'Bear Bones' cartoon goes national

by Sarah Rubenstein | 11/19/97 6:00am

Bear Bones, the lanky comic strip character created by cartoonist David Berenson '99, is no longer just a student at fictional Green University.

That's because "Bear Bones," the comic strip printed daily in The Dartmouth, is now syndicated on the University Wire, where it is available to editors of hundreds of college newspapers. And at least one newspaper -- The Michigan Daily at the University of Michigan --now prints the strip every day.

The University Wire is a consortium of more than 100 student newspapers that share articles and editorials.

Bear and his friends Stoner, Bruce and Daisy are students at fictional Green University, which bears an eerie resemblance to Dartmouth. But Berenson has taken pains to make the strip's themes universal to appeal to a general college audience ever since September, when he decided to seek syndication. He tries to minimize specific references to Dartmouth.

Berenson began his effort to expand his audience in September by sending samples of "Bear Bones" to editors of other college newspapers. The Michigan Daily is the first newspaper to respond to his offer.

"I want to publish 'Bear Bones' to as wide an audience as possible and see how seriously I'm taken as a cartoonist on a larger level," Berenson said. "This is a way to get feedback from a bigger audience."

Berenson said he sees the syndication of his cartoon as a "litmus test" of his work's quality. He said he hopes to discover whether his cartoons have reached the level where students around the country can relate to them.

It is the audience, above all, that Berenson said attracts him to cartooning. "I like the chance to make people laugh. I like the chance to be ridiculous in front of a large audience, and I like to see people's responses," he said.

"Bear Bones" will appear on the classifieds page of The Michigan Daily every day, according to Daily Classifieds Editor Adam Smith.

"It was just an interesting college theme," Smith said. "It stands out because it has story line, and I think it has a lot of interesting issues for college students."

Smith said cartoonists at Michigan like to create unrelated comics everyday without a consistent storyline.

The consistency of Bear Bones could help draw readers back to the classifieds page, Smith said.

Berenson has been drawing "Bear Bones" for The Dartmouth since his freshman year. The strip has appeared every day on The Dartmouth's classifieds page for approximately the past year.

Berenson's cartoons are available for use by any college newspaper that participates in the U-Wire. The cartoons can be taken off of the World Wide Web.

U-Wire Editor Michael Whitney said he was impressed with Berenson's serious attitude about syndicating his cartoon, and said he also liked the copies of "Bear Bones" that Berenson had sent to him.

Whitney said Berenson accomplishes his goal of reaching a broad range of college students. He said the themes of "Bear Bones" are "universal -- they are things you run into on every campus."

While Berenson said he considers it "presumptuous" to say he is planning on becoming a professional cartoonist, he has not ruled it out. He said that "competition is brutal" and "it's a hard field to break into."

Maybe he already has made it.