Jorge Cham got his introduction to cartoons as a child in Panama. His parents were engineers who worked on the Panama Canal. When an American family they knew moved away, they left behind a big box of comics, including Archie, Richie Rich and Peanuts.
Cham devoured them. His only other exposure to the medium was through anonymous underground newspapers. These were the Noriega years, and the papers carried biting political cartoons that satirized the ruling regime.
But it wasn't until many years later that Cham began to draw. He was a graduate student in robotics at Stanford, facing tremendous pressure to compete and succeed. As an outlet, he started sketching a cartoon that satirized the grad school experience and poked fun at the professors who ruled his existence. It was called Piled Higher and Deeper — Ph.D. — and it ran in the Stanford Daily.
Cham spent another five years in grad school before getting his doctorate, then a teaching job at Caltech. He did cartooning on the side, while focusing his research on "brain-machine interfaces."
"You know the plug in The Matrix?" he asks. "I was working on that plug."More »