The Love of Drawing Cartoons:
Beginning in the 1970s, I fell in love with drawing cartoons. Drawing toons allowed me to put on plays between the characters I created. Those shows were silly or serious, sublime or nonsensical, whatever I felt when I sat down and drew. No other form of storytelling allowed me as much fun and freedom within the realm of a made-up world.
Louie and Bruce was the result of that fun and freedom—an escape I never grew tired of taking during my plight down the masculine road of life where men are expected to do well if they want to be real men, provide for their loved ones, and protect them in the fullest burden of responsibility.
Thus, the boys and I faced the same challenges, the same obstacles, and together we transformed—although their transformations were much sillier than mine … God bless them for that.
Whenever I finished a toon, I envied Louie and Bruce and their buddy Frank. They did the things I wished I could have done. And most of all, they capered without worry of serious repercussions. Well, almost. I couldn’t let them be too two-dimensional.
Louie, my main character, was a goofball, the fool in life, though I kept him in check with his friends so he never became irresponsible to the point of being a derelict.
Bruce was the artist peering out at the world from behind dark bangs of hair. He was a dreamer, and he shunned fame, fortune and power for freedom to pursue his dreams. He had a good heart like the rest.
Frank wore the cap modeled after a naval officer’s hat, which gave him an air of authority. He was business all the way, with a strong will to get things done—and done right. He thrived on order, and that made him a great foil for Louie’s mishaps.
Other characters in the cast included Louie’s brother Leroy, Leroy’s talking dog Ernie, Bruce’s girlfriend Gloria, and Louie and Leroy’s Uncle John who was Frank’s boss at the sawmill where he worked. These supporting cast members were mentors and best friends, as well as jokers and adversaries.
I created the Louie and Bruce characters during an employment stint at a hometown sawmill from 1981 to 1983. The characters were loosely based on real people. Except for Frank, all other names were changed to protect the instigators of zaniness. You wouldn’t think a hazardous sawmill would be so much fun to work at, but I never had to go far to come up with a silly idea for a cartoon.
I drew many story sketches while on breaks and even used some suggestions tossed at me by fans and critics. My boss suggested I contact a friend of his, a cartoonist named Ferd Johnson from nearby Spring Creek, Pennsylvania and living in California. Ferd drew Moon Mullins for the newspapers. I asked for the address but my boss kept forgetting to bring it to work. Weeks later, he died suddenly—a victim to cancer. The boys played taps at Uncle John’s funeral.
I continued drawing Louie and Bruce long after I left the mill. The zaniness and good times at the mill stayed fresh in my memory and the boys never strayed far from my mind.
Long live cartoons … and Louie and Bruce.