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Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2006

Dave!Every once in a while I get an email asking me questions about the DaveToons I draw for Blogography. Usually it's asking which program I use to draw them (Adobe Illustrator) or how long it takes to make one (about 5-15 minutes depending on difficulty) or how I animate them (Toon Boom Studio) or how I learned to draw them (I'm self-taught). A more extensive explanation of the awful, semi-fictional PG-13 truth is here.

But today's email asked a question I've never received before... what cartoons do I like, and where do I get my inspiration for the Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey toons I draw?

Hmmmm... where to start? I have loved cartooning and animation for as long as I can remember. Disney, Looney Tunes, and Peanuts were an obsession in my formative years, and led to a life-long love which has expanded to include new favorites, like Katsuhiro Otomo and Hayao Miyazaki.

But when trying to trace what inspires Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey specifically, I can narrow it down to three sources (that I am consciously aware of, there are many more I'm sure)...

Dave and Calvin
Calvin learns why Dave is afraid of cauliflower...

Bill Watterson's master work Calvin and Hobbes is simply the best comic ever created. It's all at once riotously funny, touchingly poignant, and wonderfully life-affirming. How Watterson managed to pack all that into a strip about a little boy and his stuffed tiger is nothing short of miraculous. I wouldn't presume to think that Lil' Dave is on a level even approaching Calvin's brilliance, but I do like to think that he shares the innocence and imagination that made Calvin's world so much fun. If I was stranded on a desert island and could have only one book to take with me, it would be The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. There's a part of me that will always be hoping that Watterson will one day release a new Calvin project, because reading it is an experience you never want to end.

GIR and Bad Monkey
Bad Monkey meets GIR from Invader Zim

It is always a source of great sadness that the wacky and wonderful world of Jhonen Vasquez's Invader Zim was cancelled way before its time. It was a cartoon series that actually seemed to be heading somewhere, and the sheer insanity of it all made me fall in love with the show from the first time I saw it. But, as great as the character of Invader Zim is, it's his malfunctioning robot sidekick GIR that I liked best. He's an irritating, bungling, inept, and totally insane little companion... but Zim loves him anyway. Much like Bad Monkey's naughty, drunken, and totally inappropriate behavior is likewise irritating to Lil' Dave, but he loves him just the same. If you've never experienced Invader Zim, it's kind of hard to explain... but you can buy the show at the iTunes music store (or rent the DVD) and see for yourself. Most people are probably not going to dig it, but it's one of my favorite cartoon series of all time (followed by Batman: The Animated Series, Pinky and The Brain, Family Guy, and Top Cat).

DaveToon homages to South Park pop up from time to time. Here there are FOUR!

If there is one show that has forever changed the landscape of cartoons as a medium for adult entertainment, it would be South Park. Sure The Simpsons revived the genre of more mature-oriented cartoons that hadn't been seen since The Flintstones, yet it was South Park that shattered the genre completely. But, to me, even more important than what the show does is how it does it. The first incarnation of the show was crudely animated by hand as a school project for Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They didn't have a studio, massive funding, or anybody telling them what they could (and couldn't!) do... yet look what came of it. This is inspiring to anybody who dreams of creating animation of their own, and has certainly inspired me to goof around with it.

Argh. I have the sudden urge to watch Invader Zim and South Park while reading Calvin and Hobbes. I'm never going to get caught up with my work now.

Categories: DaveToons 2006, Television 2006Click To It: Permalink


  1. Kristin says:

    Top Cat!

    The indisputable leader of the gaaaaaang
    He’s the top, He’s the tip
    He’s the championship!
    He’s the most tip-top – Top Cat!

    Now I will be singing my self to sleep with this.

    Thanks Dave!

  2. Kapha says:

    Funny, I hadn’t thought of it until this post: your work definitely reminds me of Calvin in the expressions on Lil’ Dave’s face. That subtle feeling of sympathizing with Lil’ Dave. Great stuff!

    Calvin and Hobbes is on the very top of my comic strip list as well. Two spring to mind: one where Calvin pops a HUGE bubble-gum bubble and it wraps around his entire head, and one where he is bored at dinner and creates a sculpture out of his food of a head making a funny face (with lettuce for hair) then mimics the sculpture – both brilliantly hilarious and both without a single caption. The bubble gum one has got to be the single funniest comic I have ever seen.

    There are some hidden gems of Anime that truly blow me away. Miyazaki’s work is stunning, and I’ve come to learn that several of his films require more than one viewing to truly appreciate – some I disliked at first come through as genius works the second or third time, and that’s not just the animation.

