September 29, 2020

By CASSIE TULECKIIMG_2958

It’s not often that you find a lawyer who is also a cartoonist.

Husein Panju, a criminal lawyer in Toronto, started drawing High Comedic Value, a weekly webcomic that focuses on issues that people care about, when he was an undergrad at York University. The single image cartoon is structured more like improv comedy than a comic strip.

“I was flipping through the school newspaper, and saw the comics page and was immediately hooked,” he said.

He really enjoys comedy, mainly stand-up and improvisation, and thought that comics would be a unique platform to try out. There is always a challenge when coming up with each comic, and he has to do a lot of problem-solving to make his drawings work. He needs to make sure that the punchline fits in with the drawing.

He believes that reading a comic is more of a personal experience than watching someone tell a joke.

“Obviously I liked seeing my name in print, and more specifically, casually pointing out my comic to strangers,” he said.

Panju started out drawing comics for his school newspaper, which he did every week for two years. But he had to put it on hold when he went to law school. After he graduated from Queen’s University, he began working as a lawyer, but missed having that creative outlet.

“I decided to revive my comic series and put it in an online format,” he said.

He has been drawing comics and posting them online every week since September 2013, usually getting a couple of thousand views weekly through his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Most of his comics feature two main characters who play different roles in various settings.

“Most other webcomics are heavily reliant on existing sci-fi or fantasy themes. The majority of my comics are based on everyday life, and put a spin on what’s going on,” he said.

His favourite comics are the ones that say what everyone is thinking, but haven’t been able to put it into words. He gets his ideas from anywhere and everywhere. They are often based on something that has happened to him the week before.

“My close friends often find their thoughts and inadvertent one-liners on the main page, but such is the price of friendship,” he said.

Panju does not have any art training, but he believes his drawings are OK. He is very proud of how much he has improved compared to when he first began the comic.

“I was terrible in art class in elementary school, and my Grade 7 self would be horrified to learn that I was pursuing this cartooning hobby so seriously,” he said.

In the past month, Panju has exhibited his comics at conventions across Ontario, including at the Kitchener TriCon. He will be at the Ottawa ComiCon this May and Toronto Fan Expo in September.

“While the vibe at these events is way different than what I’m used to, it’s really neat to meet readers in person and to get feedback about what they like about the series,” he said.

Panju plans on publishing a paperback version of his comic in the future that will include his best ones. He also plans to explore deeper themes in the comic that will include short story arcs.

To view his work, visit www.highcomedicvalue.com or the Facebook page titled High Comedic Value or follow Panju on Twitter @legally_brown.

 

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