Sunday, June 14, 2009

20 Questions with Jerry King

All hail the King!

I’ve admired Jerry King’s work for years. I first noticed his greeting card gags back in the late 1980s when I was submitting card concepts to West Graphics, now owned by Kalan. And Jerry’s only gotten better.

His style is immediately recognizable and the best thing about his work is its immediacy, simplicity, and the fact that it’s just so damn funny. Jerry King draws funny. Even before you read the caption, you start to smile because the way he draws makes you laugh.

Jerry’s also prolific. Way prolific. I’m not talking "cartoon a day" prolific. I’m talking "cartoon an hour." Jerry can crank out 10-to-15 high-level, A-material cartoons a day. And he does, pretty much day after day. He truly is the King of cartooning, and I don’t feel worthy to refill his mechanical pencil.

Jerry is a pioneer in online cartooning and supplies material to a large number of website clients, in addition to his print customers. He’s also a regular contributor to Playboy, the Holy Grail of cartoon markets (along with The New Yorker).

Check out Jerry’s site and read his interview. Then think about this: In the time it took you to read those 20 questions, Jerry probably drew a half-dozen cartoons and played a round of golf.

1. When you were a kid, did you want to be a cartoonist? Did you draw?

Not really, I just knew I loved to draw. I actually had a dream of becoming a boxer. I won the Golden Gloves and shared the same trainer as heavyweight champ Buster Douglas.

But it was obvious I'm a lot better at cartooning. :)

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

I landed a job while in high school illustrating children's books. They took a chance on me, and it really worked out.

3. You’ve done cartoons for magazines, websites, greeting cards, books. How did you get into the gag cartoon field?

Once my doodling got good enough, I just started submitting. I feel cartooning is 90% marketing, 10% creating. Creating a panel cartoon is easy; finding someone to buy it is the hard part.

4. Why is the single-panel gag superior to the comic strip?

Many comic strips are old, outdated and boring. Strips appeal to a demographic that dates back to '60s. Panels seem to be much funnier and hipper. I don't even read strips anymore.

5. You’re incredibly prolific. How many cartoons do you draw on an average day?

I can easily do around 10-15 cartoons a day. However, I work at home, and my kids are in my office all day, so I don't get as much done as I used to. I'm selling around 200 cartoons per month.

6. What’s your favorite rejected cartoon?

A dog says to his owner in a bar: "Sorry, but I can no longer go on with this charade. Not only am I not your best friend, I'm not even sure I like you at all."

This has sold, but it's been rejected more times than not.

7. What’s the future of gag cartooning?
Magazines? The Internet?

The Internet!!!! Websites are magazine, they just happen to be online. I love doing for magazines, but websites buy more than one cartoon a month, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis. Magazine ads are suffering, and magazines buy maybe a cartoon per month.

8. Name five of your favorite cartoonists.

Glenn McCoy, Dan Thompson (very prolific), Gary Larson, New Yorker cartoonists Weber and Stevenson. And me :)

9. Who’s hotter, the mom in FAMILY CIRCUS or the mom in DENNIS THE MENACE?

I'd do them both, but Dennis' mom.

10. How do you develop ideas? Which comes first, words or pictures?

Mostly the words comes first, but not all the time.

11. Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?


12. You’ve had a lot of work published in Playboy. What’s Hugh Hefner really like?

Never met him, but he's been choosing my cartoons for 15 years now.

13. What kind of editor do you prefer, hands-on or laissez-faire?

I like an editor who gives me direction.

14. What are your favorite books, TV shows, songs and films? (Yes, that counts as one question.)

I really don't read books, even though I was an English major. I'm a classic rock guy, Motown, some Country. Mob movies. I hate chick flicks. I'm pretty shallow. ;)

15. What are your tools of the trade?

Typing paper, mechanical pencil, computer, scanner, Photoshop.

16. What’s the best part about being a cartoonist?

Working at home. Drawing funny pictures and getting paid for it. It's the best job on earth.

17. Have you met any of your cartoonist idols? Under what circumstances?

Nope. I'd rather meet a paying client than another cartoonist.

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

DO NOT listen to syndicates, they have no clue what they're doing. There are markets out there that will buy your work. Newspapers are failing, and they pay like sh*t! So, get on the Internet, and start selling cartoons to niche markets.

19. How important are awards?

Awards are a frickin' joke. Jimmy Buffet once said he had never won so much as a talent contest (he finally won in 2003), but we all love his work. But, Britney Spears has won a lot. I have over 20 awards on my wall. I love them, but none of them came with $$.

20. What’s something that nobody knows about you?

I come off as silly, but when it comes to my career, I'm a very serious business man.

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