Recently, we introduced a recurring feature to our GoComics blog especially for our deep-in-the-gears comic fans. A few times each month, we're going to hand the keys over to one of our talented cartoonists for a blog post. They'll share the inspirations behind their comedy, how they think, what's next for them and their characters, how you can access more information about your favorite comic strips/panels and support them. Welcome to the "Meet Your Creator" series.
Next up is Ryan Pagelow, creator of "Buni". Buni is a simple spirit who keeps wandering into bad situations that are obvious to everyone else but him. Bad for him, but great for us readers. It varies from sweet to downright macabre, but all with incredible creativity. Passing the mike to Ryan...
First off, let me say that I’m a fairly normal, well-adjusted adult. Some Buni readers get the impression from my comics that I’m a dark, depressed, lonely troll living in a cave somewhere, obsessed with raining down terrible tragedies on my characters every day.
When readers meet me, they are surprised at how “normal” I am, whatever that means. I live with my wife and two-year-old son in Chicago. I work a regular job to pay the mortgage when not cartooning. And I do yard work and grocery shopping on the weekend like a regular non-cave-dwelling human.
I just draw what I think is funny, which just happens to be a dark comic about an optimistic bunny with terrible luck.
Buni (pronounced like “bunny”) was originally created for Universal Uclick’s Comic Strip Superstar contest in 2009. When I heard about the contest, I had just a couple weeks to submit a new, unpublished comic. An idea for a visually cute – yet twisted and sad – comic had been rolling around in my mind for a few years. What emerged was a snaggletoothed cartoon bunny.
I added a one-sided love story with a neighbor girl who obviously has a boyfriend and is uninterested in Buni. She’s not mean to him. She’s just uninterested.
They all inhabit a world populated by teddy bears. Don’t ask me why. It just kind of happened that way. I also didn’t plan to create a dialogue-free pantomime comic. The first Buni comics I made didn’t have words in them, so I made the next ones wordless, too. Then it became Buni’s thing.
I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to “get” the slightly depressing strip when I submitted a dozen comics to the contest. I thought it was funny, but I was shocked when Buni was named a finalist in the Comic Strip Superstar contest. I was trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal at the time, mostly out of Internet contact, so I missed most of the contest.
In January 2010, I launched the bunicomic.com website. It began as a weekly comic. Buni now updates three days a week and has been syndicated online through GoComics.com since July 2011.
Although BuniWorld is a bizarre place with mafia teddy bears, unicorns, zombies and bunnies, I get my inspiration from living a regular life. I was a reporter and photojournalist for more than a decade, which is a great education in humanity.
The only character that is based on real life is BuniDog (AKA Dogi). When I worked in Italy, I was out late one night in Rome. I heard squeaking while walking a cobblestone street. I turned toward the sound and saw a little dog in a makeshift, homebrew doggie wheelchair made from bent wire coming around the corner, strutting down the street at 2 a.m., totally unaccompanied by any human. I thought, now that is a dog.
I try to focus on basic human fundamental themes in the comic, such as hope, optimism, love, rejection, irony, food and justice, which can easily be understood without words. Since the Internet transcends borders, I wanted to make a comic that could be understood abroad, without language barriers, though I occasionally use a few words.
When I noticed a big portion of my readers lived outside the United States, I started a Traveling Buni Project in which I asked readers to send me photos of a printout of the Buni character where they live or are visiting. I thought I would get a handful of photos but received dozens and dozens from every continent except Antarctica, including from Everest base camp in Tibet, on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and in Bolivia, Myanmar and Cuba.
A few of my GoComics readers frequently describe my comic as “sick” and “demented.” However, I consider Buni a very hopeful, optimistic comic because, despite all the terrible things that happen, Buni still wakes up each day smiling, expecting the best rather than the worst. And BuniDog doesn’t let his wheelchair limit him.
I have drawn cartoons for most of my life. I started seriously doodling during class in third or fourth grade. I made my first comic strips in middle school. I sold photocopied books of cartoons at a local independent bookstore when I was in high school. I drew a couple of different comic strips over the years, mostly for university papers. One was about a boy. Another was about an alien and a robot. Another strip was based on a newsroom trying to adapt to the blogosphere and Twitterverse. I also write for Mad magazine. Buni was the first comic I made specifically for the Internet.
A copy of cartoonist Chris Ware’s comic “Ruin Your Life, Draw Cartoons” usually hangs by my desk. Which is kind of true. Only an insane person would try to keep up with the nonstop deadlines of a cartoonist. And no grown man should draw as many bunnies and unicorns as I do. However, I enjoy the daily meditation on the absurd.
Thank you for joining me down the rabbit hole of my mind three days a week on GoComics. And yes, I try to read each and every one of your comments. I find them entertaining and you help me make the comic better. I wish I could respond more, but the Wi-Fi reception isn’t very good in my cave.