with Daniel Cooney
Name: Daniel Cooney
Comics: The Tommy Gun Dolls, Valentine, The Atomic Yeti
Websites: www.tommygundolls.com, www.dancooneyart.com, valentinecomic.com
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Daniel – I’d say around 1980, I was nine & just produced an entire comic based on the audio version of Star Wars on cassette tape. I used dot matrix paper my dad would bring home from work to draw on & rolled it up on two paper towel cardboard tubes, used a cardboard box like a TV, cut a hole in it, played the cassette tape as my family watch me turn the tubes like they were watching a movie. It was then I knew I wanted to draw stories.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?
Daniel – My only award I ever won was from my senior year in high school for “Outstanding Artist of the Year” from Bank of America given to me at an awards banquet. My first book I self-published was optioned for film & that was exciting for a few years before getting the rights back after the producer couldn’t do anything with it. I’ve authored two instructional books; Writing & Illustrating the Graphic Novel & Figure Drawing for Comics & Graphic Novels, that was pretty special. Also having been a part of a benefit book for the American Red Cross called 9-11 Emergency Relief, my good friend, A. David Lewis wrote a touching story titled “Alabaster Cities”. The original pages are now part of a permanent collection in the Prints & Photographs section at the Library of Congress, quite an honor! I continue to teach creating comics for studio & liberal arts courses for the past ten years at the Academy of Art University. It’s been a privilege to see some of my former students go on to have successful careers in comics & illustration.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Daniel – I think I always wanted to have kids, just meeting the right woman to do so. I had my first son, Dashiell, born on my 40th birthday & my second son, Dexter, born a few years later. I won’t mince words saying it’s both been the hardest job of my life & the greatest love raising children.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Daniel – My wife continues to inspire me & she’s objective, gives honest advice, keeps me humble, & often models for me when I need reference for a pose for a character. Raising a family takes time & patience as well as prioritizing your time to make sure you’ve balance both your time as a husband & father as well as your professional endeavors.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Daniel – Off the top of my head, they get to go to comic conventions from time to time & my kids love all of the costumes & sometimes I’ll bring them home something I find from a show like a t-shirt or toy. The negative would be dad being tucked away in his studio drawing comics, it takes a lot time & working from home can be tough. You hear your children playing as you’re in deadline mode & sometimes you just have to take a break to spend some extra time with them.
QRD – Have your children effected the comics you make &/or read?
Daniel – Not really, no. I’m sensitive to what they may see around my studio that I don’t want them to see until they are a bit older. I think someday I may have some stories that are more child friendly, but for now there’s the crime fiction genre I love as well as maybe some westerns & a sci-fi horror story I’d like to get back to as well.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from an artistic career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Daniel – Before I was a full-time instructor for the art school, absolutely! I left home right after high school & moved home a couple of times when times got tough, but for the better part of the last 15 years, I’ve earned a living freelancing as an artist, substitute teacher, art teacher, & tutor. Even with a steady income from teaching now, there are always unforeseen expenses that require me to take on freelance work to make ends meet, particularly with taking care of a family.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on going on the convention circuit, would you have showed more earlier in life if you’d known?
Daniel – I’ve been doing conventions since 1991, so I’ve had my fair share of convention experience & even if I didn’t have kids, I would only do just a few a year now. I’m getting too old to be bouncing around the country sitting behind a table & staying in hotels. It’s disruptive to a healthy diet, sleep, & time away from your studio. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the time at conventions, meeting new folks & faithful readers, but having to go to maybe three or four a year is plenty for me to do. I’m 45 now, no spring chicken & I like my sleep.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a cartoonist has a greater impact on your community?
Daniel – Yes, it does. Giving back to the community as an educator/cartoonist is rewarding, particularly to the young kids & teens who like to draw.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become cartoonists or parents? Why not both?
Daniel – As long as they’re happy doing what they love doing, then so am I.
QRD – Both family & comics seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Daniel – I teach online all week long from 6am - 5pm, it varies but find time to get to work on my personal projects & freelance around that. Sometimes I take a day off late in the week to do a family thing & make up for the work I missed on the weekend. I still pull some late nights from time to time & avoid all-nighters altogether these days.
QRD – What do your kids think of your comics?
Daniel – They’re still young, five & three, so given the crime fiction content I work in, I try to be careful what I show them. Often I’ll sketch one of their favorite characters when they’re in the studio. I think they understand that “daddy’s a draw-er.”
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your children?
Daniel – If it was a children’s book featuring them, sure. If they have interests in being cartoonists someday, then absolutely.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Daniel – Draw everyday, listen to those more experienced than you because you will learn something & be nice to others.