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A cartoonist (also comic strip creator, comic book artist, graphic novel artist, [1] or comic book illustrator) is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons (individual images) or comics (sequential images). Cartoonists include the artists who handle all aspects of the work and those who contribute only part of the production. Cartoonists may work in many formats, such as booklets, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, illustrations, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.



In the West

Benjamin Franklin's Join, or Die (1754), credited as the first cartoon published in an American newspaper Benjamin Franklin - Join or Die.jpg
Benjamin Franklin's Join, or Die (1754), credited as the first cartoon published in an American newspaper

The English satirist and editorial cartoonist William Hogarth, who emerged In the 18th century, has been credited with pioneering Western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects". Much of his work poked fun at contemporary politics and customs; illustrations in such style are often referred to as "Hogarthian". [2] Following the work of Hogarth, political cartoons began to develop in England in the latter part of the 18th century under the direction of its great exponents, James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson, both from London. Gillray explored the use of the medium for lampooning and caricature, calling the king (George III), prime ministers and generals to account, and has been referred to as the father of the political cartoon. [3]

While never a professional cartoonist, Benjamin Franklin is credited with having the first cartoon published in an American newspaper. [4] In the 19th century, professional cartoonists such as Thomas Nast introduced other familiar American political symbols, such as the Republican elephant. [4]

During the 20th century, numerous magazines carried single-panel gag cartoons by such freelance cartoonists as Charles Addams, Irwin Caplan, Chon Day, Clyde Lamb, and John Norment. These were almost always published in black and white, although Collier's often carried cartoons in color. The debut of Playboy introduced full-page color cartoons by Jack Cole, Eldon Dedini, Roy Raymonde and others. Single-panel cartoonists syndicated to newspapers included Dave Breger, Hank Ketcham, George Lichty, Fred Neher, Irving Phillips, and J. R. Williams.

Comic strips

Comic strips received widespread distribution to mainstream newspapers by syndicates [5] such as the Universal Press Syndicate, United Media, or King Features. Sunday strips go to a coloring company such as American Color before they are published. Some comic strip creators publish in the alternative press or on the Internet. Both vintage and current strips receive reprints in book collections.

Calum MacKenzie, in his preface to the exhibition catalog, The Scottish Cartoonists (Glasgow Print Studio Gallery, 1979) defined the selection criteria:

The difference between a cartoonist and an illustrator was the same as the difference between a comedian and a comedy actor—the former both deliver their own lines and take full responsibility for them, the latter could always hide behind the fact that it was not his entire creation. [6]

Within the comic strip format, it is typical for one creator to produce the whole strip. However, it is also not uncommon for the writing of the strip and the drawing of the art to be carried out by two different people, a writer and an artist (with or without additional assistant artists). In some cases, one artist might draw key figures while another does only backgrounds.

Many strips were the work of two people although only one signature was displayed. Shortly after Frank Willard began Moon Mullins in 1923, he hired Ferd Johnson as his assistant. For decades, Johnson received no credit. Willard and Johnson traveled about Florida, Maine, Los Angeles, and Mexico, drawing the strip while living in hotels, apartments and farmhouses. At its peak of popularity during the 1940s and 1950s, the strip ran in 350 newspapers. According to Johnson, he had been doing the strip solo for at least a decade before Willard's death in 1958: "They put my name on it then. I had been doing it about 10 years before that because Willard had heart attacks and strokes and all that stuff. The minute my name went on that thing and his name went off, 25 papers dropped the strip. That shows you that, although I had been doing it ten years, the name means a lot." [7]

Comic books

Charles Dana Gibson was an influential American cartoonist in the early 20th century Charles Dana Gibson 02.jpg
Charles Dana Gibson was an influential American cartoonist in the early 20th century

There are many books of cartoons in both paperback and hardcover, such as the collections of cartoons from The New Yorker. Prior to the 1960s, cartoons were mostly ignored by museums and art galleries. In 1968, the cartoonist and comedian Roger Price opened the first New York City gallery devoted exclusively to cartoons, mainly work by the leading magazine gag cartoonists. Today, there are several museums devoted to cartoons, notably the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, run by curator Jenny E. Robb at Ohio State University.

