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Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder

Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Q. How often do you use other people's ideas?

A. On occasion.

Lots of readers send me their ideas "free of charge!" They tend to be hopelessly complex with lots of symbolism and frequently involve eagles and flags and something labeled "the scourge of liberalism" or "this generation's sense of entitlement."

On the other hand, about once every year or two a beauty slips under the door, like last Sunday's editorial cartoon which a reader submitted needing only a couple of wingnuts and a slight adjustment of the transmission.

Sometimes a reader suggests an orchestra of an idea and I use only the tuba. Then I put the tuba into a marching band and surround it with a stadium. Then I focus on the drum major and before you know it the cartoon is about clowns in a Volkswagon. Who knows how this works?

Eudora Welty said, "Nothing in life is wasted." In one sense, I seldom use other people's ideas. In another sense, I use them all the time.

Q. What do you use for lettering? Could you send me your font?

A. I just letter like I was writing a note -- I don't pencil anything out or draw rules. I do sometimes move the lines a bit on the computer to center them above each other, but mostly I just leave them alone.

For Zits, I letter with a Micron 05. I'm kind of eccentric with it, though. I always face the "05" on the barrel upward so that the tip flattens in a consistent direction over time. This gives a subtle thick-and-thin look to the otherwise ordinary line. Hey, it's a microscopic thing but this is the stuff that turns me on.

On editorial cartoons I typically "draw" each letter with a Micron 03 if it is in a balloon.

Rarely, I use a Speedball D-5 to write a thicker caption below an editorial cartoon.

Now and then, like on the Cheney Family Tree cartoon, I letter the big headline with a brush and fill in details with an 03.

Q. Shouldn't you be working?

A. Yes.


at 10/24/07, 10:45 AM Anonymous BorgFan said...

I love this!

How about a Q & A with your blog readers?

I love the interaction of the blog and would love to see a Q & A with you about things such as your schedule, some of your particular leanings, tools of the trade and so forth.

Would you be interested in such a thing?

at 10/24/07, 1:06 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am guilty of sending you ideas, I just wish I could draw, then I could send you the whole cartoon! I am pretty sure people who send you ideas wish they could be cartoonists... the difference is: we get "brilliant" ideas sporadically and you must be brilliant every day. No pressure, right?

Of course if you *HAD* used my idea I sent in, you would have had a coup, since Bob Dylan opened his set in Cincinnati with "Leopardskin Pillbox Hat." Really. He did.

Note to other blog readers:
I sent Jim my brilliant idea for a cartoon of an aging Bob Dylan fan wearing a "Leopardskin Pill Box Hat." (pill box, as in the device aging folks use to dispense pills.) I know, I know... anyway, I thought it was funny.

at 10/24/07, 2:21 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it.

at 10/24/07, 3:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Q&A Jim! I hope we can have it more often, Tom Richmond from "MAD" has one every week or so, his blog it's amazing, maybe we could have one every month or so...

at 10/24/07, 3:43 PM Blogger Jim Borgman said...

Fire away. When I get a handful of questions and a free hour I'll post another Q&A.

at 10/24/07, 5:35 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jim. Here in NZ we get "Artline" pens. I'll have a look for some Microns and try them out. It always pays to play around.
A Kiwi fan

at 10/25/07, 12:18 AM Anonymous BorgFan said...

Be careful what you ask for :-)

Here's 20 questions I came up with.

1.) What is your schedule like? You mentioned way back on your blog that you sometimes pencil ZITS comics in your car while waiting for your teenagers to get out of practice. Describe what a week is like for you. What time do you wake up / go to bed? Do you ever feel like a busy work schedule of doing a comic strip AND editorial cartoons steals time away from your family? How do you achieve balance?

2.) This may be too personal...
I notice occasional uses of religion in your cartoons, sometimes Jesus makes an appearance in your cartoons, I assume you are Christian (though I could be wrong). Do you ever allow your religious beliefs to take part in your stance in your editorial cartoons?

3.) There seems to be a lot of cartoonists who mimic your drawing style. What do you think about that? An artist can go through the process of finding their "voice," but what about style? Is there a similar process of finding one's drawing style?

4.) Name (I dunno, seven) cartoonists working today who you admire and why?

5.) Do you use any assistants on your editorial cartoons or comic strip?

6.) What advice would you give a cartoonist wanting to do a comic strip? Zits seems to be a niche comic strip, geared towards parents with a teenager. It fills a void on the comics pages that was previously untapped. Do you think finding a niche like that is the best way to go about getting syndicated? Do you see other voids not being filled and what would you like to see on the comics pages?

7.) What is your studio (office and home) like? Care to give us a photographic studio tour?

8.) What is your favorite meal?

9.) If you stopped cartooning altogether, what else would you like to be?
Are there any projects you'd like to do if you had the time?

10.) Are there any people who you admire so much that you would be speechless in their presence? Who are they?

11.) What has been the saddest moment of your life?

12.) When you've got to spend long cartooning, do you use anything like the t.v., music, etc. to keep you at your drawing table?

13.) Is there anything in your professional life that you haven't exactly gotten a handle on?

14.) Do you ever see yourself going through a renaissance, changing your drawing style like Oliphant did in the 1980's?

15.) How much time do you spend on the web? What are some of your favorite sites/blogs?

16.) What do you see on the comics pages / editorial pages that you dislike, artistically speaking?

17.) What comics do you read regularly?

18.) You mentioned your Sorel, what other artwork hangs in your collection?

19.) Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, The Far Side all ran for roughly 10 years before they ended. Do you see an end for ZITS, now that it has hit it's 10 year mark?

20.) If you were sitting on a porch with a cartoonist, sipping lemonade, would you rather talk shop or talk about something completely distanced from work?

at 10/25/07, 11:07 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of ideas... I'm not much of an artist, but with the recent talk of "Cable-Cars" coming back to Cincinnati. I thought a great picture would have the Cable Car dropping off tourists at the big pile of dirt called the Banks. Isn't the city putting the cart in front of the horse?

at 10/25/07, 4:11 PM Blogger Steve Willhite said...

Borgfan has some interesting questions.

I have a couple:
Do you pencil everything in tightly before inks or have you been doing this so long that roughs are all you need?

Is their one politician or news figure that you struggle with capturing their likeness? How much time is spent developing a caricature?

at 10/29/07, 10:08 AM Blogger Jim Borgman said...

I'm just one man!

OK, I'll get back to you.

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