Newspaper Cartoonists Rely on Digital Tools, but Not as You’d Expect

Originally published at: Newspaper Cartoonists Rely on Digital Tools, but Not as You’d Expect - TidBITS

You might think that modern cartoonists would create their strips using digital drawing tools, but in fact, many still rely on traditional pens and brushes. Glenn Fleishman explored the surprising way that cartoonists meld the old with the new as part of the research for a new book, How Comics Were Made.


one of my favourite political cartoonists, the acerbic not-suitable-for-family-blogging martin rowson, only uses digital technology to scan the final hand-drawn screed for submission to his various publishers.

What a great article. Thanks Glenn for an unexpected yet as always amazingly well written piece.

This reminded me of something I read from Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) when he talked about what it was like collaborating with Bill Patterson (Calvin and Hobbes). Bill apparently doesn’t use any digital stuff for his work, so everything had to get sent via mail/FedEx back and forth.

Thank you! And that makes sense. I would say the majority of the 30+ cartoonists I spoke with are primarily drawng with ink and several use watercolor! Ages range from 30s to 70s! I plan to explore it a lot further in the book. I think webcomics artists often started with digital tools because of age, training, online tutorials, or affordability/accessibility, so folks building webcomics from 2000 onward are maybe more likely to be digital only or mostly digital. But a lot of exceptions there, too. My friend Dave Kellett does two strips: Sheldon, a gag comic that’s very much like a newspaper cartoon, and Drive, which is an epic sci-fi adventure spanning years and is page oriented. I think he is still drawing Sheldon by hand (or was until not that long ago) because in part he wanted original artwork to sell at conventions! It’s harder to sell digital prints and reap the same rewards, quite honestly.


Slightly off-topic, but we live in France now, and I’ve been amazed at how the cartoon strip (or BD Bande Dessiné) is an art form in its own right.
Go into any French bookstore and there’s a whole BD section. Children’s books, history and teaching books, adult fiction - it’s massive.
To my shame I don’t know enough about BD in the French newspaper press, but it’s certainly a thriving part of the culture here

Great article. I’ve contributed to the Kickstarter. I hope you make your goal because I really want a printed copy of this book.

Thanks much and good luck.


A subject dear to my heart. The reductions of size and variety of comics (and science articles and entertainment schedules) in the newspaper is why I canceled my subscription in the first place. I have replaced the comics with a subscription. The others, not so well.

A writer artist I know who works both ways, is Romana Drew. She has a great SciFi color graphic novel called the Marauders of Sazile available on Amazon. Her website is You might want to talk to her, Glenn. Although she is not a cartoonist, it is different aspect of art and computers.

Thanks for sharing your research here, Glenn. I can’t wait to read the book!

My first strip was POGO: I didn’t understand the politics, but the lettering enraptured me.

Todd Klein started lettering comics at DC in 1977 and then freelanced for everyone. He’s lettered The Sandman, WATCHMEN, America’s Best Comics, and hundreds more. He held out for hand lettering until 1994, when he got a Mac and started designing comic fonts.

Abrams Comics contracted him to write “The Art and History of Lettering Comics,” then ignored him. He spent his advance getting reprint rights. Luckily for all of us, he’s posted the whole book online:

Why POGO’s lettering made me a comics fan

An interesting article triggered by @glennf


Neat! I will have to bug a guy named Guigar to spell my name correctly, though!


That’s wild. I can’t imagine drawing all of those complex illustrations with a mouse, and having to do everything twice (even setting aside my lack of illustration skills).

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