Thoughts and illustrations on living with Asperger's Syndrome.

Friday, December 31, 2010

On My Way

I have mixed feelings about personal year-end inventories. 2010 for me meant health challenges, professional challenges, lots of uncertainty, and lots of disappointment. There is much I’d just as soon forget. But, there are positives too.

Reverb10 is an online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. Every day in December, it has offered writing prompts that make you think differently. Today's the last day of a 31-day challenge. So although I’m late to the game, I chose a few questions I found interesting.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
This one is hard. I had a few of these moments in ‘09. But 2010 was a year I didn’t travel anywhere new. This was a year I didn’t take pictures. So I will pick a moment from the Asperger’s teen/tween board game night where I volunteer. I brought in Quelf, a random, wacky game that incorporates trivia, charades, silly rules, and characters like Queen Spatula and Super Ninja Monkey. It’s a game I find both ingenious and intimidating, one that pushes me outside my comfort zone socially. But it turned out to be a huge hit with the kids. At various points, I covered myself in magazine wrapping paper, gave a speech about biscuits, and ended every sentence with “-izzle!” We laughed, we improvised, and we stretched outside ourselves. Now the kids ask to play it every time.

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
Of all the online groups I take part in, I feel the most sense of community among autism bloggers. This was perhaps most true on Autistics Speaking Day. I haven’t met any of you face to face, but to share in this movement with you, to visit and comment on your posts, and to have you visit mine, was truly a feeling of connection. On November 1, it was Halloween all over again, going from blog to blog to see the treats you had written. I’m sure this connection will only continue to grow for me in the next year.

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.
I know what this is. I cannot articulate it, but, yes, I know. My best qualities lie deep beneath the surface. They are liable to missed by most, even by those I see every day. I do not trumpet these things. They demand time and attention to be revealed. And I’ve decided that is okay. I’m content to blend into the background for the majority of those I meet, and to focus my attention on those few for whom I stand out, and stop them in their tracks.

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
I came back and resumed this blog in May after taking a break. I wasn’t sure I would continue. I’d published a book in January, but now I was at a crossroads as to whether Asperger’s was a joy or a curse. In the end, I decided it was both, and that it was worth writing about. Since then, I’ve been going strong, and I’m here to stay. This week I took another step forward, with the launch of

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
Who was my Person of the Year? This year, no one person stands out who changed my life for the better. So I’m going to pick a fictional character who did.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" came out in ’09, but I first saw it this year. It became my new favorite movie for its handcrafted animation, its otherworldly soundtrack, and for Ash. Ash is just… different. He's socially awkward, he twitches and spits, and he dresses like his favorite comic book character. He could easily be an Aspie. Ash can't stand being “different,” but in the end, his different-ness saves the day. For all of us real-life outsiders and misfits, his character portrays our experience with exceptional realism and sensitivity. Hey, Wes Anderson, give him a sequel or a series – we need more! For reminding me that different is fantastic, Ash is my 2010 Fox of The Year!

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?
As I said above, this was a year of challenges. I take it as a victory that I have weathered and survived them if not overcome them. I have healing yet to do. But I needed to hang onto something to keep me going. At times, it was very much drip-drip-drip. I pushed myself forward, because it was the only choice. Uncle Iroh said it well in "Avatar, The Last Airbender." “Life is like this dark tunnel. You may not always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving, you will come to a better place.” Yes, cartoons are profound.

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?
I think I like this question the best. When I think about it, I do have something that gives me hope. My readers, my fans, and my followers. The fact that you’re interested in what I have to say. I know that if I keep posting, through the ups and downs, you’ll be here to listen, to leave a comment, or to Like This. My take-away from this knowledge? Just keep on doin’ what I’m doin’.

As a closing thought for 2010, I want to leave you with the words of The Cat Empire, from a song they put out this year called “On My Way.”

And if you want to shine
As the sea looks to the stars
And well, you're here, but very far.

And I'm on my way
To where I won't look back.
I heard you say, with dismay,
“We're living on the tracks,
I hear the train,”
Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh
Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh

Life goes on, and time marches on. None of us makes it out of here alive. You are here now, and the flame of your life is yours to burn as bright as you can, for as long as you can. It’s your choice to spend each day so that when you’re gone, they say you gave your all.

This year more than ever before, I can say I burned. I put it all out there. I forgave imperfection, made fewer apologies, and pushed ahead in spite of doubts. I have every expectation it will get harder. I fully expect my hard work may not pay off. I can only do my best and follow my heart. So here’s to going onward, along this unknown path. Here’s to going on my way, to where I won’t look back.

