Working Professionally as a Cartoonist

A few things that I’ve learned over the years that have crystalized through teaching…

• Devote your time to sharpening your art skills AND your business skills – trends, networking, contracts, etcetera all.

• Don’t pigeonhole yourself to one small aspect of the art form, like limiting yourself to just comics. Remember that Michelangelo wanted to devote himself to sculpture when he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel.

• The people who succeed are generally the people who are working their asses off. Surround yourself with people like this, people who commit themselves fully and are getting their work out into the world. They’ll generally be better than you which is a GOOD thing – that way the bar keeps getting raised.

• Working hard isn’t enough, you have to work smart as well. You have to create work that’s marketable – that will suit the needs of someone who will then pay you.

• Working long hours with no sleep to meet deadlines isn’t the answer. Your career is a marathon, not a fifty yard dash. Eat right, exercise and sleep regularly like your parents told you to.

• Start now (yesterday is even better). Research the jobs you want, look at the submission guidelines (and follow them METICULOUSLY), then work up samples that will blow the competition out of the water. Follow Steve Martin’s advice to those aspiring to enter the entertainment field – “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

• To cap this off… If you treat your skills as a hobby then that’s where they’ll stay, as a hobby – and that’s FINE as long as that’s your conscious decision – but if you want to have it as your career then you need to get on board and on track.

And that’s…

For more info, check out the following links:

Comics – Pricing your Work

Things to Consider When Commissioning Artwork

Work for Hire – The Fallout

Homage or Swipe?

Cartoon Art Scams

Comics – Tools of the Trade

Comic Book Inking Tutorials and Videos

Recommended Books on Drawing & Cartooning


Using Reference


When you wish upon a star…

Motivational Misinformation

Convention Prep – AHHHHH!!!

Networking and the High Cost of Comic Conventions

Mike Wolfer on Fan art/Homage art

Graphic Novels

Comic Book Podcasts

Intro to Anime – sorely needed…

And last but not least, The Business of Cartooning.
This page has a number of subcategories, including…

1 Comic News Blogs
2. Contracts
3. Resources/Articles
4. Print On Demand Publishers
5. Self-Publishing Resource Articles
6. Convention Resources
7. Cartooning Schools and Organizations
8. Financial Aid


I started these posts after teaching Comic Art at the
Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Here’s the biggest thing I learned teaching there.


…and a special thanks to Professor Barb Schulz, head of the department,
for giving me that opportunity.

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Coming Soon…


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Sally Forth – Hometown Reference

When a scene in Sally Forth calls for a specific locale (grocery store, movie theater, etcetera) I’ll often use spots around my hometown of Minneapolis for reference. Take the following…

Excerpt from Francesco Marciuliano’s script for 9/22/2016.

Scene: Exterior. Sidewalk. Right Outside Comic Book Store. Hilary and Faye exit the comic book store. Each has a bag showing a comic book purchase.


For the comic book shop I chose Comic Book College.


It holds a little nostalgia for me as it used to be called Comic City back in the day (and was located one store down from where it is now). For those interested in the history, check out the College of Comic Book Knowledge.

The two guys approaching the comic book store in the first panel are fellow Joe Kubert School classmates Brian Bilter and Mark McMurray.


They’ve snuck into the strip before – it usually happens when I’m not paying close enough attention.


Mark even went so far as to crash a Flash Gordon strip I did back in the day (when he had longer hair).

Flash Gordon top tier - November 24, 1996

Flash Gordon top tier – November 24, 1996

More on that at


Unabashed plug time!

If Sally Forth isn’t in your local paper you can check it out online at, or get a subscription at…


A yearlong subscription to all of King Features’ comics (new and vintage) plus ten years worth of archives for every single strip is a pittance at $19.99 a year. Unsure? Try a 7 day trial subscription for free.

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On the Drawing Board


2 dailies. Image area of each is 3 ¾” x 13″.
Lettering is done digitally and laid in after the artwork is scanned.

For art materials I use, check out Tools of the Trade.

-Jim Keefe

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Where We Are 15 Years After 9/11.


Among the number of emails I’ve received today, some have praised today’s strip with the little girl in the hijab for reflecting “the diversity that is America.” – others have hated it saying “It was wrong and wholly inappropriate!”

I’d like to state, as the artist on Sally Forth, I currently live in an area that is home to a large number of Somali Americans that have been here for generations and wear the traditional hijab. My drawing is just an everyday classroom scene in my neck of the woods.

For those who were offended that it ran the day after 9/11 I’d also like to add that I lived in New York when the attacks happened and watched the towers go down from across the bay. I abhor the terrorists for what they did. They killed close to 3,000 people that day of ALL faiths and religions.

To strike back against that kind of evil I’m reminded of the words of Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who survived a bullet to the head by a Taliban gunman for being an advocate for a girls’ right to go to school. Her message is that the key in fighting global terrorism is education. So maybe the image of a little Somali American girl in a classroom getting an education is exactly what we need to see MORE of, not less.

And that’s my two cents…

-Jim Keefe

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Fun Fact…


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The Requirements For Being Cast as Mary Jane in a Spider-Man Movie

Mary Jane's first appearance. Amazing Spider-Man #42 – November 1966

Mary Jane’s first appearance.
Amazing Spider-Man #42 – November 1966

As with any superhero movie these days, there are those fans who have a problem with casting before the movie has even seen the light of day. The most recent is Zendaya as Mary Jane in the upcoming Spider-Man film starring Tom Holland.


For the Twitterverse argument, check out the following from Mic Network Inc.
Zendaya is Mary Jane in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’
so of course there’s racist backlash

For my two cents worth let’s go back to the very beginning shall we…?

Here’s John Romita  (who first drew Mary Jane) on creating the character.

“…I think I based her partially on Ann-Margret. I used Ann-Margret’s dimples and a cleft in the chin and some of the full faced smile that she had, cause we were trying to make a girl that was very with-it, and very modern.”

If you watched the previous video clip, you saw a little bit of a 22-year-old Ann Margaret – the very definition of with-it and modern for the 1960s.

Now compare it to the following clip of Zendaya dancing with Tom Holland and ask yourself if she fits the role in 2016 for “very with-it, and very modern.”

Courtesy of Deja Carter‘s Instagram

And if you need any further convincing, here’s a quote from Stan Lee (Mary Jane’s co-creator) regarding Zendaya being cast (from the Toronto Sun).


“If she is as good an actress as I hear she is, I think it’ll be absolutely wonderful.”

If you have any other arguments, it is now moot.
Nuff said. Excelsior!


Update: I’d like to clarify that I don’t think that anyone who objects to the casting because it’s not the original look of the character is a racist. That’s absurd.

My point is that the character of Mary Jane was created as a vivacious, fashionable modern woman – and in adapting that character to film her hair and skin color aren’t necessarily the defining elements. That’s my two cents worth at least.

-Jim Keefe

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