Jon Morris, Cartoonist & Illustrator

"Calamity" Jon Morris is a cartoonist, designer, and writer from Seattle, Washington by way of Tucson, Arizona. Not only is he is the creator of the Ignatz-nominated webcomic Jeremy but he also made an appearance on This American Life, which provided the foundation of his first book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes. He is also a designer, a writer of three books, many blogs and involved in so many other creative things the list is too long to list here. I currently have the pleasure of working alongside Jon at Microsoft where his amazing illustrations help thousands of teachers and students. Thanks for chatting with us Jon!

What do you do?

I’m primarily a cartoonist and illustrator, although I’ve also written three books and sideline as a trade and logo designer.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Primarily, I wanted to be a cartoonist. My parents raised me in a house full of comic books and my mother had a second career as an illustrator, so I was surrounded by inspiration when growing up.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.

I hadn’t really intended to become a freelancer, but rather to work on art and art-related projects in my spare time. But there were mass layoffs at my first full-time job, ending ten years as a software engineer – so I figured I should try my hand at work which was more in line with my hobbies and sidelines.

wrestler machoman | Jon Morris
Wrestler machoman © Jon Morris
When you first started, how did you find clients?

I worked through agencies at first, which has a number of downsides baked in. More handily, though, I spent a lot of my first year or two assisting other freelancers on their projects, which introduced me to many of the hassles of freelancing as well as a decently-sized client pool…

Do you have a motto that you work by?

I honestly don’t, sorry 🙂

How do you stay productive?

The best that you can do is to create a dedicated workspace and schedule. I know that a lot of freelancers have difficulty setting space and time aside, but it’s always the best solution.

What are you working on right now?

I’m assembling my first animation pitch and working on the next book.

What is your dream project?

I’ve always really enjoyed role-playing games and, even moreso, the sourcebooks that come with them. I’ve been toying with building a role-playing game, and I’d love to create this insane, intensely-detailed, Darger-esque world for an RPG.

What one piece of advice would you give to a freelancer just starting out?

While the “clients from hell” and “work for exposure” stories which you frequently see described are all basically true, there’s no real virtue in getting into long, protracted arguments with these folks, or venting about it in depth online. The time you spend arguing with a potential non-client is time you could better spend doing anything else.

tmnt | Jon Morris
TMNT illustration © Jon Morris
Jon Morris
Trust your gut – when it says “no” then you say “no.” There are worse things in the world then passing up a project.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?

Trust your gut – when it says “no” then you say “no.” There are worse things in the world than passing up a project.

Tell us about a time in your career when you struggled.

About four years ago, I hit the trifecta – no work, no insurance, and a major illness. What got me through the time was the relationships I had built up as a freelancer, so that I had paying work lined up as soon as I was able to get back into the game. Even then, it was a genuinely alarming time. I was relying on a lot of previously-established connections to get back up-and-running.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes | Jon Morris
The League of Regrettable Superheroes © Jon Morris
Comic strip | Jon Morris
What are you listening to, reading or watching that is inspiring to you lately?

My self-care regimen has involved a lot of drag shows, recently. The effort and skill that goes into that full-body and full-character transformation is something else, and the effects – both practical and emotional – that some performers are capable of creating are worth studying.

What is your favourite piece of clothing?

I tend towards hobo clothes, so I find an excuse to wear my extremely beat-up, oversized Carhartt jacket every day and have for the last twelve years. It’s finally showing enough wear-and-tear that I am frequently asked by security to leave high-scale shopping malls, which is high praise indeed.

What is the strangest thing about you?

One of my hobbies involves making cigar box banjos from scratch. I do not know how to play the banjo. I just like making the cigar box ones.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

I’m a big fan of Pam Wishbow, a local artist who works in a variety of media with a morbid theme. I’m always eager to hear her talk about her work and process.

How can we find out more about your work?

You can find me online at calamityjonsave.us and pretty much anywhere under the handle “Calamity Jon”