I have been given the fantastic opportunity to attend the 2010 Festival of Cartoon Art at the Ohio State University this October. From what I have gathered from cartoonists that have attended in the past, it should be an exciting weekend of fellowship with other artists who share a passion for cartooning.
However, this weekend also holds very special meaning for me because Dave Kellet of my favorite webcomic Sheldon will be speaking to a room full of professionals and academics about the future of cartooning. Yes, Dave will be talking about Webcomics.
At the 1989 Festival, Watterson spoke of the incredible potency in comic strip cartooning: This rarest of arts that let one artist, one voice, speak to millions. This artform that lets the personal outlook shine through, where so many other mass media arts do so by committee.
So to be invited, some twenty one years later, to speak at the very same gathering of professionals and academics, is magical to me. (It’s humbling beyond words, too, in a stomach-churning way…but let’s focus on the magical aspect of it.)
Because, the funny thing? The thing I want to talk about? Is actually that very same Watterson speech from 1989. Or rather, to offer a loving and respectful rebuttal to it, from 21 years on. I want to speak to his concerns about the space allotted comic strips in newspapers; about zombie comic strips still being drawn long after their original creator had died; about why so many features have stale, interchangeable voices; or why so many are merely advertisements for dolls and greeting cards; or why comic strips in general have been on this slow, downward trend of diminishment in American life for the past 20-30 years
Because basically, I’m going to talk about this incredible change of fortune for the comic strip. I’m going to talk about Webcomics.
This means a lot to me because I feel that, in many ways, Dave Kellet is the spiritual successor to Watterson. The work he produces speaks to the adults who grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, as well as their kids who are now turning away from newspapers and looking to webcomics for their cartooning entertainment. Plus, Dave is not only a very funny guy and a talented artist, but he has the educational background and the knowledge to speak with long time professionals and educators on their level about comics. Webcartoonists have been looking for an “ambassador” to represent us and “legitimize” us for a very long time, and I think that Dave Kellet may just be the man for the job.
So anyway, It should be a very interesting weekend for webcomics and I am very excited to get the opportunity to go!