See you in 2011.

Quelf is copyright Imagination and Wiggity Bang Games.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Indian Paintbrush Productions LLC and Regency Entertainment.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meet The Characters: Dinky Doughnuts

Dinky Doughnuts is the doggie of “Dude.” Often he provides a level-headed counterpoint to the more excitable and angst-prone Fuzzy. Dinky is an NT who is friendly, yet mellow. He does not always understand Fuzzy’s Aspie behavior, as shown in “Noodle” and “Cookies and Cream.” His origins are quite extensive.

Dinky first appeared in January 1986 in “Slick Says Short Stupid Sam Stories,” my comic-within-a-newpaper. He did not have a name at this time. In the comic, Dinky repeatedly interrupts Slick mid-story with his scenery-chewing walk-ons. Slick finds this adorable, but Sam gets annoyed and plots to kidnap Dinky. Sam then frames Q-Bert for the crime, but a secret video captures the whole thing, Q-Bert is cleared, and Sam is sent to jail.
First appearance of Dinky Doughnuts, January 7, 1986
Dinky Doughnuts opens a can of whoop-ass on Sam, Jan. 7, 1986

Dinky became a regular character and was quite a ham in his early days. He had a unique quality of breaking the third wall by sitting on top of the other characters’ speech bubbles, or inside them.

Defying the laws of cartoon physics, Feb. 12, 1986

Whooz Whooz on Dinky Doughnuts, Feb. 18, 1986
However, his own dialogue was limited to thought bubbles or different creative spellings of “Woof!” (Ironically, he would have made a very good Aspie.) His Whooz Whooz entry refers to him as “Slick’s Doggy,” and lists his weight as 1 doggy and his height as 1/4 doggy.

Contest announcement, March 13, 1986
Eventually, I held a contest for my readers to name the doggy. The winning submission of Dinky Doughnuts came from Molly, who supplied the name Fuzzysnussle as well.

Dinky began to show some very specific personality quirks, one of which was an extreme appetite for Doritos. Another was to spontaneously break into song. These two traits came into play in a subplot to the story “A Challenge From Coily,” in which Dinky Doughnuts and Slickette try to occupy themselves while the other characters take part in a Q-Bert game. Dinky auditions with a group of singing Doritos and joins them onstage for “Dinky Doughnuts’ Dorito Disco.” It has also been established that Dinky Doughnuts is a dachshund. Is that enough D’s for you?
"Dinky Doughnuts' Dorito Disco," May 1, 1986

I have retained Dinky’s singing talent in his 2010 incarnation, as you can see in "Cinnamon Bears" and "A Dude’s Thanksgiving."

Dinky also makes a cameo in the original Dude, I’m An Aspie! Can you find him?

He is probably my easiest character to draw, since he has barely noticeable arms or legs. However, this also makes it hard to convey action and expressions with him, so you’re most likely to find him laying on the ground, chillin’ out, and observing. I have never had a dog, but if I did, that’s the kind I would have. The laying on the ground kind.

I have great fondness for Dinky as a character, although I think he needs some further development. I feel like I’ve toned down his eccentricity a bit too much. You can surely expect he’ll pop up now and then in future cartoons.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Several years ago I worked as a volunteer at my local Boys and Girls Club. I started a newspaper club in which we collected the kids’ poems, cartoons, and creative writing and printed it as a newspaper for everyone. It was called the Wazzup Weekly.

Here is a cartoon from December 2001 by 12 year old Tanei. I think you will recognize a character of mine dueting with a dog on a popular Christmas carol. Merry Christmas everyone!

Hey! You or your kids can draw your own Fuzzy cartoon. Share it on our Facebook page, and maybe I’ll post some here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meet The Characters: Fuzzysnussle

As you know from previous posts, I have a 25-year history in cartooning. The characters I use in this blog go back to those early days. Now that they’re OMG-famous!, it’s high time to give them a proper introduction.

Fuzzysnussle is the large-nosed face of the franchise that is Dude, I'm An Aspie, if you can call it a franchise. When I set out to draw my first post, I needed a character to represent me. He had to be easy to draw, because it had been a long time between cartoons.

Fuzzysnussle was created by my friend Molly in 5th grade in 1986 in a guest spot in my newspaper "Terminator." She supplied the first drawing of him, the name, and a capsule backstory. He had come to Earth from the planet Quirk. And, he liked horses.

First appearance of Fuzzysnussle, Feb. 18, 1986
... And that was the extent of the backstory. I adopted the character and used him as a supporting cast member, managing to give him hardly any personality.

