The rewarding thing about cartooning is that it’s completely yours… you can express your ideas any time you like! I started creating comics the moment I discovered they existed, and I still create with the same childhood joy.

I’ll take you through my cartooning journey, and show some of the techniques that help me produce the comics strips and graphic novels I make today. Plus I’ll reveal a sneak peek at the upcoming Pluto Rocket book 2!

Paul Gilligan writes and draws the syndicated comic strip Pooch Cafe, which runs in over 250 newspapers around the world! You may recognize him as the author-illustrator of King of the Mole People, and its sequel, Rise of the Slugs. Paul is based in Toronto, Ontario.

Q & A with Paul Gilligan

What made you interested in becoming an illustrator?

When I was young, practically everything was a launch pad to drawing. When I watched Star Trek, I would draw space explorers. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad had a Cyclops in it, so then all I drew was Cyclopes. If I wanted to see what the Planet of the Apes monkeys looked like battling Godzilla, I could make it happen!

What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?

One of my favorite books was The Little Captain by Paul Biegel.  I loved it so much I didn’t want it to end, so I read smaller and smaller amounts of it each day as the end approached. I never finished it! I definitely saw myself as the Little Captain. 

Where the Wild Things Are made a huge impact on me, and later Roald Dahl, Jules Verne, and those dragon books by Anne McCaffrey. And, of course, any superhero comics from Marvel. I was a die-hard Marvel fan all the way. And the newspaper comics page, of course. I would digest every panel of every strip, even the boring “grown-up” ones. I never knew what Mary Worth was talking about, but I read every word.

What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?

I love nothing more than drawing a character having an extreme reaction to something. It’s so fun to stretch the face out to depict maximum horror or surprise or outrage. My least favorite things to draw are horses and bicycles. I hope I never come up with an idea for a stallion who dreams of entering the Tour de France!

What is a challenge you have faced as an artist?

I was incredibly lucky as an artist to have not been any good at anything else. All I ever wanted to do was create. But I guess the biggest challenge I went through was wanting so badly to draw superhero comics and never quite making it. I spent thousands of hours drawing and submitting pages of art, and learning from the rejections, and working harder. But even though I got some interest, I never reached my goal. I eventually pivoted and moved into other artistic areas, and I certainly believe all that practice helped me to no end. But I never did get to draw the Hulk professionally. But no worries, I love drawing Poncho and Pluto Rocket and Joe Pidge. And the Hulk and the Thing and Iron Man I keep just for myself.

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in art and illustration?  

The best advice I have for kids is the obvious advice: just have fun. Don’t think about trying to be good at it, just create what makes you happy. If you’re having fun, you’ve already won. And you’ll also keep doing it, which is the key to getting even better at putting what’s in your head onto the page. Because that’s the measure of a successful cartoonist—not how good you are compared to anyone else, but how good you are at getting your own imagination onto the paper. If you’re doing that, then congratulations, you’re already a successful cartoonist!