The Washington Post announced Olivia Walch ’11 as the winner of its “America’s Next Great Cartoonist” contest Thursday.
After two rounds of submissions, professional criticism and thousands of votes, Walch stood out in the field of five finalists, which included up-and-coming comic artists from across the country.
“I was at the cafeteria, and I was playing with my phone when an unknown number popped up,” Walch said. “It was the woman organizing [the competition]. I asked her how she was, and she said, ‘good, but not as good as you’re going to be.’”
As the top cartoonist, Walch won a prize of $1,000, and the opportunity to cartoon for the Washington Post for one month.
“I’m going to have to do a lot more of it — for a month, at least,” she said.
Walch said that the regularity of the new job could help develop her cartooning skills.
“In the past, I haven’t exactly sat down for Cartoon Brainstorming Time,” she said in an email. “Now I have to force them out. I need to see if I can be funny for 30 days, or at least funny for me. I got much better with practice, and I hope the same concept applies here.”
Walch jokingly said that the experience would either make her a more capable cartoonist, or drain her creatively.
“If anything is going to change, I’ll become more fluid. Or I’ll run out of ideas and become painfully unfunny.”
Her winning comic, “Imogen Quest,” received positive reactions from both Washington Post readers and a celebrity panel that included “Pearls Before Swine” author Stephan Pastis and “Spider-Man” creator Stan Lee.
“[The comic] is an attempt to make new jokes that are somehow original, or failing that, to do something cheap and meta,” she said.
For readers’ comments, Walch said she likely had to thank her parents.
“I think if they showed the IP addresses of those comments, they would suspiciously come from one computer at the Walch household,” she said.
While humorously emphasizing her parents’ enthusiasm, Walch attributed her winning to a large group of dedicated friends and an organized Facebook campaign.
“I am just amazed,” Walch said. “I have the greatest friends in the world. It seemed that every time I logged into Facebook, people were going above and beyond what a friend would. I hope it’s not like ‘The Godfather,’ and I have to pay them back with favors.”
Although Walch could have a future as a syndicated cartoonist, she said her final year at the College of William and Mary would determine her future career.
“I think I’m going to have to answer that after I flail through this next month,” Walch said. “I want to get through that, I want to see how I like it. … Now cartooning is an option.”
Walch’s work can be viewed on the Washington Post’s website here..
_Editor’s Note: Olivia Walch is a Flat Hat cartoonist._