With regards to the comic book format, the work can be split in many different ways. The writing and the creation of the art can be split between two people, an example being From Hell , which was written by Alan Moore and drawn by Eddie Campbell. The writing of a comic book story can sometimes be shared between two people, with one person writing the plot and another the script.

The artistic work is often subdivided, especially on work produced for the larger comic book publishers, with four people typically working on the art: a penciller, an inker, a colorist, and a letterer. Sometimes this combination of four artists is augmented by a fifth, a breakdown artist. However, this generally occurs only when an artist fails to meet a deadline or when a writer, sometimes referred to as a scripter, produces breakdown art. Breakdown art is where the story has been laid out very roughly in pencils to indicate panel layouts and character positions within panels but with no details. Such roughs are sometimes referred to as "layouts."

The norm of four artists is sometimes reduced to three if the penciller also inks his own work, usually being credited within the book as a penciller/inker. John Byrne and Walt Simonson are artists who have, on occasion, inked their own work.

These roles are highly interchangeable, and many artists can fulfill different roles. Stan Sakai is a highly regarded letterer of comic books who also creates his own series, Usagi Yojimbo . Producing his autobiographical works, Eddie Campbell has created both scripts and art, plus teaming with his daughter on the coloring. On Cerebus , for the majority of the run, Dave Sim created everything except the backgrounds, which were drawn by Gerhard.

Web cartoonist

Many artists have used the web since its inception to publish their works online. This eventually led to the creation of webcomics thanks in part to many titles being able to be read for free and anyone being able to publish them. Many of the artists who create these webcomics are known as web cartoonists due to the fact that the vast majority of webcomics are considered to be online versions of comic-strips and cartoons rather than full-fledged comic books like digital comics. It is hard to pinpoint when the actual term was created but the earliest use was 2001 with the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards. Some well known web cartoonists include Randall Munroe of xkcd , Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content and Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade .


Dip pens have traditionally been a popular drawing tool for cartoonists Winsor McCay - Little Nemo film still - drawing.jpg
Dip pens have traditionally been a popular drawing tool for cartoonists

Comics artists usually sketch a drawing in pencil before going over the drawing in India ink, using either a dip pen or a brush. Artists may also use a lightbox to create the final image in ink. Some artists, Brian Bolland, for example, use computer graphics, with the published work as the first physical appearance of the artwork. By many definitions (including McCloud's, above), the definition of comics extends to digital media such as webcomics and the mobile comic.

The nature of the comics work being created determines the number of people who work on its creation, with successful comic strips and comic books being produced through a studio system, in which an artist assembles a team of assistants to help create the work. However, works from independent companies, self-publishers, or those of a more personal nature can be produced by a single creator.

Within the comic book industry of North America, the studio system has come to be the main method of creation. Through its use by the industry, the roles have become heavily codified, and the managing of the studio has become the company's responsibility, with an editor discharging the management duties. The editor assembles a number of creators and oversees the work to publication.

Any number of people can assist in the creation of a comic book in this way, from a plotter, a breakdown artist, a penciller, an inker, a scripter, a letterer, and a colorist, with some roles being performed by the same person.

In contrast, a comic strip tends to be the work of a sole creator, usually termed a cartoonist. However, it is not unusual for a cartoonist to employ the studio method, particularly when a strip becomes successful. Mort Walker employed a studio, while Bill Watterson and Charles Schulz did not. Gag, political, and editorial cartoonists tend to work alone as well, though a cartoonist may use assistants.


