Cartoonist Paige Braddock (’85) remembers that while she was working at the Daily Beacon she received an envelope with the charred remains of her comic strip Sadie and a note declaring, “this is the only time that Sadie will ever be hot.”
“I don’t know what would motivate someone to do that to a poor, defenseless comic,” Braddock laughs, “but it didn’t make me give up.”
Now, Braddock is not only the successful cartoonist behind Jane’s World, she also oversees the art direction for Peanuts licensing, thanks to its late creator, Charles Schulz.
Braddock’s impressive list of titles includes executive vice president and creative director of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates; creator of the comic strip Jane’s World; 2006 Eisner Award nominee for best artist/writer in the humor category; founder of her own publishing company, Girl Twirl Comics; and co-creator of the graphic novel series The Martian Confederacy.
And recently added to that list was a UT 2014 Accomplished Alumni award.
One of the most popular questions asked of her on the first day of her February visit to campus was “how do you do all that?”
“I basically work all the time,” Braddock says, which elicits some chuckles of agreement from her partner, Evelyn. “The Peanuts job is pretty consuming. You could do it 24/7. All the other projects are the night and weekend jobs. Sometimes I’m up at 2:00 a.m. working on a project because I get possessed.”
She says it was a complete surprise when Schulz offered her the job in 1999. She had crossed paths with him at comic events over the years but they had never worked together—though he was one of her cartooning inspirations.
“I was at a comic event in San Antonio, and I had agreed to be on a panel,” Braddock says. “Then I forgot. I wasn’t even dressed for it. Another panelist, Hilary Price (who does Rhymes with Orange), reminded me right before it started. So I sat on the panel, and I even got into a dispute with someone in the audience. When the discussion was over, Charles Schulz came up and asked me if I wanted a job.”
Schulz created the position of creative director for Braddock so he could step away from the licensing oversight for his company.
As creative director, she oversees the visual and editorial direction for all Schulz-licensed products worldwide. “He said he chose me because he knew I wasn’t afraid to say no,” she says. “Although sometimes it’s harder than you think.”
Six months later, Schulz’s colon cancer diagnosis caught everyone off guard. “Within nine months after I got there, he wasn’t able to work anymore,” she says. The legendary cartoonist, who she sometimes calls by his nickname Sparky, passed away in 2000. She now works closely with Schulz’s widow, Jean, and son, Craig, to oversee Peanuts.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that someone with Braddock’s skill set and confidence was the star of her art classes long before she came to UT.
Not so, says Braddock.
“I like to say I’m the product of the worst public schools in the nation. My schools in Mississippi had no art programs at all. My first art class was at UT. I had innate ability, but I didn’t know what to do with it.”
Her success in storytelling, marketing, and publishing all grew from her studies in college. “I got a broad education at UT. I’m so glad I went here,” Braddock says.
“Sometimes you get the impression that you should go to an arts school like CalArts, but I think their track can be so narrow. I was required to take printmaking at UT. When I worked at the Daily Beacon, we learned old-school desktop publishing. When I started at UT, I didn’t know anything. I was like a clean slate.”
Despite describing herself as “not very out and proud” during her early career, Braddock began crafting Jane’s World in 1991 and spent twelve years working as an illustrator for a succession of newspapers. After Jane’s World went into publication in 2001, it became the first gay-themed work to receive online distribution by a national media syndicate.
Braddock launched Girl Twirl Comics that same year to make Jane’s World available in comic shops and bookstores. The strip is available daily on gocomics.com, and volume eleven of the Jane’s World book series is planned to launch at Phoenix Comicon in June.
For artists looking to follow Braddock’s lead, she says there’s no single way to be successful, but there are a lot of options.
“Put your work out there for people to see,” Braddock says. “There’s no set path for comics, but for most people the best entry point is digital. There are so many options now thanks to the Internet and self-publishing. You almost have to have a digital presence now. That’s how Jane got discovered.”