9-year-old artist finds comfort in comic book panels


SIOUX FALLS (AP) – There’s a cast of characters in William Korman’s head, and the 9-year-old is bringing them to life panel by panel.

William, a fourth grader at Jefferson Elementary School in Pierre, is an aspiring newspaper comic artist. Starting with sketches from the how-to-draw sections of Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man” graphic novel series, he learned to favor cartoon drawing over a more realistic art style.

William usually shows his comics to friends and family, but he recently submitted his first comic publicly in a letter to the Argus Leader. He also has the draft of a letter to “Garfield” creator Jim Davis written and ready, in case William “wants to get to know him better.” He hasn’t decided whether he wants to send that one just yet.

Creating impossible scenarios without the need for context is well suited to William’s wild imagination and humor style.

“In cartoons, you can do whatever you want,” said William. “But if you’re trying to make a comic happen in real life, you can’t just have an anvil falling from the sky. Unless there was a dispenser or something above them.”

One comic, titled “Punchline,” shows dinosaurs on a stage. A dinosaur is reading a script for the “Punchline” comic he is starring in and says he doesn’t find it funny. The inspiration for this comic started when his little sister mentioned a “supersaurus,” or superhero dinosaur, at lunch one day. William decided that dinosaurs doing human activities would make a good joke.

“If there’s something that happens that’s funny in real life, I might build off of that and try to put it in a more cartoony form,” he said.

William’s mom, Joy, said that his style is largely influenced by those he reads in books and newspapers. His dry wit, often breaking the fourth wall, comes from classic newspaper comics like Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” and Jim Davis’ “Garfield.” It’s unusual humor for a 9-year-old.

“We encourage exploration of all different creative areas, and this is one he’s held onto tight,” said Joy.

While his cartoonist heroes focus their body of work on a single character, William finds that limiting. He prefers to bring as many characters to life as possible.

“I get lots of inspiration and it’s hard for me to just stick to one basic comic,” he said. “Sometimes in school, when I’m supposed to be doing math or something, a cartoon character will come up and just flick into my brain. I try to still pay attention, but I try to keep it on my mind so I don’t forget and can try sketching it out when I’m done.”

William said his homework load has lessened since schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, so he has more time to draw. His comics are a welcome source of comfort in otherwise uncertain times.

“Sometimes I can just kind of break down because I can’t see my friends or I’m scared something’s going to happen to my grandparents,” said William. “So it kind of helps keep my mind off something that might make me sad or fearful.”

When William is not drawing, he enjoys reading, watching Star Wars and playing Minecraft with friends online. In fact, a new comic idea of his involves Jedi made out of Minecraft blocks.

Joy is glad to see her son’s artistic side growing, but said it has literally started expanding all over the house. She finds papers full of drawings in the car, under the couch, on every table and spread across the floor.

“There’s this war of, I love the creativity, and I love that he’s letting it all flow onto paper, but it’s a mess,” she said.

Whether he meets the greats or not, William is determined to build a career out of his drawings and learn what life is like for professional cartoonists. He’s waiting for the day when he will earn a weekly slot in the comics section of the Sunday newspaper.

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