Artists use a variety of pencils, brushes, or paper, typically Bristol board, and waterproof ink. [8] When inking, many artists preferred to use a Winsor & Newton Series 7, #3 brush as the main tool, which could be used in conjunction with other brushes, dip pens, a fountain pen, and/or a variety of technical pens or markers. Mechanical tints can be employed to add grey tone to an image. An artist might paint with acrylics, gouache, poster paints, or watercolors. Color can also be achieved through crayons, pastels or colored pencils.

Eraser, rulers, templates, set squares and a T-square assist in creating lines and shapes. A drawing table provides an angled work surface with lamps sometimes attached to the table. A lightbox allows an artist to trace his pencil work when inking, allowing for a looser finish. Knives and scalpels fill a variety of needs, including cutting board or scraping off mistakes. A cutting mat aids paper trimming. Process white is a thick opaque white material for covering mistakes. Adhesives and tapes help composite an image from different sources.

See also

Related Research Articles

Comic strip Short serialized comics

A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions. Traditionally, throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, these have been published in newspapers and magazines, with horizontal strips printed in black-and-white in daily newspapers, while Sunday newspapers offered longer sequences in special color comics sections. With the development of the internet, they began to appear online as webcomics. There were more than 200 different comic strips and daily cartoon panels in American newspapers alone each day for most of the 20th century, for a total of at least 7,300,000 episodes.

Cartoon Form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art

A cartoon is a type of illustration, possibly animated, typically in a non-realistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to either: an image or series of images intended for satire, caricature, or humor; or a motion picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation. Someone who creates cartoons in the first sense is called a cartoonist, and in the second sense they are usually called an animator.

Webcomics are comics published on a website or mobile app. While many are published exclusively on the web, others are also published in magazines, newspapers or in comic books.

A political cartoon, a type of editorial cartoon, is a graphic with caricatures of public figures, expressing the artist's opinion. An artist who writes and draws such images is known as an editorial cartoonist. They typically combine artistic skill, hyperbole and satire in order to question authority and draw attention to corruption, political violence and other social ills.

A letterer is a member of a team of comic book creators responsible for drawing the comic book's text. The letterer's use of typefaces, calligraphy, letter size, and layout all contribute to the impact of the comic. The letterer crafts the comic's "display lettering": the story title lettering and other special captions and credits that usually appear on a story's first page. The letterer also writes the letters in the word balloons and draws in sound effects. Many letterers also design logos for the comic book company's various titles.

Wally Wood American comic strip cartoonist and illustrator

Wallace Allan Wood was an American comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics's Mad and Marvel's Daredevil. He was one of Mad's founding cartoonists in 1952. Although much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, he became known as Wally Wood, a name he claimed to dislike. Within the comics community, he was also known as Woody, a name he sometimes used as a signature.

Jerry Robinson Comic book artist known for his work on the Batman series

Sherrill David Robinson, known as Jerry Robinson, was an American comic book artist known for his work on DC Comics' Batman line of comics during the 1940s. He is best known as the co-creator of Robin and the Joker and for his work on behalf of creators' rights.

Sandy Carruthers is a Canadian artist and retired graphic design instructor, known for his work as the first illustrator of the original Men in Black comic book series, and as creator of the webcomic series, Canadiana: the New Spirit of Canada.

Morris Weiss American comics artist

Morris S. Weiss was an American comic book and comic strip artist and writer. Active from the 1930s through the mid-1970s, he created the teen-comedy character "Margie" for Timely Comics, the 1940s predecessor of Marvel Comics, and was the final cartoonist on the comic strip Mickey Finn. He also worked as a writer or illustrator on numerous other strips, including Joe Palooka.

Adventures Into Digital Comics is a 2006 documentary about the fall of the comic book industry in the 1990s, and the emergence of webcomics since then, by Sébastien Dumesnil. The film features interviews with various comic book and webcomic artists and authors.

Pia Guerra Canadian comic book artist

Pia Jasmin Guerra is an American-born Canadian comic book artist, best known for her work as co-creator and lead penciller on the Vertigo title Y: The Last Man. She has worked in the comics industry since the 1990s, and has also contributed to Doctor Who: The Forgotten, along with DC and Marvel comics. Guerra regularly does cartoons for The New Yorker, MAD Magazine and The Nib. She is the author of the Image Comics editorial cartoon book, Me The People.

