Mort Walker — Without question, Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey fame is one of the most popular and most successful cartoonists who ever lifted a pen. He has a golden reputation for being one of the busiest and friendliest people in the business. Mort is the original creator of Hi & Lois and Boner’s Ark and the founder and chairman of the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Boca Raton, Florida. Prior to his mega-success in newspapers, Mort Walker was the editor of his college newspaper, an influential staff artist at Hallmark Cards, and the top-selling magazine cartoonist in America. Famous for his support of aspiring cartoonists, Walker has plenty of knowledgeable advice to offer, based on over four decades at the top of his profession.
I wouldn’t recommend too many art courses for aspiring cartoonists. You could never learn to draw arms like Popeye’s in an anatomy class. The best training is drawing for school publications to see your work in print and get feedback from your schoolmates. Then study and learn everything about life you can because your ideas will come from everything you know and experience. So the more you know, the easier ideas will come. I started cartooning by copying my favorites in the funnies, so my style was constantly changing. I realized that cartoons were half writing, half art, so I took as many writing and literature courses as I could.
“Ideas come easiest when I’m not distracted. I don’t like to look at books or anything for stimulus because I just end up reading the book and not getting any gags. My method is to simply start writing something and letting it lead to the conclusion. If you wait for a gag to come before you start writing, you might wait all morning. I love to write and draw, so I never get tired of it. It doesn’t get stale because I keep experimenting with new ideas and nuances of character. Creating ideas is exciting because you start with a blank piece of paper and an hour later you might have an idea that will live forever.
“Don’t be afraid of work. You’ll only succeed by working longer and harder than the next guy. Learn to take criticism. I think I’ve survived in this very competitive business for 45 years because I accepted the fact that not all of my ideas were gems and allowed my staff to tell me so without feeling hurt.
“You’re preparing yourself for a very satisfying life behind the drawing board; one in which you can enjoy your work and make your readers happy as well. It’s a good life.”