Interview with Joe Wos: MazeToons, ToonSeum, and more!



Cartoonist Joe Wos has a varied career, bringing art and cartooning into unexpected venues. He’ll be joining us at Intervention this August, where you can learn more about his current project, MazeToons, as well as how he integrates his art into different parts of his life.

Now, though, you can check out our interview with him to learn more about his career and his inspiration!

Intervention: You’ve had an extremely varied career that brings cartooning into a lot of unexpected areas! What inspired you to combine storytelling and live cartooning?
Wos: I’ve always considered cartoonist to be storytellers first and foremost. But I have to admit the idea of writing a comic strip and then 4 months later getting hate mail never appealed to me! So I wanted something that would give a real connection to the audience, something immediate. So I started coming up with these book ideas, only instead of turning them into books I turned them into stage performances where I would draw the stories as I told them. It was like watching a picture book be created before your eyes. But it had that immediate reaction that few artists get to experience.

Intervention: You also founded Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum. What sort of things could a visitor to the museum expect to see there?
Wos: I founded the ToonSeum and ran it for 7 years. It was a great run and experience. The idea was always to make it more than a museum, more like a community center for geeks. So as amazing as all the art was on the walls, part of the appeal were the events: drink and draw nights, screenings, opening events, and just people who wanted to come in and chat about comics and movies. That’s not to dismiss the art on the walls! We had everything from Mickey Mouse to Jack Kirby and everything in between. The goal was to use Mickey etc. to get them in the doors and then we would educate them on what cartoons and comics really were and what they were about. I called it the broccoli with cheese method.
The exhibits changed frequently so there was always something new to experience. But at the core, the art was about sharing the process, letting people know there were real artist behind every aspect of this art, pencillers, inkers, writers, painters, etc…

Intervention: Tell us a bit about your current project, MazeToons!
Wos: MazeToons is a hybrid game and cartoon. Cartoon illustrated mazes that feature characters or objects integrated into the maze as fully solvable components. I had been drawing them for over 35 years and then one day decided — I want to do this for real. I want this to be my path to syndication. It was a pretty wild dream. Syndication is damn near impossible to break into. Then a miracle happened: I got picked within days of submitting! So now it appears in newspapers but I am hoping to license it to products and more. You can see it at mazetoons.com

Intervention: You’ve combined cartooning with mazes, museums, storytelling, and even music! What would you like to combine your art with next?
Wos: I perform regularly with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and other symphonies, too. It is so much fun to illustrate along with the music. My path in cartooning seems to take as many twists and turns as one of my mazes! So I don’t know what is next for me. I think I’d love to do something on a grand scale, another giant maze mural, or cartoon projections… who knows? Whatever it is, I hope it will be amazing.

Intervention: How can our readers start following MazeToons if they’re just now discovering it?
Wos: PLEASE ask your local newspaper to carry it. Ask you editor to carry MazeToons from Creators Syndicate. It really does help, and it will give you a chance to see and solve my creation. Otherwise you can also visit mazetoons.com… but please ask your newspaper. Otherwise I’ll starve, and no one wants to live up to the stereotype of a starving artist! So feed the artist. Please.

Look forward to meeting Joe Wos and many other artists and creators at Intervention 2015!

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