Art ~ Writing ~ Life

From Handprints To Footprints

Before Cell Phones

August 9, 2012
Steve Campbell

1982 was a time before cell phones as we know them now. Most of us were unable to afford the monstrosities at our local electronics store, so we settled for talking to friends on our CB radio in the car or waiting until we got home to use the house phone for the long distance calls. It was fairly common to see someone rushing home for an expectant important call, and it was this behavior I based the following Louie & Bruce cartoon.

"Phone Calls"

Basketball Blues

August 9, 2012
Steve Campbell

Based on a true event, this is a been-there-done-that comic strip from my high school days and drawn later (1983), and features Bruce from my Louie and Bruce comic. Here I’ve exaggerated Bruce’s short height with the tall basketball players. There were always those taller, faster, more athletic kids at school who hogged the ball while kids less fortunate waited their chance to “shoot some hoops.” When Bruce gets his chance, the ball has no life left in it. Lifeless is a good description of the basketballs at my school from 1969 to 1975.

From the Sawmill

August 9, 2012
Steve Campbell

Retro Louie & Bruce from May 1982. Here, Frank and Bruce are inside the sawmill. We see them with Bruce’s old radio. Notice the cassette player. Mine was older; it had 8-track.

3 Silly Louie and Bruce Panels

July 16, 2012
Steve Campbell

I recently discovered the following Louie and Bruce strips in storage. They were drawn in June 1982 and published five years later in a local newspaper, then put away as I went on to do other things. Each strip was drawn in blue pencil on a drawing panel, then inked with quills and brushes and India ink. I can still smell the distinctive eye-watering odor of that ink when I hold a panel close to my nose.

Panel 1

I can’t take full credit for this joke. It was a running gag at the sawmill where my Louie and Bruce comic strip was born.

Panel 2

Leroy and his talking dog Ernie were occasional characters in my Louie and Bruce comics. Here, they tell a gag every farm kid knows by heart.

Panel 3

Old, but still able to make me chuckle; this is one of my favorite baseball gags.

Cartooning, Years Ago

July 8, 2012
Steve Campbell

The first Louie and Bruce comic I drew in 1981. I found it inside a box and among drawings and papers from years ago, back when all I wanted to do was be a professional cartoonist. But then I discovered the power of painting soon afterwards and I zoomed off in another direction.

Conroy’s Corner – Water Skiing

April 3, 2012
Steve Campbell

Conroy Waterskiing

Conroy’s Corner – Baseball

March 26, 2012
Steve Campbell

Conroy Baseball

Conroy’s Corner – English

March 18, 2012
Steve Campbell

Conroy English

Conroy’s Corner – Football

March 10, 2012
Steve Campbell

Conroy Football

Conroy’s Corner – Hot

March 2, 2012
Steve Campbell

Conroy Hot

Conroy’s Corner

February 23, 2012
Steve Campbell

Conroy’s Corner, a Comic Strip:

I was 29 when I began majoring in art at college, and I was eleven years older than my classmates. The college’s administration labeled me an adult student because … well, because my 18-year-old nonequivalent classmates’ physical growth hadn’t stopped and they were intellectually shy—very shy—attaining maturity needed to be responsible. Thus, shuttled to classes at a satellite campus for older degree-seeking students, I wasn’t part of the mainstream campus life. From that exclusion the genesis of Conroy’s Corner occurred.

I drew Conroy’s Corner from 1987 to 1989 while I observed college life from the outside looking in. I founded a newspaper at the satellite campus and published my cartoons there. We who had attained maturity became an audience for the plights of Bruce Conroy who was part of the mainstream college life and fell shy understanding the dilemma of someone encaged by the unimaginative and conformist academia establishment.

Conroy Protest

Louie and Bruce – Snowman Critic

February 15, 2012
Steve Campbell

Frank - Critic

Louie and Bruce – Snowball Decked

February 7, 2012
Steve Campbell

Frank - Snowball

Louie and Bruce – Safe Driving

January 30, 2012
Steve Campbell

Frank and Leroy - Driving

Louie and Bruce – Talking Dog

January 22, 2012
Steve Campbell

Leroy and Ernie - Talk

Louie and Bruce

January 14, 2012
Steve Campbell

The Love of Drawing Cartoons:

Louie and Bruce Cast

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.

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