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Joe King

California, USA

Is Joe King your real name?

For a cartoonist, the problem of coming up with a cool signature is obviously tied to your handwriting -- being left-handed mine was illegible -- which led to different experiments in printing styles.  Two cartoonists I admired were Bob Kane, creator of Batman and Stan Lynde, creator of Rick O'Shay.  Both used stylized print within a box or rectangle.  Now ask me if I'm joking.  Get it?

How does your approach differ when creating cartoons for children compared to drawing political cartoons for adults?

I've tried explaining this to my children as they explore their own creativity.  When working with a younger audience, the goal seems to be one of encouragement and guidance with an appropriate tone as the primary tool towards developing a healthy outlook.  The finest examples I can think of would be those children's TV hosts I grew up with during the '50s and '60s: Sheriff John, Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, and Tom Hatten to name a few.  As the audience becomes more mature, jaded, and cynical, my tone becomes more severe and at certain times I must resort to outright ridicule just to get their attention.  The latter attempt being to embarrass someone into doing the right thing when all else fails.  Jay Leno and David Letterman do this every night to anyone whose behavior gets them caught in the day's headlines.  We just want people to behave halfway decently.

How did you develop your artistic talent?

Remember the Kung Fu series of the '70s with David Carradine?  As a young student his character witnessed various instructors who specialized in specific styles.  When he asked his master which style he performed, the old man responded, "I do them all." (Have you realized yet how impressionable I was to my TV?)  Well, to make a long answer even longer, I have developed more than a dozen different original features, each within its own framework, theme and formula; adventure continuity strips, single and multi-panel gags, gothic, romance and humor strips as well as the political cartoons -- all in order to round out my performance as a cartoonist.  Each one of the other features -- in some way -- improves the others.

To be a political cartoonist, how do you prepare?

My kids gave me a copy of Charles Schulz's "Conversations" last Father's Day.  It changed my life.  My copy is all marked up, underlined, and highlighted like a cartoon version of a Bible study.  His answers were:

1. At the end of the day make sure you have given your editor a funny drawing -- because that's what it's all about.
2. Keep doing good work.

If Charles Schultz had a fault, it's one we should all aspire to be guilty of.  He was proud of his output -- every cartoon was his: no assistants.  Everyday for 50 years he just kept doing what he loved.  I think that's what is essential.  You have to love what you do.  The great Paul Conrad was kind enough to write recently.  His advice was simple and profound.  He said "READ EVERYTHING."  So I try - every paper, magazine, talk show, radio & TV & Internet blurb.  It's a lot of sensory overload (and although my critics will deny it) it helps me balance things out for the best net result of the gag.

How can children be encouraged to find their artistic abilities?

Every person knows how to draw as a child.  Most of them just forget as they mature, i.e.: dry out.

What professional organizations do you belong to?

Today there are actually three groups I participate in: I was inducted into NCS, the National Cartoonist Society back in '91 with the debut of "MEN FROM EARTH" through the San Diego chapter; SCCS (Southern California Cartoonists Society).  In 2000 I founded IMAGINE NATIONS as a way to network cartoonists on a global scale.  We have several hundred members in over a dozen countries and have produced over 100 children's books!  In 2003 I was accepted into AAEC, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

In 2004, my work opposing the war in Iraq was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Oops!  I'm getting a big head.  I might need a bigger hat!  I think I'd repeat our mantra from IMAGINE NATIONS; that we're trying to make the world a funnier place.  Anyone can visit the public area of our online galleries:

What advice do you have for the children reading this interview?

You have to love what you do.  Stan Lynde of "Rick O'Shay" says it more simply, "Deer gotta run."  It's very elegant wisdom.  The most popular medicine in the world is for stomach ulcers.  What's up with that?  Millions of miserable people going to jobs they hate every day of their life...  KIDS!  DON'T DO THAT!  Find a way to have fun AND pay the rent.  Every ship has to adjust its course in relation to the shifting currents that drive it off-course.  And that's when you know where you're going.  Just do the best you can.  Everyday.

Do you speak, read or write any other languages?

I have enuff trouble with English!  As for Spanish: yo hablo Español con boca de diablo.  A picture, no matter how silly, is still worth a thousand words.

Do you have a favorite quote?

Charlie Chaplain once said, "In the end -- everything is a gag."

- 19 May 2006


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Last Updated:
9 September 2009

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