you present it in such a way that it's "marketed" to the right potential clients.

What conventions do you attend?

I attend no conventions as I have nothing to sell, aside from original gag panels, but I don't consider my original art as a "collectible" in any way. It's likely they'd say "Who's Rosandich?"

Have you visited DC before?

I haven't, but it's definitely on my list!

If not, what do you want to do?

I'd like to get to the U.S. Capitol . . .don't ask me why! And so many other famous monuments I would see I have an old school classmate who lives there and he was a Congressional guard in the military who said he can show me around the beltway and surround areas. The Smithsonian would be considered a "bucket list" visit!

Do you have a website or blog?

My main web site home page is at and my blog I write, focuses solely on cartoons, comic strips, the cartooning business, cartoonists and I occasionally reflect on things related to cartooning such as gag writing and promoting and marketing your cartoons on a freelance basis. My Toonblog can be found at