    Other Anime that I found incredible were The Paper Sisters (both the “movie” and the so-called “the T.V.” follow-up series), Cowboy Bebop (*not* the movie, which s00ked imo), and Last Exile (ended prematurely imo but otherwise stunning).

    Like you I’ve been into animation forever and have some buried treasures like the three 20-minute color Popeye “movies” that include “3-D” models in the background, early Betty Boop, Looney Tunes, etc.

    It really is an amazing medium.

    Now I’m gonna have to track down my copy of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes to read on a lazy Sunday morning very, very soon. 😉

  3. Mooselet says:

    I have every Calvin & Hobbes book ever released. When my husband suggested getting rid of them, I told him I’d get rid of him first. No one messes with my C&H collection.

  4. Brad says:


    I’ve been a daily visitor to your blog for only a few months, but you were an instant favorite and addiction. I enjoy all your posts, but haven’t had sufficient reason to comment until now. I love your cartoon characters and am envious of how creative your blog is because of it. Your writing is entertaining and brilliant, but the cartoons are definitely the icing on the cake.

    Thanks for telling us about your inspirations. I too was a HUGE Calvin and Hobbes fan; I was devastated when the daily cartoons ended, but find solace in the published books. I confess I’ve never watched Invader Zim, but I have watched South Park and couldn’t agree with you more. I happen to be a little partial toward the Simpsons simply because I have a longer history with that family, but I certainly appreciate and enjoy the genius of South Park.

    I’m looking forward to even more great blogging from you in the coming year. To you, Lil’ Dave and Bad Monkey, Happy New Year!

  5. Laurence says:

    Love this !!!
    I love when someone describes his work, his “backstage”…
    It is not easy to answer at those questions and you succeed… Bravo !
    I love all your references and the homage to South Park !!! 🙂

  6. ~jtm says:

    Ah! Three great classics. My youngest(12) is obsessed with Invader Zim (It was a Zim Christmas for her)… My oldest(14)is into Anime, she draws some amazing stuff.

    Thanks for the behind the scenes look, that was fun!

    Illustrator is one of my classes for next semester, I can’t wait to learn it.

    On a side note: got the husband the Star Wars Lego computer game for Christmas…man that’s fun!

  7. Derek says:

    four? I only see stan and kyle?

  8. Dave2 says:

    Kristin… I was always partial to Benny. 🙂

    Kapha… We have similar tastes! I remember that strip from Calvin and Hobbes well, and also enjoy the anime you mention.

    Mooselet… That sums up my feelings perfectly! Calvin and Hobbes can make even my worst day better.

    Brad… Thanks for the kind comments. The Simpsons were an early favorite of mine, but got way too commercialized way too quickly to keep me from becoming a rabid fan (is there anything you CAN’T buy without Bart on it?)… but I still buy every DVD set they release, and watch the show every Sunday (can’t wait for the movie!). Amazing that, just like South Park, they manage to jeep the show fresh after all these years.

    Laurence… While I don’t think anything I do could ever approach the genius of my inspiration… it was fun for me too! 🙂

    JTM… I TOTALLY LOVE INVADER ZIM!! And Lego Star Wars… your husband is in for some good times!

    Derek: Yep. There’s Wendy Testaburger, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, and Mr. Garrison (before the sex change operation)…

    South Park Homage

  9. Avitable says:

    That Ultimate Calvin & Hobbes Collection is amazing. I’ve almost thrown my back out trying to read that in my *ahem* library because the books are so damn heavy!

    I would never want Bill Watterston to come back, because I just don’t think it could meet my expectations. He is a genius in my estimation, and I think I’d be disappointed in anything he did.

  10. Dave2 says:

    In some respects, I agree with that. But I never felt for one second that Watterson was losing his edge or was running out of things to say in “Calvin and Hobbes” – which makes the loss so much greater to me.

    Of course, if Watterson WAS feeling that way, then I am grateful he stopped before the strip went downhill.

    Still… even if it wasn’t “Calvin and Hobbes”… I sure wish he would give us SOMETHING. 🙂

  11. Amity says:

    I’ve got to add “Ren & Stimpy” to the reviving of the adult cartoon genre.

  12. Eve says:

    Now I want to read Calvin and Hobbes!! I used to read the daily strip, so it’d be cool to get my hands on the collection.

    I like the Dave Park toon. Now that you mentioned your influences, I can totally see it.

