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Jimmy Johnson: Internet has changed cartoonists need for mentoring

An interesting observation by Arlo and Janis creator Jimmy Johnson:

I?ll tell you something else the Internet has changed. In the past, professional cartoonists could rely upon a steady stream of novices dropping in to learn the tricks of the trade. Most cartoonists graciously accommodated the newbies, although they weren?t called ?newbies? in the day, because someone probably had helped them along in the same way. It was part of the fraternity dues. Today, would-be cartoonists can put their material directly on the Web for the entire world to see, and they no longer feel the need for instruction. Besides, if they do, that instruction is available instantly on the Internet. Who needs the advice of some old has-been who?s just taking up space and breathing air that could be used by someone else?

Another way the Internet is changing the industry.

Community Comments

#1 Alexa Dickman
August/26/2014
@ 3:46 pm

“Things are different now and I don’t like it!” is what I’m hearing. He seems to think that the young whippersnappers put their comics up online for the world to see from the get-go because they’re egotistical and think it’s already perfect. Whereas, in my experience, you will never meet anyone more ravenous for constructive criticism than webcartoonists. They post their work so they can ask for critiques and are using it as practice, making all their novice mistakes publicly. That’s not a venue for the egotist, that’s the venue for a masochist.

Also, most of my favorite webcomics are by students or alumni of some serious art school or program. So it’s not that they’re not getting professional instruction, they’re just not apprenticing.

The cream still rises to the top, but now “the top” is not a newspaper syndicate. There’s a whole different business model to contend with that’s not conducive to holing up and studying at the feet of a pro and politely sending inquiry letters out.

#2 Randy Glasbergen
August/26/2014
@ 4:06 pm

When a young aspiring cartoonist asks me for advice, these days I tell them to put their work on Facebook for instant feedback. This provides opportunity with a door to knock on and makes the work more accessible than it might be on a blog or website. It’s only a first step, of course.

#3 Aaron Reed
August/26/2014
@ 5:53 pm

Randy, I agree with your advice. For a short time, I was producing comics for fun in Esperanto, and I found that more Esperantists (as fans of that articficial language are called) saw my work on Facebook and were more likely to comment there than when I used to post my chicken scratchings on a Geocities web page. I also find FB easier to post single comics or even comic-book length material than on a blog. Certainly easier than a website :)

Anyone connected to a good deal of friends and family on FB definitely has a starting point there.

The only thing I find lacking on FB are groups (which I prefer) or pages for people to promote their own work to the general public.
I wish the new generation success and perseverance.

#4 Tyson Cole
August/26/2014
@ 10:39 pm

My prize for winning the Cartoonists’ Studio’s competition was a mentorship from Dave Coverly. The mentorship was fantastic, but it kind of sucked that the prize was something I probably could have just asked for in the old days.

#5 Terry LaBan
August/27/2014
@ 8:47 am

You can still visit an old cartoonist if you want to. Come by some time!

#6 Keith Brown
August/27/2014
@ 11:39 am

I would love to hear anything that a pro or veteran would have to say. I have corresponded with a few who were very generous with their time but I also try not to bug people. I’m terrified of being considered a pest. I don’t know, maybe that’s the wrong attitude.

#7 Mike Lester
August/27/2014
@ 11:41 am

If this was numbered on the big list of “THINGS THE INTERNET HAS CHANGED” it would have six zeros behind it. At least.

#8 Joe Vissichelli
August/27/2014
@ 3:26 pm

“Who needs the advice of some old has-been who?s just taking up space and breathing air that could be used by someone else?”

What an appalling crack.

So let’s see, what you’re saying? I know what I need to know now that there’s an internet and I can find it easily, so there’s nothing to learn from the older guys.

How about craft?

Is anyone not aware that the art quality of most strips today is horrendous? Do the compromised creators just need to watch more newbie know-it-alls on youtube to improve?

Is the fact that the further back you go in history, the more grounded in great drawing education cartoonists were, entirely irrelevant to you? Is there nothing unexpectedly valuable to be learned from just being in the presence of the old air-suckers sometimes?

Is it entirely about the marketing now? If so, why call ourselves cartoonists? Does marketing a lousy strip successfully make it automatically great art? Do today’s Cartoon Picassos really always know what it is they need to improve upon, so they’ll be aware enough to seek out up a youtube video or “expert” tutorial?

I do lots of online homework but I also hang out with cartoonists of varied levels, both giving and getting pearls that wouldn’t be shared without our physical presence. I don’t ever feel anyone’s useless to anyone else and I learn from all levels.

We learn from all of it, Jimmy. The web is just another thing to add onto your sources, but hardly the cat’s meow you think it is.

It’s also a way for horrible artists to pose as solid pros and teachers, publish when they should spare us and showcase clueless crap that’s slapped together in Photoshop. Couldn’t those artists benefit from the presence of old-timers who may be shy on tech but are grounded in craft?

Or maybe the “artists” who avoid those “just sucking air” will, in reality, be happy to just suck?

#9 Mike Peterson
August/29/2014
@ 3:09 am

Well, if nothing else, he’s proven that irony and sarcasm fly over the heads of at least some would-be cartoonists. (“Would-be” not because syndication is the goal, but because recognizing irony and sarcasm are sorta kinda critical to the form. And I’m explaining this because gosub10.)

#10 Shannon Maguire
August/29/2014
@ 11:24 am

People used to talk to each other in person and learn from other real life human beings? What was that like? I think I might have heard about something like that in a fairy tale once. It would definitely be nice. As a new comic writer who has no idea what she’s doing, I would love a good solid resource on how to write gag comics. Maybe I’m just not googling the right things, but if I find one more book or tutorial about creating the art or writing a superhero script I’m going to scream. The internet has a lot of information on it, but most of it seems to be superficial fluff that doesn’t compare to a well written book or in person teaching.

#11 Tom Bancroft
September/2/2014
@ 7:10 am

Shannon, there ARE good resources on the interwebs for learning how to write comics- ONE that comes to mind happens to be one I am president of:www.taughtbyapro.com. With more video lectures by top pros coming everyday, this is a great, inexpensive resource for you. I particular, the one on “Drawriting” by Michael Jantze will make you scream in a good way at the internet. Hope this helps.

#12 Diego Jourdan Pereira
September/2/2014
@ 8:32 am

Well, back in the last throes of the 20th century, when i started out, i was lucky enough to do so through apprenticeship with an experienced illustrator, and then assisting a professional Donald Duck cartoonist who worked locally for a publisher overseas.

So while i have nothing against the internet, quite the contrary, there’s more to being a pro than technical instruction and tutoring. There’s an attitude towards work that comes with it, as well as a code of ethics and, if lucky, a touch of class.

All three, attitude, ethics, and class, i’ve seldom encountered online, as the internet works as a sort of parallel Earth, where everybody is a critic, each holding his/her own opinion in high regard, but where the 20,30, 40 or more years worth of know-how a professional amasses amounts to nothing (as a recent “case” against Milo Manara proves). In the end, paraphrasing “The Incredibles”, where everyone is ‘special’… no one is.

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