Review: Little Dog Lost by Steve Boreman

Today, Steve Boreman’s new feature Little Dog Lost is launching nationally. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve while I was in Ohio for the comic symposium. He’s funny and witty in person and his new feature is impressive as well.

LDL is a deceptively subtle strip in almost every regard. The premise of a lost dog is simple yet affords Steve the opportunity to take his characters wherever a story-line might take him. The first month samples are spent laying the premise and introducing the cast of characters – a tortoise named Vernon, a beaver, a crow and vulture who are not-so patiently waiting for the dog to die, and lastly and a woodpecker to round out the cast. Each of these otherwise average animals allow Steve to use them to speak metaphorically on larger issues. For example, with the beaver character, Steve can write about living in a society that is constantly building and sprawling as the beaver is constantly building dams and tearing it down. In another strip, the beaver explains how much he loves to eat trees of every kind. In the last panel he walks away satisfied after eating a tree but Steve pulls the frame back and you see a bunch of trees gnawed down at the base leaving the trees susceptible to being blown over – perhaps symbolic of the danger we place ourselves because of our culture of consumerism.

LDL’s subtleness also applies to the writing (the above example would be a good one). The first time I read through LDL, I found little to get excited over and I wondered who was the star of the strip (the vulture often steals the show). But on a second read days later, I found myself enjoying the feature very much – even chuckling out loud. What might be the strip’s greatest strength (subtle gems of humorous insights), might also be its weakness. If one is inclined to read through the funny pages quickly expecting gags to be hand delivered without any required thought, then you might not find this feature funny. If you can slow down and enter into the feature’s world, you’ll quickly love this strip.

One last thing that I enjoyed about Steve’s new strip. The artwork is very loose and simple which adds a bit of charm and personality that enhances the premise of the strip.

If LDL is in your paper today, I highly recommend you give it a spin or look for it on the web.

Below is a few questions that I leveled toward Steve that he was nice enough to respond to. I thought perhaps you’d find them interesting as well.

1. How long have you been working on this strip?

I’ve been working on it steadily since May of 2004 but I was actually writing daily storylines as early as spring of ’03. My earliest sketches of the dog and even some gags that made it to finished strips go back to 2001.

2. Where did the concept of Little Dog Lost come from?

I’m not sure where the idea for a lost dog came from directly. I’m interested in telling little short funny tales, which are usually just reactions to my own surroundings. I tend to write a lot about differing points of view and how we don’t all see the world in the same way. I guess you could say the strip is about that. The lost dog seemed like a good everyman to use for the strip’s point of view.

The beginnings of the strip grew out of these great walks my wife and I would take after work. We’d talk about all sorts of topics. I found myself coming up with a lot of cartoon fodder from those conversations. The strip really gelled when the Vulture showed up. I had named the strip by that point and outlined a detailed story about how the dog got lost and even written several weeks worth of dailies. Then I watched a Donald Rumsfeld press conference. I had trouble understanding what he was saying. I wasn’t sure if he understood it, actually, or if he even meant was he was saying. So I turned off the TV and went out on the front porch to sketch this long story about the dog. Instead, I drew a vulture on a telephone pole advising the dog on when it’s safe to cross the street. At first, it seemed like I was just having a bad reaction to C-Span but I thought, what the heck, let’s see where this conversation goes. The Vulture had a lot more things to say to get the dog out into traffic and the dog, of course, wasn’t going to take a vulture at his word. So it just kept going. I thought I might come back to that original storyline I was working on but I haven’t yet.

3. Where do you envision the strip going?

Wherever it wants to. I don’t have a big story arc I’m following. I just write down what strikes me at a particular time and then follow the dog. I like to think of the strip as a collection of fables. Little Dog Lost isn’t only about a dog trying to cross the street while a vulture watches. It’s a traveling strip so the dog has lots of stories. And there are opportunities to bring in a lot of other animals down the road and to visit other locations. So it’s wide open. When I introduce different animals, I try to stay true to each one’s particular nature. I don’t want to just arbitrarily slap some human trait on something just for the sake of a gag. Setting up a scene and then asking how a real goose or crow or beaver might react to it really helps fuel the gags and characters. It’s a gag-a-day strip but I want the humor to come from the character relationships instead of one-liners.

