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Danielle Corsetto '04 lives her dream as a cartoonist

Shepherdstown has a reputation of being a tight-knit community, rich in history and culture. But many may not know that living in the quiet town is a Web comic phenomenon, equipped with a pen and a slingshot.

Shepherd alumna and Frederick, Maryland, native Danielle Corsetto '04 lives in Shepherdstown with her two cats, Ellie and Smudge. Danielle earned a degree in photography and digital imagery.

Becoming a cartoonist had been a dream of hers since she was 8 years old, contrary to her parents' wishes. That opinion has changed since it has become her full-time job. "It was always in the back of my mind," Danielle said. "It was my way of getting my creative bug out."

When she was 13 years old, Danielle contacted Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who recommended she go into journalism. She pursued journalism in high school, becoming the editor of her school paper her freshman year. When she came to Shepherd, she worked with The Picket, writing a bi-weekly comic called "Ramblers," with a story line about students and campus life.

Danielle said she was drawn to Shepherd because it was close to home and affordable, and she grew to love the town. "I was also told that it had a very avant-garde art program that was focused more on concept than process," she said. "I liked that about it." She took advantage of Shepherd's academic common market program for Maryland residents. The program allows Maryland residents to attend Shepherd and pay in-state tuition in selected fields of study not available in their state.

Danielle said that her parents didn't think a drawing major would be very useful. "My dad used to think going to school for art was a waste of time, and my mom seemed ambivalent," she said. "Now my dad is proud to say that his daughter is a self-sufficient artist with her own small business."

After graduation, Danielle worked as a photographer for The Journal in Martinsburg. She said that The Journal was her last job with a steady paycheck. She then freelanced and eventually started her Web comic, "Girls with Slingshots." Before that, she wrote two comics that appeared in print publications--"Larry and Caroline" which appeared in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, and "The New Adventures of Bat Boy," which appeared in Weekly World News. "I was always cut out to be my own boss, which doesn't bode well if this doesn't work out," Danielle said, jokingly.

It all began when her friends kept asking her when she was going to start a comic on a regular basis. Danielle gave them a date to satisfy their questioning, but it was also a deadline for herself to do what she had been wanting to do. That summer, she brainstormed ideas and ultimately reverted back to characters that she developed in high school and decided to do a slice-of-life comic.

The name for the comic, "Girls with Slingshots," came from a commission for drawings of girls with guns. Since Danielle couldn't draw guns very well, she drew slingshots instead. "Girls with Slingshots" is a character-driven comic which focuses on promoting healthy sexual and loving relationships and acceptance of people in alternative lifestyles.

The comic premiered on October 1, 2004 as a twice-weekly comic and went full-time in 2007. Danielle has written and self-published four books, with a fifth book coming out in August. To date, she has sold between 5,000-6,000 books. Danielle said that she had hoped that "Girls with Slingshots" would develop into a profitable venture, but it was initially started to promote her skills in writing, art, and Web design. "It was a place where someone could come constantly and get interested in my skills and also served as a weekly practice to keep me fresh with my comic work," she said.

So how does Danielle do it? She compares it to Saturday morning cartoons. "It sounds like such a sell-out, but those Saturday morning cartoons that we loved were also a 30-minute advertisement for all the merchandise and all the commercials in between," she said. "It's kinda the same idea." The advertisements on her website help pay Danielle's rent each month, and she said that book sales are "through the roof." In addition, she also sells prints and buttons of her work to bring in additional revenue.

Danielle is enrooted in the Shepherdstown community. In addition to routinely visiting local restaurants (and often scripting the night's comic strip there), she participates in a local drawing group that meets weekly during the school year at Shepherd's Center for Contemporary Arts building. But it has been the Shepherdstown community that has kept her from going anywhere else. "Every time I've tried to leave, something else opened in town that made me want to stay," Danielle said.

Danielle has volunteered at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Charles Town and is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, serving as a leader of a junior troop in Shepherdstown. Her mother was her troop leader growing up, and she said that one of the reasons she wanted to be a troop leader was because of the inspiring, powerful women who have influenced her own life. Danielle said that her volunteer work also gives her a chance to do research for other projects that she hopes to pursue in the future.

When she isn't scripting at Blue Moon restaurant or taking care of her cats, Danielle travels up and down the East Coast and across the country attending comic book conventions and book signings. The comic book community is relatively small, and Danielle said there is a small group of people who make a living off of Web comics and an even smaller group who make it their sole income. "We're a tight-knit group because it is such a brand new field," Danielle said. "There's not really any competition, and we're always bouncing ideas off each other. It's a nice community."

Danielle works at her own schedule, publishing new strips every night at midnight and often answering e-mails and questions from readers into the wee hours of the night. She said part of that is because many of her readers are international and in different time zones.

For others who are interested in pursuing a similar, non-conventional career, Danielle says to work hard. "Sharpen your skills and research professionals in your chosen field while you're in college," she said. "The difference between a talented artist and a full-time working artist is that one of them is practicing every day and working from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep. You can have all the talent in the world, but unless you work toward your goals, you won't achieve them."

* Jillian Kesner


v i d e o

p h o t o s

Danielle Corsetto with two of her "Girls with Slingshots" books.

Danielle Corsetto in her apartment studio.

w e b s i t e

Girls with Slingshots on Facebook

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