Comic Week: 5 highly influential cartoonists

March 18, 2015, Article by Paddy Johnston in Books, Comics

Tom originally asked me to write about the five most influential cartoonists of all time for Comic Week, but I decided to change the focus slightly.

I’m always wary of making suggestions towards a canon, but I also didn’t want to imply that any other cartoonists were more influential than Tom himself, as the creator of Mr Book. So I thought a better and more interesting post would be one about five cartoonists who have been influential on my own comics. Some are well-known, some are not so well-known, but all have absolutely floored me with their comics in one way or another, and have changed the way I approach comics as a cartoonist…

Michel Rabagliati

rabagliati© Michel Rabagliati

Michel Rabagliati writes and draws elegant, poignant graphic novels about growing up in Québec, told through his avatar, Paul. Michel Rabagliati taught me the true extent of how writing from life, but providing slight distance with fictionalization, can make for a really emotionally resonant comic. Paul has been called “The Tintin of Québec”, and Rabagliati’s art owes some debt to Hergé, but is a unique style, fitting well with his unique vision of Québec.

Kate Beaton

beaton © Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant was one of the first webcomics I got really into. As an undergraduate student at the time, I appreciated the mixing of highbrow literary references and historical figures with bawdy humour and acerbic wit, and Beaton’s visual style inspired me to pick up the pen and have a go myself. She continues to go from strength to strength today, with two books on the way this year.

Michael DeForge

DeForge-625x311© Michael DeForge

Michael DeForge combines elements of sublime visual horror, slacker comedy and bizarre surrealism in a truly unique way. His comics really opened me up to the medium’s potential for expressing universal and accessible ideas in very extreme ways, and of the medium’s potential, which appears limitless in his hands.

Meredith Gran

octopuspie© Michael DeForge

Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie was the first long-form webcomic I got into, waiting eagerly for the next page to be uploaded, obsessing over the lives of the characters as they navigate life in Brooklyn. It showed me that the web could provide the platform for a longer form narrative, to be collected later in book form, and taught me a lot about shades and toning, on the visual side.

Ethan Rilly

rilly © Ethan Rilly

The best cartoonist you’ve never heard of. Seriously. Not being on Twitter and releasing comics only sporadically, Ethan Rilly flies below the radar, but in my opinion he’s one of the most important cartoonists working today. There’s a new issue of his series, Pope Hats, due to be released this year, and I can’t wait. Pope Hats taught me about the importance of finding your own voice, and of the significance of doing things on your own terms as an indie cartoonist.

Thanks to Paddy for a great piece, and check out his awesome work at