Episode 556 – Patrick McDonnell

Virtual Memories Show 556:
Patrick McDonnell

“I feel like I was The Watcher; I was witnessing — without interfering — this book happen. . . . The Watcher is the changeless witness to the changeful mind.”

What’s it like to put out books with Jack Kirby and the Dalai Lama in the same year? Legendary cartoonist & artist Patrick McDonnell rejoins the show to talk about his amazing new books THE SUPER HERO’S JOURNEY (Abrams ComicArts), his collaboration with the Dalai Lama, HEART TO HEART: A Conversation on Love and Hope for Our Precious Planet (Harper One), and more! We get into the secret origin of The Super Hero’s Journey, the joy of getting to play with the comic-book characters of his youth and remix 1960s panels & pages with his own art & story, how he made a spiritual book disguised as a Marvel comic, and why the best art is when your mind is not involved. We also talk about the making of Heart To Heart, Patrick’s combination of minimal (but gorgeous) art with the Dalai Lama’s words to tell a story of ecological survival, getting to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharmshala (& finding some bliss), and the struggle of drawing a cartoon version of His Holiness and his small nose. Plus we discuss the approaching 30th anniversary of his MUTTS comic-strip and how Patrick keeps finding inspiration & fun in making it, how making books and paintings allows him to flex and play with his art, the ways making a comic strip parallels making haiku, the experience of showing his paintings at a big exhibition at OSU in 2021, and how purposefulness suffuses Patrick’s art & life. Give it a listen! And go read The Super Hero’s Journey and Heart To Heart!

(And go listen to our 2017 conversation!)

“I just did the Baltimore Comic-Con, and everyone who bought a book got not only my signature, but I also did a little drawing. And that was one of the happiest days of my life, just sitting at a table drawing Marvel superheroes all day.”

“When you do a daily work of art, it’s funny how it evolves and you don’t even see it happening.”

“After meeting the Dalai Lama, man, I was on another plane of existence. I didn’t have a thought in my head, which is the best place to be.”

“I feel like doing a comic strip is like making a haiku; it’s really getting down to the essence.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Patrick McDonnell is the bestselling author, illustrator, playwright, painter, and creator of the comic strip Mutts, which appears in more than 700 newspapers around the world. He has received numerous awards internationally, including a Caldecott Honor and the Reuben, the highest honor given by the National Cartoonists Society. The Art of Nothing, a career-spanning monograph, was published by Abrams ComicArts in 2019. In 2023 he published Heart To Heart and The Super Hero’s Journey. He lives in New Jersey.

Follow Patrick & Mutts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (here’s Patrick’s Instagram), and listen to our 2017 conversation.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Patrick’s home studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Patrick & Amelie by me; photos of Patrick & His Holiness the Dalai Lama by … someone else. It’s on my instagram.

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