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William L. Brown is longtime local cartoonist whose work ran in the City Paper in its earliest days, as well as a cluster of other alternative weeklies across the country between 1988 and 1992. The strip, President Bill, followed the adventures of an average local guy who was selected to be president, whether he wanted to be or not.
A collection of the scratchboard cartoons came out in 1990. Brown’s long-term use of scratchboard makes his style distinctive and easily recognizable. Brown reinvigorated his strip with his Candidate Bill web comic in 2007. He’s also continued to follow Bill’s adventures in Citizen Bill which still appears in print in his local paper, the Takoma Voice.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
William L. Brown: It is hard to categorize. I do a monthly single panel with text. Technically, it is my local paper’s editorial cartoon, but it is social satire that appeals to a wider audience so it gets reprinted in the Funny Times where it gets national exposure.
WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
WB: The art is done by hand on scratchboard, scanned into the computer, then I use design and drawing software to put in the text and title banner.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
WB: 1952, Boston, Mass. Raised in New Hampshire, the Best State in the Union.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
WB: I’ve always been interested in politics so it is fitting that I live in the D.C. area, in a small city with active municipal politics. I live in Takoma Park, one block from the D.C. border. I’ve been in TP for 30 years with my wife, who works at Gallaudet University.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
WB: BFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts which made a point of NOT teaching cartooning or comics, but the illustration track was close enough. I’ve been cartooning since I was a child.
WCP: Who are your influences?
WB: William Morris, John Held Jr, Giles, Carl Barks, H.M. Bateman.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
WB: I would put drops of potion in all the editor’s coffee so they would fall in love with my work and want to publish it.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
WB: Probably my President Bill feature and book.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
WB: Usually, the last piece I did. But, there are a lot of pieces that are favorites, some for humor, some for aesthetic reasons, some for the writing. Occasionally I get two or even three of those elements just right.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
WB: I’d love to do another book. I just need to get that potion into an editor’s coffee.
WCP: What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?
WB: I go for a walk or some other kind of exercise.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
WB: Indications are that electronic publishing is next—-if not already here.
WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?
WB: Spring and fall.
WCP: Least favorite?
WCP: What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?
WCP: How about a favorite local restaurant?
WB: The Olive Lounge in Takoma Park is a great little local bar/restaurant .
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
Oh, you want to know what they are?
I’m also a “staff member” for Granolapark, a snarky column/blog covering the Takoma Park city council for the Takoma Voice newspaper. I assist the dynamic, hard-drinking, acid-tongued “Gilbert,” the pseudonymous author at voicenewspapers.com.