As many of you know, I’ve been writing graphics and design books for more than 20 years. Back in those early days, I routinely worked for clients, creating graphics and designs on a daily basis.
But even before that, I wrote and illustrated a daily comic strip for a popular Boulder free newspaper, the Colorado Daily (still in publication). The name of the comic strip was Cereal. In all, I wrote more than 400 of the comics—all the black-and-white weekday variety—from my Junior year of college in 1983 until after I graduated in 1985. I was paid precisely $2.50 for each one, or $12.50 a week. For you youngsters, that was not good money back in those days; that just plain sucked. But I did it anyway, strictly out of love for the art.
In the process of moving offices a decade or so ago, I had sealed all 400+ original drawings in cloth, wrapped them in plastic, and placed the sealed result in a shoe box. (Not the recommended method for preserving fine art, but it worked surprisingly well!) Then I placed the shoe box in a larger box to be moved. But as these things go, somehow a few of the boxes got lost in the shuffle and I haven’t seen my beloved Cereals since. Until now, that is. A couple of weeks ago, I located a cache of missing boxes and—wouldn’t you know it?—at the bottom of one of them, under a stack of late 1990’s multimedia CD-ROMs, was that very shoebox and its contents, in absolutely mint condition!
Which is why, with your permission, I’d like to share a few of these 25-year-old comic strips with you. In which you’ll learn, among other things, the origin of Shenbop.
Why Cereal? The strip’s name was a play on words.
- First, like the fibrous, sugar-coated variety, Cereal was a part of your Daily routine.
- Second, the strip was an ongoing serial, with characters and events crossing and shifting over time.
- And third, it was surreal, combining common events with head trips, talking mirrors, and sardonic dead animals.
Young Milton. The strip revolved primarily around the exploits of Young Milton Horwitz, a round-headed hairless fellow who spent most of his time talking to himself. In Book 1, Chapter 5 (remember, this was a serial), we see Young Milton lamenting his cafeteria hamburger. Click the comic for an enlarged version.
Below we see Book 1, Chapter 33. There were five Books in all, but a Chapter is nothing more than a comic. So these are the 5th and 33rd strips that I drew. Admittedly, roughly rendered. With stories and punch lines that read like Charlie Brown meets the Borscht Belt. But, hey, it was a work in development.
Berry. Young Milton’s foil was his roommate, Berry Hari Kari. If Young Milton was my inner dread, Berry was my outer reprobate: An antisocial but ultimately resourceful libertine who stays up too late, consumes too many mind-altering substances, and greets each day with a desire to go right back to bed. Here’s a pair of early interactions, set in that staple of dorm life, stackable bunk beds.
I should mention, Berry suffered from a speach impediment that involved a lot of apostrophes.
Shenbop, the dead frog. Those of you who have consumed my Illustrator training videos or my InDesign One-on-One books may recall a dead frog named Shenbop, pictured in one of his several incarnations below.
Well, this frog started life as Berry’s cute-and-cuddly pet.
Next, we find out what makes Shenbop tick: a pull-string voice box. Plus we are introduced to his world-famous tagline, “I am dead but I don’t smell.”
That’s it for now. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with two parting thoughts:
- Cereal is the reason I was first confused for a computer graphics expert. More on that in a future post.
- If you want to see more Cereals, let me know. That’s the advantage of getting paid $2.50 a strip. The Man doesn’t own them. I do and I can do with them as I please.
Bear in mind, I’m not going to publish all 400+ comics—some are just too awful. But others hold up okay. And with 400+ to choose from, there should be enough to go around.