Examples from way, way, way back in the archives

Several years ago I had the great honor of having my road to syndication story printed in several issues of John Read’s amazing “Stay Tooned” Magazine. In it, I shared examples of some of my first cartoon strips. I remember like yesterday creating these first comic strips. The year was 1991, and I created them very early in the morning in my basement studio. I used to put in a full day at my Chicago agency, come home and spend a few hours with my young son, and then head off to my basement studio and work until 2-3 a.m. Cartooning was a new found passion for me, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I had no idea where it was going to lead me, but at that point it really didn’t matter. Eventually, those late nights, coupled with the stress of my job, would catch up to me. I wound up getting mononucleosis, which put me out of commission for over 3 weeks. I did recover, and have since learned to temper my late night enthusiasm a little.

In these first strips, you can see I was just learning out how to use the tools I had chosen. These were done with a series if Rapidographs. 5-6 years later I chose to try a brush and a bottle of ink, my current tools of choice.

Anne and I worked together on this animal strip, which we aptly called “Second Nature”. It did generate some interest with the syndicates, but we ultimately stopped creating it after 2 years. I’ll share some of the early strips I created after Second Nature in my next post.




The Kenosha Festival of Cartooning indiegogo campaign is officially live!

It’s that time folks! As of noon today central time – February 25th – the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning fundraiser will be live on Indiegogo and pursuing its goal of raising $10,000 for Festival 2014, taking place next September 25th through the 27th. Festival founder and organizer Anne Morse-Hambrock  is raising money to keep the festival free and open to the public without any pesky ticket sales or registration fees.

There’s a great new video thanks to Tom Racine and Anne, and there are some terrific backer rewards. These include the usual signed programs and posters as well as several great signed comic collection books and original comic art.

And – NEW THIS YEAR – a one-of-a-kind collectible commemorative coin! There are only 100 of these available – when they’re gone, they’re gone!

coin2withblackhorizontalFor more details about the campaign, as well as a list of the amazing backer rewards, go to  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/kenosha-festival-of-cartooning

You can check out the 2014 all-star lineup here:   http://kenoshacartoonfest.blogspot.com/p/schedule-for-mini-fest-2013.html

I’m so lucky to be married to a woman who not only likes what I do for a living, but goes out of her way to create and organize an event that welcomes and recognizes other cartoonists. Her goal from the beginning has been to make everything associated with the festival free of charge, which is why the indiegogo campaign is so essential.

Please show Anne and the festival your support by donating today. No amount is too small.

and the original Jeff MacNelly comic strip goes to…

On October 30th, Alan Gardner, Editor of The Daily Cartoonist, announced he was starting an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the site. One of the incentives, announced on November 4th, was an original Jeff MacNelly Shoe comic strip. I was sitting at my computer that morning working, and Anne was on her iPad reading Alan’s latest post about the availability of this incredible piece of art. The first person to offer up the asking price owned it. I remember mentioning to Anne how great it would be to have one of his originals, and then thinking there’s no way in my lifetime I ever will. *sigh*. A minute later, without me knowing,  Anne wandered off into the other room and promptly bought it. She gave it to me at Christmas. It’s one of the most incredible presents anyone has ever given me. Thank You, Anne! (and Alan)


My entire process from A-Z

The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee launched with King Features in the fall of 2006, which means I’ve created over 2500 daily and Sunday comic strips.

When I compare the early strips with those I’m creating now, I see a vast improvement, both in the drawing and the writing. The drawing has gotten looser and the writing has gotten tighter. However, while the strip may have improved, and the style evolved, the process I go through to create each and every strip has remained essentially the same. I’ll usually start off by acknowledging I have deadline, followed by major panicking. After the dust has settled, it’s on to writing, followed by making coffee, panicking some more, baking cookies, purging the boiler (during the summer I’ll vacuum the air conditioners), then more writing. Somehow or another I’ve managed to make it work. Following is a step by step breakdown of how I generate 7 strips a week, 52 weeks a year.

Some cartoonists pick specific times to write. This has never worked for me. I’ve found that I can’t just flip on the writing switch and jot down what comes to mind. Some days I can write a week’s worth of material in a few hours. On others I may come up with absolutely nothing. And it’s not as though certain days are “magic” days for writing. I may come up with my best material on a Tuesday, or a Friday, although I’ve discovered that I write some of my best stuff when I have that deadline breathing down my neck.

