Justin Baglio interview

In an effort to provide exposure to cartoonists that haven’t hit the big time yet, I’m including comics that are currently running on GoComics’ Comic Sherpa. This time, I’d like to introduce Justin Baglio, creator of No Ordinary Life.

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JB: Well, my name is Justin Baglio and I am 38 years old, married for 16 years and have three kids (15, 12 and 10).  I have the most exciting day job ever, buying food for Sysco Foods of Charlotte……I sit in a cubical….joy!  I coach wrestling for AAU youth wrestling, which both of my boys are a part of (they are the 12 and 10 year olds) and obviously I draw the No Ordinary Life comic strip.

JB: I’ve always been a doodler and drawerereer (how every you spell that) and have done it my whole life.  In classes growing up I was always the kid finishing work early and then drawing all sorts of things during the rest of the time.  I don’t have the best art in the world but I have a unique art to myself and good enough to be enjoyable.  How did I get into cartooning?  Well, I HATED to read anything but comics growing up, both superhero and cartoon comics.  My favorite (cartoon) comics were Beatle Bailey, Heathcliff, Hagar the Horrible, Garfield and the Farside.  I’ve always been a funny person (I make myself laugh) so in the early 2000’s I decided to start drawing a comic strip. I came up with the name No Ordinary Life and drew like 5-10 comics that year and then just daydreamed of being famous.  Then one day when I was on my lunch break reading a book in my car I realized that I was wasting my spare time reading what other people actually took the time to stop daydreaming and do.  So from that point on (back around 2010) I decided it was time to put down someone’s book and pick up my own pen and paper during my lunch break.

JB: So now, for the past few years, I go to Starbucks (mainly b/c it’s easy and available to sit and draw with a simple coffee purchase, like I’m renting a table for 2 dollars a day to draw) and draw my comic.  Another interesting note is I have never taken a single art or computer class, I have just fumbled my way through into drawing comics and I think I’ve finally gotten them to look how I want them.  I don’t draw them in any way, shape or form in a ‘normal’ way, I don’t sketch them, shadow box or any other way of pre-drawing.  I get the image into my head I want and I rule my box by eye, then start drawing my picture in finished pen. If I make a mistake I just fold it in half and start again.  Normally I get it how I want it in my first or second try. If I make a few minor mistakes I just fix them on my computer when I scan and edit.  My biggest challenge is grammar, I SUCK at grammar. I tell people that normally with prints if you find the one with the mistake it’s maybe worth more but with mine, if I ever make it big, if you find one of my comics without a mistake that will be the one worth more.

JB: So what is No Ordinary Life (NOL) about?  It’s about what’s in my head, what I think, what makes ME laugh out loud, because if it doesn’t make me laugh I can’t draw it to make others laugh.  NOL is a single panel comic strip that is just random humor, no rhyme (I’m not a poet) no reason (I’ve never had some), so humor.  I have random inspiration hit my thoughts and that is what I use when drawing my comics, I’m not an organized, planned person so my comic reflects that, I’m just funny.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
JB: Cartoonist. I stopped day dreaming about being a cartoonist and started working towards being a cartoonist.  I’ve always loved reading comics, I find humor in everything and I draw pretty good ‘cartoony’ looking people and animals so I decided to put all three together and draw my own comics.  I used to just do them for myself and share with my wife and a few choice friends and they all seemed to like them so after a while I started showing other acquaintances and they seemed to like them so I thought, I can do this.

BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
JB: June of 2013, I decided that I wanted to be a cartoonist, to truly get serious about it, I opened up my Sherpa account on GoComics and decided to unleash NOL (in it’s infancy at the time) for public consumption.  I then started drawing on my lunch breaks at the local Starbucks (because that was the best place to be left alone for 30 minutes to an hour and draw in peace and all it cost me was a small coffee.

JB: I would say my biggest break came when a local publisher from Raleigh, NC, Raburn Publishing, contacted me through social media and asked to publish a book of No Ordinary Life.  That told me that the public really does like my humor and my comic, the whole experience (a lot good and some bad) taught me a lot about my comic and helped me grow as a cartoonist.

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
JB: I have two books available on Amazon.  I have the very 1st one that Raburn Publishing did called Family Time, which is black and white and very roughly drawn compared to my current comics.  I did my own, self-published, book call, Why is the Coffee Always Gone, almost a year ago because I thought my comic had grown so much from my first book that I wanted to get a new and updated NOL available.  This book is full color and fewer pages, I kept it at less pages since adding the color makes the price higher and I couldn’t get as many comics in it and keep it affordable for readers to want to purchase it.

BC: How do you start the panel?
JB: Before I draw a comic I get a good visual image in my mind of the comic idea that I find most visible and funny for the day.  Normally, I have a new idea I had just thought of within the last day or I have a lot that I have put into my phone waiting for that perfect mental image to join them.  Then, honestly, I sit down (at Starbucks), box in my frame with a sharpy and ruler and start drawing the images in my mind.  I try not to ‘try’ too hard because I tend to overlook and under draw when I do that.  I like to let my thoughts flow into the pen and onto the paper.  If I make a mistake that isn’t an easy editing fix with the computer later I just tear that paper out and start all over.  It’s really quite magical.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
JB: I think it would be sung by either They Might Be Giants or Bare Naked Ladies.  Both of those bands are fun, comical and extremely talented in whimsical ways.  In particular. the songs, “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, “Women and Men”, “Whistling in the Dark”, “If I Had a Million Dollars”, “One Week” and “It’s All Been Done” to name a few.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met them? Do you have any dirt on them?
JB: I’m a bit of a Harry Potter dork so I would say J.K. Rowling (I’ve read each of the books 4 times now, twice to myself and once to my daughter and now I’m reading them with my boys).  And no I haven’t met her, would love to kick some dirt on her though.  I LOVE all things The Farside, Gary Larson is truly amazing!  There are others too, but those are the two that really stand out for me.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
JB: Currently I follow these outstanding strips–Speed Bump (Dave Coverly), the humor is well done and his art is some of the best I’ve seen.  Off the Mark (Mark Parisi), always a fun laugh.  The Flying McCoys and The Duplex (Glenn and Gary McCoy), their art is also extremely good and their single panel comic, The Flying McCoys, is impeccable. And then, The Duplex is fun to see what Eno and Fang are up to.  1 and Done (Eric Scott) is a relatively new addition to my viewing and I find that he has a unique style and some good off-the-wall humor that hits my funny bone. Argyle Sweater (Scott Hilburn) is another that is very similar to The Farside but has tendencies to be a lot more ‘pun’ny than anything.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
JB: How well it’s written and if the picture actually works with the gag.  I like the art to be memorable and the joke to actually be funny.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
JB: I think the best comics should be, to start with,…Funny!  To me the humor shouldn’t be too obvious, some jokes are supposed to be too obvious and the picture is more the punch line but a good rule is that a good comic is a little off the wall and makes you sometimes wonder if you’re missing something when you first read it.  The other thing I think makes for a good comic is not being ‘perfectly’ drawn (exception to this is Calvin and Hobbes, because Watterson is just that damn good at drawing).  If you look at The Farside, Peanuts, Garfield (when it first came out), Hagar the Horrible, Close to Home and In The Bleachers to name a few, these are not drawn perfectly, but instead they are drawn memorably; they stand out.  Hand-drawn comics with handwritten lettering stands out the most. Pair that with some good gag writing and that makes for a damn good comic.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Justin Baglio © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)


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