Retirement age is a time of reflection: Do I keep working? If I retire, then what will I do with myself?
Artists don’t have that concern, says Jeff Shultz, a Troy resident who grew up in Piqua. The cartoon artist firmly believes artists never really quit—ever. “Artists generally don’t give it up. It’s not just a job. It’s a part of you. It’s what you naturally want to do.”
Not that artists don’t evolve over time. For Shultz, it’s been a long path. He’s drawn some of the most memorable cartoon characters of baby boomer youth, including Archie and his friends Betty and Veronica, the Road Runner and even Charlie Brown.
Now, at 66, Shultz is happy to explore new challenges, even working as a delivery driver just to get out of the house to see people and earn extra money, he says. Still there is a comic strip idea on his drawing board, and he regularly reviews and edits comic book scripts for comic book writers. Archie Comics has his number for future cover art.
“I never want to retire,” he says. “If I inherited a million dollars, I’d still do (delivery). And I would still do art.”
As a child, Shultz says knew he would have a career in art. After graduating from Piqua High School, he attended Sinclair Community College and studied commercial art hoping to be an illustrator. But, by age 24, he decided illustration was not for him.
“I really wanted to be a comic book artist,” he said, thinking over the many comic books he devoured throughout his childhood and teen years. He was still a regular reader. And at age 27, he spotted what he was looking for in one of his comic reads: The Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts in Dover, New Jersey.
He packed his bags immediately and headed east for the three-year program. After graduation, he landed an artist position in Kansas City working for a company licensed to reproduce the Peanuts characters. Later he moved back to New Jersey and worked for DC Comics drawing for Looney Tunes magazine.
In 1995, he switched to Archie Comics. Shultz says he knew he had found a home. He worked his way up to be the artist for the Betty and Veronica comic book series.
“I worked on the book for 11 years,” he adds. Book editors passed him approved scripts, and he meticulously recreated the storyline’s characters and backgrounds in pencil. From there, the art moved on to a letterer, an inker and finally an artist who added the color.
Even after the original Betty and Veronica story line ended, he was recalled for several special issues. Then he moved on to draw Super Suckers, a comic book detailing the adventures of two college girls transformed into vampires.
Email and the internet made life easier over the years, Shultz notes, though he admits he still draws in pencil at his Troy home and has his work scanned so he can send it via email. “I’m a bit old fashioned that way.”
Lately he’s been working with the editor of Jetta Raye Adventures, a futuristic Archie-type comic book. With more than 35 years of experience drawing scripts, Shultz says he’s come to know what storylines will work. “After all of these years, people come to you,” he notes. “You can help them.”
Shultz admits he doesn’t look at the cartooning industry with the same passion as when he started.
“The answer is not so much, When I was starting, there was always something new. It’s not that way anymore. There are a few things that come up, just not that many.”
Still, he says he will work to get better at whatever he tries. “Put yourself out there and be the best you can be.”
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