Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Marty Baumann
Marty Baumann is a cartoonist who works in a variety of media—he's done a comic book story, The Crater Kid, that appeared in the back of Steve Conley's Astounding Space Thrills comic; children's books such as Old Pard The Last Singing Cowboy; and the hilarious movie poster parodies in Posterama! Coming Attractions That Never Arrived. His biography in his book Bridget Widget says, "Marty is the author of The Astounding B Monster, a definitive guide to vintage horror and sci-fi films. A professional rhythm and blues singer/guitarist for more than 30 years, he's shared the stage with many R&B greats. Marty's CD Let's Buzz Awhile features 13 original blues tunes." Marty was set up at the Baltimore Comic-Con, selling his eye-catching cartoon books.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Marty Baumann: My influences originate in the 1950s and '60s. It was such a fertile period, whimsical, colorful, positive art—anti-Goth! I try to apply those influences to the comics and children's books I've done. But I am primarily a commercial artist. In addition to the children's books I've produced recently, I've done lots of product design and illustration, such as illustrating a version of Monopoly for kids, and contributing concept drawings for a new take on Chester the Cheetohs Cheetah.
MB: I do a lot of traditional pencil sketching, but I began my professional career in journalism when the Mac was born, and I've been producing finished work that way ever since.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
MB: Beautiful, downtown Cheverly, Maryland, 1957.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
MB: Born and raised here. My job took us to San Francisco two-and-half years ago. We returned to Northern Virginia earlier this year.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
MB: Most of my artistic training took place at the comic book rack in the back of the Drug Fair store in Lanham, Md. The first books I remember buying were Joe Kubert's Sgt. Rock and the Kirby/Ditko monster comics (Kraa, Fin Fang Foom, Goom, etc.).
WCP: Who are your influences?
MB: Kirby, Kubert, Toth, Wally Wood, Disney greats like Ward Kimball, Little Golden Book artists such as Aurelius Battaglia (a HUGE influence), Antonio Prohias of Spy Vs. Spy fame (another HUGE influence on my commercial art) and probably most influential of all, Jim Steranko, who I've known since I was 14 years old and who answered every one of my geeky fan letters. And although I can't draw anything like him (NOBODY can), Jack Davis is a friend and one of the most decent men on the planet.
MB: Wally Wood once said that if he could change anything he'd draw like Charles Schulz. Me too! I'd work hard at developing a simple, elegant, evocative style that would be universally recognized!
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
MB: I suppose for working at Pixar. I've contributed to such films as Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and myriad short films and it's always really flattering to get a note from someone who saw my name on the big screen. I'll never get used to that.
MB: Probably the Pixar work. Make no mistake, those people are brilliant, among THE very best artists working anywhere today. And there are people from all over the world standing in line, desperate for a chance to work there. And somehow I made the cut. And when you're surrounded by talent like that you have to bring your best game. I'm proud to be considered in that group and indescribably humbled at the same time.
I'm also proud of a comic strip I created called The Crater Kid, which comics fans ignored, but moms and kids loved.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
MB: I hope to keep working for Pixar for as long as they'll have me! And I'm hoping I can continue to produce books of my own that are positive, funny and engaging.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
MB: I'd hate to think that it's all going digital. Won't there always be people who want to pull a favorite book off the shelf and flop on the couch? As far as the medium itself? When I walk into a comic shop I'm confronted by a wall of black, gray and red covers. So many books about death, blood and dystopia!
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
WCP: Will you be at Small Press Expo next month? Have you ever been there? If so, can you share your impressions of it?
MB: I've done it in the past, and I'm sure this year's will be a great show with many talented people, but I don't think I fit in there. The work on display there skews toward edgy and anti-commercial. I'm proud to be a commercial artist, and my edges are very frayed!