Cartoonists, craftspeople do it themselves 

Joe Sayers is a man of many, many jokes. With more than 25 mini comics under his belt and the weekly strip "Thingpart" in full force, the Oakland-based cartoonist seems to have stumbled upon an other-worldly entity or made a deal with an ancient evil to possess such a wealth of wit. Yet his story isn’t so sensational. In reality, the cartoonist owes his arsenal of absurd jokes to humanity.

"Humans at large are really hilarious," he says. "I don’t think people pay attention to how funny we are."

Clearly, Sayers, who will speak at this week’s San Francisco Zine Fest, does.

You can see it in his artwork — simple, round-headed doodles about seemingly everyday situations that are topped off with a twisted punch line. For instance, a little girl pleads with her mother for a pony. Her wish gets fulfilled, but not in the conventional way; she has to eat the pony.

The way Sayers approaches his work comes off sounding like a commercial for instant macaroni and cheese; in "five minutes or less," he says, he can pump out a successful comedic set-up and punch line in only a few panels.

His on-the-fly work ethic gives credence to the notion that a well-crafted joke doesn’t have to be labored over.

"It’s freeing to draw that way," he says. "I never go back and revisit it and it’s so great; you have to let go of that idea of editing and re-working and instead just do it and trust yourself."

On Saturday, the "Thingpart" creator will join Andrew Farago, gallery manager of the Cartoon Art Museum, for a question-and-answer session about his collection of work, the Bay Area’s self-publishing scene, and his improvised approach to drawing comics at the San Francisco Zine Festival.

The two-day festival, which gets under way Friday at the Women’s Building in the Mission, celebrates the independent and underground publishing scene with exhibitors and workshops that cater to mini comic and zine enthusiasts as well as do-it-yourself crafters.

While Sayers began drawing comics as a kid back in Colorado — he was fond of newspaper dailies like "Garfield" and "Peanuts" — it wasn’t until moving to the Bay Area 11 years ago that he began to seriously dedicate his time to the craft.

When visiting the 2002 edition of the grassroots zine gathering, Sayers found himself sharing his photocopied comics with other artists as a means of networking; now he’s the featured guest and creator of the promotional artwork for this year’s festival.

"I’m really excited, not only because I’m a special guest, but because this festival is shaping up to be the best one so far. I’m optimistic that this show is going to be a blast."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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