Cartooning Professionally

The Frisco STYLE Magazine calendar gives local residents a rundown of all the exciting activities happening in and around the city every month. The dates and times for holidays, special events, festivals, library activities, sporting events and more can be easily accessed by readers. No one in Frisco has an excuse to be bored! As you know, there is also a funny and colorful cartoon located below the calendar. It is always worth a chuckle, and it is brought to readers month after month by local artist, Cal Slayton. He has been amusing readers with his creativity and comic book-like sense of humor since 2006.

Mr. Slayton was born in northeastern Arkansas, and he “cannot remember not drawing.” He says, “My mom painted and could draw. She did not do it for a living, just here and there. I have a brother who is six years older than me and he drew too, so it was always around.”

Mr. Slayton always seemed to gravitate toward cartoons and comic books as inspiration for his own work. “I just grew up drawing, watching reruns of the 1960s ‘Batman,’ Saturday morning cartoons and reading comics,” he says. Mr. Slayton and his brother spent most of their free time as kids making up their own superheroes and comic book covers. The seeds of Mr. Slayton’s career of creative illustrating were planted early.

Mr. Slayton stayed somewhat close to home when he went to college, studying graphic design and illustration at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He graduated in 1992, and continued drawing while doing graphic design as his primary job.

Over the years, Mr. Slayton has worked on a variety of different projects. His first published work appeared in Shades of Blue, a comic book series. Another recurring series of projects he works on are sketch concepts. Mr. Slayton explains, “They are like trading cards. When ‘The Avengers’ movie comes out, they will print out packs of cards (similar to baseball cards) and there is a set of about 100 photos from the movie. People try to collect the whole set. They hire artists and send them blank cards. Artists draw characters on the cards and mail them back. The company randomly inserts them in packs so a collector can get a one-of-a-kind piece of art. It is a collectable, so people trade them and sell them.” Mr. Slayton has illustrated for “Star Wars,” Marvel Comics and DC Comics, all for different movies.

Much like many of our beloved superhero characters, Mr. Slayton has a mild-mannered day job. Since 2006, he has worked for United American Insurance Company and currently serves as a senior graphic designer. “We do all kinds of magazines, ads, brochures, banners and more.” He helps companies with their marketing by day and creates alternate comic universes by night.

Mr. Slayton has also worked with Frisco STYLE Magazine since 2006. Each issue has an overall theme that serves as the tone for the articles, pictures and illustrations. “They come up with the idea and I illustrate it for them. I try to translate what they want,” Mr. Slayton said. He provides the monthly comic and the occasional illustration for an article.

If you remember The Dallas Morning News’ short-lived Quick newspaper, you will be interested to know that Mr. Slayton also illustrated the weekly cartoon, known as “Listoons.” While living out his dream as an illustrator, Mr. Slayton is involved in creative endeavors that keep him very busy. For example, there is a comic book Mr. Slayton is a huge fan of that he is talking with about producing cover art and “Texas Zombie Wars,” a movie, contacted him and asked him to do an eight-page comic as a promotional piece.

Mr. Slayton is also available for hire for commissioned art. If you are a fan of a particular character or you would love to see you and your family members battling zombies in an illustration, he can make it a reality. “My work kind of comes to me,” Mr. Slayton says.

When looking through the archives of creative work on his website, it would be difficult not to be impressed. There are a wide variety of characters and cartoon styles, and they are all so well done. When asked what makes him unique as an artist, he replies, “I think it may be my ‘cartoony’ style when it comes to my type of art. I still like a lot of 1970s and 1980s comic book art. I like to mix it in with the ‘Batman’ animated style that came in the 1990s, with simple, clean lines and not too many details. These are just the elements you need to get the point across in the illustration.”

Over the years, Mr. Slayton has done comic books, magazine design, art direction, spot illustrations, book covers, brochures, logos and more. Whether a company needs corporate work or someone needs a commissioned piece, he is up for the challenge.

These days, Mr. Slayton says he does not have that much spare time. He and his wife of 11 years are big readers, and their 6-and-a-half-year-old son is becoming interested as well. They watch movies, binge watch telvision shows(he says he approves of the Netflix “Daredevil” series) and he likes to go to museums and local events with his son. His wife’s side of the family lives in the area, so they have the opportunity to get together quite often.

The artistic gene seems to have carried over to Mr. Slayton’s son, too. The father and son duo draws together quite often. Mr. Slayton encourages his son’s interest through different artistic exercises where they work together to create one completed character or piece.

If you ask Mr. Slayton which comic book character he is most interested in, he would say Batman. “I tended to go more Marvel than DC overall, but as far as singular characters, I prefer Batman.” And if you ask anyone who is interested in the comic book world, the “Marvel versus DC debate” can go on for hours, or even days. He says he enjoys Marvel’s “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four,” and he says, “It is exciting that my kid is way into Batman, too.”

Many people say there is always a deeper story behind an artist’s work. While a monthly cartoon may appear simple, it is influenced by everything Mr. Slayton enjoys, both as a child and now as an adult. There is a bit of fun and quirkiness to his art that harkens back to so many readers’ childhoods, which can unintentionally make us nostalgic. His unique art will remind you of getting the Sunday paper delivered to the house and begging your parents to read the comic strips. Go to calslayton.com to check out some of his awesome creations. Whether you like zombie cartoons and comic book illustrations or you want to see some of Mr. Slayton’s graphic design or logo work, you can find it all on his website.

Christi Redfearn is a wife, mom and Aggie in search of that perfect lap time in her weekend race car.