Fuzzy displayed some hero qualities early on, in an appearance in my comic strip “Slick Says Short Stupid Sam Stories.” It was Fuzzy who brought the antidote after an attack by the Mad Moustacher, which was a Robby Spongy Bit. (More effective than shaving cream.) He then helped the crew foil her evil plan.

"The Mad Moustacher," Feb. 24, 1986
Fuzzy had much shorter hair back then. He also spoke in cursive at first, but later in print, presumably as he learned the language of the Earthlings. It was later revealed that he had a cousin named Fussysnuzzle (pictured at far right above), who had even less personality.

Fizzysnussle, Feb. 1986
When you mix a Fuzzysnussle with Pespi, what do you get? A Fizzysnussle.

"Return of the Mad Moustacher," June 1986
Later, a new Mad Moustacher returned to seek revenge, and Fuzzy again joined our heroes to battle her. He had acquired a train at this point, which served as an effective mode of transportation.

In “Piggy Parties, The Book,” set 20 years in the future in 2006, Fuzzysnussle’s cousin was killed in World War III by a graduate of Laser Tag Academy. Overcome by grief and rage, he turned vigilante and swore revenge on the enemy, Khadaffy IV. In a vengeful, yet brave display, Fuzzy singlehandedly penetrated palace defenses, marched in unarmed, and adminstered a fatal head-plucking. He thus saved the world.

"Piggy Parties, The Book," Fall 1986
All that history, to say, the Fuzzy personality was effectively a blank slate when Dude came around.

The Fuzzy of 2010 is much more of a developed character. I use him to represent Aspie traits and point of view. I often use him to speak for myself, though not always. 

It’s been great fun to watch him evolve over the past year and to give him a much greater range of expressions than he ever had. Although he remains easy to draw, it can take several tries to get his expression just right. Fuzzy has his contemplative moments, as shown in “Simply Be,” his hysterical ones as in “Instant Moron-Maker,” and his indecisive ones, as in “I’m An Aspie, Period.”

It is a thrill to think that he’s become an informal icon of Aspgerger’s. Not bad for a fuzzball from the planet Quirk.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Damn. Why’d I buy this new monitor? It’s a widescreen. Nothing looks right.

Why’d I rush into this purchase? My old monitor suddenly went kaput yesterday, and I panicked. Why'd this have to happen? Got to have computer access. So I rushed out to the store today. Just get the same size, no problem, right?

But it’s not the same. It’s too wide. It’s too short. It feels… alien. Like someone took and stretched out my eyes. My reality is altered. It’s all wrong. My desktop! My blog! My Internet peeps! You don’t look right at all.

Why’d I let the salesman talk me into it? It’s his fault! No, no, it’s my fault! Damn, why’d I make a snap decision? Why didn’t I take my time like I always do?
When did my computer become such a lifeline that I can’t take a day or two off? When did I become one of “those people?”

And why is it such a big deal to me? Why can’t I just get used to the widescreen? It’s all they make now… millions of people can’t be wrong… And yet, why does it feel like I’ll never enjoy blogging again? Why does change hurt so much?

Sigh. Nothing to do but get used to it. I just need to get my reality back in its place. Better than trying to answer these impossible questions. Like… Why’s my sense of balance so easily thrown off?... and… Why me?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Special Interests: Cartoon Beginnings

This is post #50. For this special occasion, I’ve saved a special interest. Today I will share with you how I began with my cartoons, and why they are so intimately tied to my Asperger’s.

I hadn’t done any cartooning in over 20 years, prior to Dude, I’m An Aspie! It was something I did as a kid, just for fun, for myself, with great intensity. But last year when I learned about Asperger’s and special interests, my cartooning phase was no longer just a peculiar activity. I understood now why I did it the way I did. I also understood why I needed to pick the pencil up and start again.

I wrote my own newspaper from age 9 to 11, on notebook paper, in pencil. Usually in class, after I finished my work, or during indoor recess. It was part news report, part tabloid, part comic book, and part activity book. I called it “a News,” or in plural, “Newses.”

Each News was a numbered issue in a series, carefully dated. I easily churned out over 50 issues at my peak output during my 5th grade school year. Unlike their contemporary, the Sayings Book, the Newses survived all this time in folders on my closet shelf.

The Newses went by several titles during their run. The very first ones, when I was maybe 7, were called "Pooh News." This was later followed by "Noo-Noo News."

Noo-Noo News Vol. 10, Issue 4, December 10, 1985

With Volume 11, the name changed to “Terminator: The End of Robby and Much More - In a Newspaper!” Robby was a friend and often the butt of the joke. It was all in fun. Really.

