The University of Windsor is welcoming Scott Chantler as their first ever Cartoonist-In-Residence for the 2015 Fall semester.
As graphic novels become more relevant in libraries and best-selling book lists, the University of Windsor changed their usual request for a writer-in-residence for a cartoonist. The purpose of the position is to welcome an author into their facility, so while they work on their latest project they can also reveal to faculty and students some of the challenges of being published.
Chantler knows the ups and downs of publishing. He is currently working on his eleventh graphic novel. His independent work includes Northwest Passage, Two Generals and the Three Thieves series.
Chantler began as a commercial illustrator, but always knew that creating comics was his passion. Just before he turned 30, Chantler made a complete career change. He began with a web comic, and now he is an acclaimed Canadian graphic novelist.
His graphic novels have garnered interest in the industry. Both Northwest Passage and Two Generals were nominated for several awards including the industry’s highest honour, an Eisner Award. The first novel in the Three Thieves series, Tower of Treasure, won the Joe Shuster Award for Best Comic for Kids in 2011.
Chantler noticed the posting for a cartoonist-in-residence for the University of Windsor almost a year ago, and as of June 29, 2015, he was accepted for the position.
Now, as he works on the last novel for his Three Thieves series, he is moving from his home in Waterloo to Windsor, where he will take on being the cartoonist-at-large on the grounds of the University of Windsor from September to December 2015.
How does it feel being chosen for the first cartoonist test subject for UWindsor?
It’s very cool. When I heard they were doing it, (the English department) actually suggested I apply. I consider myself an advocate for comics and I thought it would be a great thing for the medium. I hoped it was going to be me, and so I’m glad I was chosen.
Explain to me how you found out about the position?
I actually first had an email from head of English department, and I had basically just finished reading the email when Dr. Dale Jacobs (a professor at the University of Windsor) tweeted to me something about it.
What projects will you be working on during your time at UWindsor?
I am currently working on the final book for the Three Thieves series, Iron Hand, and will still be working on it in the fall that I am there. With any luck I will finish that book before Christmas.
What do you hope working in an in-residence environment will bring to your work?
I think the change of scenery will be invigorating. I’ve been working from my home for 15 years, so being in a different room, different city, it will be a nice change of pace. I’m going to be doing lots of public speaking about my work and comics in general. I think about comics all the time and now I’ll be immersed in it. (Working as a cartoonist-in-residence) will take away all the distractions of my usual work routine.
What to you hope to bring to UWindsor?
My winning smile…I’ve been doing comics for a long time and think about it a lot. I am an advocate for the art form, so hopefully students and staff will benefit. They have really good classes there already, taught by Dr. Dale Jacobs. I’m sure he has a lot covered but I can bring a lot from a creator perspective. Maybe some things they haven’t thought about, like the practical ins and outs of making a book.
What do you know about Windsor? Have you traveled here before?
To be honest, I was in Windsor last November but prior to that I haven’t been there for 20 years. I do not know the city very well. I have enjoyed myself every time I have been there. I am looking forward to it.
As a self-described ‘cold-hater’, are you looking forward to living in one of the mildest climates in Canada this winter?
That would be nice, especially since I won’t have a car. The warmer it is the better.
Is your family excited for you? Will your wife and kids be moving down with you?
My wife has a career in Waterloo, and the boys are in school, so they will stay there. I will hop on the train on the weekends, and visit them. As much as I wanted to be a part of (the cartoonist-in-residence program), I didn’t know how it would affect my family. My wife really encouraged me; she was keen on me applying. She, and my family, was thrilled when I got it.
What is your current process of creation like? Do you have the storyline written out, and then piece the art together later?
I write a couple paragraphs of the script, then I do rough art, then more finished art. I’m not married to my script. I think of the art as the next draft of the script. You spend so long with each page, hours and hours, and that’s when you are most in the story. It’s not unlike in a movie where dialogue can change when in front of the camera. It always a changes a bit in front of the camera, and it’s the same while drawing.
Do you have a favourite out of the two labours: writing or drawing?
I don’t think of them as different things. The medium is like writing with pictures. I think a lot of people have misconceptions that comics are heavily illustrated books, when really the art is the text, if that makes sense.
The writing might take weeks or months but the art might take months or years. Writing can be easier, but it isn’t as satisfying as finishing drawing and having the giant stack of pages beside of you. You have the skeleton of the book with the writing, but not the book itself. I think of them as the mediums at their best, combining them into something unique.
You are on to the seventh and final book of the Three Thieves series. How does it feel investing so much time into this series?
It’s been a long go. I started in fall of 2007, writing book one, so it’s been long. Working on these final books has been satisfying, like finishing a marathon. It’s incredible, the amount of work, and I’m proud of them, but part of me is glad they are coming to an end. Part of me is sad. Part of me is glad I can work on different things.
The investment isn’t just time, but emotional. I have never done a series before, so I didn’t know. It’s a big thing in my life to be finishing a series.
Other projects like Two Generals, is also huge investment in time, it was a significant chapter in my life as well. You work on them so long; they become a part of you. I remember years of my life by what I was working on. You look back at your own books as being autobiographical. I look at exact pages and know exactly where I was when I was working on it.
What is next on the horizon, after Three Thieves?
I have a few ideas that are various stages of being cooked. What I do next will be a matter of what will get a green light from the publisher first. I can tell you for sure that one will involve the War of 1812, and since I’m in Windsor, which was heavily involved in that war, I plan on trying to do some research.
I would love to take a break, but there’s not a lot of money to begin with in publishing and in comics, there’s even less because it takes so much time. I always keep moving, and taking on new projects.
When you were young, was this always the end goal? Did you always want to be creating graphic novels, on some level?
Yeah. Absolutely. There was never really much else. After I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, I wanted to be an archeologist, like every other kid my age but otherwise, I always wanted to be a cartoonist.
You are an acclaimed cartoonist, with a variety of awards and nominations for your work. How does it feel begin recognized?
It’s nice. You struggle for so long. I was thirty before I got into the industry, and wasn’t sure (being published and earning awards) was ever going to happen. You are bent over your desk 12 hours a day and you aren’t sure if anyone is going to like it or even read it.
At the end of the day, who doesn’t like a pat on the head every now again? Exposure like this means you are more likely to keep doing it. Every success means I get to do another book which is the best possible outcome.
Do you write to get the stories out of your head, or to make an effect on the readers?
A little bit of both. For Two Generals, there are two reactions. People say they learned a lot about the war. Other people say “it was so emotional, I cried at the end.” Out of the two, I like the second response. I wanted there to be a lot of history in it as well, but it’s not an educational comic, its literature. Whenever people say they feel like they were hit in the stomach, I feel they read the book I wanted to write, understood the story I wanted to tell.
As intellectual as novels can be, we all like to be moved emotionally and that’s what I’m striving for. Not that I want to make kids cry, but I think the readers of Three Thieves will be moved when they read the last novel in the series.
What advice do you have for authors and artists who have considered a career like yours but don’t know where to begin?
I always feel weird giving advice. I just keep working, and keep trying to get work out there. I broke into comics by starting a web comic, which was easy to get noticed 15 years ago. Not so much anymore, but starting online is the best way to go. It forces you to work every day, or every week, and the potential audience is global.
There’s a lot more people doing that now, but quality work has a way to rising to the top. Start a web comic and stick to it. Promote. Go to conventions. Direct people to your work. Do anything you can to get attention. Then build a reputation as quality and someone who can hit deadlines.