By Meghan Peterson
(September 12, 2023) — An artistic dynamo and comic creator-extraordinaire, Roger Straub is equal parts visionary artist and wry humorist. Straub also just so happens to be local – very local: right here in Higganum.
The gregarious personality behind the Mac O’Moodus comic, (which regularly appears in Haddam Killingworth News), Straub is as down to earth as he is deeply invested and expertly engaged in his craft: that is, art vis-à-vis the lively cartoon known as Mac O’Moodus.
This author recently spoke with Roger as well as toured his studio space in which the Mac O’Moodus comic finds life and vibrancy week after week.
Before we get to the creation and character of Mac, however, there is the creator: Roger Straub (shown above in his studio). How did all of this begin?
Well, in the beginning, there was…
A young boy who spent his summers growing up at his grandmother’s cottage in Moodus. It was this location, this home of boyhood memories, that would provide the crucial backdrop for the yet-to-be Mac O’Moodus.
In order to pursue his passion for art and hone his growing artistry, Roger attended the University of Bridgeport, went on to become an art teacher for decades (teaching at Cheshire Academy as well as within the New London schools). Upon retiring and hanging up his teaching hat, he took to showcasing some of his art – namely, black and white portrait studies in a vintage Victorian style. One gallery art show in particular proved fateful.
In October 1998, Roger was showcasing the portrait studies at the now-closed Camp Gallery in Moodus. After the crowd of spectators had gone home, one individual lingered and gave no indication of leaving. After intently looking at the art, this individual introduced himself to Roger as Leland Morgan, owner and publisher of The Trumpeter. Roger was given a job offer on the spot. Leland wanted Roger to be art editor at The Trumpeter. Of course, Roger accepted.
One year later, Leland had another suggestion/offer for Roger: develop a comic for the paper. Again, Roger accepted. Fortuitously, Roger already had developed a character for a class during his college days. The primary task looming over the newly-minted Trumpeter art editor-comic creator was deceptively basic: assign the character a name.
Time came and went. Roger did not yet have a name for his creation. Three weeks before the comic’s debut in the paper. Two weeks out. The clock was ticking.
One evening, as the clock continued to tick, an idea arose. He had flashbacks to his grandmother’s home – that sweet home of memories (a place that continues to be a part of Roger’s life) in Moodus. With his keen love for plays on words and language, Roger had a light bulb moment: the character would be named Mac, because he appreciates pithy, concise, short names and manner of speaking. In addition, Mac would hail from Moodus. Being somewhat of an etymologist (not to be confused with an entomologist!), Roger wanted to incorporate the native Indian roots of the Moodus appellation (Machimoodus). Hence was born Mac O’Moodus.
Who would Mac O’Moodus be exactly? He would be lovable and observant – among other traits. As Roger explains, “there are clear parameters and rules” for Mac. Namely, Roger decided that Mac would be a “mute character,” meaning that no word or thought bubbles would accompany Mac; and he would be a “hermit” of sorts – a solitary character, on occasion accompanied by animal characters (and in some instances, some of the cartoons comprise only animals or alien figures).
Why? Simple. Roger firmly believes that the comic art should speak and stand on its own. Roger does not want the words to “clutter the art.” The only text incorporated within Mac O’Moodus is the pithy – ah, concise – caption.
What would Mac look like? He would have orange-red hair like fire, a yellow coat reminiscent of the sun, blue pants evocative of water (Connecticut River, perhaps?), brown shoes to connote a sense of groundedness.
What is Roger’s artistic process? It consists of four concise steps – a concise process to match the concise personality of the artist:
Step 1. Lay the image out with pencil.
Step 2. Trace the image in ink.
Step 3. Erase all pencil lines.
Step 4. Color the image with Prismacolor® pencils.
As Mac O’Moodus approaches 25 years of existence in 2024, why does Roger keep creating Mac? According to Roger, “one of the reasons I do the comic” is because “the real news is so negative, it is so negatively-driven, if I can bring joy to some people…that is one of my big thrusts.”
In terms of future plans he has for Mac, first, Roger is committed to keeping Mac going. Second, he wants to generate and expand a merchandise/product component to Mac (Mac O’Moodus coffee mugs, anyone?). Third, Roger is seeking a fairly computer-savvy/tech-literate individual to assist him in his efforts to grow the comic’s “brand.”
And in recent news, Roger has added a feather to his accomplishment cap. He has been inducted into the Museum of Celebrated Cartoonists And Illustrators (MOCCAI).
For those who would like to explore more of Roger’s work, check out the gallery of all things Mac O’Moodus at redshedstudios.com. Roger also invites those who would like more information or who are interested in joining forces to assist in cultivating the Mac brand to drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or to give him a call at 860-345-4268.
Above all, Roger – and Mac – want you to find elements of playfulness and joyful comedy in art and life everywhere you go and in everything that you observe and do.
Photos by Meghan Peterson