NHOJ: An Interview With John Cullen
Humour is often great medicine and I have to say that John Cullen’s NHOJ has given me some laughs on days when I’ve needed them. I ask John about producing a webcomic on such a consistent basis and where he gets all his ideas from.
I’m amazed at the schedule you keep with a new strip practically every day. How do you manage to come up with something every day?
I often ask myself the same question! When you work on a comic on a near daily basis, you get into a sort of groove, where you have develop a system for coming up with ideas.
For me, my ideas come from many different sources: things going on in my life, a random doodle on a page sparking an idea…sometimes–as clichéd as it sounds–even staring out the window can help!
That’s not to say it’s easy, though; far from it. For every day that my creative process is clear sailing, there are many other days when I struggle with the creative process, and feel like I’m not up to the task. However, as difficult as it can be, I don’t let that stop me.
I can’t let that stop me.
On top of that, your Patreon backers will be aware that you go through your process with a “Process” post for every comic. Has this had any effect on the way you do things?
To be honest, not really. My process now is no different to my work process before I had set up my Patreon page.
That being said, I am certainly far more conscious about how I will describe my process to my backers; in the past, I posted my comics online, and that was it. Now that I have a Patreon, I must make sure to document every part of the drawing process for my various backers.
I really enjoy the humour of your strips. You seem to be influenced by a lot of stuff I grew up with: computer games like Sonic the Hedgehog and cartoons like Ren & Stimpy.
Also, yeah, you’re correct, I’m highly influenced by a lot of pop culture stuff, especially the cartoons and video games I grew up with. Strangely, while I didn’t watch a lot of Ren & Stimpy, its approach to cartooning still had a big influence on me, especially those moments in the show where a closeup of a character is rendered in horribly vivid detail (see also, the classic Looney Tunes shorts, and SpongeBob SquarePants)!
Another element of pop culture that’s had a huge impact on my art is manga. I love how in Japanese comics (and animation), the art style can change drastically in a single panel, in order to evoke a certain mood. I’ve always loved this, and often incorporate similar methods in my comics, to add to the absurdity.
You also do some political strips. I think it must be tough coming up with these considering the likes of Donald Trump are kind of providing their own material.
Every now and then, but I tend to stay away from political subjects for the most part, as political cartooning is a skill in and of itself. Unless you’re really good at it, it can be far too easy to mess it up.
I mean, just look at the majority of political cartoons you see in newspapers, they tend to have all the subtlety of, well…Donald Trump (how topical).
Creating genuinely good satirical humour is hard (HARD). Political satire? Even more so
Some of my favourite strips are the Gramfel ones. I know you were worried that it is a wholly original work.
Yeah, I was honestly surprised at just how much people enjoyed the Gramfel comics (for those readers who don’t know who or what a Gramfel is, it’s a series of Garfield parodies I’ve done). I suppose there’s something about doing a nihilistic version of a pop culture icon that really resonates with people.
As you said, though, a part of me does worry about the fact that one of my most popular strips is a parody of someone else’s work. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolute pleasure to have so many people enjoying my work, but I do worry about falling into the trap of becoming too reliant on lampooning the work of others.
Have you ever thought about collecting these strips?
Absolutely! In fact, I already have digital collections of my earlier work available (at gumroad.com/nhoj). However, my ultimate goal is to get a physical, printed collection of my comics out there at some point.
Basically, it’s a matter of when, not if.