When I was in junior high — heck, even high school, if I’m being honest — I had dreams of being a newspaper cartoonist. Hey, it didn’t seem that unreasonable at the time — I was (and kinda still am) a fairly respectable cartoonist (though my repertoire is admittedly limited) and I read nearly every strip out there, even those I considered snoozers like Mary Worth or Garfield. Further, I wasn’t naive about it: I knew selling a strip took more than just the ability to write and draw. I did research into distribution and syndicates, I knew who the editors of the major comic pages were, and I read up on how folks like Charles Schulz, Jim Davis, and Berke Breathed had gotten their starts. I knew it was an uphill battle, but I at least had a plan. Sort of.
Anyway, the real problem I ran into was . . . well, producing a comic strip is really hard. Not the drawing part of it, necessarily — though working in the confines of panels is a challenge — but it’s tough to stare at those blank squares and come up with a joke or, if you’re really ambitious, establish a compelling storyline. I would draw comic strips I thought were rip-roaringly clever or funny, then proudly show them to my brother or friends, certain they would laugh uproarously at my witty combination of words and pictures. Unfortunately, more often than not the response was: “I don’t get it.”
Lesson learned: any strip you have to constantly explain is not a good one. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t cut out to have my own comic strip.
But maybe you are. And this is where it gets interesting.
The Washington Post — yeah, the Washington Post — is looking for America’s Next Great Cartoonist. If you’ve got a strip you’ve been working on — maybe it’s on a blog, or you produce one for your high school or college newspaper, or maybe it’s just camped somewhere in the back of one of your private notebooks — the Post wants to see it (the only thing they’re not taking is editorial cartoons, sorry). Your work will be judged by a panel that includes Pearls Before Swine’s Stephen Pastis, Cul de Sac’s Richard Thompson, and Garry Trudeau. And if I really have to tell you who Garry Trudeau is, you have no business entering the contest. Just sayin’.
The winner gets to have his or her work appear for a month in the Post‘s comic section (that’s the Style section to us locals), get to consult with the judges, and generally get a good push out the door and down the path toward a career as a professional comic strip artist.
The contest is open until 5:00 p.m. on June 4. What are you waiting for? Go here and get all the information you need.