Vermont Cartoonist laureate James Kochalka is ending his long-running American Elf strip today after 14 years—the strip began in October 1998. During this time, every day (with one exception), without fail, Kochalka would write, draw and post a four panel cartoon about his daily life. It was a remarkable run, and as he tells local mag, Seven Days, the strip’s autobiographical nature and Kochalka’s focus made it a microcosm of zen moments: “I felt like I had to make some decision; [‘Elf’] wasn’t meant to be a life sentence. I just wanted to learn something about what it meant to be a human being.”
Perhaps the best exit interview is here at Robot 6, which explains most of why he’s ending it:
There are many, many complicated reasons for why I’m quitting, and some are private. I’m not sure the Internet is a safe place to bare your soul, for one. I have so many other ideas I’d like to concentrate on for a while, is another. I’m hoping that the change will jumpstart a period of rapid growth and experimentation. Who knows! Maybe I’ll just disappear and go all J.D. Salinger on everyone.
I’m sure the death of my dad had some effect on my decision to quit. I actually quit the strip a day or so before he died, but then started up again a day later so no one even noticed.
He notes other factors, such as the privacy issues of his wife and two growing boys. Kochalka has always been frightfully prolific, and he’ll certainly stay busy: in addition to the daily strip and his music career, he now has the Super-F*ckers cartoon, his ongoing kids’ book, Dragon Puncher, and a gig as a teacher at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
The date won’t go unnoticed, Via Top Shelf publishers Brett Warnock, here’s Jason’s tribute to American Elf:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.