Leaving the nest: ‘Birdseed’ creator John Konrad is graduating after running the Daily Wildcat Comics Desk for two years


Danielle Main

John Konrad, the comics editor at the Daily Wildcat, revived the student newspaper’s Comics Desk in 2020 after honing his artistic skills during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. This May, Konrad will graduate from the University of Arizona after studying studio art with an illustration emphasis and management information systems.

Amanda Mourelatos

Comics at the Daily Wildcat were nonexistent since 2012. But this changed once one of the former Arts & Life editors encouraged John Konrad to revive them at the student newspaper during his sophomore year in 2020.

While Konrad was the sole cartoonist in the newsroom in the beginning of the effort, the Daily Wildcat now has a flourishing Comics Desk full of diverse artists thanks to him. 

And now it’s time for the editor to move on as he graduates this May from the University of Arizona. 

Konrad, a senior studying studio art with an illustration emphasis and management information systems, has always been drawing. When he entered his senior year of high school he became serious about art. Entering college, he was ready for art school. His parents, however, wanted him “to have a practical degree.” He knew he wasn’t going to give up art, so he made the choice to double major. 

When the pandemic struck, Konrad found a positive in being forced to spend more time at home. 

“I think that was a little bit of a blessing in disguise ‘cause when I was just stuck at home for months on end, there was nothing to do but draw, and so I think during that time I got even better and even more serious about it. That kind of got me set on a sort of trajectory to where I am now,” Konrad said. 

A popular comic series called “Birdseed” has been Konrad’s brainchild since the first episode was published by the Daily Wildcat on March 3, 2021. He was inspired by classic comics such as “Calvin and Hobbes,” “Peanuts” and “Nancy.” 

“I wanted to take some notes from them and create a funny, accessible strip with characters that you hopefully got a little bit attached to and you understood the character’s motivations, who they were and how they would act from comic to comic,” Konrad said. 

Since he is now graduating, Konrad decided to end “Birdseed” on an even number. He “got to number 50, and it felt like the right time to end it.” 

MaryAnn Vagnerova, senior and artist on the Comics Desk, has been creating comics on the desk since early 2022. She has published comics such as “Creature Comforts” and “The College Cowboy.” 

“Honestly? He’s one of the most incredible people I’ve met during my time at the university — he has so many ideas, and he is so consistent with the output of his work. He’s always trying new things, and he puts in the work,” Vagnerova said.

John Konrad revived the Comics Desk at the Daily Wildcat student newspaper with “Birdseed,” his comic about birds attending college. Read the whole 50-comic series online at DailyWildcat.com/staff_name/John-Konrad. (John Konrad)

Sela Margalit, a sophomore, is one of the newer recruits for the comics desk and will be taking over Konrad’s role as the comics editor next semester. 

“Every time I open a newspaper, the comics page is always the first thing I turn to, and I would not want to imagine a paper without the vibrance and life of drawn illustration,” Margalit said. “His diligent leadership, considerate nature and creativity are second to none. When I first joined, he displayed such a passion for the medium and took the time to go through the fascinating history of the paper with me.” 

Jamelle Texeria Jr. is a third-year Project FOCUS student also graduating this year, and was the second person to officially join the comics desk. 

“I remember the time I joined the Daily Wildcat, nervous and afraid for my future as an artist/ cartoonist,” Texeria said. “John was the guy to assist me through my journey here at the Daily Wildcat. Without him, the comics desk wouldn’t have been as amazing as it is now, and I wouldn’t be at the Daily Wildcat creating some of the most memorable cartoons in my life.”

Even though “Birdseed” is coming to an end and Konrad is graduating, the Comics Desk will not disappear as it did once before. Margalit is ready to take on the role as editor and keep the desk alive. 

“His work for the Daily Wildcat has overall been an absolute blessing,” Margalit said. “Even though nothing could replace seeing that hallmark pair of glasses in the newsroom, I hope to carry on that legacy as the new editor of the Comics Desk.” Margalit said. 

Outside of college, Konrad plans to stay in Tucson and continue contributing to his webcomic that he has been working on since his senior year of high school. His goal is to get a comic published through an official publisher in the next five years. 

He’s also thankful he got a business degree in the end. 

“That will keep me afloat enough financially that I can work on my craft in the meantime,” Konrad said. “The goal is to have a full-time creative career eventually.”

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