Armory Teaching Artist Matt MacFarland loves drawing and comics. "I went to school for art, but still made cartoons. Then I went to grad school for art. I still made cartoons...then my son was born and I just made comics." The 5th issue of Matt's Dark Pants series is coming soon, and his new comic book 4 Seasons of Gary is available now on his website, along with other titles including My Troubles with Crumb.
Matt teaches intensive cartooning and graphic novel classes at the Armory for older children and teens. One of the exercises he does with his students is called Cartoon Doodles from Memory, which was developed by renowned cartoonist and teacher Ivan Brunetti. Click here to try it yourself.
This week, we asked Matt to share his favorite cartoon artists. Here's his top 7 in no particular order:
Kid Friendly Cartoonists
Dav Pilkey and Mo Willems
These guys don’t really need any more publicity, but I have a special place in my heart for them as the authors and artists that first resonated with my son, Charlie. He wanted me to read all the Pigeon and Elephant and Piggy books by Willems and learned to read on his own this year by digging into the Dog Man graphic novel series by Pilkey. So, although I am a bit envious about their success, I also completely understand and endorse it.
A better ambassador for comics does not exist. Alec self-published his mini-comic Phase 7 for several years. In 2012, he released his first graphic novel Basewood, which was about an amnesiac and his search for his family while navigating a thick forest and a wolf-dragon. He recently collected his fantasy webcomic for kids Isle of Elsi into his first hard cover volume last year. If you are trying to figure out how to get your start in comics, he’s also a very accessible and supportive guy!
Cartoonists for Ages 14+
I’ve read everything Clowes has produced and am never disappointed. I was exposed to his work through his hilarious and accurate strip Art School Confidential in college, and continue to be drawn to his work due to his intelligence and dark, cynical sense of humor. Ghost World, David Boring, and Wilson are classics of the graphic novel medium.
Bechdel published a recurring comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in alternative papers for 25 years before she published Fun Home—a graphic memoir documenting her complicated relationship with her closeted father and her own struggles with her sexuality. Fun Home is what she will be remembered for, a heartbreaking and poignant account of how her father’s decision to suppress his sexuality and true identity helped her embrace her own. In 2014, Bechdel was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
At first, Bell’s work reads like autobiography, but at some point in most of her stories the narrative takes a surreal turn leaving the reader completely disoriented. I recommend her early mini-comic, Lucky (2006) and her first graphic novel Everything is Flammable (2017), which was about Gabrielle’s visit to her mother’s remote town in Northern California after her house burns down and the complicated dynamic between mother and daughter.
Jaime is one-third of “Los Bros Hernandez”, a trio essentially responsible for kicking off the alternative comics movement in the late '80s and early '90s. With Love and Rockets, Jaime has been working within the same setting (a fictional town called Huerta or “Hoppers”, based on his hometown of Oxnard,, CA) and the same cast of characters (Maggie and Hopey, mainly, all aging in real time) for over 30 years! With the exception of some sci-fi and horror tinged stories the characters and stories are all based in reality and talk and act and age like real people! It’s still pretty groundbreaking stuff, even after all these years.
We can still come together as a community to celebrate the power of art. If you are in a position to do so, please consider supporting the Armory today. We pledge to continue providing exceptional arts programming for all, while supporting our staff and teaching artists to our fullest ability in the weeks to come. Your tax deductible donation will help safeguard our mission through this crisis and beyond. Thank you.