Cartoons Are My Livelihood
I first learned how to draw cartoons by studying the comics section of the Sunday World-Herald. I would spend hours on the living room floor, or in my bedroom, sheets of paper and pens and crayons spread around me, trying my best to recreate Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the many other characters that populated the Sunday Funnies.
My father, however, took a dim view of such endeavors. It’s not that he wasn’t supportive of my wanting to become an artist. After all, he was a singer and musician and very much understood my drive and passion. The issue for him had everything to do with my not coming up with my own characters.
“Be unique,” he would say. “Be original.”
I would pout, of course, and throw away my sketches. But I couldn’t seem to stay away from my sketchbooks for very long.
To impress him, to show him that I was capable of coming up with my own characters, I created Dogie The Doggie—whom I declared was the “first dog on the moon.” In addition to drawing, I also had a profound love of space exploration—an interest that I shared with my father.
Dogie, however, would soon end up in a box or drawer someplace and I would move on to drawing other characters—mainly political figures and other newsmakers—eventually becoming an editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald.
Over the years I hadn’t given much thought to Dogie. That is, not until 2009, when I was contacted by Nebraska-born astronaut, Clayton Anderson. Clay asked if I would be willing to create two original cartoons that he could take along during his next trip aboard space shuttle Discovery.
I was, of course, thrilled with the opportunity.
One cartoon idea came easily: in the first panel, Clay is looking out his window of the shuttle, “Gazing upon the world.” In the second panel, I’m in the window of the newspaper’s office building, looking up, “Gazing from the World-Herald.”
I was, however, at a loss for a second idea.
And then it came to me.
Finally, he would make it into space.
Jeff Koterba joined the Omaha World Herald in 1989. His cartoons are distributed by King Features Syndicate to 400 newspapers nationwide, and have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, and on CNN.
In 2010, two of Koterba’s cartoons flew aboard space shuttle Discovery.
In 2000, and again in 2012, Koterba placed second in the National Headliner Awards.
In 2002, he was named a finalist for Editorial Cartoonist of the Year from the National
Cartoonists Society. In 2009 and 2010, he won first place for editorial cartooning in the
Great Plains Journalism Awards.
In 1983, while studying journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Koterba
received the Mark of Excellence Award for editorial cartooning from the Society of
His original drawings have been collected by Oprah, Warren Buffett, and many others.
His memoir, Inklings (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) traces Koterba’s path on his journey to become a cartoonist, and more so, to rediscover the love of his family that was there from the start. Inklings was named a Chicago Tribune Favorite Nonfiction book of 2009. Entertainment Weekly called Inklings “…a powerful and moving portrait of an artist.”
He has written for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and ABC News.