Lonnie Millsap is a renowned cartoonist who is best known for creating the syndicated comic strip, bacön. In addition, he has released several acclaimed collections of his cartoons which are available in print.
Stephan Alexander: How did you get into cartooning?
Lonnie Millsap: When I was in high school I used to draw cartoons around the borders of all my notes during class. In the summer between high school and college I took a six week cartooning class at Otis Art Institute. My teacher was a guy named Gary Panter, who eventually went on to win Emmy awards for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, the TV show. He’s the one that inspired me to keep on drawing cartoons, and that’s what I’ve done ever since.
SA: How did you develop your unique and cleverly cartoonish art style?
LM: I’m not sure if my style is very unique, but I guess it works with the subject matter. I just kind of fell into drawing the way I do. It wasn’t really planned. My work looks similar to how it looked at the beginning. Over time my style has become better composed and a little more streamlined.
SA: If there’s one thing I love, it’s a surreal comic strip. Your syndicated comic, bacön, is perfectly surreal in every way. How did you come up with it?
LM: Ideas for bacön come from everyday observations. I try to make the point of view come from an unexpected direction. Most of the time an image and a poorly worded version of the comic comes to mind and I’ll write it down somewhere. Sometimes a funny image comes to mind and the words come later, or vice versa.
SA: You’ve also established yourself as an author. Are there any challenges faced when making single strips as opposed to having to fill several pages with content?
LM: I’m so used to doing single panels that I don’t see any particular challenges in coming up with a strip. I think filling several pages would be way more challenging because it’s so much more stuff. Drawing single panels are good for someone like me who has a short attention span.
SA: You’ve had your art featured in exhibitions. What was that honor like?
LM: It’s a great feeling. The first exhibition my work was in was at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, right after my first book came out. The exhibition was curated by Matt Groening and Gary Panter, and my cartoons were in the show with a bunch of famous artists. I felt like a real artist/cartoonist after that exhibition.
SA: If you weren’t a cartoonist, what would you be?
LM: Hmmmm. It might’ve been fun to be a pro tennis player or tennis instructor. I played college tennis and taught tennis for awhile after college. Or maybe a billionaire.
SA: Do you have any advice for aspiring cartoonists?
LM: I think aspiring cartoonists should continue to draw all of the time to get better, they should let people see their stuff on social media, and they should never listen to trolls.
SA: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re looking forward to?
LM: I will have my eighth book ready by the spring of 2018. I don’t know what it’s called yet, but it will have some kind of title. I’ll also be exhibiting at Silicon Valley Comic-Con, Wondercon, and San Diego Comic-Con. I’m working on other stuff but I don’t want to jinx it by saying it yet. Ask me again in six months and I may have something new!
SA: Lastly, do you have a single favorite comic or joke out of every excellent one you have ever created?
LM: I tend to like the ones that other people don’t. It’s hard to pick a single favorite because I’ve drawn so many, but this one [below] is up there.