The Road Less Traveled.

by Kimberley Jev

Ben Rankel is by no means a  practicing buddhist, however, according to the Dalai Lama, “Humans have the potential not only to create happy lives for themselves, but also help other beings.We have a natural creative ability and it is very important to realize this.” This quote is everything and more to a tee the complete philosophy Three Panel Opera creator, Ben Rankel chooses to live his life.

Three years ago, the cartoonist/graphic artist could be found working the clock at any regular 9 to 5 bringing home the pay cheques every month in time for rent and a warm meal on the table.Today, although Rankel holds a steady job, Rankel is the cartoonist behind the comic blog website, Three Panel Opera. ”

For most cartoonists, any cartoonist, full time work can be found through syndication, but for Rankel, ” the idea of getting syndication, doing syndication comics was always something I was curious about but eventually you hit a point where there is really no plausible way to get into syndication and still make a living.”


The idea of going big or going home came to Rankel after listening to a few podcasts about online setups and publication. “I started publishing with a comic strip about  2 years ago, nothing serious it was called Death Hates Everything…It was really nothing, it was my first shot at it, I did it for 6 months before I got tired of the characters I was drawing.”

As Death Hates Everything was laid to rest, Three Panel Opera was born.

With the cartoons on 3PO Rankel points his humor towards religion and some of the issues faced as a child growing up in rural Alberta. “It’s like I don’t not believe in God, I just don’t believe in the particular way that certain people practice religion.”

Through his cute and playful characters, Rankel touches on the abuse of power that he has witnessed, “I am not saying that religion is a bad thing because it is separate from the idea that religion is a bad thing. I’m just saying that religion, money or politics, or violence is a power source that people sometimes abuse. Some people know that there is an opportunity to abuse power and generally gravitate towards certain kinds of positions, which most times gives something with a good name and philosophy a bad reputation.”

The characters of 3PO may be based loosely on certain people in Rankel’s history, but the 3PO characters take on a life of their own, for the cartoonist, a serious approach to the development of the characters is taken to deliver Rankel’s ideas in the best possible light, in the most humoring light.


As the blog keeps moving with a minimal amount of income, Rankel still believes self publication was the best route to take. “It is a good idea, there is no other way I could have done it, Universal Syndicate does newspaper publishing but publishing for yourself on the Internet gives you the freedom of content and the freedom of publishing.”

For Rankel motivation comes from the desire to be successful. “I treat it like a business, I sit down and work at it and hope that part of it will bring a financial gain one day. At the end of the day you have to be showing the best. I hit a lot of people who generally would not see the comic in a newspaper, so there is a better chance online to find a better group of people who actually find what I do interesting.

Social media networks available today work to Rankel’s advantage in spreading his message of comic love.  “Twitter just works really well. I get to talk to people who are in the same field. It presents so many opportunities. If I want to say something now to people in the same field as me, I comment and they comment back. It’s nice, it’s efficient and it’s fun and that’s the other thing, I have access to so many cartoonists and graphic artists that are online. I am not alone on this.”According to Rankel, society today embraces the graphic artist more so than in the past. “It’s never been okay to be as nerdy as it is now,” says Rankel. “Kid’s used to get their asses kicked for loving Daredevil or Elektra or the X-Men.”

We are as Rankel would say in the time of the “nerd acclamation.”

“Nerdism” as Rankel calls it is the “next stage of evolution in society. It’s not when all the hipsters die, hipsters never die, hipsters are nerds in their own way, they just won’t admit it. Geeks are cool now, this is why we have a slew of comic movies and video game movies coming out right now because it has finally come to a place where it is socially accepted to read comic books or owning every video game system ever made. It’s okay to  sit at home playing video games and it has become socially acceptable. It is our time, it’s the time of the geek.. it’s nerd acclamation.”

This, is what Rankel says, “gives me hope that I can maybe one day make a living at this.”

It would be Callum MacKenzie who once said, “The difference between a cartoonist and an illustrator was the same as the difference between a comedian and a comedy actor – the former both deliver their own lines and take full responsibility for them, the latter could always hide behind the fact that it was not his entire creation.”

Cartoons and illustrations by Ben Rankel. Follow Ben on twitter.

  • The Road Less Traveled.
  • by Kimberley Jev
  • Published on November 12th, 2009
Ben Rankel
Web Comics
Olaf Blomerus

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