My wife Anne contributes ideas and scripts as well, and I frequently ask her to read what I’ve written. I trust her judgement and, if she has any reservations about a particular strip or strips, I’ll almost always put them aside for a rework at a later date. Plus if she doesn’t laugh at the jokes at this stage it’s unlikely adding visuals will change that. Tickling her to get a laugh only makes matters worse. I have found that a great visual can generate a bigger laugh than the script alone but no visual will save a joke that isn’t working.

Comic artists tend to either write first, and then draw, or else they draw first – maybe just doodles – and then turn those doodles into comics. I write first.

Generally, I write scripts on my laptop, although there are times when I’ll use anything that’s available – the back of an old bank deposit slip, a gum wrapper, cardboard tubes, the bottom of my foot (I still have an idea for January 4th written in laundry marker on my big toe). I used to write everything on stacks of printer paper attached to a clipboard, but my horrible penmanship and my habit of going through numerous edits made most of my writings undecipherable. I also lost the clipboard. When I’m writing, I storyboard the strip in my head, and I write visual cues into the script to use during the penciling stage.

I usually wait until I have all of my ideas written before I start drawing them up. I do this because I like to have the order set. Some strips are more appropriate for a Saturday, others for a Wednesday. Sometimes I’ll ink up a week’s worth of material in a specific order, and then completely rearrange them. Paying attention to the order of my material is somewhat important to me, sort of like the order of songs on an album.

My tools are pretty old school. Here is a list of everything I use to create my strip:

  •  Bienfang 2 ply Strathmore – which I buy in pads of 20 (“11”x 17” sheets, cut in half)
  • #2 pencils (My accountant informs me that I can NOT depreciate these!)
  • Lots of cap erasers (My dogs love ’em)
  • Speedball Super Black Waterproof India Ink (This stuff is drawn to white carpet like Orville to a Twinkie)
  • Winsor & Newton Scepter Gold ll #2 sable brush for inking
  • Micron #8 pen for lettering
  • Dr Martins Bleed Proof White for clean ups


Sample script with visual cues

Sample script with visual cues

I start each strip by lettering the words in light pencil, then working up quick character sketches for position

5.14-roughAfter I have everything where I want it, I start tightening up the pencil drawings. I discovered that if I get too tight at this stage I lose some of the energy and spontaneity.

5.14-betterI finalize the art by inking over the pencils with my brush and ink. When the ink is dry, I erase the pencils, touch up any bobbles with the bleed proof white, and the art is ready to scan.

Edison_20120514I can usually pencil and ink 6 daily strips in 8-10 hours. Sunday strips can take 4-6, depending on the complexity.

Using Photoshop, I scan the strips in grayscale at 600 dpi. I need to save one file as a black and white bitmap for newspapers that print their daily comics in black and white, and a second, layered CYMK file for the papers that run theirs in color. The colored version is also needed for the various outlets that publish it online. We do not handle the CYMK to RGB conversion for online use.

Then, at 11:30 pm on the night before they’re due, I hand off the layered files to my wife Anne (I’m exaggerating, although there have been times when I’ve done this), who colors them using a Wacom tablet and her own special set of colors created specifically for the strip.


At the end of each week, I need to have 6 daily and 1 Sunday strip inked, colored, and ready to send to Reed Brennan Media Associates, the company that handles the final editing and distribution for King Features.

That’s it in a nutshell!

If you have any questions, shoot me an email at john@edisonlee.net.


You HAVE to check this out!!

It’s finally here. Check out Comics Kingdom http://comicskingdom.com/ , an all-new free comics site from King Features Syndicate.  http://www.kingfeatures.com

At Comics Kingdom, you’ll be able to read The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, and all of King Features’ great comics in one place every day for free.  Comment on comics just like you do here, and get to know other comics fans.

For a small annual subscription fee, you can join Comics Kingdom Royal, the premium service.  As a member of Comics Kingdom Royal, you’ll have access to even more great stuff—like your own custom comics page, daily email delivery, a scrapbook where you can save your favorite comics, vintage comics and more.  If you were a DailyINK member, your account is waiting for you at Comics Kingdom Royal, with all of your favorites saved just the way you left them.

Please check it out, and thank you for your continued support of Edison!

Sharing Contest Winners!


The winners are in! We diligently counted all the shares on Facebook and Twitter, wrote them on little slips of paper, put them in a hat and had our daughter draw names.

Drumroll please…

The winner of a copy of “The Edison Files: Notes From The Lab” for sharing on Facebook is:

Barbara Reynolds!

The winner of a copy of “The Edison Files: Notes From The Lab” for sharing on Twitter is:

Jennifer Brindley!

Please email me at: john@edisonlee.net to claim your prizes and send me your mailing addresses.

