Citizens of Loserville, 1988
Before I got incredibly lucky and landed my full-time comic book career, I spent five-plus years in graphic arts, hopping back and forth between ad agencies and weekly newspapers in Michigan. Not the most exciting work in the world, but it’s what I trained for in my high school years and it was way better than accumulating student debt in college.
At the ripe old age of 23, I landed at an agency in the Detroit zone called Montgomery Advertising. It was small and crowded, mainly serving locally-based retail chains. I had a lot of graphic arts experience by then, so I was hired on as the defacto art director of the weekly promotional paper for Shopper’s World. One of those 2-color newsprint things that goes straight from your mailbox into your recycle bin.
A quick internet search showed me two things: Shopper’s World is alive and well (good for them) and if Montgomery Advertising is still around, they are very ineffective at getting the word out. Anyway…
The best thing about working at Montgomery was the gang I shared an office with, all graphic artists in our early 20s. There was the job we were hired to do, and then the job we WANTED, which was to make each other laugh as often as possible. That’s what brings me to the cartoons on this page.
For days on end, I’d crank these out (fast improv freehand style) and pass them around for entertainment. I’d never lived anywhere but Michigan at this point, so they all kinda channeled stereotypes of the midwest. They are now one of the few souvenirs I held onto from that time.
Once in a great while, one of these characters will pop into my head and I’ll pull out the drawings and remember how much fun it was to work with that group. They were the first ones I ever went drinking with, the first ones I ever talked politics with (it was an election year), and when I learned that I would become a father, they were the first ones I told. You never forget a group like that, but in the pre-internet era, it was super easy to lose touch. I really wish I hadn’t.
In their memory – and as a loving tribute to Shopper’s World – I present to you the Citizens of Loserville. Imagine being stuck on a long bus ride with any (or all) of them…
At left is my caricature of one of the other employees at the agency who was kind of a dork. Not the kind you eventually feel sympathy for, but the kind whose constant self-aggrandizement only reinforced your initial impression. I include it here not to add to our catalog of ridicule, but to point out that when I drew this, The Simpsons was still over a year away.
I’d originally intended to end this article right here, but when I dug a little deeper into my 1988 file, I found a related artifact from the same ad agency. My goof-off cartoons were seen by management at some point, and it resulted in a talking-to. The good kind. When they realized they had a prolific cartoonist in their midst, they decided to use every part of the buffalo and threw a new assignment my way.
The job was to come up with a cartoon mascot for a pizza delivery company called Pizza 1. They’re still around today, which is commendable for any pizza joint in Eastern Michigan, the home turf of Dominos. So I riffed off the Loserville style for a bit and then went into some animal characters. Keep scrolling to find out what they went with.
Trivia note: this was ten years before The Big Lebowski.
And there they are. The penguins won the day. Not these penguins specifically, but a streamlined version that could be custom-drawn for different print ads. So drawing cartoon penguins became another part of my job until I moved on to fatherhood and a comic book career.