Cartoonist learns the hard way how demanding his craft can be

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA‒ Shortly after arriving in Japan in 2003, cartoonist Lars Martinson began work on Tonoharu, a graphic novel about the experience. He estimated that he would finish the book in two or three years. Now, more than seven years later, he has just reached the halfway point.

It’s a familiar story in the world of independent comics. When cartoonist Chris Ware began Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, he figured he’d be done with it in a summer; it ended up taking six years. Charles Burns spent a decade drawing his graphic novel Black Hole. Art Spiegelman devoted thirteen years to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus.

If Lars continues at his current pace, Tonoharu will take him even longer. So what is it about graphic novels that makes them so time-consuming?

“Unlike movies that have crews of hundreds, independent comics are usually the product of just one person,” Lars said. “It’s great in that they give you complete creative control, but they take a lot longer to finish, especially if you have an intricate art style.”

Tonoharu certainly falls into that camp. The book’s tight crosshatching is more evocative of woodblock prints than comic book illustration.

“I’ve always admired the detailed engravings in books from the nineteenth century, and felt that style would be a good fit for Tonoharu,” Lars said. “If I had known how long it would take, I might have reconsidered!”

Tonoharu: Part One is available now; the follow-up Tonoharu: Part Two hits shelves this December. For further details, visit:

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Yup, it’s press release season folks, where I write “articles” in the third person talking about how great I am. (That’s right, they’re boastful and deceitful! Yay!)

BTW, if anyone knows of a good way to disseminate press releases, lemme know; I have to plead ignorance on that point.

  • Kim

    Hey Lars, just wanted to say that your comics are great! I just wanted to ask, do you know how many more parts Tonoharu will have?

  • Lars Martinson

    Hey Kim, thanks for the kind words!

    It’s four parts total, so I’m halfway done… sigh…


    PS–Checked out your website; like the Batman/cupcake illustration! (^ ^)b