Dave Coverly, Creator of Speed Bump

16 November 2001

    Cartooning as a little kid seems to be an on-going theme with cartoonists, and Dave Coverly, creator of Speed Bump fits right into the group. The budding artist drew cartoons as a child and by the time he was a teenager, Dave had a taste of publication success with his high school newspaper.

    Dave's next bite at publication came with "Freen," a panel he created for the Eastern Michigan University newspaper in 1986, while he was an undergraduate student. Dave earned Bachelor's Degrees in Philosophy and Imaginative Writing from EMU in 1987, after returning from a brief study period in England. His cartoon work for the student paper won several awards.

    Coverly left the education system for a couple of years to become an art director for a PR company. During the same time, he gained skills as an editorial cartoonist for the Battle Creek Enquirer. In 1990, Dave moved to Indiana to become The Herald-Times editorial cartoonist in Bloomington. He took up freelance cartooning and was published in The New York Times, the Saturday Evening Post, Redbook and several more. He returned to graduate school at Indiana University, and earned his Master's Degree in Creative Writing in 1992.

    Speed Bump was picked up for syndication in 1994 by Creator's Syndicate, and within a year, appeared in nearly 100 newspapers. Dave said in an interview in 1999 on a National Cartoonists Society web chat that he "actually had a real break. I won a contest with a Comics magazine. And, the reward was a special showing to the syndicate." Speed Bump now appears in more than 200 newspapers world-wide.

    Coverly's fans are a faithful and determined group. A few years ago when the Washington Post dropped his panel, the newspaper received hundreds of calls and emails demanding a return of the cartoon. Speed Bump was returned to the comics page, much to the relief of Dave Coverly.

    The National Cartoonists Society awarded Dave Coverly and Speed Bump a Reuben for Best Newspaper Panel in 1995. The panel was again nominated in 1997 and 2001. Dave received a second Reuben in 1998 for Best Greeting Cards and earned a second nomination in this category in 1999. Speed Bump also won a Retail Excellence Award from the National Drugstore Industry in November, 2000.


    With no specific theme or characters, Dave is free to draw whatever strikes him as humourous. He said the fun of cartooning is creating new characters every day and not drawing the same thing twice. To come up with cartoon ideas, Dave sits in his studio in the attic of his home with lots of coffee and lets his mind wander. The chuckles readers get from the Speed Bump panel prove his method is successful.

    A recent Speed Bump panel shows a scene of devils in Hell lined up to get their photo taken, as if it is a family picture. Rather than the usual fingers behind the head, one of the devils is holding a halo above another devil's head. The cartoon is an example of how Dave uses a play on every-day humour to entertain his fans.

    Speed Bump cartoons are quite detailed, so Dave is judicious about very busy scenes. He uses a Rapidograph pen to ink his work and it takes about an hour to ink a panel. He has a strong reader base that enjoys his sharp, sometimes twisted humour, and so his cartoons are edited less by the newspapers than when he was new to syndication.

    The first Speed Bump book, Speed Bump: A Collection of Cartoon Skidmarks, was published by Andrews McMeel Publishers in June 2000. Dave hopes it sells well so he can get second book into print.

    Dave Coverly and his wife Chris live in Ann Arbour, Michigan and are the parents of two little girls, Alayna and Simone. He finds that his children can be both inspiring and distracting. Since he works at home, his youngest daughter draws all over his office and has scribbled over some of his ideas. The family man finds it hard to stay working in his office with the interesting noise of daily life going on in the rest of the house, because he doesn't want to miss a thing.

Speed Bump home site: http://www.speedbump.com

Dave Coverly and Speed Bump at Creators:

Interview with the Washington Post:

© Susanna McLeod 2001
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)