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With his character Buzzboy, John Gallagher has been a mainstay of the local independent comics scene for years now—-for a decade it turns out. John’s a regular exhibitor at Baltimore Comic Con’s section for children’s comics, and is a nominee for the 2010 Harvey Award, which will be given out at the convention. Although he’s got a full-time job, he tells us that he’s also about to launch a new Web comic.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

John Gallagher: I am primarily a creator of kids comics, but in the same sense Calvin and Hobbes was a “Kid’s Comic.” I have self-published Buzzboy, a fun and funny super hero comic, for 10 years through my own Sky-Dog Press. I am getting ready to launch a web comic and simultaneous graphic novel called Zoey & Ketchup, about an imaginative little girl and her golden retriever. I also speak at schools across the country, talking about the magic and educational values of comics.

WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

JG: December 28, 1967—-same birthday as Stan Lee, just 40 years later, and with none of the fame!

WCP: Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

JG: I moved from rural PA to the area after college, for no other reason than my best friends from high school lived here, and that’s all that really mattered, having someone to hang with on weekends. Now, most of them have moved away, but I have stayed in the area, and maintained a high level of immaturity, living in Falls Church VA.

WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

JG: Mostly self taught—-I went to a year of art school as part of Temple University in Philly—-but it was just too small—-when I transferred to Penn State, I was happy to be part of a very prestigious graphic design program, but was shocked to find no illustration classes. Most likely I would have gone to SVA or Kubert School, if I only knew they existed (no Internet back then!), but it turned out to be a godsend—-I now do a combination of comics and grahic design, combining many of these skills for animation and comics for corporations, and pro sports teams like the Washington Capitals, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Islanders.

WCP: Who are your influences?

JG: The first art I drew was duplicating the Alex Toth-designed DC Comics’ Super Friends characters, and it was the foreword to Jules Feiffer‘s The Great Comic Book Heroes that gave me the idea that I could create my own comics. As the years went on, Chuck Jones, Jack Kirby, Kyle Baker, Walt Kelly—-they have all had a great influence on me. Currently, Richard Thompson, Steven Pastis, and Raina Telgemeier are my faves.

WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
JG: I am right where I like to be—-on the  verge of mediocrity. Kidding—-I am lucky enough to be drawing comics and cartoons, and making a living at it—-every few years my goals change, so now I have my sights set.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?

JG: Buzzboy, the adventures of the world’s coolest super-sidekick.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

JG: I am really proud of the upcoming Zoey & Ketchup comic,  which is being co-written with my daughter Katie, a comics virtuoso at age 8! It’s the first time I have really stepped away from super heroes, and embraced the kids side of what I do—-it will really be a hybrid of sorts, part comic strip, part graphic novel, part diary-type, prose sections, when the story calls for it. Zoey keeps a sketchbook, like I did as a kid, and it chronicles her strange thoughts, like a diagram of the inner workings of her brother’s brain, consisting of one part drool, and the other part pickle obsession.

WCP: What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

JG: I am intrigued about the connection between the cartoonist and the audience that takes place in a Web-based comics blog—-so that’s why Zoey & Ketchup will be a fun change.If I could take over anybody’s character, I would love to draw DC Comic’s Shazam/Captain Marvel, because he was the star of the first comic I ever read—- the little boy in a big hero’s body is every kid’s dream.

WCP: What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?

JG: I do one of two things—-one is to reread my favorite comic strips (Peanuts, Pogo, Get Fuzzy, and Calvin & Hobbes), and let my mind start to get in the fun comics mode—-the danger here is I often get so caught up in the story, I forget why I started reading, and don’t get back to the drawing board.

The other thing I do is do the opposite of comics, I goof off, I watch TV, I play with my kids—-it’s living life that gives me ideas for stories, so walking through the real world allows me to see things and think, “What if this happened?”

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

JG: For comics—-a mix of Web, digital e-readers, and books and graphic novels only. Comics shops will become more like book stores, and floppy comics, at least by indy artists, will disappear, due to a combination of high print costs and poor distribution options.

Comic strips, the same, except I feel they may become even more important to the struggling newspapers—-and could see a resurgence, if they are found to help circulation as much as I think they do.

I think the idea of giving away the short form comics on the Web or in the newspaper, will lead to better sales of the books and graphic novels.

WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?

JG: Well, Batman is pretty coo—-oh, you mean Washington, DC! For one, I found my wonderful wife, Beth there—-and she thought I wouldn’t find her wearing that fake mustache. C’mon, we’re the capital of the coolest freaking country in the world, everybody loves us!…

WCP: Least favorite?

JG: …except those who don’t love us.

WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?

JG: Air and Space at Dulles—-they have a space shuttle! that blows just about everything else away. Natural History is cool, and the Smithsonian’s pop culture exhibits are truly inspiring, like last year’s Jim Henson exhibit.

WCP: Do you have a Web site or blog?

JG: Wow, a plug? I wouldn’t think to benefit from… oh, OK. I’ve already mentioned skydogcomics.com and zoeyandketchup.com, but there’s also stuff for sports teams at www.starbridgemedia.com.

WCP: One last note—-on the Starbridge Media site is a link to NASCAR Heroes comic books.