THERE ARE CLEAR and vivid reasons why I love conducting “the cartoonist interview.” And they tend to be some of the same elements that can contribute to cartoonists being successful by one metric or another.

Cartoonists so often see the world a little differently. (Nothing enlivens an interview quite like someone who finds giving a bland or cliched or unimaginative answer congentially impossible.) And if you share the view from your own special prism, it’s bound to be interesting.

Plus, many comics creators know a great narrative and are expert storytellers. Many editorial cartoonists and incisive scripters, especially, are built to deal in heat-seeking truths. Many cartoonists are also some of the best wielders of language — masters of the verbal thrust and parry — I’ve ever met.

And mostly, so many artists — seldom in it for the money or prestige or groupies — can’t help but convey an authentic passion for their work.

So what better way to reflect on the year in comics and cartooning than to let comics figures say it in their own inimitable words? Here, from scores of Comic Riffs interviews over the course of the year, is a selection of Best Comics Quotes from 2012:


MARJANE SATRAPI: Her film “Chicken With Plums,” adapted from her graphic novel, opened in 2012. (Illustration by MICHAEL CAVNA / The Washington Post /.)


“You have to live. I just spoke to students in Madison [Wisc.], and some of them, in their 20s, were older than I am. I said, ‘You should be out drinking vodka and living while you can still bounce back the next morning and be just fine.’ ”

MARJANE SATRAPI , hours after learning of friend David Rakoff’s death

“I thought, I better give them the kind of information I wish I had had when starting out. ... It was the weird thing you discover as a writer where, if you’re trying to create a universal thing, you will fail. But if you try to create a personal thing, you sometimes find the universal that resonates with everybody.”

NEIL GAIMAN, on his arts-school commencement address in Philadelphia that went viral

“MAKE GOOD ART”: Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia proved popular online, too. Gaiman tells Comic Riffs that the speech will spawn a book designed by Chip Kidd. (Illustration by MICHAEL CAVNA / 2012 Cavna's Canvas/.)

“Run! Throw that pen away and go to bartender school. I have no idea how to make a living as an editorial cartoonist now.”

ED STEIN, on his advice to young aspiring political cartoonists upon his own retirement from the field

“I know university politics, and if the Superman thing didn’t work, I was going to be pulled over the coals for ‘making a mockery’ of the commencement ceremony. I knew that. My wife taught college, so I know how it goes.”

“Mother Goose and Grimm” creator MIKE PETERS, on ending his commencement address by pulling back his cap-and-gown to reveal a Superman shirt (to punctuate his theme of self-empowerment)


“This is not a Harvey Pekar statue. This is a ‘Comics As Arts and Literature’ desk with Harvey as a sculpture. Harvey is the dominant motif [with a bronze] comic-book page he steps out of. [And] I put my wedding ring into the sculpture. We melted it in. It was time [for it] to go, and this is certainly the best place to put it.”

JOYCE BRABNER, comics creator and widow of Harvey Pekar, on her project at a Cleveland library


“Matt knows [and] loves the comics, and his reinvention/ pioneering of the alt-comix universe as it existed after [Jules] Feiffer was inspiring and enabling for a generation.”

ART SPIEGELMAN, on a collaborative creator tribute to Matt Groening to mark the end of his comic ”Life in Hell”

AFTER-LIFE IN HELL: Jen Sorensen’s contribution to a Matt Groening/“Life in Hell” art tribute organized by James Sturm of the Center for Cartoon Studies. (courtesy of Center for Cartoon Studies /.)

“A bust of Homer was unveiled, and there were free donuts for everyone!”

-- Writer/producer TOM GAMMILL, on the Groening-led celebration of “The Simpsons’ “ 500th episode, on the Fox lot 

“I think a big part of Lee’s editorial legacy is in bringing to newspapers a new generation of cartoonists — including women — and introducing an entirely new range of subjects and voices to the comics page. ... He always seemed to find strips with highly individualistic takes on the world, and a strong sense of voice. This has become more or less the standard model for newspaper comics now, but it was quite different from the plug-in-the-gag, committee-drawn strips of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and I think it brought the comics a new sharpness and relevance.

Because I admired and respected so many of Universal’s strips, I completely trusted Lee’s judgment in editing my work: I never argued for a strip he questioned.”

“Calvin and Hobbes” creator BILL WATTERSON, upon Universal Uclick’s Lee Salem leaving the editorial side of the business

“I can’t think of a more honorable home for my massive mini-comics collection than the Library of Congress.”


