Josh Kramer ’11 is a cartoonist and reporter. He lives in Washington, DC, but is currently a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. He runs The Cartoon Picayune, a nonfiction comics anthology; and The CoJo List, a newsletter of nonfiction comics. He most recently published “Nuclear Neighbors” at Hakai Magazine.
Josh says, “I want to mention that along my CoJo List co-creator Em DeMarco, I’ll be teaching a week-long comics journalism summer course at The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) from July 24-28. It’s the first one ever, and it should be really hands-on and built around real skills and techniques. Please join us!”
Who was your thesis advisor and why did you pick them?
My thesis advisor was Josh Neufeld, who makes awesome nonfiction comics and teaches comics in New York City including at School of Visual Arts.
If you could choose any cartoonists living or dead as your thesis advisor, who would you have picked and why?
I really think it’s important to pick a thesis advisor who has some insight into the kinds of things you want to do and also is someone you can get along with well. So honestly I’m really glad I picked Josh, even though we still get a lot of “too many Josh’s” jokes. He’s also a big part of why I made it into the Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan, which is one of the best journalism fellowships in the world and just impossibly awesome.
What’s your favorite thing to draw?
I love drawing buildings and structures. Give me a ruler or straight-edge and I’m happy.
How did you come up with the idea for The CoJo List? Why do you think it is important?
I knew that there were a lot of amazing nonfiction and journalistic comics being drawn and published online, and figured that an email newsletter would be the perfect medium to share them. I teamed up with Em DeMarco, a great cartoonist in her own right, and started sending them out. We’re on hiatus until my fellowship’s done, but if you care about the future of comics and journalism or just want to a learn a little more about the world, I really encourage you to sign up here. Also, submit your work!
Why did you decide to start the annual journalism anthology The Cartoon Picayune?
The Cartoon Picayune is my comicbook that I self-publish yearly. It’s anthology of nonfiction comics that I edit, and it actually grew out of my thesis at CCS!
What’s your editing process with the comics in The Cartoon Picayune?
Often, cartoonists write scripts and then we work on them together to make them as strong and correct as possible. After all the drawing is done, I have friends/peers/family who help me copy-edit and fact-check. For cartoonists who have only worked in fiction before, it can be a bit of an adjustment, but I think most people enjoy the process and are very proud of the end result.
Josh’s art of the Half Smoked Benedict at Ten 01
What are you focusing on during your time as a Knight-Wallace fellow?
I’m studying the best practices and ethics of comics journalism. We’re about a decade into this most recent wave of nonfiction comics, and I want to take a closer look at visual authenticity and how we as cartoonists can function as documentarians and journalists.
What has been your favorite experience so far as a Knight-Wallace fellow?
This Fellowship is a dream: I’m paid to hangout with amazing journalists, take classes at one of the best public universities (Go Blue!), and go on amazing international trips. We just back from South Korea, and it was mind-bending. It’s a culture with deep paper-craft and design traditions and there was a lot to see.
What’s your favorite comic and why?
So hard to pick! Safe Area Goražde, by Joe Sacco, is probably the most meaningful to me. It really got me started on the path of becoming a cartoonist and visual journalist.
Josh’s favorite book, by Joe Sacco
What is your favorite cheese and why?
Again, too many excellent choices. But I want to remind the CCS community that some of the best cheese in the country is made in Vermont. It’s a small state, and visits to Jasper Hill Farms, Von Trapp Farmstead, or Vermont Creamery are fascinating and delicious. I love Winnimere, aged at Jasper. Check out the Vermont Cheese Trail!