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: Jonathan Lemon of Rabbits Against Magic
Like nearly all cartoonists, I started dabbling with funny pictures at an age so young that I do not recall exactly when I started. I was born in Watford, an industrial town just north of London, England. The two big industries were printing (including comic books) and beer - two things which obviously shaped my life. In the factory where my father worked, they would throw out reams of old blueprints of engine parts, which my dad would bring home on his bicycle for me to draw on. If you glued two sheets back-to-back, you could make your own "blank" sheet of paper. I used to make my own comics with titles like "Go Go," "Here Come The Beaver Back Kids" and "Wimper Weekly."
I also used to draw comic strips (cue violins) on paper towels that I would "liberate" from the school bathroom. They would nearly always feature a group of little men carrying a huge egg and, in the final panel, they would trip over. Many would argue that this was the apex of my cartooning career.
I used to read lots of the classic British comics with titles like "Cor!!," "Sparky," "Whizzer" and " Wham!" After a while, I started noticing the different styles of the artists, in particular Leo Baxendale, who is as close as I can think of to an immortal god wandering this earth. I also used to go to the library and read Asterix and Tin Tin books. Later on, I discovered Peanuts and MAD paperback books, which I still have.
Despite having my body hardened by daily sadistic beatings from the neighborhood bullies, I turned out to be a severely introverted little sissy-boy with impaired vision, which definitely advanced my future career as a sensitive-artist type with a severe lack of social skills.
After attaining an entirely impractical graduate degree in Visual and Performing Arts in Brighton, I worked my way through a series of unglamorous occupations, including cleaning toilets, stand-up comedy and working in a record store. However, I spent most of this time doodling in small notebooks and fantasizing about impossible relationships with unobtainable women.
I was drawing a strip called Zoo for a while, about the unrequited love between a ferret and a giraffe, which got printed in various disreputable publications. I also started a magazine called Bing that published a lot of great comic strips, and also some of mine.
As a reaction to a life of bitter regrets and dashed idealistic hopes, I took up writing songs, and by pure luck and good fortune, became a very minor pop star in the '80s, when any pretty boy from England with a synthesizer on an ironing board could sign up with a record label and make tens of dollars releasing vinyl containing songs with corny nonsensical lyrics and quirky titles. My band toured the world, where we were more known for tidying up dressing rooms instead of trashing them. Here's a picture of me playing a "gig" in Germany. I'm the bespectacled individual on the left.
Then, I learned Spanish and moved to Cuba to attend the University of Havana, where I turned my back on materialism for a while, until I missed easy hedonistic access to cheap music and vegetarian food.
At the tender age of 24, I moved to California, where I scraped out a living as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist. I did a lot of CD-ROMs. If you're too young to remember, these are shiny disks that you put into an 8-track machine attached to your computer with spare parts from a toaster to see some very crude animation. Around this time, I was doing a regular strip called Bigshot, about a movie industry executive. It was published in a film magazine.
Just when things were starting to go well, I got married and took my new bride on a bizarre two-year excursion to join the Peace Corps, where I made cartoon tourist maps in Central America. We lived in a tiny two-bit-one horse town, where we went crazy with boredom. Then, just because life is full of the unexpected, we moved to the big city to work for the United Nations and lived the high life of ex-pats. Here's a picture of me in Honduras with lots of bananas:
Now back in San Francisco, I'm currently a wistful, sweet-natured fellow who is still trying to eke out a living as an illustrator/cartoonist, which suddenly seems to involve an inordinate amount of networking, self-promotion and time hunched over a computer "оanother cruel irony of fate for this hermit-like, nostalgic Luddite.
Nowadays, I spend unhealthy amounts of the day in the basement drawing cartoons and wondering what weekends were like. When I'm not working, you'll find me playing my accordions, doing the New York Times crossword and trying to raise a small human child.
I started Rabbits Against Magic in 2008, and it's run every day without repeats for over seven years now. I started posting them on a website called Comics Sherpa, and within a few weeks, I got a surprise email telling me I was being "promoted" to GoComics, where I've been ever since.
If you've ever wondered what 2,633 comic strips look like, here's a photo:
Amazingly, my comic strip was nominated for a Silver Reuben award by the National Cartoonists Society in 2012, and then again in 2014. To this day, I am flabbergasted that my humble little contribution to the industry received such accolades.
I'm a big comic strip fan and I read over a hundred comics every day, but my favorites are Scary Gary, Pooch Cafн©, Dark Side of the Horse, Two Cows and a Chicken, Eek!, Thatababy, Buni, F Minus, Arctic Circle, Gil, Intelligent Life and Ten Cats.
My "workspace" is split between the San Francisco Public Library and my home studio. The library has some very nice soundproof isolation booths where you can be locked inside with no distractions and no Internet and get loads of work done, at least while the oxygen lasts. My home studio has lots of stuff in it and I will be killed instantly if there is ever an earthquake, but I have a great selection of music and books available at my fingertips, which is essential for my creative process. It goes without saying I'm very "old school." I use Pelikin ink dispersed onto Vellum Bristol board with various nibs and brushes. The computer is useful for coloring and looking up how to draw stuff like flame throwers and guillotines, which somehow seem to feature in my comic strip a lot. Here's a photo of my workspace:
My work is going to be featured in the upcoming "Sunday Funnies" newspaper and the accompanying exhibit at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. I also contributed a few pages to the upcoming 65th Anniversary tribute book to Peanuts from the nice folks at BOOM! Studios.
I'm also finishing off my own Rabbits Against Magic book, which has been years in the making and will be called "Fifty Shades of Procrastination" unless I decide to re-do the cover again. Seriously, it'll be done one day. Finally, if you're a fan of impeccable extended guitar instrumentals, I'm featured on a new CD called "Free Surf Music" Volume 4 from Cordelia Records, coming out soon.