By M. Stephanie Murray
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 4, 1997

Plunging into 'The Deep End'


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chad Strawderman and his creation.

We know how fickle you Wildcat readers are. We know you read the comics first. And that's OK, at least as far as Chad Strawderman is concerned.

The auteur behind the classic "Big Fun" strip and the current "The Deep End" sat down with Ground Zero recently to talk about the big blank that is his childhood, why his cartoon people have big heads and no names and the release of his latest collection of comic strips, which goes on sale Friday.

Born in Ohio, raised in the Naked Pueblo, Chad claims to have no warm and fuzzy anecdotes about his childhood, having "blocked all childhood memories." He does recall his earliest attempts at drawing involved trying to mimic "Bloom County" and other cartoon staples.

During a stint at Pima Community College, Chad did a strip of which he reminisces, "It was horrible ... what was that thing called?" While not a smash hit, this unknown strip did convince Chad that cartooning could be a career option.

At UA, his next strip, "Big Fun," debuted and soon became a campus classic. For two years Chad labored on "Big Fun" before killing it off. "I felt like I had done what could be done with that [format]," he says. "It was very much a college strip ... I thought, well, maybe I should try something else."

After that, Chad did a short-lived comic featuring schoolkids. "It was really hard ... I got too caught up in writing jokes and trying to write characters instead of just trying to have fun with it." In trying to make a more-accessible strip, he started turning out what he calls "Smurf characters," that were just "vessels for jokes." Chad calls this "The Smurf Period."

And then came "The Deep End." One miserable guy on his couch. Chad started this one while he was out of school and he says that it is "mostly totally autobiographical ... I look at my life and times it by 50." Lately some new characters have been popping up in "The Deep End": the taxi driver, the mean boss. None of the characters in the strip have names, although some people have made names up for themselves. Which is OK with Chad. It's all part of the fun.

When confronted with the distinct physical roundness of his characters, Chad explains "I'm a round person ... I was a chubby kid, so maybe that has something to do with it." Or maybe the roundness gives a softer edge to a very dark world; "Oh, that's fun," responds Chad to this attempt at artistic analysis.

On a lighter note, Chad was amenable to the Ground Zero name game of the week. To formulate one's porn star name, combine the name of the first street one lived on and one's elementary school; one's drag queen name is the name of one's first pet and one's mother's maiden name. Chad looks forward to an adult-entertainment career as Pantano Coronado and could be appearing at the next Diva De La Paz revue as Q.T. Nickels.

The Deep End book is a new collection of strips originally appearing in the Wildcat, on sale for $5.95 at the UA Associated Students Bookstore and Captain Spiffy's starting tomorrow. Go buy it. This poor boy has student loans like you wouldn't believe.

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