Monday, November 2, 2009

The Secret Origin of Teddy the Bear

So, I as I posted my last post, I was in the middle of writing an article for my school paper, The Sonoma State Star. That article was about the history of "Teddy the Bear" and how I had evolved during the 18 years I've been drawing. It's really what caused the last post to be done, so I felt like posting to it. Without further ado, here is "The Secret Origin of Teddy the Bear"

There are things that we are embarrassed by. The stereotypical example is the guy in high school who plays football, but really likes theater and doesn’t want his friends to know. We all have that part of us that we keep to ourselves, not because we want to keep it private or that it is wrong or illegal, but because we fear that it will negatively alter the way our friends and family view us because we are the only ones who truly understand it. For me, that’s “Teddy the Bear.”

Recently, my friend put my embarrassment into perspective for me. She thought that I was being too protective of myself, not letting people in. Being the guy who is very outgoing and even being willing to describe my life in the print of the newspaper, I thought she was off base. But later that day, I was hanging out while the final touches were being done for issue eight of the Star, and something happened. A colored picture of Teddy is my computer background and one of the editors commented on how she had never seen a colored drawing of Teddy. I suddenly became shy and sort of nodded, made a small joke, logged off and just changed the subject.

On paper, it’s hard to not be a tad bit embarrassed by what I do. I am a 23-year-old guy who derives great pleasure from drawing cartoon bears. But it is truly what I love to do. I have risked failing classes because I would rather doodle a Teddy comic than listen to the professor discuss the upcoming mid-term.

When I am unsure of what I want to do with my life, I think of this quote from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.”

During high school, I lost sight of this. For four years, four years that could’ve been spent getting better and honing my craft, I put down my pen and put down my love. I let my desire to grow up and look cool to girls and my friends distract me from my love. Throughout my whole life, I had been known as the kid who draws, but now I was someone else. Even coming to Sonoma State, I hadn’t actively drawn Teddy since freshmen year of high school. While I wasn’t exactly unhappy during this time, I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to come alive.

I’ve been drawing since I was five. This is the fourth iteration of “Teddy the Bear.” Over the years, Teddy has changed in look and mannerisms and format. The first was a combination of Archie comics and the “Peanuts” strip. It was just a group of bears who lived in a town and hung out. It was my life as played out by a cast of bigheaded bears.

As I grew up, Teddy did as well.

No longer did I have characters with names like Bobo and Blinky. I’ve been able to flesh out my ideas and find my voice and a cast to fit that.

Teddy’s best friend is the spikey-haired guy. His name is Bert Johnson and is a carryover of my junior-high attempt to copy “Garfield” called “Leonard P. Dog.” He has always been the voice of reason.

The female girl is named Charlie, and she and Bert are eventually going to be an item. She is new to the strip, and so is Teddy’s balding father, Wayne Bear, who is named after my dad. The female bear is the only other constant in the lifetime of “Teddy the Bear.” Her name is Luann and her and Teddy are soul mates. She was created because I was in love with a girl through out all of elementary school and that little part of me that remains the six year old and remembers seeing that girl for the first time is what fuels Teddy’s love for Luann. The bear with the eye patch is aptly named “Patches” and is from a failed strip called “Radicals.” He is the villain of the story, but is as evil as Will Ferrell impression of George W. Bush. His human friend, the guy with the goatee and the bowl cut is Clark Dark and has the same design as a character from my clone of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Teddy started off as being ten years old, just finding out about girls, and now I do see him as having the mentality of a 20-something college student, mocking the crazy world that he is in. Teddy is me-and for a long while, I was embarrassed by him. But that is no longer who I am, I’m not embarrassed anymore. I own that piece of myself too much.

At the core of this strip is the sum total of my creative life. Every step of my life is reflected in this strip and I wonder what I would be if I had continued to deny that part of myself. To deny the small pieces of our selves is to actively choose to be incomplete. If I hadn’t brought Teddy back into my life, would I not be the Trevor Reece I was meant to be? What use is a person who refuses to come alive?

There is something within us that is the sum total of us all. It could be a collection of video games. It could be a couple of hairbrushes or even a ticket to an embarrassing concert. But we hold onto them because even in the darkest moments of our life, we can reach out to these things and remember exactly who we are.

I just draw funny pictures, but this is what brings me to life. I had forgotten that for a while and in the process, lost a part of myself. But Teddy was there to bring it back.


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