Cheryl Nickel is the creator of a positive and upbeat comic called “Commander Broccoli”. Her character Commander Broccoli was first created in high school, and from there was published for two and a half years at Red River College where she received a degree in Graphic Design. Cheryl currently publishes here comic at the “Carillon” in Steinbach Manitoba and hopes to have Commander Broccoli published world wide in the near future.
David: Hello Cheryl, thank you so much for taking the time to be featured at “Don’t Pick the Flowers”. When did you become interested in cartooning and how did “Commander Broccoli” begin?
Cheryl: Hey David, thanks so much for featuring me & Commander Broccoli!
I have always drawn cartoon pictures since I was really young. When I was about ten years old, I remember sitting down beside my Dad on the couch with my notebook and a pencil, and he would come up with funny captions for me to illustrate. These were my first comics. In junior high I started to draw comic strips of my friends to make them laugh.
In my second year of high school, I created my cartoon character, Commander Broccoli. At that time I was steeped in comic books including some Spiderman and Wolverine, but mostly alternative comics by relatively unknown artists (my favourite was the Tick). These comics influenced my character at first, because the initial sketches were like a typical Marvel-type superhero, serious and muscular. But the only thing I liked about him was the helmet. So I trashed that idea and drew an intense, serious looking cartoon rabbit wearing the same helmet. This was much better! It wasn’t until after I did two comics and a painting that I realized that I had to scrap the seriousness as well.
I was also going through a long phase where I got a kick out of nicknaming my friends and pets after vegetables (it still strikes me as funny, though I don’t know why). With my character’s new wide eyes and my affinity to vegetables, he became ‘Commander Broccoli — Defender of Silliness.’ His first official publishing came two years later in my college newspaper, along with a few hundred screen printed t-shirts.
People started telling me that I should keep the comics coming. Some people were practically demanding it!
David: What’s your cartooning routine like? Do you have a set schedule and where do a lot of your ideas come from?
Cheryl: My comic strip is in my local newspaper every week. This is great for me, because it requires that I come up with a weekly comic strip. Around 9:00 am, I eat my breakfast, make some tea and do a few other procrastinating-type things before I actually sit down with my sketch book to think of an idea. Recently I only need to spend about an hour trying to come up with an idea. So between 10:30 and hopefully 11:30, I pencil, ink and letter my comic strip. If I haven’t made any big mistakes or decide to make a big change, I scan my comic and, using Photoshop I add the blacks and greys and tweak it a bit. By about noon, if all mostly goes according to schedule, I email my comic to the editor. After that I do a colour copy of it and file it away. Then I take a different strip that I created a few weeks back and use it to update my website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. That way the newspaper readers get to see my newest comics first.
Sometimes I get ideas from my friends, my husband and my kids but mostly they pop into my head out of nowhere. What I do first is talk to God about it and ask him to give me ideas, then I sit and wait until I get a clue or some concept. Initially I get something that might not make sense or seem funny, but it’s a clue. I take that concept and work at it until I’m happy with the end result.
David: Who are some of your cartooning hero’s and favorite comic strips?
Cheryl: Growing up, I read all the comics in the newspaper every day. My all time favourite comic strip was Bloom County, it was the one comic that could really make me laugh. A few of my other favourites were Herman, Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.
I’d have to say some of my biggest cartoon heros are my kids, I have two sons ages 9 and 11. I’m blown away by how they can draw ten times better than I could at their age. They are fearlessly creative and driven to draw and animate for hours on end.
David: I hear there may be a “Commander Broccoli” book in the works. Can shed a little light on that?
Cheryl: Yes, recently a number of people either said or implied that they would like a Commander Broccoli comic book, so I’m going for it. I’m shooting for printing them this year, hopefully in May. It will be a collection of almost all my comics, including extra illustrations that I will custom make for the book.
David: There are many rewards for being a cartoonist. At the end of the day what is the greatest accomplishment you feel you have achieved?
Cheryl: I like challenge and the process of producing each comic strip and I enjoy getting feedback from others. I have over a hundred and fifty comic strips now, and that’s a nice feeling.
It would be an accomplishment to know that people find my characters to be funny, deep, vulnerable and something that people can relate to emotionally. I would feel rewarded knowing that my comic strip made a difference somehow or influenced someone to make a choice that they would benefit from in their life.
One day I hope my comics will cause people to really laugh, right from the belly. That would be success for me.
David: And it seems you have already obtained that from people. I truly appreciate you taking time to be featured at “Don’t Pick the Flowers”. I wish you the very best with all that lies ahead.
Find out more about Cheryl Nickel and Commander Broccoli at: