Mitch BowlerComic Book Artist

Mike Dawson drew comic strips in the Rutgers Daily Targum for four years, self-published several comic books, and got his first book deal in 2008 for his tongue-in-cheek memoir, Freddie & Me, an autobiographical account of his childhood obsession with the band Queen and Freddie Mercury.

Recently, The Art Career Project interviewed Mike to learn about his experience with comic strip creation and illustration:

Mike, please describe your journey as a comic artist and your experience as a professional.

I drew a comic strip in the Rutgers Daily Targum for four years and after graduation briefly pursued a career as a syndicated cartoonist. After that grand effort didn’t pan out, I self-published comic books for a few years before getting my first book deal in 2008 for my tongue-in-cheek memoir, Freddie & Me, an autobiographical account of my childhood obsession with the band Queen and Freddie Mercury. Since then I have written two other graphic novels, Troop 142, a Lord of the Flies style send-up of Boy Scouts and Boy Scout camp, and most recently, Angie Bongiolatti, a book about sex, socialism and online learning in post 9-11 New York City.

Please be so kind as to detail the education and early relevant experience you received to prepare you for your comic artist career.

I have a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers) with a concentration in painting. A lot of my comics education and background has been self-motivated. I’ve been heavily involved in the North American alternative comics scene for well over a decade. I hosted a weekly podcast for five years called The Ink Panthers Show! with another cartoonist, Alex Robinson. We frequently brought on other cartoonists as guests. Currently, I’m hosting a podcast for The Comics Journal called TCJ Talkies, where I bring on other cartoonists to have book club style discussions about the graphic novels we’re reading.

Mike Dawson 4What are some of your favorite or, perhaps, most noteworthy projects? Why?

I recently drew a short comic strip for Slate Magazine where I “collaborated” with my five-year old daughter. She brought some drawings home from kindergarten where she had been asked to write about problems she saw in the world around her. Her drawings were all about how I often shouted at her to stop fooling around and get in the car when trying to load her and her brother up to go places. I thought it was hilarious that she saw me as one of the problems in the world around her, but was also touched at the thought of her continued growth into her own person with her own perspectives in life and also developing her own skills of self-expression. The strip was posted on Slate on Father’s Day.

Was there a period in which you labored as an intern or perhaps worked in areas outside of your area of intended expertise?

Not really. I’ve maintained a separate career in the field of e-learning, which has been good for me as a writer in being in different situations and around different types of people. I get more exposure to the world through other kinds of work than I would if I was just home in my studio all day.

Please detail any tips or guidance you might have for the aspiring comic book artist (or artist in general). What have you learned during your journey?

Most of my advice just has to do with finding the drive to do the work. I’ve never been able to support myself financially from just drawing comics, but I think it’s important to see value in doing things outside of just making money. I like that my kids see me working on my comics and that they’ll grow up with that sense that there are things worth doing just for the pleasure and self-fulfillment of doing them, and not everything needs to be about earning a living.

Your plans for the future?

I’m currently working on new short comics for my own Tumblr site and for Slate Magazine, among other venues. I would like to one day collect these comics into a book, but I am not in a rush to do that just yet.

Follow Mike on Twitter @mike_daws