Tony Cochran, Creator of Agnes

28 December 2001

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   The work of an artist, no matter how talented, does not always make for a comfortable living. Artists occasionally are forced to seek other work to keep bills paid and the hungry wolf from scratching at the door. Tony Cochran, creator ofAgnes, earned income labouring as an auto body repairman to support his household while he waited for his fine art paintings to become famous.Fame and fortune as a fine artist hasn't happened yet.

    Tony Cochran has drawn since he was a wee child, scribbling on everything, including drawing pen-ink tattoos on arms of his young classmates. Tony studied art at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. He continued studies at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio in the late 1970s.

    Through exhibitions at local Ohio galleries, and at the Columbus Museum of Art, Tony Cochran was beginning to make a name for himself in the arts. He received positive reviews and articles in Cleveland and Columbus newspapers, but the financial gains for the fine artist were not forthcoming.

    Just when he was prepared to try something different, something other than fine art, Agnes poked through Cochran's thoughts. The comic strip character borne in his imagination is a young girl with skinny little arms and legs that look like bumpy little sticks. Her feet are scrawny and long with upturned toes and she has a huge head wearing Coke-bottle-bottom thick glasses. Agnes is just bursting with personality, from her oversized creative ideas to her brave survival of the saddest moments.

    Agnes lives with her Grandmother in a trailer park. They are not particularly well off, but her Grandmother does her best to raise her unique grandchild. Agnes attends elementary school, (against her better judgment) with her best friend, Trout.

    Trout plays the practical role of the cartoon, but is equally comedic in appearance, with a scraggly pony tail, large freckles and expressive eyes. She regularly disagrees with Agnes and finds her a source of both rolling-on-the-ground laughter and brow-furrowing aggravation.

    Cochran's chosen setting allows Agnes to be a determined and irrepressible character from the underdog point of view. Cochran says on Creators.com that, "Agnes is a kind of an indomitable spirit... I think a lot of people will identify with her."

    The solitary and loveable little girl persisted in coming to life from Cochran's pen. He makes use of his artist skill and balances it with real-world experience to create a cartoon unlike any other. Agnes began syndication just a few years ago under the Creators Syndicate umbrella.

    The cartoonist has used his newly earned fame to draw attention to literacy issues. On September 8th, 2001, International Literacy Day, Tony joined Jim Davis, creator of "Garfield", Greg Evans, creator of "Luann", Mark O'Neill, creator of "Potluck Parish", and Jeff Mallett, creator of "Frazz" in Cartoonists for Literacy. The group used their clout to help the California Literacy program in the promotion of reading and literacy.

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    In Fall 2001, The Thurber Center Gallery, of The Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio, hosted "Funny Papers: Original Cartoon Art from Ohio." The State of Ohio is home to a growing number of famous cartoons. Just to name a few: "Calvin and Hobbes", "Ziggy", "Superman", James Thurber's cartoons, "Funky Winkerbean", and now, "Agnes".

    Tony Cochran and his comic strip took part in the humourous exhibit and sale of cartoon originals along with Jim Borgman, artist of "Zits", Jeff Smith of "Bone" and Polly Keener of "Hamster Alley". As part of his participation, Tony gave a lecture at The Thurber Center about "the relationship between his ‘fine art' work and cartoon work" on December 4th, 2001.

    Tony Cochran has a soaring imagination. He is able to take a strangely adorable character, load her with charm and charisma, and place her in normal situations with unusual results. He comes up with creative and hilarous storylines that leave readers both sympathetic to his characters and laughing at their predicaments.

    I'm a fan. I just love Agnes.

Creators Syndicate home of Agnes: (You can buy Agnes mugs, notepads, t-shirts and other stuff here, too.)
http://www.creators.com/comics.html

The Thurber House:http://www.thurberhouse.org

© Susanna McLeod 2001
TheCartoonists.ca  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)