NOT SO MINI: Dean Haspiel donated his massive minicomics collectioin to the Library of Congress as coordinated by the Small Press Expo. (Used by permission of Small Press Expo / Library of Congress /. )

“The people who live in D.C. are passionate about the city. I’m not talking about the politicians or pundits who come and go over the years, but the people who make their home here, the folks who have lived here for decades and can relate stories about their neighborhoods.” 

“District Comics” editor MATT DEMBICKI.


“It’s heartening to be invited to an event where independent cartoonists are considered interesting and possibly even relevant — to say nothing of unapologetically using the word ‘small’ in their title.” 

CHRIS WARE, on being a special guest at this year’s 2012 Small Press Expo


“A world-record price like this is a testament to just how beloved ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ was and is.”

Heritage Auctions Vice President TODD HIGNITE, on the record $203,150 paid for a hand-colored Bill Watterson original

‘CALVIN’ AND AUCTION: A Watterson original — hand-colored on Bristol board — sold for a comic-strip record. ("CALVIN AND HOBBES" / Bill Watterson / courtesy of Heritage Auctions /.)

RICH BURLEW,   on his record-setting $1.2-million Kickstarter campaign for his comic, “Order of the Stick” 


“As newsrooms get smaller and online journalism grows, this art form is in decline, and Bill’s campaign is a perfect example of how those from the traditional media industry are looking to alternative sources of funding via crowdfunding.” 

Indiegogo co-founder SLAVA RUBIN, on the “replace his salary” campaign for pink-slipped political cartoonist Bill Day 


“For the first time in 10 years, I’m going to be able to focus solely on my comics.”. 

MATT BORS, on the success of his crowd-funded book projects

“I did as many podcasts, blog, Webtv and radio interviews as I could. I literally bumrushed [“La Cucaracha” cartoonist] Lalo Alcaraz’s show on KPFK. He had no idea what hit him. But I got on!”

KEITH KNIGHT, sharing his hard-won 14 Tips for a More Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

“The first year [at Angoulême] was horrible because I couldn’t sleep the night before the event. I was so afraid I wouldn’t finish! Now I ... go there more relaxed.”

BOULET (Gilles Roussel), on the event’s 24-Hour Comic competition — after his 2012 offering, “The Darkness,” went viral

BOULET: The French cartoonist admitted to needing “26 hours” to complete his viral comic at the all-day comics competition at Angouleme (BOULET / "The Darkness"/.)



“We’re a country that’s scared — there are scary things in the world right now. 9/11 knocked us back on our a--. The idea that someone out there is trying to kill us. Even the bad superhero films do well. Why are they working? It’s not because of the violence [depicted] or because they’re colorful — it’s because we’re a country that is worried and scared .. and right now is starving for heroes. It’s even in the political culture — look at who we nominate for president. We’re not looking for politicians — we’re looking for saviors.”


“I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. ... To ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.”

GARRY TRUDEAU, on satirizing transvaginal sonogram laws in his Pulitzer-winning strip, “Doonesbury,” which dozens of newspapers pulled during the story arc

THE DEMI-DOONESBURY: Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley got creative in how we got “Doonesbury” into his paper. (courtesy of PAT BAGLEY / Salt Lake Tribune /.)

“We decided to tackle other Asian stereotypes, along with the [idea] of an Asian super-villain, because it is a really prevalent — not just in comics but in popular media in television shows and movies. When you need a bad guy, chances are the bad guy — an effective bad guy — would be Asian.” 

KEITH CHOW , co-editor of the book “Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology (Secret Identities)” 

“I now have the extremely dubious honor of [being the] first professional journalist arrested more than once at an Occupy event.”

Comics reporter SUSIE CAGLE

“It really gets me angry when people inflict their values on other people. You’ve got to take a stand.”

Archie Comics CEO JON GOLDWATER, on the same-sex nuptials of popular character Kevin Keller in March


“As soon as I saw that photo, I knew I had to incorporate him into ‘Candorville,’ if only to become a voice in the chorus that’s reminding people this was a living, breathing, vital human being with potential, not a useless stock character in the American story who deserved what happened to him.”

DARRIN BELL, on devoting a week of his strips to slain teenager Trayvon Martin


“I think selective outrage is a very good thing, and I am screaming on this one.” 

