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Russell - The Black-Eyed Simpson

When I was a kid, I basically drew all day. All I really needed in order to be entertained was a pad of paper, a pencil, and permission to just space the heck out. I would mostly draw sitting in front of the tv trying to draw whatever was on the screen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Real Ghostbusters or Darkwing Duck were often what I would end up drawing the most. Even though I had a very active imagination and loved drawing, I never really drew anything out of my cranium, it was mainly just characters that already existed on tv. 

Fast forward to 1995, I was in 5th grade which was one year away from middle school. Apparently the dream of being a thriving teenager were on all of my classmates’ minds, well except for mine  since I was still only interested in staying a kid (for science). Everyone was talking about seeing Clueless that Summer while  I’m sitting alone mumbling “So... Pocahontas was great, huh, guys... guys?” And to make matters worse, I was what you might call “ borderline clinically shy” and never really made the effort needed to make friends. As one might (accurately) assume, this mindset and not keeping up with that latest fashion, really left me far behind socially. 

Smack-dab in the middle of the grunge/skater era of the mid-90’s, all of the kids were wearing super baggy clothes, all the flannel possible and Airwalk shoes. Guys were growing out their JTT buttcuts down to their chin, like some kind of poor-man’s Fabio costume.  It took me a bit, though I did eventually attempt to keep up with  the cool kids. Of course, it was immediately brought to a screeching halt when my mom wouldn’t let me partake in the “homeless person who got dressed in a dark closet” like all the other kids. 

First of all, homeless people don’t have closets, Mom... And second, you didn’t know what it was like to be a shy and introverted 11 year old with zero  friends, wearing a tucked in Kmart polo shirt, JCPenny mom-jeans and socially expired Reebok Pumps. 

Sure, clothes don’t make the man but I didn’t exactly have a dashing wit to keep me blossoming socially in the middle of the MTV generation. 

Through all of this social awkwardness, I was still drawing. At that point I had graduated to Venom and Spawn characters to tide over my pre-teen angst. I was also making a decent living charging $5 to draw Mortal Kombat characters for 3rd graders on the bus. Chumps. 

One day I was day dreaming of what it would be like to  be one of the cool kids I would  subtly hide from in the hallways at school. I began drawing a cartoon version of what I wish I could be like. After many hours searching the depths of my soul, when I was done this little guy came to be...

I named him Russell, thanks for asking. I have absolutely no idea why but it seemed like a better name than Wesley (thanks again, Mom). Obviously looking at him now, he was a blatant ripoff of The Simpsons infamous bully Dolph Starbeam. But hey, to me, he was MY character (so shut up, ok UGGGH *runs to room*). 

He was who I wanted to be. He was like Shawn Hunter from Boy Meets World, super cool but not a jerk. I gave him a permanent black-eye because I always thought Smalls from the Sandlot looked awesome with a black-eye. He obviously donned the grunge fashion my mom forbid me to wear, but it didn’t stop there. 

I began living out my 90s-kid fantasies through Russell. 

To put it lightly, I was freakin’ obsessed with rollerblading and going to the skating rink. What can I say, I couldn't resist circling the rink to the tunes of "Tootsee Roll" and "Here Comes the Hotstepper". But I always wanted to take it to the next level with the 5-wheel inline speed skates all the cool rich kids had. Not only did they always win the races but they just looked rad as all get out. I just knew that one extra wheel was the secret ingredient missing from my attempts at jumping into the cool kid realm. 

But, since my parents wouldn’t entertain the idea of buying their whiney adolescent offspring some $500+ skates, I lived out that dream through drawing Russell with the skates on zooming right by all of those dweebs couple skating to “One Sweet Day”.

I drew Russell almost everyday, just doing normal things that I never got to do or was too shy to do. I would even draw him getting yelled at in detention by his gym coach. (Just in case you were wondering what super cautious kids who never get in trouble actually fantasize about... riveting, I know.) 

Being hugely influenced by Gary Larson’s The Far Side, I tried to create my own witty single panel comics in the same vain. Being the insanely original comedy writer I was, I created such side-splitting comics as Russell complaining that all his M&M’s had W’s on them. You don’t have to tell me I was a prodigy, I think that was obvious.

I stopped drawing Russell in 7th grade. I never told anyone about him basically because I knew drawing a Simpsons ripoff character with a black-eye wouldn’t exactly skyrocket me through clouds of popularity. Alas, sometime in middle school I ended up just trashing all my drawings and investing all my free time trolling the AOL Hanson chat rooms. So I guess it’s safe to say my chances of earning a posthumous award for my hidden archive of genius 90's pre-teen commentary are shot. 

I will say though, if I learned one thing through all the turmoil, angst, and and awkward years of drawing Russell it’s this: no matter who you are or what limits you face, never and I mean never, put Twinkies on your pizza. 

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 15, 2017 at 02:43 AM

I think this is a front runner for contest winner. Living vicariously through your original creation? That's just great.

Superman Posted on Aug 30, 2017 at 12:55 PM

Don't feel too bad that your original character was very similar to an existing character. I think most of us at that age based our "original" characters on the things we were watching on TV at the time.

NLogan Posted on Aug 26, 2017 at 04:55 PM

5 bucks isn't chump change to a kid for a quick sketch for the bus crowd. Looks like you had a good little racket going using your skills.

Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 26, 2017 at 07:15 AM

Russell may have moved on to bigger and better things, but he will forever live in your memories. And now here... too. Memorialized for posterity here, forever. Black eye and all. The 90s doesn't even know what it missed.

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