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: Jennifer Babcock of C’est la Vie.
Like a lot of cartoonists, I’ve dabbled in cartooning all of my life. When I was very young, I was a huge fan of The Far Side, and I remember trying to emulate Gary Larson’s humor and style. I wasn’t very successful though, and I went back to drawing my adventure series, which was about a family of rabbits who went around the world searching for lost treasures. Unfortunately, these stories are lost. Oh, the irony!
But when I turned 17, I started drawing comics again – mainly for myself, but soon enough, people around my high school would ask me when the next installment was going to be. Then I got to UCLA and I decided that I wanted to try drawing comics more regularly, which is how the first iteration of C’est la Vie came into being.
It was published weekly in UCLA’s newspaper, The Daily Bruin, from 2001 - 2004. In 2003, I was invited to contribute to ComicsSherpa, which is kind of like American Idol for cartoonists ... I mean, not really, but that’s the most succinct way to describe what it is to people who may not be in the know. Anyway, I guess what I was putting out there was good enough for me to be offered the much-coveted contract with GoComics.com in 2005. I’ve been drawing C’est la Vie for GoComics ever since!
My life isn’t all cartooning, though. In 2005 I started graduate school at New York University and stayed there until 2014, when I received a doctorate in Egyptology (my dissertation was about representations of anthropomorphized animals in ancient Egypt, which some people – but not necessarily me – have described as “ancient Egyptian cartoons”). How does one make a living in New York City as an Egyptologist slash cartoonist? I’m still not quite sure! But somehow, I’m making it work.
Me in my Ph.D. regalia in Washington Square Park, New York
So basically, I live my life in two worlds. By day, I’m immersed in the world of museums and academia, putting up exhibitions, writing articles about ancient Egypt, etc. etc. By night, I draw comics. Someday, I would like to merge these two worlds and draw a comic about ancient Egypt, or do a retelling of an ancient Egyptian myth (which are pretty awesome), but for now, I’m happy doing what I’m doing:
Here I am Egyptology-ing in Egypt
I find a lot of inspiration for my work just from walking around the city and eavesdropping on conversations, or from my own weird observations about people and life. Never walk around without a notebook, kids!
I’m also incredibly lucky to be living in New York, where we have tons of artists and exhibitions about comic art. In fact, when I first moved to the big city, I worked at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (which is now part of the Society of Illustrators). I met a lot of rad people – many of them cartoonists – and while I was there I got to curate my first exhibition (and the first exhibition about webcomics), which was called Infinite Canvas: The Art of Webcomics. Here’s a picture from the opening:
From left to right: Bill Roundy, author of Bar Scrawl, Scott McCloud, Matt Murray, former director of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art and current staff writer at Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, and me.
Working at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art allowed me to meet a lot of talented people, including Jonathan Rosenberg, who wrote Goats, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade fame, and of course, Scott McCloud, who coined the term “infinite canvas” in his book Reinventing Comics. Anyway, this city is oozing with talent and it’s a great privilege to be able to meet and mingle with very talented cartoonists and illustrators.
I draw my comic using my laptop and my trusty Wacom tablet, which means I can work pretty much everywhere (and I do). Even though I don’t have a specific “spot” where I work, I will usually stick to a specific area for months at a time, until I feel that it isn’t conducive to draw there anymore. Right now I tend to draw my comic at my office desk for my day job, since it’s a big space and because after 5 or 6 p.m., it’s peaceful and people won’t bother me. Here’s a picture of where I’m working now:
Cartooning at work
But, I’ve also worked in various hotels around the world, at excavation houses in Egypt (I lived in rural Egypt for about three months in 2011), and at some of my favorite New York City bars and coffee shops.
My cartooning station/bedroom at the excavation house in el-Lisht, Egypt
In case any readers of mine were wondering, yes, Monsieur Smokey is based on a real stuffed bunny I have. Here she is (in “real life,” Smokey is a she) in all of her glory:
Smokey taking a Sunday snooze
I’ve had Smokey since I was 6 years old, and she has been all over the world with me. And yes, I do talk to her just like Mona does. No, I’m not ashamed of this and, and no, I’m not crazy. I’m just weird. In a good way... or at least I like to think so.
Read C’est la Vie here.