The GoComics “Meet Your Creator” series brings you firsthand insight into the lives and careers of your favorite cartoonists. Each week, we hand over the keys to one of our talented creators, who share their inspirations, achievements, creative processes, studios and more! Read on to hear from this week’s featured cartoonist: John Kovaleski of Bo Nanas.
Oh, hi, I didn’t see you. Well, don’t just stand there, c’mon in. Don’t mind the piles of paper on the floor and the various drum set pieces. You see, I’m raising a 5-year-old drummer because I’ve always thought that hearing is an overrated sense.
Let’s get down to business. You wanted me to talk about myself, right? That’s pretty much the only subject I know anything about.
So, like every being on the planet, I drew as a kid. And I was a television addict, to boot. I loved animated cartoons, and that was the gateway drug to ye ol’ printed comiques. And Peanuts was my heroin of choice. The first book I ever bought was a paperback collection.
I kept drawing – but not necessarily cartooning – and ended up in art school, majoring in graphic design so I’d have a way to feed myself after graduation. Comic strips were still my passion, and I submitted strip after strip for syndication, with no luck. So I buckled down … and gave up.
Yep, it seemed that syndication was not in the cards for me, and, since I was tired of being a graphic designer, I started freelancing on the side doing “humorous illustrations” until I had enough work that I could quit my full-time gig.
And then an odd thing happened – on a whim, I entered The Washington Post Writers Group’s Fine Toon Fellowship with a very rough version of Bo Nanas, and ended up as one of the winners. From there, Bo Nanas was syndicated from 2003 to 2007, taking up a couple of inches every day in newspapers, from here to somewhere over there.
What does one do when the bright lights of syndication dim? Well, I became one of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine, sired the above-mentioned miniature drummer, got my MFA from a hippie college in Vermont, and taught college. I also did a lot of experimenting with cartooning, like drawing on the pages of decommissioned library books, then using them to create installation art. In other words, cartooning that doesn’t make money. With my kid old enough to be in school making others deaf, I’m back chasing the elusive greenback with my art. As a matter of fact, in January, GoComics will start presenting my new comic Dadding Badly, based on strips I did when my son was a baby.