Frank X. McLaughlin was an American comics artist who co-created the comic book character Judomaster, drew the comic strip Gil Thorp, and assisted on such strips as Brenda Starr, Reporter and The Heart of Juliet Jones. He also wrote and illustrated books about cartooning and comic art.

David Reddick Artist, Illustrator and Cartoonist

David Reddick is an American artist, illustrator and cartoonist. He is the creator of various popular comic strips such as "Legend of Bill," The Trek Life, Gene's Journal and Rod & Barry at, and he is a full-time cartoonist at Paws, Inc., where he works on the Garfield worldwide property.

Troféu HQ Mix is a Brazilian comics award. The prize was created in 1989 by João Gualberto Costa (Gual) and José Alberto Lovetro (Jal), members of the Association of the Brazilian Cartoonists.

The Twin Cities refers to the major riverside metropolitan areas of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and surrounding townships in Ramsey and Hennepin counties. In recent years, the Twin Cities has become home to a burgeoning comics scene, in the top ten for number of resident comics artists in the United States. The location of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design - one of the nation's first and only schools which offers both bachelor's and master's degrees in comic books - is likely a contributing factor. However, the global success of popular cartoonists like Minneapolis-born Charles M. Schulz must have paved the way.

<i>T.H.E. Fox</i>

T.H.E. Fox is a furry comic strip by Joe Ekaitis which ran from 1986 to 1998. It is among the earliest online comics, predating Where the Buffalo Roam by over five years. T.H.E. Fox was published on CompuServe, Q-Link and GEnie, and later on the Web as Thaddeus. Despite running weekly for several years, the comic never achieved Ekaitis' goal of print syndication. Updates became less frequent, and eventually stopped altogether.

<i>Johnny Wander</i>

Johnny Wander is a former webcomic written by Ananth Hirsh and illustrated by Yuko Ota. It was published bi-weekly. In its earlier days, the comic generally focused on slice of life stories involving Ananth, Yuko, and their friends and family following graduation from college. However, the comic occasionally encompasses unrelated fantasy storylines. The comic is currently focusing on one of its ongoing fictional storylines, "Barbarous." The name "Johnny Wander" is meant to evoke the creators' desire to use the comic to "wander" through whatever topics interest them at the moment.

Although traditionally female comics artists have long been a minority in the industry, they have made notable impact since its very beginning, and more and more female artists gain recognition, along with the maturing of the medium.

Comics has developed specialized terminology. Several attempts have been made to formalise and define the terminology of comics by authors such as Will Eisner, Scott McCloud, R. C. Harvey and Dylan Horrocks. Much of the terminology in English is under dispute, so this page will list and describe the most common terms used in comics.

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Chris Samnee is an American comic book artist. He received the 2011 Harvey Award for Most Promising Newcomer for his work on the Thor: The Mighty Avenger, and won a 2013 Eisner Award for Best Penciller/Inker for his work on The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom and Daredevil. He was also nominated for the 2006 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award.


  1. Booker, M. Keith (ed.), Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2010, p. 573.
  2. The British Museum. Beer Street, William Hogarth - Fine Art Print Archived 2010-03-03 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  3. "Satire, sewers and statesmen: why James Gillray was king of the cartoon". The Guardian. 16 June 2015.
  4. 1 2 Hess & Northrop 2011, p. 24.
  5. "The Comics Reporter" . Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  6. MacKenzie, Calum. The Scottish Cartoonists. Glasgow Print Studio Gallery, 1979.
  7. McLellan, Dennis. "Toon Talk - Two Comic-Strip Artists Discuss the Craft They Love," Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1989.
  8. "16 essential art tools for artists".

Works cited

Further reading

Comic Creators at Curlie

Societies and organizations