Cartoonist Ron Wimberly is a busy man — but not too busy to try something new.
For the past few weeks, the Prince of Cats creator has been working with Nike and advertising agency Weiden & Kennedy comic strip about Detroit Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Launched in September, Calvin & Johnson tells the story of Calvin and how he uses his alter ego (named Johnson) to help manage his life off the field and unleash his speed on the field. The Johnson alter ego is more than just another side of Calvin, as Wimberly states it’s played — in comic form — by rapper/media mogul P. Diddy. If that doesn’t sound like a traditional comic, that’s on purpose; Wimberly says that’s one of the reasons he chose to do it.
“What’s cool about this job is that it’s a comic that you won’t find in a comic book store. It’s not about superheroes,” he told ROBOT 6. “Hell, it’s kind of in the style of yonkoma manga. It stars people of color, made by a person of color. And it’s produced by Nike; they see the value in the medium for everyday folk who are not necessarily initiated in the language of comics. And none of that was deliberate … just happened that way. So that’s cool … rare, but hopefully not for long.”
Although Wimberly admits he’s ambivalent to football, he’s enjoyed the experience of working on Calvin & Johnson.
“It’s cool. It’s a dope little job. I feel like Don Draper from Mad Men except I’m black and I don’t hate women,” said Wimberly, who also works on the animated series Black Dynamite. “Weiden & Kennedy are friendly and professional. It’s a new experience for me. The writers are dope and open to building on the unique qualities of comics storytelling. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to practice my writing skills with some of the most highly regarded copywriters in advertising.”
Wimberly’s Calvin & Johnson series appeared in four installments on the Nike Football Facebook page, but the cartoonist said there’s no plans for more. Wimberly does plan on releasing some gag strips coinciding with the comic on his own website.
Here’s the first strip. Visit the Nike Football Facebook page for more.