Cartoonist Catana Chetwynd on Romance and Comics

Cartoonist Catana Chetwynd and her partner, John, get Snug at the Arvada Center on February 23.
Cartoonist Catana Chetwynd and her partner, John, get Snug at the Arvada Center on February 23. Catana Chetwynd
Catana Chetwynd’s readership for Catana Comics — an online series that documents her real-world romance with her partner, John — is measured in the millions. Fans make it part of their regular online diet of cartoon consumption, and more recently have begun to gobble her comics up in print, through her first collection, Little Moments of Love, and her latest, Snug.

On Sunday, February 23, Chetwynd will stop in Denver — along with partner and fellow strip character John — for a reading and signing of Snug, at the Arvada Center. We took the opportunity to speak with her about her work, her new book, and just how this romance thing works.

Westword: You're coming to the Arvada Center in connection with the new collection Snug. Given that comics are such a visual medium, what do you have planned?

Catana Chetwynd: The tour stops are a little different for each location. Sometimes we do a Q&A; sometimes we do a little talk. But mostly, it's an opportunity to meet some fans on an individual level, get to talk to them face-to-face, answer any questions they have or just chat and sign their books.

You and your partner John are touring together. What made you decide to make it a team-up?

We decided to make our tour a duo for many reasons. First and foremost, the fans just really, genuinely, want to meet John. His character is in 100 percent of the comics, and a lot of people identify with him. It's fun for them to get to meet him, too.

Let’s talk about the comic. Can you tell us how the strip began?

The strip began a few years ago on Thanksgiving. I was telling John about the "mere exposure effect" which basically just implies that the more often you see someone, the more likely they are to like you. John thought it would be hilarious for me to make a comic about me trying to see him more often in an effort to get him to like me. It was a very random suggestion considering I hadn't made comics before — at least not since childhood. I'm so thankful every day that he made that suggestion, because it all comes back to that!

What was the build-up of popularity like? When was the first time that you thought, “Hey, this is actually a thing?"

Watching the comics grow has been such a fun adventure. In the beginning, it was overwhelming in a good way. I still don't know if the popularity of the comics has really "hit us." We are still not used to it, and I don't know if we ever will be.

Andrews McMeel Publishing
You’ve said in the past that being a cartoonist was a childhood dream of yours. Who were your cartooning idols? What were your favorite cartoons and comics?

My favorite comics growing up were Calvin and Hobbes, Get Fuzzy and Spy vs Spy. I read and re-read their books time and time again. It really doesn't get any better than Bill Watterson. His style and storytelling skills are truly just in a realm of their own.

Who’s doing amazing work in the field now? Any web comics you want to recommend?

There are so many fantastic web comic artists out there! Right now John and I love to follow false-knees, which is a comic about birds, but done in beautiful watercolor. The art is amazing, and the humor is just hilarious every time.

The core of Catana Comics is romantic intimacy in the real world; do you draw everything from personal experience, or are some of the strips just based on ideas that occur to you in the creative process?

Pretty much all of the comics are real-life experiences that occur with me and John. Sometimes there's a little "working backwards" going on, where I have to change or add things to make it work. But mostly it's all pretty accurate. Nothing in life happens in four-panel sequences, so of course there is inevitably a little tweaking going on, but we try to keep the comics as real as possible.

Ever worry that you’ll run out of ideas to write about?

I sometimes worry about running out of ideas, but then I realize that the more we go through life, the more things will happen and the more we'll have to write about. Nearly every day, something comic-worthy happens; you just have to look hard enough.

Denver has a number of comic conventions, from the indie-comic event DiNK to the much wider lens of Denver Pop Culture Con. We covered your appearance at DiNK last year, but have you been to other cons here in Colorado?

We've actually only been to DiNK. We had a blast at DiNK. We were able to meet comic creators that I was frankly starstruck to meet, as well as some really awesome fans. It's always fun to get comic lovers in the same place all together. It's just such an atmosphere of eclectic joy.

Let’s finish up with some advice about the subject of the strip itself: What’s the most romantic thing a couple can do for each other?

I think the most romantic thing a couple can do for each other is listen. And then it grows from there. If you remember their favorite coffee, what granola bar they swear increases their energy, what their favorite cafe is and when their specials are, it shows. You are able to give them experiences, gifts and conversations that really reflect how important they are to you and how much you are paying attention.

Catana Chetwynd brings her new collection, Snug, to the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 23. Tickets are $22 and include a copy of the book; found out more on the Arvada Center website.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen