Vermont names Cartoonist Laureate: James Kochalka

By Jen Vaughn
What do you do with a man with a wild mind of his own and a pair of drawing hands that just won’t quit?

You make him KING.

James Kochalka is the one of forerunners of autobiographical diary comics with his syndicated comic, American Elf, which is also available online and began way back in October, 1998. He is also the creator of other excellent comics like irreverent SuperF*ckers and children’s books like the Johnny Boo series and most recently, Dragon Puncher. His comics are published by Portland-based comics publisher, Top Shelf. Brett Warnock of Top Shelf had this to say about his new Laureate: “James Kochalka mines the depths of the comics medium in ways that most aspiring cartoonists can only hope to achieve. Simply put, he “gets” comics… the narrative flow, panel and page compositions, line quality and color palette. Of course, all would be for naught without his charming, funny, and engaging content. And he makes it all seem so damn effortless. The world is a much better place for Kochalka’s impressive body of work.”

All over the state of Vermont, Kochalka has spread his love of comics and drawing. He is a regular visiting artist/faculty member at the Center for Cartoon Studies, a renowned cartooning school also based in Vermont. The Center for Cartoon Studies appointed Kochalka after a selection process. CCS Director James Sturm believes, “Whether they are funny, philosophical, or naughty, James Kochalka brings a childlike intensity to all of his work. With his diary comic he has influenced countless cartoonists and has forever altered the landscape of cartooning.”

Kochalka is also known for giving back to his own Vermont town, Burlington. Once a year, Kochalka and a rag-tag group of fledgling cartoonists (usually from CCS) take over the 4th and 5th grade classes to teach youngsters the joy of comics, sequential art and panel play.

When not inspiring the minds of children and cartoonists world-wide, Kochalka occasionally sings in his band, James Kochalka Superstar or creates 8-bit digi-tunes (my favorite track from Digital Elf was The Golden Eagle). The coronation of James Kochalka , the first Vermont Cartoonist Laureate, will take place all over Vermont in a day long-celebration. So mark your calendars for March 10, 2011 and take a trip up to Vermont for the celebration! Visit the official decree of coronation at the Center for Cartoon Studies site, where more details will pop up the closer the day approaches and the snow melts.


  1. Cole Moore Odell says

    This is great, just one more reason for me to appreciate living here. I thought this might be happening a while back when he asked people on his forum to point out any particularly Vermonty strips he’d done.

  2. Cole Moore Odell says

    Also, Brett Warnock could really underscore those deserved words of praise by scheduling Vol. 4 of American Elf.

  3. CitizenCliff says

    Kochalka is one funny human. His music is hysterical. His books are unique. The comics world is lucky to have him.

  4. R Scott says

    You had better go back and read the blog in 7 Days where Kochalka is back peddling from a horrifically violent cartoon he posted in January where he promoted violence against women by cutting off the head of an actual woman resident of Vermont – all to support his very sick friend who can’t get over her breaking up with him. This is not what Vermont stands for and Kochalka must step down. Follow this story.

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