  13. diane says:

    Spooky–you had to have read my mind–last night I was thinking “I don’t enjoy angry Dave, I wish he’d draw a cute cartoon or something.”
    Hee hee. Not that you don’t have the right to do/say/feel whatever you want on your blog, but…well, you get the point.
    ANYWAY, I don’t know Invader Zim, but will check it out because Bill Watterson and Matt/Trey are certified geniuses. I totally agree that Matt & Trey did the most amazing job of changing the landscape of comedy and animation with their humble silliness. If there is one person I could meet before I die, I want it to be Trey Parker. (I would kiss him and do naughty things to…errrr, I mean, I would be nice and polite and shake his hand…yeah…)

  14. Avitable says:

    Yeah, you are right about that. A new Watterson creation would be awesome.

  15. RW says:

    I’ve always felt the DaveToons were great. You have books in the works that need to be published and would be a success. Even if self-published. You even have a willing network in place to help promote.


  16. Mrs. K says:

    I miss Calvin and Hobbes! They were truly classic. It totally pisses me off to see fake Calvins on window stickers. The ones of him peeing on stuff are really bad. I’m completely against unnecessary lawsuits but I think Watterson should sue the makers of those.

  17. Barb says:

    Hi Dave…….

    As a recent lurker I have been wondering about your cartoons…..and here you post your creative process before I even had the chance to ask the question!! You a cyber-mind reader too???

    Thanks for the insight and LOVE your blog!!!

  18. Rick says:

    You must have a few animation cels lying around, don’t you? I stumbled into a cel “gallery” many years ago and can’t stop looking at the ones I managed to pick up.

  19. rae says:

    i used to watch pinky and the brain when i was 6! and i’m 17 now. how fast time flies…

  20. Your cartoons make me smile… Often when I need it most! 🙂

  21. kilax says:

    If I was stranded on a desert island with only one book, I would want Dave’s “best of blogography” book… wait! He hasn’t made it yet! Dave, it would be so cool if you made a book with your cartoons or just archives of your posts. Of course, they are on the internet, but I think your audience would dig it 🙂

  22. Troy says:

    Ah. I love Invader Zim. I have the first and third DVD (found in the used DVDs at Blockbuster for 7 dollars or so). GIR is my favorite. “I saw a squirrel – he was doing like this“.

    Love it. Have you read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, or Squee or Fillerbunny by Jhonen? Interesting stuff (though not as family friendly). 🙂

  23. Dave2 says:

    Amity… oh yes… can’t forget “Ren and Stimpy!” I was annoying everybody with my Ren impersonation for months after the show aired. And, now that you’ve reminded me, I can start annoying everybody with my Ren impersonation again! My friends thank you!

    Eve… Sometimes while traveling, I will spend hours in an airport reading Calvin off the web. The time sure does fly when you are having fun!

    Diane… I will warn Trey Parker immediately! 😀

    Avitable… He has once mentioned that he would enjoy doing a new strip from a little girl’s perspective… I would kill for a Suzie Derkins strip!

    RW… My New Years resolution… we’ll see. If I ever get the time, I’m about a month away from finishing volume one. You are my first call. 🙂

    Mrs. K… I always admired Watterson for not whoring out his strip for every conceivable product, and it is a little sad to know that there are people making money off his creation in a way that he never did himself. Much like people who steal my blog entries to sell advertising, when I don’t have ads myself.

    Barb… Thanks for the kind comments. Though I’m not sure people are really buying the “Calvin and Hobbes” influence on my creative process when I am drawing Lil’ Dave ripping into an Elmo doll with a chain-saw. I’m guessing that’s the South Park, but you never know what Calvin does off-panel… 😀

    Rick… I can’t afford to buy the animation cels that I would really want to own. I can’t believe how hideously expensive they are (especially now that many cartoons are drawn on computer). 🙁

    Rae… I STILL watch “Pinky and The Brain” and I’m 40! Of course, I act like I’m 2, so I suppose it all balances out in the end. 🙂

    Atomic Bombshell… “DaveToons as Healing Therapy for Happiness” should be a book. I know it’s kind of pathetic since I’m the one drawing them, but they often make me smile too.

    Kilax… Don’t worry… RW is working on getting it out of me. In the meanwhile, you can look at the covers!

    Troy… Oh yes. Love Jhonen’s stuff. My favorite quote from the first episode is where Zim says “QUIET GIR! Do you want to wake up the entire planet?” and GIR responds (as only GIR can)… “I dooooooo.” I laugh every time.

