Comic artist Paul Trap must keep the creative juices flowing to come up with storylines and punchlines for his daily comic strip, Thatababy. Sometimes inspiration needs to be cajoled.
“I attribute it to caffeine and deadline pressure,” Trap said.
The strip centers on two parents and their curious, often mischievous baby, inspired by Trap’s own family. It is published in approximately 100 newspapers across the country, including The Boston Globe; The Moab Sun News is thrilled to begin featuring Thatababy on our pages this week.
Trap moved to the Moab area last year with his wife, Patricia, who is director of national parks for the Southeast Utah group region. As an independent artist, Trap has the ability to work from anywhere; He and Patricia lived in various places around the country after his National Park Service career, including a stint near Cortez, Colorado.
Trap said Moab has always been an attractive place: He and Patricia chose Moab as the destination for their first trip after getting married. During this trip, they befriended Moab writer, photographer, and nature lover, Fran Barnes. On later trips, Barnes would invite the Traps to look at maps and discuss new places to explore.
“Moab has always been on my radar,” Trap said. Before the real Traps moved to Moab, Thatababy’s family home often displayed a framed picture of Delicate Arch.
“It’s kind of cosmic that we ended up in Moab,” Trap said.
Trap got his start in Michigan State University newspapers, working for the school newspaper while in college. From there he worked in several newsrooms as an artist, creating illustrations, cartoons and infographics.
Internet integration made remote work easier, and when he and Patricia moved to Denver and had a son, Trap decided to transition into freelance work. Their son was the inspiration for Thatababy.
“When my son was born, he kind of took over,” Trap said. “He was the kid who wouldn’t sleep for two years.”
Genuine parental weaknesses have inspired many Thatababy panels. In one strip, the baby calculates how much sleep a person needs in the first 18 years of life and plans to catch up during his teenage years so he can stay awake constantly as a baby.
“He was a wide awake baby. He never wanted to miss anything,” Trap said. Eventually, the real baby learned to sleep through the night and became an adult. Trap’s son is currently attending graduate school in North Carolina, where he studied public health, he is also an artist and used illustration in educational campaigns while serving with the Peace Corps in Panama.
The cartoon baby remained a baby for more than ten years. In addition to parenting jokes, the strip makes pop culture references and occasionally revolves around interesting facts about natural history and the animal kingdom – Trap’s interests. When he moved to Moab, he was fascinated to watch scorpions glow under black lights, and he said “disco scorpions” is an activity he shares with guests.
Trap also continues to draw cartoons, illustrations, and visual representations of data for various publications. He is the editorial cartoonist for Baseball America magazine.
“It’s great to have a little soap box,” he says.
In the past, Trap has given presentations on comics for scout and school groups and art classes for young people and adults. He tells how he started drawing comics and gives advice to budding cartoonists. One advice he offers is to read and absorb a lot of information. Often his panels are based on something interesting or surprising he has read recently.
Another wisdom he offers: “Editors are a gift. Any comment makes you a better cartoonist.
He said it was great to be able to feature the comic in a local newspaper during presentations, and the Moab Sun News is thrilled to have another local contributor on our pages!