For 20 years, Somers resident Bob Raina had sat on the idea of making a comic book. Along with Mark Mancini, he’s fulfilled a longtime dream with his tape, “Nutz,” premiering today in the Journal Inquirer. The strip will be a weekly feature.
A native of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Raina said he graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in communications with a minor in art, but ended up making a career as a wedding DJ.
He also did illustrations for the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series and published an illustrated children’s book, “There’s a Monster in My Belly.”
Raina said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit 18 months ago, he suddenly found himself out of work as large gatherings were no longer allowed. He took the sudden free time and invested it in creating a new comic.
“I got stuck in a place where I couldn’t find part-time work,” he said. “My wife is a teacher. It was a struggle, but we made it. It gave me the extra time to revisit art that I hadn’t done in years.
Inspired by the comics of his youth when he was a newspaper boy, he said, like “Peanuts”, “Garfield” and “Mother Goose and Grimm”, he created Squirrel.
“People assume his name is Nutz,” Raina said. “It’s the squirrel. There’s no name.
Squirrel’s sidekick, however, has a name.
“Acorn Cornelius, ‘Corny’ for short,” Raina said. “It’s a funny name.
“It’s supposed to be good wholesome entertainment,” he said. “They have a good, honest relationship with each other. Everything is single-minded. We try not to go too far. We don’t want to play politics. We want liberation for people.
“Bob called me one day and asked if I wanted to participate,” said co-writer Mancini, a part-time JI athletic staff member. “He is very talented. I intervene here and there. He’s so generous it sounds 50/50, but he’s the man behind it all. I try to inject as much humor as possible.
Raina said the inspiration for Squirrel came from being an outdoor enthusiast.
“Squirrels have a lot of character to them,” he said. “They sometimes get bold. They seem to have a mind of their own. They are comical. Corny is a good return on the squirrel comments for sure. They were going back and forth.
For now, “Nutz” is set to run as a weekly comic, but Raina said he hopes one day he will have enough time and ideas to make it a daily and eventually, if the readership increases, become a syndicated band.
“I wanted to start locally,” he said. “If we manage to attract more readers over the years, so much the better.
“I hope people can relate to it, have fun with it,” he said. “Get away for a while. This world is crazy.