Jim Buttitta is the talented creator of the funny comic “Hello,Cleveland!”. I spoke with Jim about the life of a cartoonist and one thing we both mentioned is you really have to love making comics. It can be time consuming and often you are a one man show. Often you have to put other things aside to do this thing called comics. But what a reward to have the characters you’ve created come to life. Jim says he has been reading and drawing comics since before “Blondie” was a virgin, and how can you not love a man that says that! Jim has loveable comic characters, traditionally drawn and is also a part of the “Cartoonist Studio” contest, who asked him for some of his original artwork (what an honor). Now I’d love to share part of the conversation I had with “Hello,Cleveland’s” Jim Buttitta.
David: Hello Jim, “Hello Cleveland” is a fantastic comic you create. Can you explain how the characters and comic come about?
Jim: Thanks Dave. “Hello,Cleveland!” literally was born out of a doodle. Years ago, I had some minor success with a comic strip called “Gizmo” which was picked up by the now-defunct American International Syndicate. After that, of course, real life got in the way and I thought my comic strip days were far behind me. In December 2009, as I was thrashing around trying to decide to do something else with my life, Mrs. Bogle piped up “What ever happened to that comic strip you used to do? Why don’t you give that a shot again?” Why not indeed? So I set to work trying different characters when Everett Bogle, the lead character in “HC” suddenly came out of my pencil as I was simply doodling on my sons’ drawing table. Of course, he looks almost nothing like he does now, as the characters have grown to literally define themselves, but the seed was planted.
Everettis joined by his younger brother, Riley. Riley was modeled after three people: my third youngest son, a little kid who lives down the street named, coincidentally, ‘Riley’, and Harpo Marx. Riley is one of those people who doesn’t say much, but the light behind his eyes tells you that he knows the secret of life…but he’s not telling.
And then there’s Newt. Newt is actually a real lizard who lives in an aquarium inEveretts’ room, andEveretts’ head. Usually whenEveretthas no one else to talk to, that’s’ when he talks to Newt…and Newt talks back.
David: What are the tools you use to create your comics, and what are your favorites to use?
Jim: I went through quite a number of tools before settling on the equipment I use now, which is about as low-tech as you can get. I use a regular no.2 pencil to sketch out the idea on Canson Comic Strip Boards (Plug no.1). When I like the composition of the strip, I go over it with a blue pencil. Then I ink it and detail it with several different sizes of Pigma Micron Pens (Plug no.2) that’s about it. No high- falluting computer art for me….
David: What can we expect to see on the horizon for “Hello Cleveland” and what are some of your goals and plans?
Jim: On the immediate horizon is the Cartoonist Studio Contest starting Feb 6, 2012. I am Contestant #294. And, like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, I’m going to need all the help I can get, so vote and vote often. After that, the goal I have, as do most of the other website cartoonists I suppose, is to get noticed and get syndicated in a rapidly dwindling newspaper world. While waiting for that to happen, I have developed a loyal fan base that I continue to draw for. I have an obligation to them and to myself to improve and progress with my strip. And besides, it’s an artistic outlet for me. As long as someone continues to read and laugh, that’s good enough for me.
David: What things grab your attention and make a good comic in your opinion?
Jim: To me, the first thing that makes a good comic is the artwork. It has to grab your attention. You have to WANT to look at it. Composition is everything. It has to appeal to the eye first. It has to stand out from the crowd. I am constantly amazed at some syndicated comic strips that look like the cartoonists’ five year old kid drew it and yet it’s in the newspaper.
A strip must also have something out of the ordinary to offer the reader. I like humor that is slightly off kilter that sometimes makes you have to think about it first before you get the joke. A joke that you don’t get at first, but then wake up in the middle of the night laughing because NOW you get it. But above all, it has to be FUNNY. People read comics to LAUGH.
And good writing is important. A good joke has to have a certain rhythm to it. The wrong word or phrase will destroy a punch line faster than a Kardashian marriage. The same can be said for a strip without dialogue. It also has to have its’ own rhythm to it or the joke gets lost.
David: What’s your favorite thing about being a cartoonist?
Jim: My favorite thing about being a cartoonist is the solitude, the quiet. Many cartoonists will tell the same thing. Out in the real world, most of the time it doesn’t make much sense. But when you’re sitting at that board, everything you put on that paper is you. No one else. It’s YOUR thoughts, YOUR ideas, and YOUR artwork. It’s you sitting at that board thinking
“What do I want to tell the world today?” And then when you get feedback from the readers, or when they hit that “Like” button, that makes it all worthwhile.
David: Thank you Jim, I truly appreciate you talking and sharing with me about your comic “Hello, Cleveland”. I love your style and look forward to seeing what comes next. And good luck with the Cartoonist Studio and all the future holds for you.
Check out more of Jim Buttitta and “Hello, Cleveland” at: