The GoComics “Meet Your Creator” series brings you firsthand insight into the lives and careers of your favorite cartoonists. Each week, we hand over the keys to one of our talented creators, who share their inspirations, achievements, creative processes, studios and more! Read on to hear from this week’s featured cartoonist: Tom Fonder of The Adventures of Business Cat
When did you start cartooning?
I've been drawing cartoons for as long as I can remember, so in retrospect, I should really be a much better drawer by now than I am. It was never anything I had given any serious consideration to, but I could always be found doodling something in class or at home in between playing video games. These comics would usually be in the form of pop-culture-laden dramatizations of events in myself and my friends’ lives and feature their own mythos of densely layered in-jokes that would make them incomprehensible to anyone outside my core circle of friends. More than anything, they were a tactic to stave off boredom that served me well all the way from third grade multiplication through senior year Physics.
How did you begin your career as a cartoonist?
To be honest, I just sort of fell into it. Cartooning was never the big plan for me, just something I enjoyed doing for fun on the side, and only ever for my friends and me. In high school, one of those friends convinced me to start a webcomic with him, to which I mostly only agreed because it wouldn't mean anything more than drawing stick figures for him on a Wacom tablet that I had recently bought. However, I soon found myself becoming more involved in the writing of the comics, and the result was my first webcomic, Happy Jar. Although we never stuck at it for long, something made me pick it back up a few years ago, and I found a small following that soon exploded upon uploading my first Business Cat strip as a one-off gag in Happy Jar.
I'd grown pretty frustrated at that time with working within the bounds of Happy Jar's stick figure “aesthetic” that began in high school, and given the positive outpouring over this new Business Cat strip, I decided to make it its own thing, where I could have the freedom to do a bit more “real” drawing. The whole thing just sort of snowballed from there, and before I knew it, I had a huge fan base and offers from publishers from all over the place who wanted to bring Business Cat to print. Honestly, it's been a bit of a crazy ride, and to this day I barely consider myself a “cartoonist” – I almost feel it a slight to all the other people out there doing insanely great work who are far more talented than me.
Where do you find inspiration?
For Business Cat, unsurprisingly, the single largest source of inspiration comes from my cat, Curzon, alongside the rogues’ gallery of other cats and animals that have populated my life. I'm the son of a vet and a vet nurse who own their own practice in Australia, and as such, my childhood home was always packed full of all sorts of both domestic and wild animals wandering around – many of which were being rehabilitated. The often absurd behavior/mannerisms of animals never fails to serve as an endless source of joy for me, and I feel that's what fuels Business Cat most.
What comics did you read as a child?
I always liked comics as a kid and got into them first, as I expect most people probably did, through the funny pages that my dad would hand me from the paper. Garfield was always a standout for a young child, but the one that I first fell in love with was Calvin and Hobbes. The snippets in the paper always left me craving more, and as such, my parents bought me a couple of Calvin and Hobbes collections that I must have read front to back more times than I can count. Although I love and appreciate many of this era of cartoons, Calvin and Hobbes is an undeniable masterpiece that I continue to come back to again and again for its combination of smart writing and breathtaking art.
What comics do you read today?
Aside from Calvin and Hobbes, I find myself most often enjoying the webcomics scene's offerings of material that I was first introduced to in high school through the works of Kris Straub, Scott Kurtz and the guys at Penny Arcade. Aside from their work, I also really enjoy reading anything by Kate Beaton, Anthony Clark, Ryan North, Abby Howard and Ronnie Filyaw (Ronnie, in particular, has found a way to hone square in on my sense of humor), as well as a whole host of other people I check out to varying degrees.
I definitely enjoy diving into a graphic novel or two from time to time, but as you can probably gather from this list, I tend to gravitate far more toward humorists than the serious stuff or the superhero genre.
Which achievements and accomplishments are you most proud of?
I tend to have a serious problem with not being able to be proud of anything that I've ever made or ever done. Looking back on any finished piece of work is a painful experience for me and can honestly, seriously bum me out. That being said, I'd say being picked up by Andrews McMeel (who will be publishing a “Business Cat” book come September) may be the closest thing to an achievement I'm proud of.
Your book “Business Cat: Money, Power, Treats” hits stores in late September. How did you make the jump from a webcomic to a published book?
I got exceedingly lucky in that the offer came to me. When you have a big publisher like Andrews McMeel knocking at your door, it just seemed like a no-brainer. Honestly, the idea of even seeing Business Cat in print – let alone on shelves – is still completely surreal to me.
What can readers expect to find in the book?
We're still finalizing the exact number of strips that will be in the book, but you can expect to see most everything you've seen so far, as well as a host of exclusive book-only material that includes entirely new comics, extra panels and some fun little splash pages. I've had a lot of reader requests to see Business Cat in print, and I'm sure the book won't disappoint them.
Are you working on any other projects? Do you have any upcoming appearances?
I'm a pretty intensely private guy (read: antisocial), so no upcoming appearances and likely none in the cards for the foreseeable future. As to other projects, once my work on this book is completed, I'm going be looking to completely revamp Happy Jar into a new comic with an all-new focus that will allow me to do some fun non-Business Cat-related material on the side. I'll also be looking to get back into some projects regarding my other passions – film and photography.
What’s your studio or workspace like?
My partner and I recently moved out of London to a much smaller, quieter part of England where my studio space currently occupies the top floor loft of our house. It's a pretty bare-bones situation for the most part, with just a plant, a futon and a Barbarella poster to keep me company (I never have been one for going all out with the decorations).
I fairly recently got my hands on a Cintiq, however, which has been an amazing upgrade from your standard Wacom tablet and helped to really speed up and improve my drawing process tenfold. All in all, it gets the job done and it's nice to have my own private workspace after years spent in your typical tiny London flat.
Looking for more?
• Read The Adventures of Business Cat here.
• Pre-order “Business Cat: Money, Power, Treats” here.
• Like the comic on Facebook.
• Follow along on Twitter.