Ron Wheeler is a cartoonist by profession. He has drawn cartoons for as long as he can remember, from the first time he ever put a pencil to paper.
It wasn’t until his college years that he found success with his cartoon art.
He created a comic strip called “Ralph” for the school paper at the University of Nebraska, where he was enrolled. The cartoon was very popular with the students because it poked fun at the everyday happenings and environment of the typical college student. They identified with his humor because there was a lot of truth in what he wrote.
He felt great pride in this popularity and had a zeal for experiencing life to the fullest, from mountain climbing to sky diving. He tried to sell his comic strip to a syndicate in Kansas City. However, they rejected it and told him he would need to broaden his audience and draw cartoons that would appeal to more than just the college crowd.
After graduation he landed a job with a major corporation in St. Louis. He drove a very nice sports car and thought living the fast life seeking adventure was what he wanted. He soon discovered that the notoriety he experienced in college did not carry over into real world. He wasn’t making lasting friendships and inner contentment became more and more elusive. After a few months Ron was fired from his job and his life was a mess. Yet, he looks back on that firing as a fortunate occurrence.
Ron still had in the back of his mind that he wanted to be a cartoonist. He moved to Kansas City and there he found an upstairs apartment in one of the cheaper and less expensive areas. As Ron tells the story, it was so cheap that if someone turned on the water downstairs, he didn’t get any water upstairs.
He tried through his own efforts to sell a cartoon series. He would draw a comic strip and take it to a newspaper for consideration. They would critique his work. He would then redraw and take the revised drawing back to them again with no better success. He didn’t know that newspapers only bought cartoons from syndicates, and he wasn’t getting anywhere. This drawing and redrawing went on for about eight months. Ron was nearly out of money, as he only had his unemployment insurance as income and was gradually using up what little savings he had.
Ron was baptized when he was eleven years old, but he was not sure he was a Christian. His parents were not consistent church goers, and he had drifted away from the church. He had learned to depend on himself instead of a faith in the Lord. After the loss of the job and unemployment, he began to seek help in a local church.
It was a new kind of church to him because he said he heard things he had never heard before…things like, if you want to be exalted, humble yourself; and he who wants to be first will be last. There he learned that he had always been loved by God and that God wanted a personal relationship with him. He discovered that his pride and reliance on himself were separating him from God’s love and direction. Only by asking the Lord into his heart could he truly experience this love. One night Ron reached the end of his rope and realized that he was trying with his own strength to become the cartoonist he wanted to be and it wasn’t working. He realized that He needed the Lord in his life.
Finally, he said the four words that changed his life: “Lord, I give up!” Once he finally said these words and meant them in his heart, he no longer tried to force-direct his life himself He surrendered his pride and gave his life and heart in total trust to Jesus. He realized that believing the adage “You can do anything you want to, if you put your mind to it” was a lie. It takes perseverance, but it also takes God-given talent along with God’s calling and direction.
Ron relates, “The irony of all this is that the day after I accepted Christ, I got my first full-time job as a cartoonist. It was waiting for me for three months right across the street from my apartment. After I gave my life to the Lord, He opened doors so I could be used where He wanted me. You see, He created me with the desire and the ability to be a cartoonist, and He wanted to fulfill His purposes through me. He just couldn’t use me until He had me.”
The company across the street asked him what he had been doing. They were very interested when they found out he could draw cartoons. Ron learned the company did slide shows for corporations and that one of their current clients was a major airline in Kansas City. The airline was using the slide shows to train its employees. As a test he was sent home and asked to draw a cartoon. He drew an airplane with a friendly face, wearing a scarf and flying in a snowstorm. They liked it, and he was hired!
As time passed God opened one door after another, and today his style of cartooning makes him one of the most recognizable cartoonists in the world. Ron’s mission is to use cartoons as a way to communicate with the lost and spread God's truth with the Gospel.
Ron says, “There is a unique drawing power to cartoons. Cartoons have an innocent way about them. In them you can find lovable characters who disarm us as they depict a humorous antic or deliver a potent message.” Such is the genius of cartoons and the ministry of artist Ron Wheeler.
After looking at the front page news, one of the first places many newspaper readers go to next is the comics section. Cartoons can be comfortable like an old pair of shoes, relaxing, inspiring, humorous, and instructing. If you think that cartooning for Jesus Christ is silly and superficial, read what Ron says about it: "I believe that whatever your work is, it's going to reflect your heart. In college my cartoons on the school newspaper often reflected a frustrated, cynical heart. Hopefully my work now reflects a heart that loves Jesus and desires others to grow closer to Him in a personal way. I thank God that He gave me a gift that could express that heart to so many people.”
Among his artwork, all of which have a Christian theme, are: posters, book covers, magazine covers and illustrations; also greeting cards, buttons, brochures, flyers, promotional materials, comic strips, T-shirts, Vacation Bible School materials, memory puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, cartoon clip art, scores of coloring pages, games, calendars, ball caps, and children’s books. He has created a line of seventy gospel-oriented cartoon tracts with more than fifty million copies sold. Many of the tracts have been translated into other languages. To see an extensive portfolio of some of this work visit CartoonWorks.com.
Ron has done work for are:
• American Tract Society Gospel Publishing House
• Assemblies of God Great Commission Publications
• Awana Clubs International Group Publishing
• Avant Ministries Growing Families International
• Baker Book House Homeschooling Today Magazine
• Barbour and Company Howard Books
• Christian Ed Warehouse Kathie Hill Music
• Christian Focus Publishing KC Chiefs and the KC Royals
• Christian Publications Kendall Hunt Publishing
• Christian Reformed Church KidZWorker.com
• Christianity Today Incorporated Leadership Magazine
• Children's Bible Hour LifeWay Christian Resources
• Children's Better Health Institute Light & Life Magazine
• Concordia Publishing House Livingstone Corporation
• Cook Communications Media Embassy
• CSS Publishing Mel Bay Publications
• CrossDaily.com National Religious Broadcasters
• Discovery House Books Nazarene Publishing House
• Evangel Magazine Pleasant Word
• EvanTell Radio Bible Class
• Every Generation Ministries Presbyterian Church USA
• Faith 'n Stuff Review & Herald Publishing
• Faith and Life Press Salem Publishing
• Fellowship of Christian Athletes Standard Publishing Company
• Focus on the Family Stan Toler Ministries
• Good News/Crossway Books Strang Communications
• Gospel Light Teaching & Learning Company
* The Timothy Group
* Tyndale House
* University of the Nations
* WinePress Publishing
* WORDsearch Corp.
* Youth for Christ
and many, many others
Ron and and his wife, Cindy, have been married since 1984. Their three grown children were home-schooled from the beginning. Ron has always worked at home in his studio. In July most years he holds a Cartoon Camp at his home and studio in Kansas City. At the camp kids have rewarding fun as they learn how to draw cartoons with personality, how modeling clay helps you draw, and how to create comic strips. Each student receives a tour of Ron’s studio and gets to try the latest technology. Parents are welcome to observe.
In another of GOD’S OTHER WAYS©, the Lord has directed and created an avenue for cartoonist Ron Wheeler to spread His Word around the world.