2010: Frequent Flyer Cartoonist


As the year draws to a close, the experiences that stand out the most for me were all the amazing travel opportunities I was afforded. Not only did I hit American locales like Manchester, NH; Philadelphia, PA; Dudley, MA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Chestnut Hill, MA; Madison, WI; and of course, New Orleans, LA; but I had some incredibly memorable foreign excursions as well: Burma, Australia, Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, and Israel/Palestine. (I was also invited to Ravenna, Italy, for a comics festival, but had to turn it down because it conflicted with another, previously scheduled, trip.) That’s enough for a lifetime — and this was just one calendar year!

To this day, my backpacking adventures of 1992-1993 remain the most formative experiences of my "adult" life. I learned so much about myself and, of course, different places and cultures. When I was first began doing alternative comics, chronicling my backpacking experiences in Keyhole, The Vagabonds, and A Few Perfect Hours, I always held out hope that my work would get me noticed in a way that would enable more travel. Unfortunately, that never really happened.

Yet, somehow, thanks to A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, and a few lucky breaks, my long-ago wish is now coming true. A.D. has led to invitations to literary festivals (viz. the trip to Australia), academic conferences (Chicago), and college visits (Manchester, Dudley, Madison). And the book played a big part in my new part-time role as a State Dept. "comics ambassador" (Burma, the Middle East). It’s all too incredible for me to really process.

Besides getting to visit some really fascinating places, I’ve sharpened my skills as a presenter and workshop leader, met some really cool people, and most of all, been able to continue spreading the word about the people of New Orleans, post-Katrina. This is a story which continues to unfold, and will for many years to come. (Just today, I heard the news that the City of New Orleans is starting to crack down on residents who still have FEMA trailers parked in front of their homes.)

Next year I already know I’ll be visiting Atlanta, GA; Vancouver, WA; and Little Rock, AR; and if conditions are right, I hope to do another "ambassadorial" trip. I’m already excited about the places I’ll be visiting in 2011.

Happy New Year, everyone — and Happy Trails.

3 thoughts on “2010: Frequent Flyer Cartoonist

  1. Burma! How lucky! I’ve been trying to go there but keep putting it off. I didn’t realize you were a backpacker too, I have to agree there’s nothing more formative…
    Looks like it’s been a breakthrough year for you, hope it keeps up! Happy new year 🙂

    1. Thanks, Joumana. I feel like, as an American, it’s even more of an imperative to get out and explore the world because it’s so easy to live here and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The advantage of being from Europe, or your neck of the woods, is that there are so many different countries and cultures in close proximity that you’re constantly aware how subjective all of our perceptions are — and how that much more important it is to try to communicate with each other. Happy New Year!

  2. Jonathan Lear AWOL
    Sadly, word is that due to the great Midwestern blizzard (which is stretching all the way to the East Coast), Professor Lear won’t be able to make it from Chicago tonight to the “Catastrophe Practice” event. His statement will be read by n+1 editor Marco Roth.

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