4. What’s your cartooning background?

I tried to sell gag cartoons full-time when I first got out of college. I starved. I did some freelance illustration and greeting card work for a couple rough years. Then I met Lee Lorenz when he was still at The New Yorker and he invited me up to see his office. I left him a couple dozen cartoons which he promptly returned to me. But instead of a rejection slip, he had put sticky notes with a critique on every cartoon. That was invaluable. I looked at my work much differently and, lo and behold, started selling. Not to The New Yorker, mind you, but I’ve done okay freelancing. I’ve done a lot of newspaper work and some magazine ads and CD covers. Some limited animation too. And retail store design. You wouldn’t think there was a lot of cartooning involved in store design but I lucked into working at a firm called Chute Gerdeman which turned me loose on Walt Disney’s Polynesian resort and the M&M’S World stores in Orlando and Times Square. It seemed like those jobs were tailor-made for a cartoonist. I did the giant character work and graphics in those stores. A real treat to work on.

5. How are you adjusting to producing a daily comic strip?

It is amazing what a daily deadline does for your art and your writing. You learn very quickly that you have to tell your story concisely – not only in a few days or panels, but in few words and lines as well. I tend to be a pretty verbose guy so that’s not always natural for me. My editor’s a great help in that regard. I have a particular schedule that folds in around my family and my dayjob. I follow a to-do list that’s the same every week. I tick off the tasks as I complete them, then I erase the checkmarks every Monday and start up again. A gigantic calendar is a help too.

6. Your artwork looks appears to be spontaneous (loose â?? not computerized). What do you use to create your artwork?

I use two fountain pens and your basic copy paper. It makes me cringe to think about how cheap this paper is. I don’t even use the best copy paper – I go for the Staples brand because my ink doesn’t bleed on it. I did begin with finer papers but just knowing your paper is the good stuff can make your line timid. I had to find paper like my sketch book to keep the line spontaneous. So on this strip, the inexpensive materials have been really an important part of the development. I usually do very loose pencils to start, but often just begin with ink. I also do a lot of tracebacks because I screw up when I go right in with ink. But that’s all part of the personality of the strip. I do add color and set the type on a computer. I had to make a font of my own handwriting because my real-time handwriting is apparently illegible to anyone who isn’t me.

7. Do you have a dog upon which to draw inspiration?

We just lost our dog last summer. I knew him for 12 years and he was big and funny and just perfect. He showed up in my freelance work and sketchbooks but I never drew him in the strip. I think I’ve drawn a good deal from not having him around anymore, actually.

18 thoughts on “Review: Little Dog Lost by Steve Boreman

  1. This isn’t in my paper yet but I plan to request it.
    An excellent comic strip — very well drawn, quite funny, and a lot of subtlety and environmental overtones, as I can see from the samples tha have been posted on WPWG’s website.
    Thanks, Alan, for the informative review/interview. I’m really excited for this strip’s launch!

  2. Congratlations on your Yndication success. You havea very proud mother!
    I am looking forward to seeing your work in the D & C.

    Jackie Swift

  3. Looks like Christopher Baldwin”s Little Dee no? Same vulture. same dog.

    I’m sure United is prepping a suit to protect their artist’s concerns.

  4. YeeHaa,
    I don’t think so. It’s true that there’s a vulture and a dog in both, but the characters are drawn very differently and their personalities are very different.

    The vulture in “Little Dee” is more of a smart-aleck than a malicious figure, which is how I’d describe the vulture in “Little Dog Lost.” Also, the first vulture is the other characters’ friend. Not this vulture.

