A man and his squirrel: How Bob changed the life of a Rome Sentinel cartoonist

Published Apr 3, 2015 at 6:19am

By Nicole A. Elliott
Staff writer

A shy kid who always felt he was a little out of place, cartoonist Frank Page discovered at an early age that when he picked up a pencil and sketch pad, just about anything was possible.

(Cue in: Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey)

While trying to survive the world on the outside, Page created his own on paper — a place where he was free to express himself.

Drawing, Page said, got him through “some very lonely years,” admitting that being a little overweight, not being into sports, having a brain and bad hair, and watching Star Trek, didn’t exactly win him the vote for most popular in school.

“It was my form of communication to the world who wouldn’t necessarily look twice at me,” Page said during an online interview with blogger David Hurley in July 2011.

“I had a comic strip in my high school newspaper, then college, then after college. It’s just something I’ve always done. It’s like breathing to me.”

After graduating from Cazenovia College and leaving his dream of becoming an astronaut behind, Page was hired by the Rome Sentinel Co. in August 1997 as a graphic designer. He later began drawing editorial cartoons.

The birth of Bob the Squirrel came in early 2002. Bob the Squirrel started out as a multi-paneled weekly cartoon. A website featuring the panel, www.bobthesquirrel.com, was established on April 14, 2002. The site was slow to gain popularity, but gradually garnered multiple daily hits.

Eventually Bob evolved into a six-day a week comic strip by Page. It followed the trials and tribulations of a squirrel, the human he adopted, the girlfriend of the human at the time, and a talking and walking peanut with an afro-style haircut.

In August 2003, Bob the Squirrel became affiliated with Comics Sherpa, a website run by Universal Press Syndicate. Because Comics Sherpa provided more exposure to the strip, by March 15, 2004, Bob was ranked by visitors sixth overall on Sherpa’s top 10 list.

By May 17 of that year, Bob moved to GoComics.com, and on Nov. 14, 2004, the first full-color Bob the Squirrel strip was published in the Sunday Sentinel.April 28, 2006 marked the 1,000th Bob the Squirrel strip, and as of Dec. 18, 2014, there had been 4,117 strips.

The world of Bob now includes Page’s wife Lezley, daughter Lauren, dogs Lucy and Maggie, and cats Izzy and Tommy. Once there was also Lady, Lezley’s Collie.Over the years Page has published more than a dozen books. He started with “On the Page,” which was published with the help of the Sentinel Co. and sold at the newspaper.

Other titles include “Sunday Bobs,” “They’re Fun to Watch Aren’t They?,” “If Mistakes are Learning Experiences, I Should Have My Doctorate,” “Cookies for My Inner Demons,” “In Bob We Trust,” “Same Squirrel Different Day” and Page’s autobiographical graphic novel written as he was completing his master’s degree in fine arts at the Vermont College of Fine Art, “Better Man.”

Page has also visited local schools, talking to children about Bob and his art, and spreading his anti-bullying message of acceptance.

In March of last year, Page began to experiment more with exposing Bob via social media. He admits he was somewhat familiar with Instagram, but had not jumped on that virtual bandwagon.The result was: InstagramBob_365.

Page decided he would post one Bob the Squirrel drawing every day for one year. He admits he learned a lot about Bob the character, as he not only posted him daily on Instagram, but on Facebook and Twitter.

“I’ve gained a small, but extremely loyal following for these little snippets,” he said via his website. “It’s always fun to see what people think Bob is saying or thinking. I love that stuff.”

On March 13, 2015, the 365th and final Instagram_Bob drawing will be posted. After that, Page will make the entire series available for purchase as an e-comic download.

What I see for 2015 (Taken from www.bobthesquirrel.com):Page:1. I will most likely be ending Squirrelosophy, in its current incarnation, sometime this year. I started it way back (ha!) in 2012 thinking that it would gain a sizeable popularity over time. That popularity never really materialized...in terms of the website traffic. The panels have been very well received via social media, Facebook especially. Frankly, I enjoy doing the single panels. Sometimes, they’re just tiny drawings out of my sketchbook. Those will not be going away — just adapting.

2. I will be amping up my video presence. I’ve merely dabbled in video. I’ve always been so busy drawing and doing other things that I never gave it much attention. It’s funny how a squirrel puppet from Barnes and Noble and an iPhone can make you see things in a different light. I don’t want to spill all of my ideas just yet…in case something happens to prevent me from bringing them all to life. Just know, if I can get it to breathe, you’ll love it.

3. More great stories, more squirrel goodness and the same reliability and quality you’ve come to expect of the strip and what I’ve come to demand of myself.

4. Instagram Bob 365. In March 2015, the Instagram Bob 365 project will be complete. The entire year will be made available as a downloadable eComic. It my also be available as a full color print book.

5. Other stuff: Tweaks and twists that will pop up over the course of the year. I’m going to try a lot. If even half of it works...Whoa, watch out.

So, thank you one and all that have been reading the strip for days, weeks, months and years — some of you a decade or more. I appreciate and revere every single one of you. You’ve always showed me and my family the greatest of respect, support and kindness. Believe me when I say you all give me much more that I could ever give to you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Now, let’s get back to work.