Don Mathias is the super talented and funny creator behind the web comic “Peanizles”. Don is an award winning freelance illustrator having worked for film, theatre and every area of publishing. He teaches traditional and non traditional art and has written and drawn the family comic strip “Entering Andover” with Neil Fater. And this is just a small part of his prolific career. I asked Don a few questions about his art and life, and what a privilege to share his responses at “Don’t Pick the Flowers” blog.
David: What is it like in the day in the life of Don Mathias, from coming up with the ideas and then writing and putting the comic together? Do you have a routine?
Don: It seems like all cartoonists have some kind of routine to their madness. One of my cartoonist friends will go to a coffee shop and just write down as many ideas as they possibly can for an hour or so, before going back home and drawing out their favorites, another friend just goes straight to sketching out something with pencil and paper and working on it until something comes out. When I’m trying to come up with idea’s I always like to try and think about things that might be heavily in the news lately, or something big in pop culture at the moment and try to see how I can pull that into the world of Peanizles. How can I relate that to my characters, and make it funny. And in making what ever that might have been funny, hopefully I’m letting people laugh at me and themselves in the process. Now, as for coming up with ideas, and developing them, I sit down at my drawing table every morning with a large cup of coffee and go through a notebook that I carry around with me constantly. I use this notebook to write down anything that could be an idea for a comic or storyline. I find that I’ll get ideas all the time. And if I don’t write them down when I think of them I am susceptible to loosing them, or at the least, loosing the spark that made the concept funny to begin with. So, every morning I’ll go through my notebook and pull out ideas and start working them out and fleshing them into something funny or cute.
David: When did you become interested in becoming a cartoonist and making comics?
Don: I blame my father for my love of comics. When I was a baby and learning to speak, he would sit down and draw pictures on a piece of paper of various things, and I would tell him what they were. For example, he would draw a clock, and I would say, “Clock”. It was how I learned to speak. When I was older I used to grab the comic’s page out of the newspaper and read it everyday reading The Peanuts, Garfield and everything on the page. And then, when I was in fifth grade my friend and I were the biggest, possible Bloom County fans. And as we were getting ready for Halloween that year, Opus and Bill were running for President that year, so we printed up political pamphlets for the Bloom party and handed them out as we got candy trick or treating. In high school, when both my guidance counselor and parents asked my what I wanted to as an adult, I told them I wanted to make comics. So, I guess the passion has always been there.
David: Who or what has inspired your own comic the most?
Don: There have been so many. But I think the three that were the biggest influences then and continue to be my biggest inspiration; have to be Charles Schultz, Berke Breathed, and Gary Larson.
David: Who are some of your favorite cartoonist and how have they impacted your own comics?
Don: I got to meet Stephan Pastis a couple of years ago and he was just as funny in person as his comic strip is. Rat is more than a little bit of his personality. And the things he has said in response to hate mail to his comic strip is absolutely brilliant.
Richard Thompson’s, Cul De Sac is probably one of the greatest comic strips out there. His art is loose, sketchy and undeniably perfect, and his characters are all just adorable while at the same time hilarious. And his battle with Parkinson’s Disease is something that lets you see how undeniably strong willed and focused he is and how he and friends are turning this into a positive by creating Team Cul De Sac to help try and combat Parkinson’s Disease (more information on Team Cul De Sac is available at www2.michaeljfox.org/site/TR/TeamFox/TeamFox?team_id=1149&pg=team&fr_id=1053).
And Mark Parisi who I met about five years ago has become a very good friend, and is one of the funniest single panel cartoonists in the business. And there are so many other comics and cartoonists out there that I read and absolutely love.
David: Having your own web comic gives you a lot of freedom to create how you want. But at the same time you are responsible of taking care of so much with little help. What do you consider the pros and cons of the web comic revolution?
Don: The internet has given web cartoonists an amazing amount of freedom in content, size, space, audience, and virtually everything. And from that great web comics have been able to have an audience and fan base that they would most assuredly not in the traditional comic venue, like Cyanide and Happiness, White Ninja, and even Abominable Charles Christopher. You no longer have to worry about an editor or anybody restricting your creative output in any fashion. And you can reach people all over the world, and build up fans in places that there would never have been any way for you to get your work to them. And these are all the same positives that the internet seems to bring to everything that it touches. But, these are also the negatives that are associated with the internet, and even some web-based comics. There is no filter on the internet, and some people just let it out there for the world to see, literally. To me, one of the most beautiful things about comics as a medium is how you can put so much in a small little group of panels and with the minimum amount of dialog or wording and get the most out of it to communicate a joke to people. There’s a definite brilliance to a comic when it’s done just right.
David: I love the way you put that! Don you have a great comic and it’s a thrill to feature you and your work here. Thank you for a small peek into your world.
And now it’s time for everyone to check out Don’s work, if you aren’t already familiar with his fantastic strip Peanizles.