Then-Oregonian political cartoonist JACK OHMAN (now at the Sacramento Bee), on the name of Nike’s Joe Paterno Child Development Center amid the Penn State scandal 

IT’S NIKE’S WORLD: Former Oregonian cartoonist Jack Ohman said he took some credit for Nike’s ultimate removal of Joe Paterno’s name from a child-development building (Used by permission of JACK OHMAN / The Oregonian (Portland) /. )


“We need more cartoonists to truly retire when they retire, and not run repeats. Repeats are the absolute soul-crushing killers of the comics page.”

“Pearls Before Swine” creator STEPHAN PASTIS , on the state of the syndication industry

“Right now I have to draw for 12 hours a day just to keep up. I’m working on the second draft of the seventh book at the moment.”

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” creator JEFF KINNEY

“Images are the language of the Web and infographics are all the rage. That’s what we share on Facebook — it’s all the images. If websites start to recognize what newspapers used to do — back in [Thomas] Nast’s day, there was a cartoon in a sea of text — [they’ll see that] images stand out and have power.”

2012 Herblock Prize winner MATT BORS 

From Matt Bors' Herblock Prize-winning portfolio. (courtesy of MATT BORS / 2011)

“The Oatmeal” (MATTHEW INMAN)

“The Oatmeal” creator MATTHEW INMAN, on his legal wranglings with the FunnyJunk site

“I founded Symbolia because I want to shift the way we think about journalism and nonfiction storytelling. I want to bring a sense of wonder and play to the news.” 

Tablet-magazine publisher ERIN POLGREEN

“Once we teach people that they didn’t need their Monday [print] paper and their Tuesday paper, they’ll start to ask themselves whether they need their Wednesday paper, too.”

Pink-slipped political cartoonist STEVE KELLEY (“Dustin”), whose New Orleans Times-Picayune cut back its print publishing schedule from daily to three times a week 

INVISIBLE INK: When jobs — and the newspaper itself — disappear. (STEVE KELLEY / New Orleans Times-Picayune )


PETER RAMSEY (Photo credit: Mathieu Young / DWA/.)

“Rise of the Guardians” filmmaker PETER RAMSEY, the first black director of a big-studio CG-animated film

“Even though you may never realize that mole came from Mark Ruffalo, just having a mole there on the Hulk makes him look more realistic.”

ILM artist JOHN DOUBLESTEIN, on working on CG effects for “The Avengers”

Hulk in “The Avengers” as CG-modeled on Mark Ruffalo. (Used by permisson 2011 MARVEL /.)

“John Hughes used humor to tell something that’s emotionally true or has resonance. It’s humor from the characters. And I always think of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles.’One of the most heartbreaking monologues on film is John Candy talking about [his flaws] in the motel room. It’s shockingly powerful.” 

“ParaNorman” filmmaker CHRIS BUTLER

“We don’t have a story bible [at Pixar]. Everyone learns from each other. There’s definitely a Pixar flavor, but that’s less an intentional thing and more just the type of thing that develops if you have a consistent group of the same people.” 

Artist/animator EMMA COATSon her “22 Basic Rules for Storytelling,” gleaned from her time at Pixar 

“Disney and Pixar are separate, but they do talk to each other. They do collaborate on the technical side. . . . And with Lasseter there [as head of Disney animation], it’s definitely been a positive. He’s expecting things they might not have thought of.” 

“Wreck-It Ralph” lighting artist DANIEL KRUSE

“It was kind of unfair, but this was what was needed — to go in and kill the [creative] babies that people were clutching onto because of the amount of work. But you make your decisions based on the story.”

“Brave” co-director MARK ANDREWS, on jumping in midstream to complete the Pixar film


“The Joker is my favorite villain in all of literature. ...
I think the Joker is sort of villainy at its purest, most fascinating and brilliant form. All he’s about is convincing yourself that the things you’re most afraid of are true. My favorite villains in all of literature do just that."

SCOTT SNYDER, writer of the “Death of the Family” Batman

. (courtesy of DC ENTERTAINMENT /.)

Langridge’s Thor. (Used by permission of Roger Landgridge /.)

ROGER LANGRIDGE, on announcing that he’ll no longer work for DC and Marvel

“Ah, those pants. If I were Bruce Banner, I’d always wear size-60 waist pants. Back when I edited ‘Hulk,’ I art-directed a scene where Banner, seeing trouble on the horizon, calmly takes off his shirt, socks and shoes, pulls off his belt, and then goes walking toward the problem, holding up his size-60 pants with his hands. A lot of people liked that scene.”

