Interview with Mike Dawson, Cartoonist

By Anna Ortiz on December 12th, 2018

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.

Interview – Question & Answer

Mike, Please Describe Your Journey as a Comic Artist and Your Experience in the Profession

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.

How Has Your Education and Early Professional Experience Prepared You for Your Career Today?

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.

What Are Some of Your Favorite, or Perhaps, Most Noteworthy Projects?

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.

What Tips or Advice Can You Provide for Other Aspiring Artists Who Plan to Enter the Field of Comic Book Art?

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.

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