Lakes Festival Focus 2017: An Interview with comic artist and book illustrator John Martz

John Martz LICAF 2017 Banner

The countdown has begun to this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th – 15th). We continue our “Kendal Calling” interviews with a chat to Canadian master of the subtle, understated and bitter-sweet – comic artist and illustrator John Martz.

John’s comics are beautiful, funny and poignant and somehow make you feel optimistic. John, who writes for all ages, is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Toronto, Ontario, the creator of the wordless online comic strip Machine Gum, and the illustrator of several picture books including Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First? (Quirk Books, 2013).

His book, A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories (Koyama Press, 2014), was shortlisted for The Governor General’s Literary Awards and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7).

His comics and illustrations have appeared in The Globe & Mail, MAD Magazine, Lucky Peach, Canadian Notes & Queries, and kuš! He won the 2013 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Story for his comic book Gold Star (Retrofit Comics, 2012).

One of John Martz's wonderful silent "Machine Gum" strips, which feature on his official web site

One of John Martz’s wonderful silent “Machine Gum” strips, which feature on his official web site

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

John Martz: I’m working on my next kids’ comic with Koyama Press, scheduled to be published in the fall of 2018. I can’t say too much yet, but it I can say that there will be witches.

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

John: My book Burt’s Way Home from Koyama Press. It should be available anywhere that sells books. If your local comic shop or book store doesn’t carry it, ask them to order it!

Burt's Way Home by John Martz - Cover

Burt's Way Home by John Martz - Sample Art

Burt's Way Home by John Martz - Sample Art

Art from Burt’s Way Home by John Martz

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

John: I don’t plan my day so much as I have a fairly regular routine. I start the day with coffee, and usually I’ll do some reading before I get to any work or get distracted by the Internet. I tend to work late into the night.

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

John: I like working from home, being my own boss, and getting to draw cartoons all day (or at least the parts of the day that aren’t spent catching up on late emails or tracking down payments), but especially now that I’ve put out a few titles for children, there is no thrill quite like seeing a kid reading my books or visiting a library or classroom full of eager readers.

downthetubes: And the worst?

John: It’s not the most lucrative career for a lot of us!

A spread from A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories

A spread from A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

John: Twitter and the Internet are the worst culprits. It’s hard to avoid the news too, especially when it’s as awful as it has been, which doesn’t always leave one in the right mindset to be creative.

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

John: I think there are more opportunities for young cartoonists than ever before, and certainly the comics world is receptive to a larger variety of styles and voices than it ever has been.

That said, there’s still a finite amount of books that can gain the traction necessary for cartooning to be financially viable, and I believe that getting published as a young cartoonist is not as important as developing one’s skills and becoming a better cartoonist. There should be no rush to get published.

Note to publishers: please publish more of my work.

John Martz - Self Portraitdownthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?

John: Yes! I was at the Festival last year. I had such a nice time, I came back for more.

downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

John: I’ve had the privilege to meet a lot of comics creators, and a lot of my heroes. I wish I had the opportunity to have met Charles Schulz before he died.

downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

John: It’s not the comics, it’s the people. Through festivals like LICAF and TCAF in Toronto, I’ve met people that I know will be friends for life. And there is very little that is more artistically inspiring than surrounding yourself with creative people.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

John: Fight every instinct you have to concern yourself with style. If you’re making comics from an honest place, style will fall into place all on its own.

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

John: I don’t know if I have a favourite, but a recent book I thought was outstanding was Big Kids by my fellow Koyama Press artist Michael DeForge.

downthetubes: John, thank you for your time and we look forward to catching up with you in Kendal.

Book Your Festival Tickets Now!

• Book your tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year’s events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world! 

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Categories: Comic Creator Interviews, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Lakes Festival Focus - Comic Creator Interviews

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