Cartland began in September 2011 as my master’s thesis project for the MFA program I was in at Emerson College, but it became much more than that in what proved to be a challenging couple of years in my personal life. The story has continued past graduation, now following Steve and his younger sister Nicole far away from home to separate summer camps, battling enemies on the basketball court, exploring the great outdoors, and tolerating cynical camp counselors.
Inspired by the formal conventions of classic newspaper strips like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes, but unfolding in a continuous serialized narrative, Cartland explores themes of adolescence, transition, growth, and the anxiety involved with coming of age. The characters’ imaginations play a key role in the storytelling of Cartland: Steve thinks more than he speaks, with whole panels and comics often taking the form of thought bubbles emanating from his brain; Nicole is decidedly more verbose than her older brother, but her imagination is on full display in her expository journal entries.
Cartland is a very personal project, which uses the story of a kid named Steve, his sister, and their summer adventures, to explore my own current psychology. The basis of the story is semi-autobiographical – Steve looks and acts like me; Nicole is largely a composite of my two younger sisters; I did in fact work at a go-cart place when I was 16 – but the stories told reflect more on the present than the past. Cartland is created with a healthy combination of ink, late nights, and real life inspiration – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it.
– Jon Dorn, June 2015