My name is Thom Bluemel and I am the creator of Birdbrains on GoComics. My comic is a single panel, one-bite-and-you’re-done cartoon meant to tickle your funny bone without adding much weight … it’s comically calorie conscious. Sometimes, it’s meant to massage your funny bone, but that requires special licensing, so I don’t guarantee it as a medical therapy.
“So,” you ask, “how did you begin your career as a cartoonist?”
That’s an excellent question. I wasn’t prepared to answer it until I realized, I don’t have a career in cartooning. Using the term career would imply I make a living from it. Making a living from cartooning would imply I’m getting unbelievably wealthy by making people laugh at me. To me, cartooning is an avocation of fun and as such, I’d do it regardless of whether I made millions or billions because I love making art, I love writing gags and it’s great to know people are laughing at me …
My cartoons have been published in newspapers, magazines, textbooks and laptop printers around the world … well, somewhere in the world … but fame has never rung my bell. I am honored just to have a good number of readers who, for odd (perhaps psychological) reasons, act like they enjoy my cartoons. To me, that is true success in cartooning.
“When did you start cartooning?” you ask. Good question. The answer: July 2, 1962, 2:05 p.m.
I remember it well. Children were rollicking outside, birds were squawking musically, the sun was blazing and there was a refreshing northeasterly gale knocking over trees and telephone poles. I had just been imprisoned in my room by my dad for doing some unthinkably awful, terrible, horrible thing. I was 10 and as I understood the world, I had only done what 10-year-olds were supposed to do: create havoc, misery and justify it with sarcasm and insubordination. Evidently, dad had a different set of rules. Narrow-minded adults …
That was before the Internet, DVD players, computer games – and barely the Golden Age of TV – I was being sentenced to the torture of room-restricted boredom; so, in my revolting way, I created my first anti-parent, anti-authority, anti-obedience cartoon. It’s hard to remember how it actually looked or what the caption was because it was later used to start a fire, but I know it was a masterpiece. And that’s how my cartooning began.
Later, I employed similar “artistic” tactics in the classroom. I did it so often, I was recognized for having a sort of talent. Of course, when my teachers recognized me, there was no mention of talent – but like-minded troublemakers knew better. Time marched on. I practiced and practiced and practiced and eventually, I began making drawings for school newspapers, yearbooks, etc., designing my first yearbook cover in the eighth grade. Eventually, even some teachers (OK, just one) started telling me I had talent, which encouraged me to continue. This was also when my art classes ended.
“What inspires you?” a stranger once asked me. I replied, “Hard to say. Maybe bird-watching … fishing … rocks … bug-bites … possibly people-watching … most likely, though, it’s just TV.”
In reality, I find inspiration everywhere. Life is the biggest joke ever told. There’s humor everywhere: what people do; how they walk, talk and balk on the mound; the irony of irony boards; the bagginess in pants; the folly in Futons. It’s everywhere, whether it’s humans, animals, plants or rocks (I know some of the funniest rocks in town).
Many people have asked me how I came up with the name, Birdbrains, for my comic. Let me be clear: I don’t remember.
I’ve always been interested in the outdoors, especially birds. I’ve studied birds extensively, having almost read a whole book on birds. During my early cartooning era (circa 1962), I captured (and released) many, many (probably hundreds) of birds, including doves, pigeons, sparrows, mocking birds, ravens, pheasants, robins, finches and more. In addition to wild birds, I had parrots, parakeets, finches and chickens for pets. At one time, I had a 12-foot-high aviary full of them! When you really study birds up close, you learn they all have unique personalities and behavior patterns, and they provide loads of material for cartoons. Some birds, for example, mate for life, while other birds are unscrupulously indiscriminant; hence, cartoons about bird family life and pickup lines. Of course, none have good grammar, so communication stinks.
Many people, thinking birds are just “dumb feathered animals,” are unaware of their prodigious intellects … OK, that’s an exaggeration – but they’ve learned how to fly on their own and we haven’t, so …
Birdbrains is also a term used to describe dumb humans, so I’ve included them in my comics as well. Once I started including people, I figured, “Why not include all kinds of dumb things?” Now I include birds, rabbits, cavemen, dinosaurs, trees, rocks, dogs, carrots, woodchucks, lemmings, deer, lions, businessmen, snakes, snake-oil salesmen, grasshoppers, cats, caterpillars, cockroaches … all the birdbrains in our “natural” world.
If Birdbrains has a theme, it’s dumb. “Huh?” you ask. To which I reply, “Uh huh.”
What are my achievements and accomplishments? Fairly good question. My biggest accomplishment is being married to my dream girl for 39 years. My other big accomplishment was becoming a GoComics cartoonist, a goal I seriously began pursuing in 1995.
In 1995, I got very serious about cartooning, so I began seriously studying humor, art and cartooning. I seriously read every book on seriously writing comedy I could seriously find. I joined serious humor and writing groups and seriously entered humor-writing competitions. I even won one – thank you, Erma Bombeck – no, seriously, thank you. I seriously studied and practiced drawing and watercolor painting. I even wrote a script for an animated movie titled, “Scamville,” which was subsequently seriously ignored.
Since 1995, I have developed several single-panel cartoon ideas. My first cartoon was a single-panel cartoon about real estate (what I really do for a living) called Broker Deeds, which was published in a local newspaper (for free!).
I joined ComicsSherpa around 2001 and began submitting cartoons. My first submission was a single-panel cartoon titled The Nuthouse. Soon, it caught fire … and burned to the ground. Then I submitted cartoons under the title Words of Wisdumb, where a hippie guru offered dumb advice. He should have advised himself to stop sooner.
Then, in 2004, I began submitting a cartoon called Birdbrains to the Sherpa site. Sherpa is a website for wannabe cartoonists, which I wannaed to be. At this point, I began painting my cartoons in watercolor with pen and ink, trying to flex my painting muscles (it’s all in the fingers) and set my cartoons apart from the others on Sherpa. I wanted my art to be more than what readers expected for a single-panel cartoon … to compensate for my lousy writing. On Nov. 1, 2007, I got a call from Universal Uclick to start posting my cartoons on GoComics as a bona fide poser bigshot!
I’ve often been asked (maybe twice) what cartoons and/or cartoonists have influenced me the most. It’s a long list because there are so many wonderfully funny, great cartoonists. As a kid, like everyone else, I religiously read “Mad Magazine.” Some of my family members still think I’m religiously mad, but few call me madly religious. In addition to reading Mad, I’m one of the few guys who actually reads Playboy magazine for the cartoons – especially Gahan Wilson cartoons – until I reached puberty. Like everyone else who likes to laugh, I’m a huge fan of The Far Side by Gary Larson, Herman by Jim Unger, Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen and Reynolds by Dan Reynolds. I also love to read Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis, In the Bleachers by Steve Moore, The Argyle Sweater by Scott Hilburn, The Wizard of Id and BC – but my biggest influence, especially artistically, is Charles Addams. I teeter on the shoulders of these giants – every one of them true masters.
So, what are my upcoming projects? What a question! Criminy … I’m hoping at some point to publish a book of my cartoons … maybe someday. I’m also planning on having dinner tonight … but there are no guarantees.
Where will I be appearing next? Probably in my studio – cartoons don’t draw themselves, you know!
Thanks for reading this gobbledygook and thanks for reading my dumb cartoon – I hope it makes you laugh … or giggle, if that’s your thing ... I am truly honored to be given so much attention for absolutely no good reason.