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
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