A Louie and Bruce Treasure Hunt [comic strip]

This Louie and Bruce comic page is from September 1981. I was 24 and married for ten months. I had big dreams back then and a bigger future in front of me.

I found this comic and others like it while I went through old boxes during a search for decorations of Christmases past. The drawings caused me to reflect on those days in a melancholy wonder. Wow! How did all those years go by so fast?

They didn’t really. But when you’re busy and not paying attention to life’s clock, the years seem to pass quickly.

Anyway, I’m going to feature my past—the “old” stuff from the 1980s and 90s—during November and December to close out the year.

I hope you enjoy it.

Peace.

Conroy’s Corner from the Archives [comic strip]

I began drawing comic strips when I was in high school. I mentioned The Klutz in my last post. I featured it in my notebooks, notes to friends, and on chalkboards when teachers weren’t around. The Burgess Bros. came next and became a common feature on many unattended chalkboards at my school. Fifi was a French girl from Montreal, Canada who had a passion for watching the Expos play baseball on TV. Her boyfriend, Carl Burgess, was a Navy recruiter stationed in a city I called Big City. (Hey, I was 15.) His brother was a brainiac inventor whose inventions caused crazy adventures that took place in many of my school notebooks.

Super Cluck was my rendition of Super Chicken, a feature on the TV cartoon, George of the Jungle. He was also a klutzy version of Big Bird from TVs Sesame Street, and a member of the Harkem Glove Trompers basketball team, though he rarely played because he hated wearing gloves and was so busy fighting crime. He used to wear a cape but almost hanged himself when he leapt from a rooftop, causing the bad guy (Evil McWeasel) to get away.

The Bullpen was a mature comic strip about a baseball farm team’s group of pitchers that tended to get into trouble with their coach and manager. Think Bad News Bears for grownups crossed with Catch 22 and M*A*S*H without the military locale. Or, imagine all your pitchers behaving like Ty Cobb or the way Babe Ruth did when he was out of the news public’s eye. Even Coach, who was like a father to the guys in the bullpen, had a lot of Pete Rose in him.

The Adventures of Moses featured a high school track star named Moses who was a health nut and an all-American clean-cut kid and his nemesis Flash’t (short for Flash Itt, his name) who was better than Moses was but didn’t take care of himself, like smoking a cigarette and pounding down a beer for warmups before running a track event.

After high school and six years later, I drew Louie and Bruce (a comic strip featured in my last post). I had finished a six-year enlistment in the Navy and had the means to attend college. Conroy’s Corner was born from that venture.

The early strips were 3-panel gags for a monthly newsletter addressed to the “adult students”—a title the college gave students who weren’t fresh out of high school and a way for college officials to segregate them from school activities. I drew many strips about the injustices at that school and the “us and them” attitude there. Most students ignored my protests. I tamed the later strips and eventually only featured sports gags.

The main character, Bruce Conroy, was really Bruce from Louie and Bruce in disguise.

I based the next strip on a true event.

After I graduated college with a BA in art, a local newspaper printed these strips and more. Some of them, yellowed by age, are still on refrigerator doors. I still get a kick when people ask, “Are you the person who drew Louie and Bruce and Conroy’s Corner? Those comics made me laugh.”

And I always grin. It’s fun to laugh. We need to do it more often.

Louie and Bruce from the Archives [comic strip]

This archive features a tiny collection of my favorite Louie and Bruce comic strips that I drew many years ago.

I began drawing comic strips when I was in high school, waaay back in the 1970s when dinosaurs still roamed the planet. The first serious strip I drew for teachers and classmates was The Klutz, featuring an unfortunate character named Howard Klutz who was prone to all sorts of mishaps. I drew many comic strips in school, filling pages of my notebooks with humor when I should have been taking notes for classes.

A decade later, another character became my klutz in a strip I drew for my coworkers, a strip called Louie and Bruce.

"Panel 1"

Louie and Bruce are friends who work at a sawmill. Louie is the klutz and Bruce is the ballcap-wearing foreman of the mill. I began drawing the strip in a large format that usually featured nine or ten panels. Below is the very first Louie and Bruce comic strip. The year was 1981.

"Louie & Bruce, August 1981"

Over time, I used the sawmill setting less and concentrated on life outside the mill. Below is the last large format strip where I used the sawmill setting. The guy talking to Bruce is Frank, a coworker and Bruce’s best friend.

"Louie and Bruce, May 1982"

Frank became a favorite player. At times, my strip was Louie and Frank instead of Louie and Bruce. Frank was more philosophical than the others and I would have him observing the world around him and give him a spot to make statements on those observations. This allowed me to run his own strip.

Frank - Snowball

Frank - Critic

I drew other characters for the strip, but Louie, Bruce and Frank were the stars.

Louie and Bruce Cast

Although I never became a syndicated cartoonist, a local newspaper ran my strip when I joined a writing club and the paper’s editor was a member. She liked my work and ran many of my strips before the newspaper succumbed to financial problems and was sold to a corporation that ran only syndicated strips.

Drawing comic strips allowed me to put on plays between the characters I created. Those shows were often silly, sometimes serious with a one-two-punch gag thrown in, sublime at times, and even nonsensical when Louie was at the helm. But they were always humorous. If they didn’t make me laugh, they never made publication. 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 loved from beginning to end.

Louie and Bruce – Before Cell Phones

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"

Louie and Bruce – Basketball Blues

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.

Louie and Bruce – From the Sawmill

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

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.

Louie and Bruce – Cartooning Years Ago

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.