Sam Alden ’12 Finds Success in Comic World

James Kennedy

Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen

Alumnus Sam Alden ’12, who once drew comics for The Pioneer, is now featured as one of the “Best American Comics 2013.” With several physical books in the works and a consistently updated digital collection at, Alden has found success in a field many say is dying off.

How did Alden first take an interest in comics? Like most of us, it began with “Calvin and Hobbes.”

“I did grow up with ‘Calvin and Hobbes,'” said Alden. “It was always in the house … [It was] kind of how I learned to read.”

Alden also turned to comics his parents had lying around, such as “Crazy Cat” and “Peanuts.”

“I grew up on the newspaper stuff,” said Alden. “I can’t remember how long ago I got into comics … It’s pretty much been my whole life.”

With years of doodling skills and a strong affection for the art form, Alden transitioned into drawing comics himself, and is currently preparing to release multiple books. One, entitled “And It Never Happened Again,” is composed of one previously published story and one unrelated story that is in the process of being drawn. The first story, “Hawaii 1997,” was mostly drawn on a three-hour plane trip back from Italy.

“I just started these tiny little doodles, and it ended up being like a 100-page comic,” said Alden.

The second book Alden is working on, entitled “Haunter,” is a “color adventure comic” set for release in spring of this year. The work was previously featured in “Best American Comics 2013,” but will be receiving its own publication. Both books have received nominations for “Igntaz Awards,” awarded for outstanding achievements in comics and cartooning.

While drawing comics, Alden prefers to stick to tradition.

“I draw everything by hand, pretty much,” said Alden. “I only get into Photoshop when I’m doing very specific color stuff.”

However, when it comes to distribution, Alden has embraced more modern avenues.

“I think at this point pretty much every comic that I’ve ever drawn is on the internet for free,” said Alden. He does sell print versions, but is less concerned about the profit.

“I’m more concerned with nobody reading my comics than not having enough money, so I might as well put myself out there as much as possible,” he said.

As a recent graduate, one of the few points of Alden’s education that facilitated his career was the selection of writing classes offered at Whitman.

“I took some classes from Scott Elliot that were helpful in getting me in a more literary frame of mind,” said Alden.

For the most part, however, Alden’s college education and nascent career in comics existed as entirely detached entities.

“In general, college was sort of a separate endeavor from my comics,” said Alden. “It’s definitely not where I got my chops.”

For all the like-minded doodlers and comic fans on campus, Alden shared a few tips on breaking into the industry and sharing your art with the world.

“I think the best advice I could have given myself or other artists of college age is just to put yourself on the Internet and smear it around as much as possible and do as much of it as you can,” said Alden. “Prioritize it over as many things as you can prioritize it over without really hurting your grades … Or if you have to hurt your grades, do it!”

While there are certain roadblocks to doing art that often hold people back, Alden advises aspiring artists to just push on through.

“The hardest thing in the world is making yourself do something you don’t want to,” said Alden. “And you don’t always want to do art, but that’s exactly when you need to do it.”