Ryan Pagelow, the mastermind behind ‘BuniComic,’ recognized for his cute-looking illustrations with dark twists, definitely needs more spotlight. Besides his well-known protagonist Buni, Ryan has created other characters that deserve a separate publication.
This time, we are happy to share the medical humor in the ‘BuniComic’ universe, making you fall in love with their uniqueness and absurd scenarios. If you are not familiar with Ryan’s comics yet, we encourage you to see his previous post on A&D.
We reached out to Ryan to get a deeper understanding of his artwork. Our curiosity was piqued by the bear characters in BuniComics, to which Ryan replied: “In Buni’s world, all the regular ‘people’ are drawn as bears. So the doctors and everybody else are bears.
There are a lot of jokes you can do with someone visiting a doctor. For example, a wrinkled raisin could get plastic surgery to become a tight grape, or a gingerbread man could visit a surgeon to remove a malignant gumdrop tumor. Drawing a doctor is a quick visual way without words to illustrate that something is wrong with a character or that the character wishes for some transformation. And you can play with the concept of medicine for a joke. For example, paramedics can rush into an ambulance full of puppies to cheer up a sad person. You can also have some dark jokes about medicine and doctors since it involves life and death. For example, I think I did a comic about pulling the plug on some cheese hooked up to machines in a hospital bed covered in mold and too far gone to hope for recovery. He’s a lost cause, which is funny if it happens to cheese. Not so funny if it were to happen to a human.”
Ryan’s webcomic combines cuteness with dark and twisted elements. We asked the artist to elaborate on how he maintains this delicate balance while creating BuniComics.
“Balancing cuteness with dark and twisted elements is tricky. The easiest way is to have cute objects like a cupcake, or an ice cream cone have a dark ending, or vice versa. For example, have a dark subject like death or the Grim Reaper do something unusually cute. Generally, to create something funny, there is a twist. So juxtaposing cuteness and darkness is a natural yin and yang,” shared Ryan.
Many BuniComic ideas seem to originate from relatable scenarios with a surreal twist. We asked Ryan to share an example of how he transforms a relatable concept into something more whimsical and unexpected. Ryan replied: “It’s hard to explain a joke without killing the joke. But I will try. A recent example of a relatable scenario with a surreal twist is a hard-boiled egg and an avocado meeting, and both realize they have similar bellies (a round yolk for the egg and a seed for the avocado). They push strollers with their baby yolk and seed in the final panel. So the twist is that they both had baby bumps, which is relatable to anybody having a child or having one.”
Buni, the webcomic’s protagonist, is a bunny with a unique personality. We were curious to know the symbolism behind the artist’s choice of a bunny character and how Buni’s personality has evolved since the creation of the comic. “When I first created Buni, I was going back and forth about whether he would be a panda or a bunny, and then finally settled on creating a bunny with the coloring of a panda. When I created the character, he always lost at the end, sometimes even dying. But to keep things interesting, he had to win sometimes, even if he only thought he was winning but was still losing. In many early comics, he had a crush on a girl who didn’t like him back in the same way, and he was always getting let down by her, kind of unintentionally. But I don’t use her as much anymore and briefly had him like a more nerdy girl who was more his type. But a love story that works out is not that funny. It’s more funny when it doesn’t work out or when it has a lot of near misses,” shared Ryan.
Ryan’s artistic journey has been influenced by various forms of media, from newspaper comics to webcomics and animation. We asked him to share how these influences shaped his artistic style and how he incorporated elements from different mediums into his work. Ryan responded: “I grew up with newspaper comics, so their form influenced me. But I think the early days of webcomics had the biggest influence on me since, in my generation, that’s where the most interesting things in humor comics were happening. That’s where you could be weird or try new things and find an audience. I enjoy animation. Since my comic is wordless and more physical, I often see it as mini animations. I would make my favorite Buni comics into animated shorts for TikTok and other social media if I had endless time. Everything influences me, from media to experiences and the strange people I meet. I figure I keep pouring as much stuff into my brain and turn it on like a blender and see what comes out.”
Last year, Ryan mentioned his plans to explore new projects, including possibly creating a webcomic or graphic novel with speaking characters. Therefore, we asked how the artist anticipates this transition from wordless comics to dialog-driven narratives will impact his creative process and the themes he can explore.
“I have been working on a new comic idea with dialogue and talking characters, which is much easier to write than writing wordless comics. The transition from wordless comics to comics with text is not that different. In the end, it’s all storytelling. For years, I worked as a journalist writing stories and then switched to photojournalism with no words. So, I’ve bounced between word-heavy and wordless mediums for most of my professional life. In comics, though, you have to make space for the words. I got used to using the full panels for imagery, and now I have to figure out how to squeeze in the text visually interestingly,” shared Ryan.
And lastly, Ryan added: “Creating comics is a great daily meditation. I think of it like pixel sand art. I make it, then all the pixels blow away on the internet, and I work on the next one. It’s very brief and temporal.
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