Terminator Vol. 12, Issue 1, January 23, 1986

“Terminator” had the best logos.

Terminator Vol. 13, Issue 1, Feb. 21, 1986
Terminator Vol. 14, Issue 4, March 16, 1986. Around this time, I acquired colored pencils.

And with Volume 16, another title change took place to “Piggy Parties.” This name, as with “Terminator,” was the winner of a contest among my friends.

Piggy Parties Vol. 16, Issue 2, April 23, 1986

For content, I drew on my observations. The day the clock went crazy. The day my friend dropped a strudel on the ground on a field trip. The time I made Green Lantern a vehicle out of lego. And, over a three issue stretch, I recorded all of my Hanukkah presents in order.

I also drew on my creativity, reimagining classmates as super heroes and villains like Little Big Pants, The Cucumber, and Ding Dong the Kangaroo.

Whooz Whooz entry for Ding Dong, in the style of DC Comics' Who's Who. From Terminator Vol. 14, Issue 2, March 11, 1986.

Artistically, I was most influenced by Jim Davis and “Garfield,” and emboldened by the step-by-step approach in Ed Emberly’s series of Big Drawing Books.

"How to Draw a Laying-Down Odie." From Noo-Noo News, Vol. 7, Issue 4, March 4, 1985.

The News had an endless variety of regular features.
  • Fake ads, such as the principal’s spanking paddle.
  • Lost & Found: “Found: Pizza. Yummy side down. Stepped on.”
  • Believe It Or Not: “We saw four Toys R Us commercials in a row! Believe it or not!”
  • The Daily Blah, which was activities like unscrambling words or quizzes: “What are the words you say to form Voltron?”
  • And there was a letters column, which I wrote and answered myself.
Looking back, in the context of a special interest, I see these sections as my fascination with the parts of a written publication. They served as a valuable structure in which to categorize all my ideas and doodles.

Odie reports on the mysterious appearance of a new wall in the classroom. From Noo-Noo News Vol. 7, Issue 2, Feb. 25, 1985.
The Weird Dictionary. From Terminator Vol. 11, Issue 1. Dec. 16, 1985.

For characters, I had very few originals in those days. I used Odie, but not Garfield. He was easier to draw, and was always a way more interesting character to me. I also used all the Q-Bert characters, despite the fact that I never played the video game. I developed a regular comic strip called “Slick Says Short Stupid Sam Stories.” S.S.S.S.S.S. became the centerpiece of each issue, with classic storylines such as the gang’s battle with the Mad Moustacher, Slick’s whirlwind romance with Slickette, and the epic 8-part series where Slick turned blue.

First appearance of "Slick Says Short Stupid Sam Stories." From Noo-Noo News Vol. 7, Issue 3. Feb. 26, 1985.

It all culminated in an 18-page project in the fall of ’86 called “Piggy Parties, The Book,” which was a parody of Transformers, The Movie. It took place 20 years in the distant future, in 2006, in which major characters died, morphed, had kids, etc. etc.

Odie meets his destiny at the hands of the Great Hubbabutt. From Piggy Parties, The Book, Fall 1986.

My elementary school friends were fans of the Newses, but their interest paled in comparison to my own. I was fine with that balance for awhile. I wrote for myself. It enabled me to indulge the weird workings of my mind, and create a universe unto itself. But eventually, when I changed schools and failed to gain new fans, creating for myself lost its appeal. In the years that followed, I made a few attempts to restyle my characters and go “all original,” but those always found their way to the trash bin. The Newses, however, stayed on, on my closet shelf. They carried some great importance, which I couldn’t put my finger on, but which was undeniable.

To understand Asperger’s as a positive thing, for me, is to understand why I made the Newses. They are irreverent, idiosynchratic, incomprehensible, and an essential portrait of who I was at age 10. The time I spent on them was unquestionably enjoyable, as I often churned out entire issues in a few days in bursts of free-flowing creativity. They are my most special of special interests.

That's why, when I disclosed my Asperger's, Dude, I’m An Aspie! had to be a cartoon. When I drew it, and when I started this blog, it was my hope that I’d be carrying on the spirit of the News. I feel like I’ve done my 10-year-old self proud. Who would have thought I would one day have an audience around the world? It is an amazing thing, and I thank you for being a part of it and for keeping me going.

But wait, the best is yet to come! In upcoming posts, we’ll meet the characters you’ve come to know from Dude, I’m An Aspie, and look at their beginnings in the pages of the News.