Arts Desk

Meet an SPX Cartoonist: A Chat With Jen Sorensen

Jen Sorensen at SPX, 2008

Jen Sorensen, late of Charlottesville, Va., moved to Portland, Ore., a couple of years ago and is making her return to SPX. Jen's Slowpoke comic strip, which incorporated characters introduced in her college strip at UVA, premiered in 1998, and is resolutely political. Her website biography notes, "...Slowpoke has been reprinted in such fine publications as the Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, Funny Times, LA Times, The Daily Beast, CampusProgress.org, Daily Kos, and dozens of altweeklies around the country. Her illustrations have appeared in Nickelodeon Magazine, The American Prospect, Legal Affairs, University of Virginia Magazine, and the Women's Review of Books. In 2010 she received an Aronson Journalism Award from Hunter College in NYC. She is featured in Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists, an anthology edited by Ted Rall, and in several editions of The Best Political Cartoons of the Year." Sorensen is on the board of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, which has only recently opened up to alternative cartoonists.

Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Jen Sorensen: I draw a weekly comic called Slowpoke that appears in alternative newspapers and magazines around the country, and on the new Daily Kos comics page edited by Tom Tomorrow. CampusProgress.org also publishes the strip. Slowpoke is mostly political, but sometimes I talk about other things like gourmet cupcakes and hipster facial hair.

I also enjoy doing longer-form journalistic comics when I can. For example, I drew a graphic travelogue for The Oregonian about a trip to Montana earlier this year. And I interviewed humor writer Cynthia Heimel (Sex Tips For Girls) for a comic biography that appeared in Bitch Magazine.

WCP: What work are you best-known for?

JS: Slowpoke.

WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

JS: Traditional pen and ink, for the most part. I do add some details in Photoshop, but when I try to draw digitally, my abilities seem to regress by about 25 years.

WCP: Can you tell us a little about your books that you'll have with you at SPX?

JS: I don't have a new book to sell, but I will have my latest collection, One Nation, Oh My God! (Ig Publishing), and all my other books.

WCP: You've attended the Small Press Expo in the past—do you have any thoughts about your experience?  If you haven't, what're you expecting?

JS: I used to live in Virginia, so I think this will be my 12th SPX. It's my favorite comic convention. There's something very comfortable about it. Attendees seem a bit more attuned to political comics than at other conventions, which makes a certain amount of sense, given that it's in D.C.

WCP: What are you looking forward to buying or seeing or doing for this year's event? Or who do you want to see, to catch up on old times, or to have a fangirl experience?

JS: Catching up with old friends is a big reason I'm going. There are a few too many to mention here. I can say I'm looking forward to having a second fangirl moment with Roz Chast, whom I got to meet briefly at the Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State last year. She's one of my favorites. I hope I get to chat with Ann Telnaes too. And Diane Noomin. I actually wrote my senior thesis on the Twisted Sisters some years ago.

WCP: What's your favorite thing about the D.C. area? Least favorite?

JS: I like the good restaurants, Politics & Prose bookstore, and the Metro. My least favorite things are the traffic and NoVa sprawl.

WCP: What monument or museum do you like or wish to visit when you're in town?

JS: In the past, I've had the opportunity to view original cartoon art in the Library of Congress archives, and I may get to do that again this year. I also like confirming that the Washington Monument is still there. It's where my parents got engaged.

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

JS: My genre, altweekly comics, is very small, and largely dependent on income from print newspapers. I see our numbers slowly dwindling, but paying websites like Daily Kos help give me some hope for the future. I like to think we'll continue to exist, doing both political cartoons and graphic journalism which, in my experience, readers seem to appreciate a lot.

WCP: Do you have a website or blog?

JS: Yes, my website and blog can be found at www.slowpokecomics.com

The Small Press Expo takes place 11 am–7 p.m. Sept. 10 and noon–6 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, Bethesda. $10-$15. spxpo.com.

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