…The Strip

I’ve had a weird relationship with Bug.

Ever since I was a little kid I knew I wanted to become a cartoonist. The only problem was: I had no idea what kind of strip to draw. Throughout my life, I’ve created lots of characters. Hundreds really. And I was dissatisfied with every single one of ’em. They were all cute, trite and hacky. Once I turned 30 I began to panic. I started having doubts that I’d ever find the the right character (or characters) for a comic strip. What I didn’t realize is that I already created the perfect character for my sense of humor fifteen years earlier.

It was my freshman year of high school and I was in English class. The teacher handed each of us these clear sheets of plastic and a marker. On the plastic was a sentence with a grammatical mistake. Our job was to write the sentence correctly on the sheet of plastic. The teacher would then collect them and place them one by one on an overhead projector so the whole class could see how you corrected the sentence. Then the teacher would hand out all new sentences and we’d repeat the process.

The second sentence I got had the word “cockroach” in it. I corrected the sentence and, just for fun, I quickly drew a goofy-looking bug on the clear overlay. I heard the teacher give a slight snicker just before she placed it on the overhead projector and the class laughed as well.

The teacher handed each of us our third sentence and I drew the bug again, this time holding a sign saying: “I love English class”. I figured she couldn’t get mad at me for drawing that. The interesting part was that I wasn’t alone this time. Several other students drew pictures relevant to their sentences. The teacher grudgingly placed them on the projector and the kids laughed and laughed.

Once it was time for us to do our fourth sentence I decided I wasn’t going to draw anything on the overlay. I was the only one who didn’t. Everyone went nuts, drawing all sorts of stuff. The class laughed uproariously and, for a brief while, the teacher completely lost control of the class. I remember thinking at the time, “So this is what it feels like to be a cartoonist.” It was the first time I had ever seen my art get a genuine laugh and influence a group of people.

After that, I forgot about the bug for about ten years.

Then, slowly, he started popping up in my sketch books. I found myself drawing the little guy when I couldn’t think of anything else to draw. I loved his sketchy quality and that stupid expression on his face but I didn’t know what to do with him. He never worked as a “traditional” comic strip character. I tried drawing an all animal comic where he was part of an ensemble but that just took me back to cute, trite and hacky territory.

It wasn’t until I started drawing the bug the way I drew him in my sketch book (engaged in random little moments) that the strip finally began to take shape. I loved the look of the strip and the sense of humor felt natural.  Bug went live on October 19th, 2009 and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. Bug has received an amazing amount of great feedback and positive reviews.

It’s not the strip I intended to create but it’s the strip I love to draw.