John Atkinson’s comics are a fun literary cheat sheet 

By Nick Dunne – 

His comics have been shared by the likes of George Takei. He’s Time Magazine’s only regularly published cartoonist. He’s just published a book. And he could be your neighbour.

Kitchissippi’s John Atkinson is the creator of Wrong Hands and the author of Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t, released last month by HarperCollins. Abridged Classics takes a stab at the literary canon, hilariously summarizing everyone from Jane Austen to Franz Kafka with silly doodles and short captions. Though the book extensively references literature, its appeal is universal, designed for bookworms and anyone who dreaded picking up Shakespeare in high school.

Interestingly, John doesn’t consider himself well read. “I haven’t even read my book,” he jokes. He suggests that readers who memorize his captions can now pretend they’ve read 100 books over the summer by simply reading his.  

A graphic designer by trade, John has been drawing cartoons all his life, having submitted cartoons to the New Yorker when he was 13-years-old. “I think I still have the rejection letter somewhere,” he says.

The book is dedicated to his children, who indirectly helped launch a cartooning career borne out of doodles and drawings intended to make them laugh.

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After about a year of posting his work online, he began to notice his cartoons were picking up steam. “I’d post a cartoon and ten minutes later I’ll get a message from someone in Ireland and I’ll think, “huh, that’s cool!’”

Seven years and five million views on his blog later, John has a line of greeting cards in the U.K., online merchandise, and now a book to add to his cartooning career.

His cartoons have even taken him onto the pages of Time Magazine. He was first contacted by email by then-managing editor, Nancy Gibbs. He was originally convinced it was a joke, but he “couldn’t type faster” after realizing it was real – that is, once he “brushed the stucco off my hair from hitting the ceiling.” Since then, his work has appeared in 96 issues, making him the only regularly featured cartoonist in the magazine’s 95-year history.

It’s an achievement John doesn’t think too much about, if only to keep himself grounded. “If I really thought about it, it would really freak me out.”

With the launch of Abridged Classics, John is hoping the opportunity to pursue Wrong Hands full-time will present itself. He plans to pursue another book sometime soon, either as a sequel or a totally new series. 

Abridged Classics is available at Indigo and online through Amazon. To see more of John Atkinson’s cartoons, visit


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