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By "news" of course, we mean that which is new. Information, projects, ideas, that sort of thing. Maybe sometimes now and then you might find the "recent" and occasionally something quite "old" might find its way on to these pages. Possibly it could be in the form of an illustration, or perhaps I"m just behind the curve in some way. Enjoy.

Roommates: them old college daze

January 23, 2012 | bookmark | 3 Comments

I’ve been looking forward to this.

Way back in 1987, I was in my first year of college at North Texas State University (now The University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas. I attended a year there before heading off to New York and Paris to Parsons School of Design. It was actually pretty cool to do a year at a big state university where there were Saturday football games, big dormitories, fraternities and sororities, frat guys and sorority girls, and the tuition was cheap. I lived in an un-air-conditioned dormitory called Kendall Hall, which we referred to as “The Sweat Box”, and which I believe is long gone. I also drew anything and everything I could. I did our dorm t-shirts, invitations to parties, and tried to get work from the university graphics service. One day I returned from class to my dorm room and saw that someone had taped a notice from the university newspaper, The North Texas Daily. The ad stated that the Daily was looking for both a staff cartoonist to draw illustrations for the paper and the occasional political cartoon, as well as a comic strip to run four days a week.
At the time, I didn’t imagine myself a cartoonist, really. I could draw okay, and I could tell a joke now and then. But the idea of writing a strip that would be funny four days a week was not something I had thought I’d be able to do. However, the gig paid (I don’t remember ow much, probably something like $20 a week) and I was something of an attention hog. So I put together a little portfolio and some sample cartoons, and delivered them to the editor at the Daily. I believe the “try out” had to consist of a full week of strips. A few days later the editor called me up. He said he liked the week of cartoons I’d dropped off, and asked me if I thought I could deliver every day. Thinking “I doubt it,” I said “but of course” and the commitment was made.

The strip I wrote and drew for the rest of the school year was called Roommates. It starred a weird-looking big-headed dude named Lenny Squidenski and his roommate, on obscure member of the British royalty and wannabe punk rocker named Sir Edgar Howington III (named after my drawing teacher who hated me, but taught me a lot, John Howington). The first strip was published January 20, 1987 and ran 56 episodes until May 1, 1987.

Not too long ago it occurred to me that 1987 was almost twenty-five years ago. I thought it would be fun, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the strip, to post the entire run here on MrBiggs dot com. And that’s what I’m gonna do, starting tomorrow morning. I’ve been scannning the originals, which I’ve had safely stored for a quarter-century. As I mentioned, the strip began January 20, 1987, which was a Tuesday. But since January 20, 2012 landed on a Friday, I’m starting a few days late. I’ll run these strips every morning, Tuesday through Friday, until May. They’ll appear here in the blog in a daily fashion, and they’ll be archived here as a permanent page as well.

Before we begin tomorrow, I would like to insert the following caveat. With twenty-five years of hindsight, it’s now evident to me that these strips are pretty awful. The humor is dumb, the drawings are dumber, and the whole idea was fairly derivative of what was my favorite strip at the time, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County. To a lesser extent I ripped off Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes and Dan Piraro’s Bizarro whenever I could. I was eighteen years old when the strip began, nineteen years old when it ended, and ambitious as hell. Nevertheless, they’re my first published work and I’ll always love them. Stay tuned til tomorrow morning.