by John Lustig

March 2003

In a past column, I mentioned Scott McCloud's 24 hour comic book challenge. For those of you who missed it, here's how it works: As a creative exercise, McCloud (author of UNDERSTANDING COMICS) asked creators to single-handedly write and draw a comic in 24 hours.

Last year, Ron Austin revived a suggestion (originally made by past CN W President Larry Lewis) that CNW members do a 24-hour comic. Ron pointed out that if we do a 24-hour comic in a public place and notify the media we could get quite a bit of publicity for both CNW and our members. And, since creating comics is normally a solitary event, it'd be fun to do it in a group setting. Event. so, I'll admit I wasn't originally too keen on the idea.

I write comics for a living (or at least that's what I claim to the IRS.) I enjoy it, but it's still work. Often it's hard work. And creating an entire comic in 24 hours sounded like a nightmare.Forget about quality. Speed would be all that counted. Never the less, I pitched the idea to some other CNW comic pros. The reaction wasn't positive. It sounded too much like real work and the chances of creating anything worth publishing were slim. So the pros were out at first. But then someone suggested the obvious. Lets change the rules!

Instead, of everyone creating an entire comicbook on their own, how about if we each just create a story on our own. That's it. Just one story. Not an entire comic book. The story can be one page. Or two. Or five. Or as many as you want as long as you can finish it in 24 hours. That seemed more manageable. And the chances of producing something of quality was much greater. Heck, we might even be able to gather the stories together and publish them. The pros liked the revised idea. And, so far, so has everyone else I've mentioned it to.

On top of that, I think I've got a reporter interested in covering the story.

The nice thing about this is that it doesn't have to be limited to just CNW members in the Seattle area. If you live on the other side of the mountains or even the other side of the world,there's no reason you can't take part in your own community. All you have to do is to figure ou tand arrange for someplace public (or semi-public like a cafe) where you can hunker down and create for 24 hours. Chances are if you contact a local reporter, you've got a good chance of getting some free publicity. The important thing is to make sure that we're all doing this in the same 24-hour period. It's got to be perceived as a coordinated event in order to get the attention we're hoping for.

There are still a lot of details to decide. And it's possible that the idea will continue to morph. Perhaps we'll come up with a variation on this that's even better. First of all, though, I need to know how many of you are interested. It doesn't matter if you've never created comics before.

If you want to take a shot at it, call me at (206) 525-6257 or e-mail me at: And if nobody's interested? Gosh,I'll take the day off!

by John Lustig

April 2003

I thought this year's Toonie nominees were particularly outstanding. Trying to select a favorite was incredibly tough. But I'm very pleased that Jeff Willis won the Golden Toonie.

When Jeff brought some of his art to a CNW show-and-tell meeting last year, there was much oohing and aahing. Nice, nice stuff. And Jeff is one of those quiet, modest guys who often doesn't get a lot of attention. At the same time, I think he knows the value of his work and he's willing to occasionally promote it. Prior to the Toonies, he posted some of his art on the web site of Cartoonists Northwest's e-mail discussion group. It's in the "files" section. Take a look. It's gorgeous stuff. I'm sure all this praise is embarrassing Jeff. But I'm writing this for a reason. Jeff has a pro's attitude. He doesn't tell you how great he is. He lets his work speak for him.

Since becoming CNW president, I've fielded a lot of calls from people who are interested in our group and our meetings. And that's great. We want newcomers. Everyone is welcome-pro, amateur, comics fan, whatever. But it's getting to the point where I can often tell who's:

A)a pro (or someone who's got a chance at becoming a pro.)
B)an amateur who doesn't have a clue and never will.
C)And I can do this without ever seeing their artwork.

The perpetual amateur talks on and on about how wonderful his work is and how he's going to be incredibly successful...someday. One fellow told me how he'd briefly attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, but that he had to quit because knew more that his instructors. Now Kubert is one of those artists who's widely respected by other comic book artists. He's one of the best. And if my caller was really better than Kubert and Kubert's hand-picked instructors than he'd easily be working in the field·instead of wasting his time (and mine) bragging to me.

Frankly, most of the people who call and brag never make it to our meetings. They'd rather talk about how great they are than actually make any kind of an effort. And if they do show up, their work is usually not that impressive. Talented artists rarely brag about their work. They let their art talk for them. They may not be pros yet. They may never be pros. But they've got a chance at becoming a pro-because they have a pros attitude.

by John Lustig 


October 2003

And so, what actually happened?

It was a huge success. H-U-G-E!

Okay. Okay. I'm not exactly a dispassionate, objective observer. But Spawns received plenty of publicity; lots of people (who weren't my relatives) showed up to see 'cartoonists in the wild'; about a dozen people joined CNW because of Spawns; and, best of all, most of the participating artists had a great time!

How great?

Many of the cartoonists at Spawns, dripping with the heat, punch drunk and on the verge of complete exhaustion as the end of the marathon drew near, were already talking about wanting to do it again next year.

Even allowing for a certain amount of hallucinating, that's still pretty remarkable

I'm in awe of the people who actually completed all 24 pages in 24 (or less!) hours: John Aquino, Bill Barnes, Donna Barr, Phil Foglio, Lillian Ripley, Dan McConnell, Mark Monlux, Bill Morse, and Edi Zanidache

If you're counting, that's nine people out of the 26 participants who crossed the finish line. (The Seattle P.I. reported that eight out of 27 finished, but that's my fault. I miscounted and gave the paper the wrong numbers. Hey, I was really, really tired!)

