David Gilbert, Creator of Buckles

25 January 2002

   Buckles enjoys the good life. The adorable little fellow is cuddled, babied and spoiled. He lives in a comfortable house and has lots of friends. He is at times insecure and fearful, but he has few problems. Except that he hates the paperboy and threatens to bite him. Bite the paperboy?!?

Oh, by the way, Buckles is a dog.

    Buckles is the embodiment of his creator, David Gilbert. David used his own personality traits, the things he didn't like about himself and his own odd whims, to develop the dog's almost human personality.

    The character evolved from a regular warm-up exercise. The dog's original form was wolf-like and displayed much confidence. David drew his practice sketch drooping the ears and enlarging the eyes. "Buckles almost immediately jumped out of the paper," the cartoonist said. *(1)

Buckles 2

    David Gilbert was born in Syracuse, New York, in May of 1971. He enjoyed cartooning as a small boy and by the eighth grade, knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. He took a cartooning course in high school but received poor marks. David was not daunted by this setback, and continued to draw with more focus on animation. His cartooning hopes were boosted when he received publication in his high school paper.

    During David's first year of college, he landed a small cartooning job through the local newspaper's editorial cartoonist, Frank Cammuso. He drew a strip entitled "School Bored" for a weekly newspaper insert aimed at high school students. All the while, David developed and submitted his own original cartoons to syndicates. Rejections flowed in.

Buckles 3

    Animotion, an animation studio in Syracuse, NY, hired David to work on their projects. The Animotion staff supported his efforts to become a syndicated comic strip cartoonist and encouraged his submissions.

   David developed the Buckles comic strip in 1994. He submitted the strip to several syndicates, with a positive response from three. He selected King Features to be the home of his strip. Buckles debuted on March 25, 1996 in numerous newspapers to the delight of readers.

    Along with the lead character, David developed insightful personalities in Paul and Jill, owners (or human parents) of Buckles . He revealed the pet's eye-view of Scrappy, the squirrel; Arden, the bird; Flea, who seems to be the dog's conscience, and an oddly enough, Irene, the beloved fire hydrant.

    Most thoughtful of cartoon possibilities, David developed Lester. Lester is a dog crippled by hip dysplasia and must wear a wheeled device to help him get around. The disabled character proves the struggle to survive and win is worth the fight. David seems to understand the motives and spirits of the animals he has drawn, making their personalities life-like and vivacious.

    David favours basic art materials for the daily development of his comic strip. He uses smooth surface drawing Bristol board and draws with a 3H Staedtler art pencil. Like many other cartoonists, a Sharpie ultra fine point marker is his choice for lettering. He uses India ink and a #1 round Princeton art brush to shade.

    There has been only one controversial incident with the Buckles comic strip, taking place in 1997. In trying to show the different celebrations, Gilbert's cartoon made a connection between Hanukkah and Christmas, and unintentionally offended the Jewish community. Gilbert and King Features apologized immediately and the matter was settled. (Christmas has been trouble for many cartoonists. Just ask Johnny Hart, creator of B.C .)

    The endearing Buckles comic has developed a strong fan base. Readers say the Buckles characters behave just like their own pets and family. Gilbert has touched the hearts of comics readers everywhere it is published with one funny strip after another.

    David Gilbert is living his dream of being a cartoonist. "Though some days can be less enjoyable and mentally exhausting, I try never to forget how lucky I am to be able to be a part of a profession where I can continue with what I've loved since I was five years old." *(1)

    He's a fortunate man.

Buckles 1

See the Buckles website with loads of information, including photos on how Gilbert creates his cartoon, and comics archive:
*(1) http://www.bucklescomic.com

Buckles home Syndicate:
http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/buckles/about.htm

The Anti-Defamation League and Buckles :
http://www.adl.org/presrele/Mise_00/2889-00.asp

© Susanna McLeod 2002
TheCartoonists.ca  
       
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)