Jimmy Johnson (cartoonist)

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Jimmy Johnson is an American comic strip cartoonist who writes and draws Arlo and Janis.

Johnson was born and grew up in Lanett, Alabama, graduating from Lanett High School in 1970. He is an alumnus of Auburn University, class of 1974.

"My earliest cartoon work was copying Fred and Barney and Yogi Bear. I became quite proficient and was able to amaze my friends," wrote Johnson.[1] Johnson credits his mother with being especially supportive of his early artwork.

As a young man just out of college, Johnson briefly worked as a reporter and in the public relations department of Auburn University.[2] In the years before Arlo and Janis, from about 1980 to 1985, Johnson drew cartoons professionally for newspapers. He did so on a part-time basis when he was a reporter and editor, and then full-time as an editorial cartoonist in Jackson, Mississippi. While employed in this role, Johnson won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Award.

From 1985 to the present, Johnson has drawn Arlo and Janis for national syndication by NEA. Johnson said, "At the time I sold Arlo & Janis to the newspaper syndicate United Media in 1985, there were a lot of 'talking animal' strips. Newspaper editors reacted to this by demanding more comic strips about human beings, particularly young families. So, it really was a market-driven thing."[3]

Johnson cites Mort Walker as an influence on his comic strip work, putting him at the head of "a cabal of talented and successful humorists who were redefining the newspaper comic strip in a post-war world." Mel Lazarus, Johnny Hart, Dik Browne, Charles Schulz, Bud Blake are also mentioned. "As a youngster, I read them all in their heyday," Johnson recalls. "These men were the primary influence upon me, and foremost among them was the enterprising and prolific Walker."[4]

Unsatisfied with the line-quality produced when he experimented with markers, Johnson draws the strip in traditional comic strip fashion, "with an old-fashioned pen nib and India ink on 2-ply Bristol paper."[3] But Johnson, nodding to modernity, scans the finished drawings for transmission to the syndicate editors. Syndicate colorists colored the daily strips until 2018, when Johnson took on the work. He has long used Photoshop to color the Sunday strips himself.

In his comic strip about a small family, Johnson, the former reporter and editorial cartoonist, presents political and social commentary through his characters. Of course humor is also integral, and Johnson writes "jokes about many different subjects, not unlike stand-up comedians do." Much of the strip's content is grounded in "Arlo and Janis' love and continued desire for each other."[3] Johnson's signature style is notable for undeniable sexual suggestiveness, so much so that "The Arlo Award" is awarded to "Cartoonists Who Slip One by the Syndicate's Censors."[5]

Johnson was at one time married to author Rheta Grimsley Johnson, and the two remain good friends.[6][7]

As of 2006, despite the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, he still owns a home in Pass Christian, Mississippi.[8]

On April 3, 2006, he suffered a mild heart attack.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Arlo and Janis Home Page". Arloandjanis.com. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  2. ^ "» You say Francis…". Arlo & Janis Blog. Arloandjanis.com. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  3. ^ a b c McLeod, Susanna (25 March 2012). "Interview with Jimmy Johnson, Creator of 'Arlo & Janis'". The Cartoonists. Thecartoonists.ca. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  4. ^ "Mort est mort". Arloandjanis.com. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 2018-01-28. 
  5. ^ Bickel, Bill. "CIDU's and Don'ts: The FAQ". =Comics I Don't Understand. Retrieved 1 January 2013. For those of you who are new here, we’ve moved a bit beyond just explaining comics: We also have special sections for the Arlo Page (comics you don’t want to explain to the kids) and the related Arlo Award (comics that appeared in mainstream newspapers which somehow slipped by the syndicate’s censors — this being one of the more blatant examples). 
  6. ^ "» A true story". Arlo & Janis Blog. Arloandjanis.com. 20 March 2008. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  7. ^ Johnson, Rheta Grimsley; White, Bailey (2008). Poor Man's Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana. NewSouth Books. p. 88. 
  8. ^ Johnson, Jimmy. "Sept. 5 - Nov. 11". Arloandjanis.com. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 

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