Family-Friendly Publisher Voyage Comics Brings Back “Sunday Funnies” Format With The ‘Catholic Cartoon Collection’ By Young Adult Cartoonist Joshua Masterson
For almost a century, the comic strips in the Sunday paper were an unbending institution of American life. They also helped propagate an art form. All the Golden Age comic creators got their start in strips, and while many of them moved up to the big time at Marvel and DC, there were others who stayed behind to make cornerstone content in the papers.
Dick Tracy, Dilbert, Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, The Far Side, Family Circus, Calvin & Hobbs, and many more were hallmarks of the medium. Spider-Man had a rather popular strip too that spawned some memorable storylines such as The Mutant Agenda crossover with Beast and the X-Men.
Despite all the seminal titles and groundbreaking, the ‘Sunday Funnies’ as they’re often called became a dinosaur in recent years between the advent of the Internet and shrinking print circulation. The obsolescence, however, might be readying for a sea change, and a young artist right out of high school could be the one leading the way.
Joshua Masterson is the creative force behind The Catholic Cartoon, a strip gaining popularity on Instagram that he draws himself with pen and paper. A product of home-schooling and a religious upbringing, Masterson aims to bring family values and wholesomeness back to comics in his little way.
“It is just good, wholesome humor, which is something we do not have a lot of,” he said to America Magazine last year. “[Nowadays] it is just a lot of crass, inappropriate, impure humor.” America, a Jesuit publication, describes “The Catholic Cartoon” as “a slice-of-life humor comic that follows Father Otto, a blond-haired, big-nosed priest encountering the various stresses and joys of service.”
The strip has its tongue firmly in cheek, but Masterson is unafraid of dabbling in serious subject matter from Roe v. Wade to gun culture. In other instances, he knows when to be serious and contemplative. “Every once in a while, I try to do a more spiritual and serious one,” he explained. “With a meditation or a prayer, and it is a very nice, serious picture. And it kind of draws people into it, slowly.”
Masterson’s faith is paramount to him and influences his work down to his choice of influences. Bil Keane, the creator behind the aforementioned “Family Circus”, is his biggest inspiration. “Bil Keane was one of the few that did spiritual comic strips. He mentioned church; he was not afraid to mention his faith in his comic strips, and he would do these more—not very exclusive to Catholicism—but very wholesome, prayerful moments.”
He mentioned bringing these sorts of moments to church bulletins – which don’t always have the room — but Masterson has done better than that. Voyage Comics, a growing Catholic publishing house that shares his values and vision, compiled The Catholic Cartoon into a collection available for preorder.
“Enjoy the fun, hectic, and holy moments of the everyday life of Fr. Otto and his parish in this very first Catholic Cartoon collection!” says the summary in Voyage’s online store. At 156 pages, The Catholic Cartoon Collection: No. 1 is a paperback appropriate for all ages.
“I want to bring joy to the world with the gifts God has given me, but also to build up his kingdom, to raise the hearts and minds of his people to him using my gifts. Art has a very special way of doing that, raising your heart and mind to a higher plane of thinking,” Masterson said.
“It might sound really ridiculous and silly, but even [with] my comic strips, people have come to me and they have told me some of these have meant a lot to them [and] have really touched them,” he added. “When I hear that, I am like, that is exactly what I want. That is exactly what I want for this.”
The Catholic Cartoon Collection costs $16.99 and preorders ship by December 4th.