Buster is in trouble again with his wife, Mildred. She has indicated her displeasure with a sternly-worded missive, inscribed upon a chalkboard, declaring that his cutting back on water use by avoiding showers is not, in fact, a reasonable New Year’s resolution.
Buster, Mildred and their dog, Toby, are creations of local cartoonist Mike Dodson. They lead their lives within the cartoon Buster’s Bull, updated frequently by Dodson on Facebook.
Dodson spent many of his summers “playing cowboy” on family farms and ranches in West Texas. That’s also when he came to love Ace Reid’s Cowpokes comic, later also gravitating to Peanuts and Gary Larson’s The Far Side.
“He really challenged you to figure out what he was trying to say,” Dodson reflected about Lawson. “There was a lot of influence there.”
Inspired by other comics, Dodson eventually began drawing his own comic series. It was The Far Side with its own New Mexico flavor—aliens get pulled over by Chavez County deputies, Los Alamos scientists develop roach bombs and a young Billy the Kid learns to use a slingshot. Several regional newspapers began printing the creation, christened Locoweed, and New Mexico Magazine even contacted Dodson about running the cartoon.
Locoweed ran in every edition of New Mexico Magazine beginning in 2006. Dodson was one of two state cartoonists who shared a page with the magazine’s popular “One of our 50 is Missing” feature.
“We even got to go to the Governor’s Mansion,” he noted, recalling his stint as a cartoonist with the Land of Enchantment’s somewhat official publication. “I recall this huge bowl of turquoise that somebody put a cowboy hat in.”
Each month, Dodson sent a few cartoon options to the publication and received a check in return. The magazine printed his cartoon for around 3½ years. He printed a Locoweed book at around the same time.
After his stint with New Mexico Magazine, Dodson’s career as a cartoonist was put on hold for a few years. He and his wife, Teri, moved out of the city limits to a ranch house south of town, and he spent a lot of his free time landscaping. He ran a screen printing business prior to his retirement, but these days he works part-time for a local pharmacy.
Still, ideas kept coming to him, and he kept doodling.
“I had a character, but I didn’t have a name for him,” Dodson confessed. “I’m 65 now, and I still want to be a cowboy when I grow up.”
Thus, Buster was born.
Buster is a cowboy who lives in the fictional town of Luni Bend, New Mexico, (perhaps somewhat of a play on “Loving’s Bend”). His wife, Mildred, only appears off camera through her chalkboard missives to her husband. However, their dog, Toby, is a regular of the cartoon’s “From the Doghouse” feature. Buster’s “Rent-A-T-Advertising” is another mainstay of the comic.
The artist carries a blank sheet of paper with him, because ideas, “sometimes pure nonsense,” can and do come to him at any time.
Dodson said he uses the Adobe Creative Cloud package to put his ideas into final form using knowledge he obtained from a class he took at New Mexico State University-Carlsbad. “I was 60, and everyone else was 18 or 19,” he recalled. “It was a hard thing for me to go back to school.” He keeps the artwork fairly simple, typically relying on one of the comic’s primary templates.
The final products are then posted to Buster’s Facebook page at facebook.com/BustersBull/, where he has a small but dedicated following. Dodson strives to post two new comics a week and is also working on his own website.
“Generally, my favorites are the ones that flop,” he admitted. “I’ve also got a feature called ‘Letters from Luni Bend’ that I’m working on.”
Buster is named after a stray dog Dodson and his wife adopted. The cartoonist said their cat, Abby, helps him with his creations.
“I think now more than ever we need humor, and in a very small way, I hope to contribute,” Dodson concluded. “Along with the humor, I enjoy the creative process that is involved in cartooning.”
We will have to see what Mildred says about that.