Thanks, everyone, for the extra sharing. It’s a great feeling when you know more folks are seeing your work!


A copy of Marion Nestle’s new book “Eat Drink Vote” arrived unexpectedly in my mailbox. For those of you not familiar with Marion Nestle, famed food author Michael Pollan describes her as the #2 most powerful foodie in America (after Michelle Obama). The book helps readers to understand how diverse factors influence their food choices and nutrition. To help Marion Nestle illustrate her points, she’s combined her text with over 250 cartoons from 42 leading cartoonists, including nine Pulitzer prize winners, all licensed through the Cartoonist Group. I’m proud to say she chose to use six Edison Lee cartoon strips. The following Sunday is one that’s featured.


The book showcases the author’s expertise on wide-ranging food issues in a straight-forward manner. It’s a fantastic read and a beautiful book!

To read more, visit www.eatdrinkvote.com

The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound

A big Thank You goes out to Sara Thaves and her Cartoonist Group for putting us cartoonists in the limelight once again!

Another Contest – Facebook & Twitter

We had so much fun with the comments contest that we are announcing ANOTHER contest. (See below for another winner drawing that was shipped off last week – if you are still waiting for your art, please be patient – it IS coming) –

This time the prize will be a copy of the book “The Edison Files: Notes From The Lab” and to win all you need to do is either share the strip on Facebook or Twitter (or both – the more you share, the better your chances).

Every time you share the strip we will put your name in a hat – the more you share, the more copies of  your name in the hat. We will have one hat for Twitter and one hat for Facebook. At the end of two weeks we will draw a name out of each hat and 2 lucky winners will receive personalized, signed copies of the book.

HOW TO SHARE TO BE ELIGIBLE – THIS IS IMPORTANT! The only way we can track your sharing is if you share posts WE have already put up on Facebook and Twitter.

So – for Facebook – starting with the strip for 10/20/13 – go to the Edison Lee Facebook page – find the posted strip for that day, and hit “share” (you can also hit “like” while you’re at it). As soon as you do this we will know that you shared the strip and can add your name. IF YOU SHARE DIRECTLY FROM THE WEBSITE WE WILL HAVE NO WAY OF TRACKING IT.

For twitter – first start following @EdisonLeeComics on twitter. All you have to do after that is retweet the strips we post onto the Edison twitter feed.

If the contest goes well, we will extend it for another two weeks and 2 more people will have a chance to win.

The important thing about Facebook and Twitter are that they send readers to this website. Other versions of the strip that you can find on the web do not. This is why we are restricting the contest to these two platforms.

On your mark, get set, share!!!!

Edison contest art 3




Atmospheric Vortex Engines


Sometimes Anne and I thumb our way through twitter looking for little bits of scientific goodness to share with the world. The Edison comic that ran on 9-12 came from this story about Louis Michaud, the Canadian engineer who’s working on atmospheric vortex engines for generating electricity. Shortly after the strip ran, the inventor’s son contacted me and graciously requested the original to present to his father. I proudly obliged.



The Final Winner In The Comment Contest!!

We have reached the end of the 8 week comment contest and our final winner comes from Dailyink:



“Anyone dumb enough to use a percolator with semi-expensive coffee deserves to die off.”

Congratulations to archeobob! You made me laugh out loud! Email me at john@edisonlee.net with your contact info and I will mail your winning original drawing.

I have to say, when we started this contest I wasn’t sure how it would go or what kind of comments we would get. I can honestly say it’s been a lot of fun to read these comments, especially the ones that point out angles of the strip I never even think about. Not consciously, anyway.

Take the winning comment for this week – I tend to draw the first version of a prop that pops into my head and, for me, when it comes to coffee, it’s the 1950’s Chrome Sunbeam percolator. I personally have a modern coffee maker that grinds the beans and has a glass carafe and all that jazz, but it never occurs to me to draw that. I guess I just like the look of that old Sunbeam and that’s the coffee pot I’ve been drawing in the strip since the beginning. And, generally it’s a non-issue. I mean, who really cares what kind of coffee pot these people are using? But in the case of the above strip, a strip that is actually ABOUT coffee, I guess it could make a difference.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the creativity you all put into your comments and it makes me happy to know you like looking at little details (like what kind of coffee pot they have). I’ll be reading the comments more often from now on and I may start putting some easter eggs in the backgrounds for those of you that are into finding the hidden jokes behind the jokes.

And who knows, on any given day, if I read a comment that really gets me where I live, I might just wind up sending you an original drawing for your witty addition to my day……