Depending on how you define success, I guess you can say I'm a successful cartoonist. I'm never going to be a Schulz or a Penny Arcade, but my art and writing is pretty good, I've been published fairly widely, and I earn a living drawing funny pictures. Not bad.
I must have done everything right, right? Not so much. When I take a good hard look at it, probably 95% of the things I've tried ended up failing. But the other 5% turned out really good.
If I had a mantra, it would be this: fail big, fail messy, and fail often. I'm not saying you should make stupid or rash decisions, just stop being afraid of things not working out, because, realistically, for the most part they won't. But if you're not failing, you're not trying.
So, in that spirit, here's just a few of my most notable failures. Enjoy:
Like most cartoonists, I tried my hand at syndication for a few years. I did a strip about a young married couple (top,) and another about a dog and his owner where the dog was the breadwinner and the guy was more the pet in the relationship.
You can see me figuring out my style, and the writing is clunky. They were right not to give me a contract (although Jay Kennedy wrote me some lovely comments). Ultimately a strip was not a good fit for me.
When CafePress started out I was sure it was going to be all kinds of money for me. My wife and I spent an entire summer coloring my cartoons, uploading them, putting them on t-shirts, mugs, etc... I think I earned maybe $50 when it was all said and done.
I'm sure someone is succeeding on CafePress, but it isn't me.
For a while I thought selling books was the way to go. I did one on Lulu, printed up some SPX-ready minicomics, some themed collections for the art fair crowd (more on that later), and even an iBook. They sold OK, I made my money back, but for the amount of work I put into them, books have been a bust.
I'm not a big fan of Facebook. I've recently gotten my act together with an Andertoons page, but for the most part I don't like/trust it. Still, when they debuted apps a few years back I paid my developer to figure out FBML and build a daily cartoon thingy. It never went above 50 users, never sent me any business, and cost me a fair amount of money. Sigh.
For time and money spent, my art fair set-up is probably one of my biggest failures. I spent more than $6000 on the tent, tables, frames, signs, supplies, entry fees, and more. I also spent a summer of 90-100 degree days sitting outside while people read and laughed at my cartoons before moving on sans merchandise to the hand-made earring or what-can-I-make-out-of-beer-cans booth next door. Add in the set-up, tear-down, travel, and the time I held onto my 10-foot steel pole frame in a 50 MPH thunderstorm so my entire investment wouldn't blow away and you've got one serious failure. (Remind me to tell you about the flood sometime too.)
I've done my time trying to sell the the New Yorker too. I submitted for years and never got so much as a nibble. I've even met cartoon editor Bob Mankoff a few times:
Once he told me that my art was good, but my writing was terrible. Another time he said my writing was good, but my art was terrible. (He also once thought I drew Family Circus.) But I think mostly he's afraid of me. I'm a big guy, and I suspect when he sees me coming at him excitedly he's worried I'm seeing this:
So there are just a few of my most spectacular failures, and a picture of Bob Mankoff as a sandwich. When you add in the dozens of smaller and less entertaining failures, I've done my share of falling down. You really should give it a try. It's better than you think.
BTW, if you liked that, here's a few more blogs you might like:
Mother's Day is coming right up, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite mom themed cartoons! Enjoy:
This is one of just a few cartoons that have been pulled pretty much verbatim from real life. It's one of my wife's favorites too. So much so, in fact, that I made a sweatshirt with it for her for Christmas.
I did a fair amount of bath time cartoons for a while there, but once my kids started taking showers they sort of dried up. (Pun only kind of sort of intended but not really.)
Finding a good baby sitter is hard. In fact, if you know anybody...
This is more of a Thanksgiving cartoon, but it has a definite mom angle to it, so I included it.
It's all in the wording.
I suspect this one was written soon after our second was born, although, to be fair, the boy talks enough for two kids all by himself.
It's always a gamble doing tech cartoons because you never know how long they'll be relevant. Thankfully this still works.
Probably my most popular mom-related cartoon.
So there's a bunch of mom cartoons for you. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!
Last year to celebrate May the 4th I showed you how to draw a cartoon R2D2. So this year I thought it only natural to complete the pair and show you how to draw your very own cartoon C-3PO! (Draw both droids and really show off!)
When you're finished, feel free to tweet, pin, email or otherwise share a pic of everyone's favorite protocol droid with me and I'll post it over at Pinterest! And if you'd like to grab the tutorial to post on your own blog or website, you're more than welcome to. (A link back would be appreciated.) Enjoy:
Easy, right? You should try out my other how-to-draw tutorials too! Here's just a few:
Feel free to check out my Star Wars cartoons too!
I attended on Friday this year and once again it was a fantastic time!