Other brave souls who participated were: Scott Alan, Anne Catharine Blake, Mark Campos, Brett Cantrell, Te-Jui Darren Chiu, Jonathan Cotton, Ellen Exacto, Ray Feighery, Jonah Gilbert, James Greer, Roberta Gregory, Mike Kloepfer, Larry Lewis, John McColloch, John Shirkey, Rich Werner, and me.

Eventually, you'll be able to see pages from many of these creators' stories on the CNW web site. In the meantime, though, we're going to have a party and celebrate all that we accomplished as well as ooh and aah over all the great stories.

The Aug. 15 CNW meeting will be a Spawns show and tell! Bring your stories and tell us about: your creative process; your speed tips; your mistakes and your newly-acquired caffeine-fueled wisdom! If Ron Austin has his Spawns film ready, we'll watch that as well. And maybe we'll even do something I would have thought was impossible a month ago: plan for next year's Spawns of Insomnia!

by Bill Barnes

November 2003

John asked me if I wanted to sub for him this month. He didn't have much to say and, knowing me, figured I wouldn't mind putting a few words together. And so here are a few words about my favorite topic - myself. But there's a message in it too, so bear with me.

I attended my first CNW meeting two and half years ago. Back then I called myself a cartoonist, but it didn't feel real. I had only just picked up the pen again after a ten-year detour in the rent-paying world of software. I was looking for inspiration, looking for a mentor, looking for some support.

I lucked out. Brian Basset was the speaker, talking about his then-new strip Red and Rover. Sitting three seats down from a syndicated cartoonist is a heady feeling - if only I could dip into his brain and scoop out the right information I'd be there! Messy and covered with brains, but there!

I started emailing with Brian, and since then we've met several times in person. He has advised me on writing, drawing, character development, marketing - almost every aspect of the business. He even gave me a blurb for my first book! Right now he's helping me navigate the murky waters of applying for syndication. It hasn't taken much time, just an hour or two every few months. I've gotten some key pieces of wisdom without which I would have wasted a lot of time. And some heartfelt cheerleading from a pro, which is truly priceless.

And he's not the only one. John Lustig has been incredibly supportive (we even shared a table together at Bumbershoot). I met Brett Warnock from Top Shelf Comix at the Toonies last year and he connected a few dots for me at Comic-Con. And so on. It sounds like I'm talking about networking, and of course I am, but it's more about meaningful connection with creative professionals who are a few steps ahead of me on the path.

Now it's time to pass on the favor. I'm a few steps farther down the path than I was at that first meeting. I call myself a professional cartoonist and mean it. I spend my days writing, drawing, and managing the full-time business of a successful web comic strip with tens of thousands of readers. If this sounds like where you want to be, look me up. I don't know if I have anything to offer, but you can pick my brains all you want. Just not literally.

And heck, why stop there? This newsletter is read by a lot of very successful professionals. Like you. And yes, you too. Cartoonists Northwest is the perfect organization for a mentoring program because it attracts people from every step on the path. Reach out. After all, a pen is a terrible thing to waste.



John Lustig

December 2003

I suppose this should have been the Thanksgiving column. Instead of counting their blessings, most people right now are caught up in the holiday rush to consumer bliss. Ideally, it's a season of holiday cheer and spiritual inspiration. Peace. Good will. And laughing, happy family and friends!

At worst...well, we all know what that's like. Stress City, USA.

Of course, on Christmas and afterwards there will be plenty of thank you's. Thank you for the bikini underwear that flashes in the dark. Thank you for cleaning up, drying out and re-wrapping all the presents after the cat peed under the Christmas tree. And thank you very, very much for not showing me the Christmas shopping bills until January.

But that's later. Right now isn't the time for thanks. Except...I can't help myself!

During the nearly two years I've been president of CNW, I've gotten lots of help and advice. Granted, I didn't always appreciate all of it all the time. But as the months passed, I became increasingly grateful and respectful of the suggestions people made. I learned to listen better and not dismiss ideas just because they didn't fit into my pre-conceived notions.

Sure, the suggestion that we turn CNW into a strip club seemed crazy. (Imagine the yearly dues we could get from members then!!!) But even the most oddball ideas moved the group thought process along and somehow generated new ideas that were really valuable.

(Hold a 24-hour comic book drawing marathon? Nah, that's just too nuts!)

I want to thank all of you. (But my brain's old and I can't remember all of your names.) So I'll have to make do with singling out a few of you for all you've done for me and CNW. Many thanks to...

--Ron Austin for running the CNW web site for years, helping out in countless situations and for being vice president during my first term.
--My daughter, Caitie Lustig, for becoming the new CNW web master (mistress?)
--Vic Stredicke for lots of stuff, but mostly for ideas. Ideas. And more ideas.
--Bill Morse for helping out at folding parties, conventions and just being there.
--Bill Barnes, for being my current VP and giving me crucial feedback whenever I had a crazy ideas of my own to thrash out.
--Everyone who took part in Spawns of Insomnia. See ya next year?
--Elizabeth Pankey for handling the art show at the Broadway Market.
--Liz deDesrochers for her many Penstuff stories.
--Penstuff Editor Dick Rogers who has probably gotten the fewest kudos and done the most work for the club! Year after year Dick keeps doing this without pay and little recognition. Amazing!
--Scott Alan who's going to be in charge of Spawns next year instead of me. Sucker! Nyaahaha!!!
--Treasurer & Chief Cheerleader Maureen VanderPas for being Maureen. And for marrying Bill. (Thanks for the new deck!)
--And, most of all, to my wife Shelagh who's put up with all of this presidential nonsense for nearly two years!

See you all at the holiday party on the 19th!