Sam Carbaugh: Helping the world panel by panel

Sam Carbaugh of CCS class 2009 is unique in his quiet quality. Around our town of White River Junction Sam is known as the guy that owns that cute mop of a dog, Chewie, but don’t let his his easy-going smile fool you too, dear reader! He is a hard-working cartoonist with steely work ethics who is now creating some amazing projects.

Jen: So what type of comics work have you been up to since you graduated?

Sam: Well, aside from my own journal comics, I illustrated several activity books for children from Nomad Press. Discover the Desert, Math Activities and George Washington are the three titles I have worked on. The Desert book was my absolute favorite.

Jen: I bet it’s a lot of fun because you get to learn at the same time too!

Sam: You got it! In terms of learning and comics, I just completed this year-long project to help the IT community work with emergency managers within the FEMA program. I made a comic to help train people for what precautions and actions to take during a natural diaster.

Jen: Ohhh, so you made comics about stop, drop and roll but for a whole town?

Sam: Ha, almost. FEMA is split up into three basic sections, training sections called: ICS (Instant Command System for immediate response), NIM (National Incident Management System for national response) and NRF (National Response Framework for more of the same). The comic I made focused only on ICS. The information itself is generally text-heavy, soporific and boring, I knew that we could properly engage with the IT community and comics was the way.

Jen: Lucky for this company, they had an actual cartoonist adapt the information! What has the response been like from the training community?

Sam: The comic will go live later this fall but a lot of the managers who have read it are excited. Local floods and other disasters can go a lot smoother if the local police and fire-fighters have a visualization of how FEMA will swoop in and help.

You can find more of Sam’s FEMA comic on the cyber emergency manager course online at if you sign up.

J: Fantastic, what else are you up to now that the Nuari/FEMA project is all drawn?

Sam: I am in the first phase of a project for a West Michigan school district to create a web portal geared at what post-high school options exist for juniors and seniors. Whether they want to go on to college, get an associates, attend technical school or apprentice; the site will help them. This first phase is just character sheet and the content will come soon after, with comic strips created to explain some of the application processes.

J: So not unlike Facebook? Will different colleges have to create accounts for the site to post about their application dates?

Sam: Hmm, not quite sure about that but I will know more about that content soon.

J: Have you noticed a lot of your work is non-fiction comics based on helping and educating people?

Sam: Boy, have I! There is one other company I am working with named Creare [pronounced kri-AR-e], uh, I’m sure that’s Greek for something. The application is meant for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to create comics about their experience while at war. The app will take away the hardest parts of comic making away for people by provided an image library and panel borders. After they make a comic about their experience at war,  therapists will look at the comic and hopefully focus in on an event and ask the soldier to elaborate more on that day/time. In this second round, the images of tanks, forests, guns, people will become more detailed. The therapists may have one more round of elaboration and comic-making to help pin-point the stress as well as destigmatize the experience.

Sam at work in his studio.

Jen: You know, I just wish you had something to occupy your time, Sam. Did your experience at the Center for Cartoon Studies contribute to your daily life?

Sam: Without a doubt, Jen. CCS prepared me to make comics, understand story structure and instilled this need or habit of drawing every day. I would not be getting paid to work on comics or comic-based projects if I had not attended the school. Plus, I do have a rather intense billing system. When I start a job, I send a W-9 and then an invoice. If I take my own freelance work seriously, then so does the client.

Jen: And you still are making comics on your website, correct?

Sam: Correct. My own journal comics used to be very Sam-centric but I’m a lot more confident now. My comics are more about observing life around me without having ME be the center. More of them will pop up on my website soon.

Thanks to Sam Carbaugh for his time and keep your eyes always peeled (don’t forget to blink though) for more of his work in the future, educating a kid or helping a friend close to you through the power of COMICS.

-Jen Vaughn

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One Response to Sam Carbaugh: Helping the world panel by panel

  1. Al Wesolowsky says:

    “Creare” is Latin: “to create,” “to do.” It should be as Sam’s personal motto, judging from the amount of work he produces.

    Wonderful to see some of the things he’s been doing for FEMA. Very good interview, this.

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