John Hambrock, Creator of "The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee"

April 30, 2010

Some people just seem to have it. Creativity pulses through their veins, something concentrated in their blood that finds its way out through the pencil in their hand. John Hambrock, creator of The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, is one of those people.

Born a Fort Wayne, Indiana boy in 1963 with two older brothers, John Hambrock wasn't all that interested in cartooning. His eye was set on the science of marine biology. But the life of sealife investigation and underwater discovery was not in his future; he didn't give up on science but instead Hambrock followed his artistic heart. (In high school, he was voted the most artistic senior male, a sign that his creativity had burst out long before.) Hambrock first attended Indiana University, then transferred to the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. With a Degree in Graphic Design in hand, Hambrock graduated in 1984. In college, Hambrock and a team of three other students won First Place in the Philip Morris National Marketing Competition with the prize of a trip to New York City to accept the honour.

In 1985, Hambrock took a job with Chatenooga, Tennessee design agency, James Courtenay James. He also married Anne Morse. (Extremely talented in her own right, she is a professional musician specializing in the harp with her own performing group, the Anne Morse-Hambrock Jazz Trio. She is a photographer, fine artist, jigsaw-puzzle creator and later became Hambrock's production assistant.) A year later, he returned north to Illinois, working for the Hirsch Design Group in Chicago. It was there, working on the Keebler cracker and cookie account and drawing the elf, Ernie, that the cartooning bug bit.

Edison Lee

It still wasn't quite enough of a bite, though. The talented designer stayed with Hirsch for ten years, then Hambrock opened his own design agency, In-House Communications. A commercial success, In-House Communications produces advertising and design for industrial, retail and legal clients.

Cartoonists John Hambrock

A few years later, the exciting worlds of science, sociat commentary and art combined in Hambrock's mind and the result flowed out onto a piece of paper. Featuring an extraordinary ten-year-old with a bent for science and politics, The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee was picked up by King Features Syndicate. The strip debuted on November 12, 2006. The header of the comic strip sums it up: "If you take a pinch of science, a drop of politics, and a grain of absurdity, you'll almost always get 'The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee'".

"I created this strip purposefully with a little something for everyone," said John Hambrock on King Features' "Daily Ink". "Readers may not always agree with Edison's viewpoints on issues, but I'm hoping that he will at least get them to think for a minute and laugh." Hambrock, noted "Daily Ink", was inspired by "his two young 'brainiac' sons". (The Hambrocks also have a daughter.)

To create the adorable, intelligent and funny Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, Hambrock's professional, vibrant art is created with good old-fashioned #2 pencil then ink and brush. He uses a #3 Rapidograph for lettering, he mentioned in a question-and-answer session on David-Wasting-Paper, all done on Bienfang smooth bristol paper. Scanned into the computer, his wife, Anne, colours the strips with a Mac. Along with the superior-intellect of Edison, the main characters include the boy's lab assistant, who is a ragged mouse called "Joules" (of course!), along with Edison's normal parents and his grumbling grandfather.

Brilliant Edison Lee

Hambrock's enjoyment and hard effort with his comic has earned him a coveted nomination in the "Newspaper Comic Strips" category by the National Cartoonists Society for this year's awards, to be held in May 2010 in New York City. The competition is stiff with "Non Sequitur" by the hilariously wry Wiley Miller and "Zits" by the talented Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott also in the running. That's going to be a tough choice - they are all really, really good.

Visit The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee for more information about the comic strip. Be sure to check the "Behind the Scenes" and "Lab Notes" sections. It's worth the click. Good luck at the NCS Awards, John Hambrock. You've created a great comic that is, well... brilliant!

"Images are the property of King Features Syndicate and John Hambrock.

© Susanna McLeod 2010