Cartooning 101 with Prof. Brunetti: Pt. 1

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Ivan BrunettiI had some cool professors while I was in school—honestly, I really did. I’m not just saying that. I don’t have to. Save for those evenings, when I wake up in a cold sweat, sure for a second that I forgot to turn in some final paper, worth 87-percent of my mark, I’m pretty sure that I’m not being graded anymore. I mean, sure, I suppose that we’re all being graded, figuratively in some sense or other, but anyway, the point I’m trying to get at is that, while I’ve had some fairly cool teachers in my day, well, to put it gently, they were no Ivan Brunettis.

It wasn’t until our recent interview with fellow windy city resident and cartoonist, Jeffrey Brown, that I became aware of the fact that Brunetti is in fact an instructor at Chicago’s Columbia College—in fact, until then, I was pretty convinced that anyone who has had the guilty pleasure of reading the artist’s upsettingly hilarious gag strip, Haw!, would have the foresight not to let Brunetti around undergrads.

Reading through Schizo #4 at Jim Hanley’s a few weeks back, waiting for someone to explain to me that the comic shop was in fact not a library, it occurred to me: perhaps cheapskates such as myself would stand to gain something from professor Brunetti’s expertise, without wasting all of our hard-earned drug money on the scam that is a higher education.

The pitch read as such: I was wondering if you might be interested in contributing a paragraph or two every few weeks? I was thinking something along the lines of Cartooning 101 with Professor Brunetti, in which you can shed some light on the harsh, depressing world of cartooning for youngsters who have yet to be properly disillusioned.

Brunetti, surely having anticipated the launch of our blog, and subsequent pitch, began working on a booklet on the subject, so that we might excerpt pieces from it, and disguise them as the proposed column, months later. The full-length booklet, entitled, simply enough, Cartooning, will be included with an upcoming issue of Comic Art Magazine, which we’ve happily agreed to plug a whole bunch.

–Brian H.

Part One, “Terminology,” is available after the jump.

Taken from the chapter entitled, “Syllabus.”


This bears some clarification. Throughout this course, I will use the terms cartooning, cartoons, comics, strips, comic book, and graphic novel, among others, almost interchangeably, depending on the syntax necessary for any given sentence. Cartooning is the process itself, as well as a language and an artform. Cartoons are the things a cartoonist creates. “Comics” is also a term I will use for this same language/artform, as well as the actual finished object (“Joey drew a comic” or “Joey drew some comics”). I may use the term “strip” for a short sequence of panels or even an entire comics page. Although “graphic novel” is a fancy, disingenuous, logically inconsistent term for a “comic book,” we seem to be stuck with it. A graphic novel is a physical object (a book containing comics), to be sure, but also an artform, or even an aesthetic movement (which we can alternatively call “art comics” to differentiate it from commercially driven “product”). The terms “alternative” and “independent” comics seem a little murky and too relative, so I will avoid them altogether. A few pretentious cartoonists embarrassed by their chosen profession still tend to favor the moniker “comics artist” because it (supposedly) sounds more respectable than “cartoonist.” Fortunately, its usage tends to be on the wane, and I will avoid this term as well. I see the term “graphic novelist” being bandied about more and more often these days, but I find it kind of clunky and, to put it kindly, unmellifluous. When we are creating comics, we are not “graphic noveling,” we are cartooning.

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