There was a large crowd, but it neve felt crowded. Here's a view of some of the floor:
And here's Artist's Alley:
I hit Artist's Alley right away and was able to chat with My Little Pony writer Katie Cook before her line got too long:
She did a small piece for my daughter and I picked up her first Gronk book. I should have picked up both volumes, as my daughter read the first cover to cover as soon as I handed it to her.
We chatted again about kids comics and I told him how much my son and I enjoyed reading SD together. A super nice guy!
I stopped by Amanda Conner's table, and although the line was short and orderly (shorterly?), she didn't have any new items to purchase. Ditto for J. Scott Campbell:
I think he actually had a smallish sketchbook I don't have, but I like his larger hardcover collections better.
See, I'm not a bring-a-box-of-comics-to-get-autographed guy, I'm more of a I-like-your-work-and-I-want-buy-something-neat guy, which is less common I suspect. Still, it was good to see fans and artists alike happy to see each other.
Then it was time for some C2E2 shopping!
I wasn't really looking for any older comics, but goodness knows there were plenty. And lots and lots and lots of toys and collectables!
This next one floored me, and I came really close to buying it:
I didn't see much of a webcomic presence at C2E2 this year, but the Cyanide and Happiness guys were doing a brisk business. Good for them!
Another almost buy...
There was a lot of LEGO at this show too, but the prices were a bit high and I saw too many custom and post-keychain minifigs for my tastes. Still, I found an Avengers polybag that never made its way to the States.
Of course you had your Renassiance folks...
...and the requisite cool car.
And finally, the cosplayers. Even on a Friday there was a lot to see!
There's always a lot of Harley Quinns, but I gave this one high marks for carrying around what looked to be a really heavy hammer all day:
And of course you have your Deadpool:
I thought these two Disney princesses were not only well done, but a breath of fresh air.
I found out after this pic that She-Ra and Dredd here weren't together, but I'd like to think that maybe they might find a C2E2 love crossover:
She-Hulk and her little Loki:
Thor here made a farting nose as I was taking this and made the Valkyrie laugh really hard. Wish I'd have been quicker on the camera to grab it.
But my favorite cosplay of the whole day was also probably the simplest:
So that's it for this year. I wish I could've seen a panel or two, but I spent too much time tracking down a giant pink Kirby for my daughter. I'd promised myself I was going to get Felicia Day's autograph too, but suspected I'd only be able to say "Felicia pretty" before looking at my feet and giggling.
Another great C2E2 and I can't wait for next year!
Last week I was working on some writing and was thinking about having a lawyer telling his cat client that they'd gotten a dog for the judge in the case. But I couldn't quite figure out the right word, so I went to Twitter and asked:
Need some help with a caption...— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
When a lawyer and client find out what judge they're getting, how is that phrased?— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
Did they "pull" a certain judge? "Get" one? Is there some jargon there?— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
@andertoons Not 100% certain - I believe it is "drew" - (sort of like 'luck of the draw')— Karen Roussy (@karenroussy1) April 16, 2013
@andertoons I think on TV shows, they usually use "draw" or "pull" ... but I'm not certain whether that's accurate.— brainwise (@brainwise) April 16, 2013
OK, so here's the idea...Lawyer to cat criminal - "Bad news, we drew Judge Fido."— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
But Fido didn't sound quite right. Back to Twitter:
Sparky maybe? It needs to sound like a dog.— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
Rover?— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
@andertoons Bowser? Woofman? Trying to think of more...— Justin S Barrett (@jsbarrett) April 16, 2013
@andertoons Judge Bones?— Joe Simmons (@joescartoons) April 16, 2013
OK, so here's the choices - Fideo, Rover, or Spot?— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
@andertoons Between those three, my vote is for Rover— Justin S Barrett (@jsbarrett) April 16, 2013
@andertoons Fido is more of a dog name, I think, although I just searched and apparently they're all named after one famous Fido dog.— neokabuto (@neokabuto) April 16, 2013
OK, it's between Rover and Fido.— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
@andertoons Rover— Justin S Barrett (@jsbarrett) April 16, 2013
OK, it's Rover. I liked Fido, but it seems like a dog name from the 50's. Rover is old too, but less so.— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
You know what, that caption is 6 words, and I needed help on 2 of them! Sheesh!— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
@andertoons But what about Spot?— Peter L Brown (@PLBthetoonist) April 16, 2013
@plbthetoonist I liked Spot, but thought it might infer a Dalmatian. But maybe if the case was arson...— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
Thanks so much you guys! You totally rocked it! WOO!— Andertoons (@andertoons) April 16, 2013
Isn't that great?! I was totally stuck on a caption and a few Tweets later I've got it! To be fair you couldn't do this all the time, but it's something I'm definitely going to have to try more in the future.
Thanks again to everyone who helped (the above is just a bit of the total conversation) and here's the final cartoon for you: