Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg are the master comic makers behind Cartoonist Kayfabe, our Shop of the Month. We got to know these Pittsburgh comic gurus a bit better in an interview with Jim Rugg.
Ed and Jim have a cumulative 40+ years of comic making experience. Their YouTube channel and celebrated comic books have earned them an adoring following in the world of comics.
So, Jim, Your channel is obviously celebrating comics and inspiring other “Kayfabers.” How does that feel? What’s the best thing so far about running Kayfabe?
We hear from a lot of people about how Cartoonist Kayfabe has inspired them to start drawing again or to make their first comic or they listen to the show while making their art – it feels great! I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from podcasts and interviews and things like that over my career. To hear that we’re inspiring that kind of response in others is humbling. Some people post pictures of their artwork with our videos in the background or they send us their mini-comics and graphic novels…I love the positive energy and enthusiasm. Cartoonist Kayfabe has become a magnet for that kind of creativity.
Sounds like you have a great following. Tell us about your fans? Who’s watching Cartoonist Kayfabe and why?
Our fans are the best! They are smart, generous, funny people. Some are fellow cartoonists and other creatives (from video games, television, wrestling, music). Some are readers. We hear from retailers and librarians and teachers…it’s a great group. We often ask questions or relay audience questions and our viewers know everything! It’s like the greatest comic bookstore or convention conversation ever. That community part surprised me at first. It was not something I thought about much in the beginning, but they have impressed me so much! I’m involved with Cartoonist Kayfabe because I love comics. And from what I’ve seen, that’s something the community, fans, and audience share with us. It’s great! These people who join us and watch and comment and add their own comics’ passion – it’s one of the happiest accidents of my life. I never foresaw such a community and it’s a wonderful gift. They are special.
Was opening your own merch Shop your idea or did your Youtube Followers ask for it?
It was our idea. I saw another YouTuber, Miranda Sings, using Spreadshirt and thought if it worked for her, we should try it. Spreadshop offered the types of products that we wanted to make and sell. The setup and interface were easy to use. It seemed flexible in terms of pricing and working with us. They have responded quickly when we’ve had questions or concerns.
— CartoonistKayfabe (@CartoonKayfabe) September 24, 2019
Are your shirts available at comicons you attend or only online?
So far, we have only sold them online. We’re still in our first year as a channel so we are growing and may sell shirts at shows in the future. But for now, we are still figuring out Cartoonist Kayfabe and how to best connect with our fans.
How do you utilize your Spreadshop to cater to your audience? Do you do any paid social-media marketing, or it all word-of-mouth?
We create shirts based on ideas that come out of our YouTube channel – funny phrases, comments, requests. We feature our artwork, which is how a lot of people find Cartoonist Kayfabe. They’re a fan of Ed Piksor’s comics or my comics so designs with our art appeals to that group. We haven’t done any paid social-media marketing yet. It’s all word-of-mouth, just like Cartoonist Kayfabe itself (so if you’re reading this, please share it and thank you!).
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We wanna see you in that Kayfabe gear! 👁👁 #Repost @njdirtygardener @get_reposter Living that @cartoonist.kayfabe life! Selling comics & toys in rahway today. Made some money, spent some money! Always push that #ReadMoreComix movement! #RahCon #RahwayNj #Rahway #CartoonistKayfabe
Glad it’s working out so well! Enough about the merch, let’s talk comics. What’s your favorite comic of all time and why?
Eightball by Dan Clowes. I love the art, design, and stories. It’s weird, funny, and beautiful and it’s full of unique characters and stories. It’s like several masterpieces. Although if you ask me tomorrow, I might say something else! I have lots of favorite comics!
More generally, what kind of comics excite you as a reader? Is there a specific style or tone you gravitate towards or do you love them all?
I like comics that have unique and memorable stories, characters, or art. Show me something I haven’t seen before! With this quality in mind, a lot of my favorites tend to be self-published because it hasn’t been stepped on by an editor, publisher, or other commercial/marketing considerations. But there are a lot of incredible things that do come out of publishers of every size so give me someone’s vision/idea with some level of craft and some personal style and I’m there!
In terms of genre and format, I’m wide-open. I tend to love them all. As a reader, comics have never been better! If I could explain today’s comics to 12-year-old me, my young head would explode.
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Great mail day! Finally got a Kirby 2001 Treasury edition and a tshirt from @cartoonist.kayfabe . Feeling the comics power radiating about me. #comics #jackkirby #jackkingkirby #alanmoore #2001aspaceodyssey #2001 #readmoorecomix #readmorecomix #readmorecomics #cartoonistkayfabe #frankgiacoia
What about your own work? What was the proudest moment in your life as a comic artist? Any grand achievements?
That’s tough. I have an Ignatz Award and an Eisner Award. Afrodisiac was featured in AIGA’s 50/50 book next to David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp…I’m usually super excited when a new book arrives from the printer or publisher. One of the first books that felt like an accomplishment was Afrodisiac because that book was in color and featured some ambitious design and production. When I received a printed copy of that book, it felt like I had really made something special and I felt like that opened up the possibilities for future comics and book projects in terms of design and production and what I could create.
My next grand achievement(s) are going to be Street Angel: Deadliest Girl Alive (Image Comics, October 2019) and the PLAIN Janes (Little Brown, 2020). These are two big books that I’ve been working on in some ways for over 10 years each! They are going to be interesting to see – lots of interesting color and production, not to mention stories that I am very proud to share with the world!
My best moments for Cartoonist Kayfabe have been our live events. Our first live panel was at HeroesCon this summer. At the end, the crowd shouted “Read More Comics!” and my heart grew 3 times its normal size!
What’s your best piece of advice for the aspiring comic artists out there struggling to find their own style or voice?
Keep making stuff. Style and voice will become clear with time and practice. Tell a story, then tell another story and repeat. Style and voice is like any other skill, your ability and confidence will develop with practice. Keep making stuff and keep looking for readers. That’s part of the skillset/job as a cartoonist – building an audience. Style and voice are part of that. It’s a feedback loop. So tell a story, then make sure someone reads it and repeat. 10,000 hours of this and you’ll be on your way. Trust yourself when you’re thinking about which story you want to tell. It’s important to tell the stories that you want to tell, that speak to you and your interests. Your voice comes from you, so try to identify the stories you’re most excited to spend time telling.
Great advice! Famous last words?
Read More Comics!
Are you a fan of comics? Check out Kayfabe and let us know what you think in the comments!