    Both dogs, admittedly, have left their domestic residences. But, the “Little Dee” dog escaped, whereas Little Dog from “LDL” got lost and can’t find his way home. Blake, the dog in “Little Dee,” is dimwitted sometimes. Little Dog doesn’t seem to be portrayed that way — in fact, he seems to be pretty clever. If anyone in “Little Dee” is similar to Little Dog, it’s Little Dee — sort of a centerpiece around which all the action happens.

    I can appreciate that there are some similarities, but really having two characters be the same animals as two characters in another strip isn’t a rip-off, especially when those two characters are drawn quite differently have largely different personalities. Take “Pearls Before Swine” and “Ink Pen” — Bixby and Hamhock are a rat a dn a pig. But you wouldn’t call “Ink Pen” a rip-off of “Pearls Before Swine” (starring Rat and Pig).

    I certainly wouldn’t.

  5. Nah, to Yee Ha. It’s all original stuff. The dog is based on a beagle that Steve had growing up. He’s been drawing that picture since high school, only it was his dog, “Cammie” back then. The personality of Little Dog is based more on his more recent dog, though. The vulture seems to be more of an offshoot of the aptly named, Damn Cam, who could be a little “vulturish” at times especially if food was involved. Or perhaps the vulture is loosely based on his beloved (and I must say gorgeous) older sister. She certainly tried to manipulate Steve when they were growing up. She may not have been mean enough to tell him it was “safe” to cross the street, but most certainly would’ve done other things like tell him that she had suddenly gone blind so he would mow the lawn. I can already see that Little Dog is taking on a life and personality of his own. I hope Steve’s strip gets picked up by more and more papers, so the world can enjoy the truly clever and talented Mr. Boreman.

  6. Such refreshing new characters in your strip.
    Glad to observe so much bio and environmental
    lingo put to entertaining and practical use.
    We’re proud of you in Pittsford! Good luck!

  7. Great strip!! I look forward to reading more and more. Great subtleties of humor are refreshing.

  8. With the comics page increasingly deprived of good content, I have high hopes for this strip. Granted, it remains to be seen if he can maintain his current level of quality, but I think he’ll do just fine. It’s great to FINALLY get something new that’s worthwhile.

  9. As an instructor of Mr. Boreman at CCAD, I always knew he was special. And you haven’t seen anything yet!

  10. Nice to see my “young cousin” (2nd) doing well and making people smile with his work.

    Tell him Steve Boreman the former FBI agent says hi. He’ll remember. I sent him a t-shirt when he was sixteen and I was an FBI agent.

    Steve B.

  11. Totally dig your strip, neighbor! I had no idea I was living so close to a famous artist! Hook me up with an autograph and I’ll babysit E. for free… Kidding – I only babysit for cold, hard cash, considering that I have enough kids of my own that drive me to the edge of sanity on a daily basis. Rock on, dude. 😉

  12. Steve, being one of your former students, I wanted to thank you for being one of the finest instructors I have ever had in my life. You have helped me become what I am today in my professional career and more. It is a debt of gratitude I believe I can only repay by doing my best in everything I do. Thank you so much!

    -Thomas Stubbs

  13. Your strip is carried in the Contra Costa Times in California. It was first published as a test strip, but people loved it and now it is one of the better every day strips that I can’t wait to read every day.

    Do you have plans for a web page where previous strips can be found? Or do you have plans to publish them in a book? Are they all available at the Ohio State Cartoon Research Library?

    Keep up the great work!

  14. I have been singing the Little Bunny Foo Foo song to my grandaughter since Christmas. I have loved the series that is running in our paper until they showed little Bunny Foo Foo. I think I will save these until my grandaughter gets to be 6 then show her the comic strip. Keep up the good work. I enjoy this strip the best of all.
    Grandma Kris

  15. What happen to Little Dog Lost in Contra Cost Times? This is one of my favorite comics…

  16. I love this strip! After spending all of my working years with animals, I can honestly say this is the best animal strip ever! I want to adopt this dog!

  17. @YeeHaa – same dog? Hardly. We’ve had “Little Dog Lost” here in the Sunday paper for quite some time and it’s pretty popular among the people I know that read the funnies.

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