The Commuter Challenge

1 January 2008

The January 2008 Challenge

by CC @ 23:26

Imagine that you are a beloved, popular, syndicated cartoonist, with your strip appearing in thousands of newspapers worldwide. Draw some unpublishable (or very nearly unpublishable), contract-breaking strips. You can either make your own original characters, or channel some other cartoonist: your choice, but you have to actually draw the strips yourself. Simply whiting out the word balloons on some Cathy cartoons and then filling in your own text will not fulfill the requirements of this challenge.

You can draw two or more daily strips (three or four panels in black and white), or a single Sunday strip (in color, typically eight panels plus the throwaway-gag row, though you could imagine yourself to be as popular as Bill Watterson and able to demand free-format Sundays).

The Results

Brian Raiter

The Diaper Diaries is a heartwarming cartoon, drawn by Walter Lee, that explores the ups and downs of a young married couple raising an infant boy named Timmy.


  1. I like Brian’s a lot — particularly the last four panels; they’re very rhythmic. Does zombie Jesus have a mustache?

    I waffled about entering January’s because I am in the middle of attempting to write a comic every day for a year. I decided that because the challenge wasn’t ‘out of the ordinary’, I should leave it be. Now I see Brian’s entry all lonely there. Whoops!

    by Sam Bleckley — 14 February 2008 @ 08:03

  2. Geez, Brian, the point of this challenge was to do something that someone might potentially find offensive or off-putting. What could anybody possibly find offensive about Jesus Christ eating babies?

    I had an idea for a submission, but just didn’t get around to putting it on paper. I still hope to do it and submit it as a very late entry. It’s especially embarrassing when I come up with the challenge idea and then don’t submit.

    by RyanF — 15 February 2008 @ 08:29

  3. When I told my friend Mike that the current challenge was to draw some cartoons that were “unpublishable”, he replied, “That’s easy. Just draw a picture of a man and label it Mohammed.” I acknowledged that though true, it wouldn’t be a very interesting way to fulfill the challenge. Nonetheless, it inspired me to use Zombie Jesus instead of a generic bogeyman type of monster.

    Once again, I’m not content with my illustrations. My drawing style is very cartoon-like, so I think I should have been able to do a better job. Part of my problem was that I was thinking like a real cartoonist, and worrying about how it would look after it was shrunk
    to half size — maximizing whitespace and making sure the text was still legible. In the end I overdid it. The second strip in particular needs some background. Also, I have a tough time drawing people with recognizable consistency, which led me to leave out all unnecessary
    details in the people. Contrast them with Zombie Jesus, which I only had to draw once and so felt free to give him plenty of detail. (And no, Zombie Jesus doesn’t have a moustache. I was going for that hideous maw kind of mouth.)

    I’m pleased that Sam commented on the timing of the final strip, as that is what I focused on. While I tried to make the first two strips funny, their main purpose in life is really to set everything up for the last strip. (That said, I do think the line “That counts as
    informed consent” is a pretty good one.)

    I experimented with using tracing paper to draw these, something I hadn’t used since childhood. I sketched out a basic scene first, and then used that under the tracing paper to keep the static parts static between panels. I like how it allowed me to maintain consistency while still drawing each panel separately. The biggest downside was that the
    pages kept trying to curl up into little cylinders after I had drawn on them, and I had to be careful not to smear the ink as I tried to flatten them out again. Also, the scans naturally came out rather dim, so I had to jack up the brightness and contrast to get good images.

    Oddly enough, I was talking with my mother on the phone in a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned the Commuter Challenge in passing, and she commented that we ought to do a challenge involving cartooning (presumably thinking of my childhood aspiration to be a cartoonist when I grew up). I told her that coincidentally we had had just such a
    challenge. She enthusiastically asked about the details. I told her it was to draw some unpublishable cartoons. Her enthusiasm noticeably waned. I suspect that she hasn’t bothered to look them up. Oh, well.

    Sam: I’m intrigued by your comic-a-day project. That sounds grueling. Do you have any of it on the web?

    by breadbox — 20 February 2008 @ 12:52

  4. I do. . I’m now nine days behind, though. Tonight’s comic will feature Greta Garbo.

    by Sam Bleckley — 1 March 2008 @ 10:57