Marvel Editor AXEL ALONSO, on the challenges of rendering the Bruce-to-Hulk transformation

“Jack [Kirby] was great, and I have taken pains to say over and over again what a great collaborator he was and how much he contributed. But even when he was alive, I was the guy doing the publicity. I was ... the guy boosting Marvel on the front lines. Jack was the voice of Jack Kirby, and at times he left to work at D.C., and when it served his interests better he came back to Marvel. I made whatever I made because I was the editor ... and I was the publisher and one-time president and chairman of the company. I was the scriptwriter. I made no more money than Jack, and at times he made more than I did.”

STAN LEE, on the continuing controversies over credit and compensation dating to the dawn of the Marvel Method



“Three years ago, it would have been the most ridiculous thing to talk about an Oscar for ‘Rango.’ We were bracing ourselves for critical dismissal, and hoping for at a least a small cult following. ‘Rango’ was made with no regard to the rules, and no attempt to please the corporate mandates of what an animated feature ‘should’ be.”

“Rango” writer/artist JAMES WARD BYRKIT , on the year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film


“I’ve been cartooning for some 30 years now, and up until a few years ago, I didn’t think anything like this was vaguely possible.”

Politico’s MATT WUERKER, upon winning this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning

. (art by MICHAEL CAVNA / The Washington Post/.)

“I was so stunned when [comic-strip legend] Mell Lazarus read my name at the podium, I just sort of sat there for a second or two, trying to process it. I did not consider for a second I would actually win, and had nothing prepared to say.” 

MAD magazine artist TOM RICHMOND , on winning the 2012 NCS Reuben Award

“I’m also happy that the environment is seen as a social-justice issue. The more we can connect the fight to stop the destruction of our planet with the struggle for liberation of humanity, the better chance for success we may have with both goals.”

Comics journalist STEPHANIE McMILLAN , on winning this year’s RFK Award 

“It’s so nice to see our genre of political cartooning acknowledged after so many years in the wilderness.”

Finalist JEN SORENSEN, as the Herblock Prize jurors recognized her and fellow alt-editorial cartoonist Matt Bors (who won the prize)



“I’ve known for a year or more that I was working on borrowed time. My lettering had begun to wander off in 2009, but that could be fixed easily enough. But when Alice’s and Dill’s heads began to look under-inflated last winter, I figured I was losing control of the drawing, too. When I needed help with the inking — the hardest but most satisfying part of drawing the strip — well, that was probably a tipping point. Parkinson’s disease is horribly selfish and demanding. A daily comic strip is, too, and I can only deal with one at a time. So it was a long, gradual, sudden decision.”

“Cul de Sac” creator RICHARD THOMPSON, on ending his Reuben Award-winning strip amid Parkinson’s treatment 

. (CUL DE SAC / RICHARD THOMPSON/Universal Uclick)

NATE BEELER, on leaving D.C. to become the political cartoonist at his hometown newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch

“There’s nothing wrong with humor for humor’s sake, but editorial cartooning is capable of so many reactions from people: tears, laughter, sadness — it’s just so rich ... ”

Pulitzer-winning TONY AUTH, upon taking a buyout and leaving his longtime perch at the Philadelphia Inquirer

“They look at you like you’ve got terminal cancer. They touch you on the shoulder. I kept saying: ‘No, no, I’m going to live. I’m alive.’ ”

Pulitzer-winning SIGNE WILKINSON, on retaining her Philadelphia editorial-cartooning job amid layoffs

A 2012 cartoon by Signe Wilkinson. (SIGNE WILKINSON / Philadelphia Daily News /.)


“Joe Kubert’s work and reputation were as rock solid as anyone from his generation.”


“In the world of comics, Jack Kirby and Will Eisner may have been more influential artists, but Joe Kubert was its most influential man.”


“Spain decided to take me around to his San Francisco haunts to show me how much the city appreciated my strip. “Everywhere we went, praise flowed — but it was as much for Spain as it was for me. If anyone was loved by everyone in San Francisco, it wasn’t me, it was Spain.”

“Zippy the Pinhead” creator BILL GRIFFITH, upon the death of underground comix legend and muralist Spain Rodriguez

“ ‘Bewildered’ is a good way to describe the source of Jeff’s humor. He was bewildered by life, which he translated into columns, and bewildered by sports, which became ‘Tank’ gags. 

BILL HINDS, upon the death of “Tank McNamara” co-creator Jeff Millar

“He was an idol and a major, major influence.”

“Speed Bump” creator DAVE COVERLY, upon the death of “Herman” creator Jim Unger


“Ronald Searle was the greatest cartoonist that ever lived. Period.”

NICK GALIFIANAKIS , upon the legendary European illustrator’s death in January