Online rosary

‘The Catholic Cartoon’: This 19-year-old wants to bring an Instagram comic to your church bulletin

If you’ve been scrolling through Instagram lately, you may have come across a comic doing the rounds on social media, and may soon hit your local parish.

“The Catholic Cartoon” is an online comic book written and illustrated by 19-year-old Joshua Masterson of Volo, Illinois. A Catholic homeschooler, part-time produce salesman and fifth of 10 children, Mr. Masterson has garnered tens of thousands of Instagram followers since his first comic in April, with each post steadily getting hundreds of likes .

The comic is a humorous slice-of-life comic that follows Father Otto, a blonde-haired, big-nosed priest dealing with the various stresses and joys of service. Originally a silent protagonist who passively absorbed the chaos around him, Father Otto became an active, playful character in his own right. He will try to grow a beard for a whole week, listen to the suggestion of two altar servers of a holy water balloon beat and make spicy pasta for Pentecost to create literal tongues of fire.

“The Catholic Cartoon” is a humorous slice-of-life comic that follows Father Otto, a blonde-haired, big-nosed priest dealing with the various stresses and joys of service.

“It’s just good, wholesome humor, which we don’t have a lot of,” Mr. Masterson said in an interview with America, explaining his reasoning behind the tape. “[Nowadays] it’s just a lot of crude, inappropriate and unclean humor.

Father Otto is sometimes joined by Deacon Bobthe straight man of Father Otto’s most comical antics, and Father Val, the senior member of the clergy trio. He also has a spotted dog named Domino and a black cat named Hippo.

There are also occasional comments on current events of interest to Catholics. Mr. Masterson had Father Otto in a weekday single-panel comic to celebrate the cancellation of Roe v. Wade and a Sunday strip where Father Otto expresses concern over an altar server’s joke about a gun in the church. A recent comic strip shows Father Otto decked out in Rambo Outfit before going to recite the rosary, a sting on a controversial article of Atlantic on the association of prayer beads with gun culture in some online communities.

However, the band doesn’t always try to make its own case based on daily news. Sometimes the band will become silent, Father Otto praying at the Crucifix or honor the feast of corpus Christiallowing readers to contemplate in a moment for themselves.

“Once in a while I try to make it more spiritual and serious,” Mr. Masterson says, “with a meditation or a prayer, and it’s a really nice serious picture. And that kind of draws people in, slowly.

With his black-and-white daily strips and “Sunday Funnies” color strips, Mr. Masterson aims to return to an older tradition of comics. One of his clearest influences both in style and creed is Bill Keanthe creator of the equally wholesome Catholic comic strip “The Family Circus”.

With his black-and-white daily strips and “Sunday Funnies” color strips, Mr. Masterson aims to return to an older tradition of comics.

“Bil Keane was one of the few,” Mr. Masterson says, “who did witty comics. He mentioned the church; he wasn’t afraid to mention his faith in his comics, and he would do more – not very exclusive to Catholicism – but very wholesome prayer times.

“There is a very important“, continued Mr. Masterson, “where I think it’s Jeffy – he has red hair – and he’s praying, and it’s a thought bubble, and in that thought bubble is the world. So he prays for the whole world. It’s a very wholesome thing to see, very clean and pure. There’s something about cleanliness that people miss [but they] want to. Bil Keane was really great with that.

The widespread shutdown of newspapers – or their transition to online-only publications – has affected Catholic media as well as the industry as a whole, including many comics that traditionally rely on newspaper syndication. The 2014 documentary ” Bare “, which stars Jeff Keane, Bil Keane’s son and the current force behind “Family Circus”, goes into more detail about it.

In a media environment normally hostile to print storytelling, Masterson thinks he may have found an underexplored avenue to share his tape. “Churches are still making bulletins [in] print, so I thought it would be cool to have my comic in those newsletters, and it can be something a little bit special,” Mr. Masterson said.

Mr. Masterson advertises at the end of his Instagram posts directly to parishes who want his strip inserted into their church bulletins. So far, he’s in talks with his local parish of St. Peter’s Church in Volo, Illinois, and two others across the country to test the waters by having the tape appear once a month.

“You have to start somewhere, right? said Mr. Masterson. “There are a lot of people there, and I think it’s just a very unique thing to have. I think it will make the newsletter even more special and make people read the newsletter, actually.

“I had followed him on Instagram and loved his work,” Suzanna Linton, parish secretary at St. Anthony’s Church in Florence, SC, said in an email to America. The church had used a tape of Mr Masterson in the July 24 newsletter, after Ms Linton contacted Mr Masterson.

“We use a newsletter service that provides things like comics, but I preferred Joshua’s work. I felt like he had more heart and the humor was not trivial,” Ms Linton said.

“I want to bring joy to the world with the gifts God has given me,” Mr. Masterson said.

However, that doesn’t mean going from digital to print is an easy process. Busy seasons for a parish could leave less room for a comic, Linton pointed out, and multi-panel comics that look great on Instagram could leave details lost when translated on the page.

“We have to keep in mind our older readers who might not see the details very easily,” Ms Linton explained.

Still, Mr. Masterson hopes to go from digital to print. He pointed to colleague Matt Fradd from the Pints ​​with Aquinas podcast and YouTube channel catholic lofi— the latter for whom Mr. Masterson did freelance art and animation — for Mr. Fradd’s efforts to launch a print newsletter as a way for Catholic media to support the community.

While acknowledging the ease and access to comics online, Mr. Masterson stressed the need to get out of technology and read physical media, which he associates with a common-sense nostalgia. Mr. Masterson sees this feeling as a fusion of nostalgia for pre-Y2K comic book artwork with nostalgia for the medium in which we read them.

When I asked if Mr. Masterson considered “The Catholic Cartoon” a form of evangelism, he agreed without question, pointing to the comic’s ability to reach both Catholic and non-Catholic audiences.

“I want to bring joy to the world with the gifts God has given me,” Mr. Masterson said, “but also build his kingdom, lift the hearts and minds of his people to him using my gifts. Art has a very special way of doing this, lifting your heart and mind to a higher level of thought.

“It may sound really ridiculous and silly, but even [with] my comics, people came to me and said some of them meant a lot to them [and] really touched them,” Mr. Masterson said. “When I hear that, I’m like, that’s exactly what I want. That’s exactly what I want for this.