Inked adventures: Graphic novelist Jonathan Case explores issues

July 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

By Melissa Wagoner

Jonathan Case

Jonathan Case is the author and artist behind books including The New Deal from Dark Horse Comics

The comic books Jonathan Case creates are not run-of-the-mill comics. 

“It’s less about what other people have done in the past and more about what can I do with it to reach people in the world,” Case said of the inspiration that led him to create a host of graphic novels including Dear Creature, his first published book; The New Deal, a nominee for the Reuben, Harvey, and Oregon Book awards for best graphic album; and Green River Killer, for which he received an Eisner Award.

But forging a career as a comic book artist hasn’t always come easy.

“It wasn’t – hey, do your own thing,” Case recalled. “I had to figure out where do you say no? And when do you take a risk? Because some advanced me monetarily but didn’t advance my dream.”

And that dream hasn’t always been straightforward. Case originally earned a degree in theater from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia – where many of his friends went on to careers in film and video. He saw himself moving in that direction as well until chance circumstances led to a revelation.

“I got really ill and I thought ‘what do I want to do with my life?’” Case said. “Then I found my way back to a love for cartooning… But trying to meet editors when you have no background in a thing is difficult.”

Thankfully the publication of Dear Creature – the story of Grue, a mutant sea creature with a healthy appetite for Shakespeare – opened many doors, providing Case with the opportunity to explore his talents further. 

“My books are fiction that is fueled by my own interest, the moment in time and my own gleanings,” Case said. “Whether that’s the children’s adventure story that I just finished or the previous work [The New Deal], that’s inspired by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 1930s. I used that as a vehicle to explore some things that you might not have seen in the movies around class and race.”

Originally finding inspiration through his avid consumption of other forms of media, Case’s muse has recently evolved, becoming more environmental in nature. Which is the primary reason he, his wife Sarah, and their two daughters, recently left their home in Portland, relocating to Silverton during the summer of 2020. 

“I reached this point where I was more inspired by getting out in natural settings,” Case said. “I wanted to be in a place where that’s somewhat easier.”

While settling into his new hometown, Case has also been finishing his latest book, Little Monarchs – due out in spring 2022 – the result of 10 years of work, research and extensive travel.

“The book follows a brilliant biologist who is a caretaker for a little girl,” Case explained. “The two of them are traveling through a post-apocalyptic landscape following the monarch butterfly migration.”

Once published, readers will be able to follow the monarchs’ unique flight path using detailed navigation points Case sprinkled throughout the narrative. 

“I went to these places and took the journey,” Case said. “I wanted to give myself a reason to get out and explore that fit into my work. I think it’s also related to wanting to see the world through fresh eyes, not just be the curmudgeonly dad shut in his office, but engage with my kids.”

Because, while Case is grateful to be doing the work that he loves, the hundreds of hours it takes to produce a single graphic novel – which must sometimes be redrawn six to eight times – can take a toll on both body and mind. 

“Sitting for that long every day… I need a big dose of real-life adventure,” Case said. 

And he’s hoping his readers will find the adventure in his books as well, whether that means following the path of the monarch or that of an artist. 

“Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission or a budget,” Case advised. “And don’t worry about a degree, it’s not necessarily a stepping stone for developing a life as an artist. The reality is, you have to be motivated to learn and seek out mentors and community if you don’t have it around you.”

That’s something Case plans to do as well, as COVID restrictions have eased and he can finally get a real sense of his new home. 

“I haven’t met that many people yet,” he said. “But I do get the sense that there’s a real appreciation for the arts here.”

To view Case’s work or to purchase books, visit 

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