Michele Brittany, Fanbase Press Editorials Manager: Were there certain cartoons that attracted you as a child?
Lonnie Millsap: Yes, as a child the funny violent cartoons like Road Runner, Bugs Bunny, and Droopy Dog were some of my favorites. They were action packed. I might not have understood all of the references, but they were always entertaining.
MB: What are your early recollections of single-panel cartoons?
LM: My earliest recollections of single-panel cartoons were probably drawings by Ron Cobb. I may have been five years old. My parents had books of his drawings on the coffee table. His cartoons were anti-war, but there was a lot of war imagery and there was dark humor throughout. His work was definitely not for children, but I liked it.
MB: What elements of this format attracted you?
LM: The ability to learn a whole story quickly from a single drawing attracts me.
MB: What led you to the single-panel format as a creative outlet?
LM: I’m not sure if any conscious thought led me to draw single-panel cartoons. I started out drawing multi-panel and single-panel cartoons, but sort of morphed into drawing single panels. It felt more comfortable to me…and less time consuming. I like the feeling of expressing myself in one drawing, and I think I have a knack for it…I think.
MB: Can you talk about your creative process from the initial spark of inspiration to the final cartoon?
LM: The spark of inspiration can come from anyplace, so when I get an idea I try to write somewhere before I forget it. Later, I’ll draw a rough version in my sketchbook or on my iPad. After that, I redraw a finished version and add color and shading on my iPad or in Photoshop. I play around with the wording of my cartoons until right before it’s finished.
MB: What themes do you explore in your cartoon?
LM: Thematically, my cartoons aren’t really about anything except for trying to get a laugh. It’s like the Seinfeld of cartoons, I guess. Mainly, I try to get a laugh from whichever subject I draw that day. I touch on more serious or grotesque subjects from time to time, but I still try to get a laugh out of every situation.
MB: How do you keep your cartoons from becoming dated and/or feeling irrelevant?
LM: To keep my cartoons fresh, I stay away from topical subjects. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to make sure I don’t make anything too generic or predictable. It’s worked out well so far.
MB: You started publishing books with quirky, catchy titles. What were your reason(s) for getting into writing/illustrating books and how do you select your titles?
LM: There were a couple of reasons why I got into publishing books of my cartoons. The first reason was that over the years I saw plenty of cartoon books that weren’t as funny as I thought I could be. Secondly, I started writing my first book as a challenge to myself to break out of a non-art related, mid-level management career rut. I set the goal to complete it in 2009, and I finished it around Christmas of 2009. My book titles come from the cartoons in my books. I just like to pick a title that sounds catchy, something that doesn’t sound like a typical book title. I guess it’s worked out.
MB: You have illustrated in black and white and color. Do you prefer one over the other? What are challenges and benefits to both approaches?
LM: Generally, I prefer color, because I think it looks good in print. Recently, I sold some black-and-white cartoons to The New Yorker magazine, and I’m starting to enjoy drawing in black and white more than I thought I would.
MB: Getting into The New Yorker magazine must be a bucket list item! How did that opportunity come about? Do you approach your cartoons any differently? Are there certain themes/subjects that the magazine is more interested in?
LM: The New Yorker was a bucket list item. Until a couple of years ago, getting a cartoon printed in The New Yorker was beyond my comprehension. I finally took the opportunity to submit to The New Yorker in 2018 and, luckily, they responded quickly. After a couple of notes from them, they purchased my first cartoon a couple of weeks later.
I do approach The New Yorker cartoons a little differently. My drawings for them are a little more subtle. The subject matter I draw is fairly similar to what I normally produce. Right now, it seems like The New Yorker editors enjoy a lot of my animal-related cartoons.
MB: Did you start exhibiting at comic book conventions once you published your first book? Do you think it is a critical component of any writer/artist marketing plan today?
LM: I started exhibiting at conventions about a year and a half after I published my first book. There really was no plan. I had never known about, or ever been to, any convention before I went to my first one. Luckily, I met Keith Knight in 2011. That year, he asked if I’d like to share a table with him at Comic-Con, Alternative Press Expo, and Wonder Con. After that, I started exhibiting at conventions alone. I think conventions can be an important avenue for an artist to develop a following. It should be combined with social media, marketing, and networking. Nobody knows who I am yet, so I may not know what I’m talking about.
MB: Can you discuss how your cartoon has evolved over the years, including branding your single panels under the moniker of bacön?
LM: Over the years, my cartoons have morphed from wordy, center-composed, black-and-white cartoons to color cartoons where I try to compose all of the space that I have available. My cartoons didn’t have a name for years, but once they got picked up by GoComics, I had to name them. I thought bacön was a good name, because the umlaut made it fancy, and everybody loves bacon. Ha! You can’t go bad with fancy bacon.
MB: You have been nominated for the Reuben Award (twice!), been a special guest at San Diego Comic-Con International, and have had nine panels bought by The New Yorker: What is your next goal?
LM: My immediate goal is to continue to consistently sell cartoons to The New Yorker and to put out a new book every year for the foreseeable future. Besides selling to The New Yorker and other publications, my long-term goal is to be nominated for a Reuben Award every year, to be nominated for an Eisner Award every year, and to retire in three years from one of my cartoons that becomes an Oscar-winning animated feature.
MB: Lonnie, until we see your animated feature on the big screen, where can Fanbase Press readers find you on social media? And what are the next cons you will be exhibiting at?
LM: Fanbase Press readers can find me and my work on gocomics.com/bacon, on Instragram (@lonniemillsap), on Twitter (@lonniemillsap), and on Facebook (@lonnie.millsap), and my website is lonniemillsap.com.
Coming up in 2019, beginning in Mid-May, I will be exhibiting at NCS Fest, East LA CAPE, San Diego Comic-Con, Silicon Valley Comic Con, Small Press Expo, and Stocktoncon. That’s enough, isn’t it? Seems like it.
MB: Thank you, Lonnie, for your time, and we’ll all be anxious to hear if you go home with a Reuben Award this May 18. Good luck!