  24. adena says:

    Get Fuzzy! You HAVE to like Get Fuzzy!!

  25. diane says:

    Dave, (and with all due respect to RW)
    If one of your resolutions really is to publish your book, DO NOT resort to self-publishing. As I’ve learned this year from a friend who published a book (with many, many other lessons), self-publishing is shooting yourself in the foot in a great big way.
    Hold out for a publishing house to pick you up, even if it’s a smaller or more avant garde one! 🙂

  26. Shannon says:

    I’m ashamed that I never actually saw Invader Zim. But I have read all of JTHM . . . Come to think of it I should go find that and read it again. I wish I had The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I know my brother and I used to have some of the smaller books of Calvin and Hobbes stuff but I have no clue if they still exist. That’ll have to go onto my ever growing book wishlist!
    It was neat to hear about all of your inspirations! Not that I don’t like reading about how you actually DO your animations, but I’m completely graphics illiterate so most of that goes over my head!

  27. undisciplined says:

    Dammit, now this was a post I could have went on and on in absolute agreement. Yay for age regressed adults! I guess I better actually start checking in more often!

    Have you the brain worms??

  28. Belinda says:

    Your toonage taste is…impeccable. One of the things, and I am not EVEN kidding, that cemented the early attraction between myself and the man who would become my husband, was our mutual love of Calvin & Hobbes. We even had many of the same tattered, yellow clippings taped to our respective refrigerators and file-cabinets.

    And here is where I publicly admit for the first time anywhere that due to repeated viewings of the Invader Zim Christmas Special, my daughter was stomping around the house singing,

    Before the power of SANTA!

    LONG before she knew all the words to “Jingle Bells.” We are all about the Jolly Boots of Doom around here.

  29. Jeff says:

    I hope we can look forward to seeing more appearances of Calvin hanging out with Lil’ Dave in the future.

    They look like they could be good friends!

  30. Dave2 says:

    Adena… I like “Get Fuzzy” quite a lot. Certainly better than Garfield!

    Diane… I have no illusions that any book I write is going to be a runaway bestseller that requires a publisher. I’m just planning on using a print-to-order service so anybody who wants one can order a copy. This project originally had a publisher, but I was happier going my own way so that I don’t have to change the content I had planned. We’ll see… 🙂

    Shannon… “Invader Zim” is not for everybody. A few people I know think its too weird and could never get into it. I, on the other hand, am totally infatuated by the show.

    Undisciplined… STINKING HUMANS!!! The other day I was re-watching the episode where Zim and GIR get lost and have to ride the bus. I am still laughing.

    Belinda… Personally, I think “Jolly Boots of Doom” should be the new official song of Christmas. It certainly makes more sense to me…

    Jeff… Due to the potential threat of legal action by Universal Press Syndicate, I’d feel lucky you got to see Calvin appear this once!

  31. Jill says:

    Calvin and Hobbes is definitely at the top of the comics food chain… sharing that spot with Gary Larson’s The Farside. I could never get enough of either of them. My favorite C&H strips were the ones when Calvin created his snow creatures/scenes – I loved everyone of them and was always envious that I didn’t have that imagination when playing in the snow 🙂

  32. The Chad says:

    hey, just browsing on the Wii and thought I’d say hi. so….hi! Wiiiiiiiiii!!!

  33. Dave2 says:


    I’m surprised Blogography is functional in it. And since you have to have JavaScript to comment, I’m even more surprised that the Wii’s browser is FULLY functional.


    Now I want one more than ever!

  34. The Chad says:

    And, as i just found, it can also view youtube. how awesome is that!

  35. Avitable says:

    Chad, that’s fucking awesome. My birthday is January 26th, and I plan on buying one of those and telling my wife that it’s the gift she got me.

  36. jodi says:

    i got the complete calvin and hobbes for christmas! i was/am sooooo happy!

  37. nancycle says:

    Calvin and Hobbes rocks. Ditto for Far Side and Herman.

  38. doctawife says:

    Have you ever read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac? If you like Invader Zim, then you need to check out the rest of Jhonen Vasquez’s work. That includes JTHM, Squee and Happy Bunny.

  39. Ben says:

    Dear Dave,

    I have a suggestion; all other comments shall be rendered in a very light grey font, whereas comments from me, your sponsor, shall be shown in the blackest of black.

    Also, I love Invader Zim, and I think this love is will documented, therefore send money to me.


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