Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Way of the Geek #15: Mark Anderson!

Mark Anderson is the proprietor of the Andertoons.com website, from which he also posts a daily blog that I believe would be of interest to my fellow geeks! Mark grew up in Iowa, the youngest of four children. These days, he lives in the Chicago area with his wife, two kids, dog, two cats, “and numerous dust bunnies.” Mark is a professional cartoonist (the first featured on “The Way of the Geek”), whose work has been published in such varied publications as Reader's Digest, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, Barrons, Woman's World and many others. His cartoons also appear on greeting cards.

Mark is into a wide range of geekery. “I love it all!” he said, “Superheroes, LEGO, Star Wars, Star Trek and of course, cartoons!” He recalled loving comics and comic books growing up. “I used to trace them constantly on this plastic Spider-Man light-up tracing desk,” he reminisced, “and I played with LEGO pretty much nonstop. Then I saw Star Wars and the rest was history.”

Given that Mark was much younger than his siblings, and the kids in his neighborhood were more into GI Joe, he said he grew up as “the classic lonely bespectacled geek.” Like many of his fellow geeks, Mark didn't manage to hold onto his childhood possessions, he said. “Sadly all my LEGO, comic books and Star Wars action figures have been relegated to the dustbin of history. Sigh...” But as an adult, he's renewed his interest in LEGO, and these days, “My office is now filled with thousands and thousands and thousands of LEGO. It's kind of ridiculous.” While he didn't rebuy his old comics or Star Wars action figures, he did admit to having a healthy modern collection of both. One childhood item he does hope to find again is that Spider-Man light-up tracing desk, “but no luck so far,” he indicated.

Given what he had to say about his LEGO collection (his prized geek possession), it should come as no surprise that his office is “crammed with great geekiness galore!”

In his younger days growing up in Iowa, there were no conventions to go to. He joked, “Unless it was livestock related there was really nowhere to go.” These days, he regularly attends the Festival of Cartoon Art, Wizard World, C2E2, SPX, and Brickworld. Of those, he reported, “I sold a lot at SPX, so that's great, and reconnecting with cartooning friends at the Festival is awesome, but going to Brickworld with my son is the best.”

As a professional cartoonist, Mark's been lucky enough to meet many of his cartooning idols, and recalled “Jules Feiffer and I just sat around for a while once and talked about our kids. That was awesome.”

One might assume that Mark's LEGO obsession is the geekiest thing he's into, but he'd disagree, saying, “that's becoming more and more mainstream all the time. Probably trombone. I was a music major in college, and I geek out about trombones.” These days, most of Mark's time is spent working on his cartoons and being a stay-at-home day, but whenever he can, he get his LEGOs out and builds!

Mark first started his blog as a marketing/SEO thing, but admitted that it's kind of a labor of love now. When asked about the evolution of his blog, he said, “I think I've been able to find a good middle ground between writing and researching really lengthy articles and just throwing up a picture. I aim for more of a middle ground now, and I talk about more than just cartoons.”

Like many of his fellow bloggers, recurring features are a part of his blogging. “I work best with a plan, so a while back I set up Mondays as music, Tuesdays as featuring cartoons of mine, Wednesday as LEGO, Thursday and comics, and Friday as business stuff. Of course I often add more during the week, but that's my basic outline.”

Mark's favorite blogs out there are Mike Lynch's cartoon blog, io9, The Brothers Brick, FBTB, Cul de Sac, Lifehacker, Small Business Trends, Laughing Squid and TUAW. That's a pretty cool mix of blogs, if you ask me!

Obviously, LEGO is a big part of Mark's geekery. He noted that his family was taken by surprised by that early on, “but now it's just part of my overall geekiness.” One of his current LEGO projects is a series of spaceships inspired by letters of the alphabet. “I've got 3 to go,” he noted in February, when this interview was conducted (and I'd imagine by the time this sees print, he'll have completed those).

When it's time to geek shop, Mark heads to his local comics shop, the LEGO Store, and “wherever else I can,” he said. He also does a lot of geek purchasing on eBay (like many of us). He admitted, “For a while I was buying cartoon and comic playing cards through eBay, scanning them, and blogging about it. I've got thousands of cards up on Flickr.” Sounds like I may have competition for the largest Flickr archive!

Mark's geek inspirations are a varied lot, and he includes among them George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, Charles M. Schulz, Bill Watterson, and George Carlin. Of the latter, Mark enthused, “That guy had a geeky love of language that I share.”

Asked about what his geek interests mean to him, Mark explained, “I'm basically a giant man-boy, so I think basically it's a way to stay connected to that child-like spirit of play and fun and goofiness.” And to his fellow geeks, his parting words are, “Get thee to The LEGO Store!”

Thanks, Mark!

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