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The official U.S. time - snapshot

John Marshall
Cartoonist: Blondie Comic Strip

1. Can you explain to young people just what a cartoonists is?
A cartoonist is a person who does simplified drawings in a humorous way.

2. What is the best part of your job?
Oh, I wouldn't really call what I do a job. I get to draw for a living!

3. What would you say is the most difficult aspect of your career choice?
In the field that I'm working in, it's the highly competitive aspect and shrinking employment opportunities for syndicated cartooning.

4. Do you have a memory you'd like to share with young people concerning your job?
When I was a child, Blondie used to appear on the front page of the NY Daily News Sunday comics section and I remember thinking how thrilling it would be to draw a comic strip like that someday! Now that I draw Blondie, it still appears in the NY Daily News(and 2200 other papers), though today it can be found on the inside cover... close enough!

5. What are the necessary skills/degrees needed to become a cartoonist?
First and foremost, the love to draw and being an ardent observer of the world around you.

6. Any suggestions for young people who might be interested in your career? How can they begin now to get prepared for your career?
As I stated earlier, the level of competition is such that there aren't a lot of open positions in the field of syndicated cartooning. Newspaper syndicates, which distribute comic strip features to newspapers, see hundreds of comic strip ideas every year, but will only pick one or two of them to syndicate. That's not to say that it's an impossible task. If you are truly passionate about your idea and your art, it just may come to you. Stay with it, but be forewarned, the competition is tremendous!

7. Where can you work as a cartoonist?
There are plenty of cartooning jobs in other areas, such as video gaming, web design, advertising and animation. I would take as many art courses as possible in junior and senior high school and try to expose yourself to these different genres. If you still have a passion for art upon graduation, going to art school would be the next step in honing your skills for a job in the cartooning field. I would also recommend keeping a sketchbook. Drawing from life will sharpen your observation skills.

8. Describe a typical day at your job.
I start working around 7:30 in the morning. Early in the week I pencil the Blondie daily and Sunday "scripts", which are the particular gags (jokes) we're using. Then later in the week I ink in the "pencils" and post them to our FTP website where Dean Young, the writer and son of Blondie creator Chic Young, can access and review them with me by phone. We make sure the characters' facial and body expressions are correct and Dean may punch up any dialogue that may need improvement. After Dean's final review/approval,I email the comic strips to the syndicate. From there, the syndicate distributes the comic strip electronically to the particular newspapers around the country that carry Blondie. We work six weeks ahead on the daily comic strips, and are 8-10 weeks ahead on the Sunday strips. That means I can be drawing a Christmas-themed strip around Halloween!

9. What got you interested in your career choice? Did anything in school or your childhood help spark this interest?
During the summer after 4th grade, my family stayed at my grandmother's and out of boredom I began to copy comic strip characters from the local newspaper. From that point on I really started to develop an interest in cartooning and art. My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Mock, recognized this and sent some of my drawings to BC and Wizard of Id cartoonist Johnny Hart. He sent me back a letter of encouragement(which I still have), and I have been drawing ever since!

Note: Photograph from John Marshall-Thank you!