The BarkBox doodles are everywhere- on the box, in our newsletter, and on our Facebook page. And while we affectionately call these pup drawings “doodles,” the artist behind them is a full-blown cartoonist.
They’re by Dave Coverly, one of the top cartoonists in the country. (Seriously.) His “Speed Bump” comic strip is syndicated in more than 400 newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post, Torontopr Globe & Mail, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Tribune, and the Indianapolis Star. In 2009 he was given the prestigious Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year—the highest honor awarded by the National Cartoonists Society.
Dave lives with his wife and two daughters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and he took a few moments to chat with us about dogs, cartoons, dogs, BarkBox, and more dogs. 🙂
BarkBox: Do you have a dog? I don’t know how you couldn’t with the type of comics you write. ☺
Dave: Oh yes, we do have a dog. She’s a little rescue dog mix, her name is Macy. I grew up with a couple of dogs ever since I was little, so I just love dogs.
BarkBox: What was your first dog like?
Dave: My first dog was hilarious. I think I was in 3rd grade and my grandparents lived near Detroit. We didn’t have a dog yet, and we lived in the country. My grandpa decided we needed a dog so he went to downtown Detroit and he found this stray, this dog that was just wandering around. It was totally a feral dog. If that dog was a person it would have been out on the corner smoking a cigar. It was just one of those wild dogs—the kind that’s impossible to housetrain.
He brought it over and once you show kids a dog, it’s game over. There’s no way we were going to give up the dog. His name was Shag.
BarkBox: So, your doodles are so spot-on, witty, and doglike. How do you get in the mindset when you’re trying to come up with the jokes and the drawings?
Dave: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve always been around dogs and spent a lot of time with them. You kind of get a sense of what dogs are like in general, so if you put them into a specific situation, you project out what might happen in that situation. Dogs to me, above all animals, are the most personality-oriented, if that makes any sense. I think all people kind of project their own feelings on the dogs and so there’s a similarity there.
Dogs really want to know what you want them to do. They really pay attention to how people are behaving. I think the fact that they have personalities really lends itself to cartoons like that.
BarkBox: Do you have a favorite Speed Bump comic and doodle?
Dave: That’s tough, let’s see. I think for Speed Bump there is this comic of a dog in a bar, I tend to draw a lot of dogs in bars, [laughs]. So there’s a dog at the end of the bar and there’s a guy at the other end. The bartender is saying to the guy, “No she doesn’t want to go for a walk.” It’s hard to describe cartoons—but that’s probably the one I would pick.
As for the BarkBox doodles, I think I like the one you guys just ran a couple days ago—the iPeed app doodle.
BarkBox: Who are your favorite artists and cartoonists?
Dave: I’ve got a few—my favorite is probably a guy named Jim Borgman who does a comic strip called Zits.
BarkBox: Love Zits!
Dave: Yeah he was a political cartoonist for Cincinnati Enquirer and I was friends with him before he even started Zits. I was a huge fan of his political work and he’s had a massive influence on me. When we became friends, I saw him when he was pitching Zits, and I thought, “Oh man, this is going to be huge.” And it took off so fast.
There’s also a guy in South America who’s not popular here, he just has had a major impact on my thought processes. It’s a guy named Quino—he’s a genius. He does the single-panel cartoons like I do, but he does what’s called “pantomine cartoons,” cartoons with no words. Those visual jokes are really, really hard to do. If you’re a writer or any kind of artist, you see somebody’s work and you think, “I don’t even know where that comes from, it’s so good.” I love that feeling.
BarkBox: Favorite dog? Favorite type of dog? Favorite dog growing up?
Dave: I just love mutts. I love mixed mutts—we had that feral dog, Shag. [Chuckles] We actually caught Shag mating with the neighbor’s dog. It was like a movie. You’re a kid and you walk in the front yard and they’re just going at it. It was funny because Shag, my dog, was like a chain-smoking dog. The neighbor’s dog, Queenie, was literally a pure white dog. She couldn’t have been any more opposite from my dog. It was like the guy from across the tracks and then the sorority princess. Well, the neighbor’s dog got pregnant and she had puppies and we ended up with one of the puppies. So we had the dad and the son when I was growing up. [Chuckles]
BarkBox: If you were a dog, what would you do all day?
Dave: [Laughs] Wow. I would hope that if I were a dog I’d be an outside dog. I watch how much fun my dog has chasing squirrels, just that terrier part of her. She gets down as low to the ground as she can get and she will wait 15-20 minutes without moving a muscle– just waiting for that squirrel to forget that she’s there. So if I were a dog, I think I’d like to be an outside dog like that with free rein. If I was an inside dog, I’d just sit around and eat. Probably put some beer in my dog bowl.
BarkBox: Sounds like the BB office dog’s life, actually. They sit around and eat treats all day. And bark at every new person that comes in.
Dave: What a great place to be a dog at a place like BarkBox that ships out treats in boxes. Jeez.
Dave: The funniest thing my old dog would do [Shag] was he would run so fast that he would get liftoff. He’d be running on his back legs only. That might be why I like drawing dog cartoons—he was just sort of a cartoon on his own.
BarkBox: This is a question from Danielle in our office. Did you ever enter the draw this dog contest?
Dave: [Laughs] From the back of the matchbox? No I never entered that. I always thought that looked like something fun to do, but the older I got the more I realized it was kind of a scam. [chuckles]
BarkBox: If you had 5 minutes to talk to your dog in English, what would you ask?
Dave: Oh what an awesome question. I would ask which parent she loved better. [Laughs] No, um, I think I would ask her just what she thinks about when she’s just laying around. You just wonder what they dream about. I always assumed they just dreamed about stuff they’d done, but what are they thinking about? I mean, are they just thinking, “Boing boing boing,” with dead space in their heads or are they actually daydreaming like we would daydream? I think I’d want to know what they were thinking more than anything.
I’d also ask for cartoon ideas. [laughs]
Be sure to check out Dave’s [awesome] website. 🙂