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Gapstur’s cartoons are in national competition



A Belle Plaine graduate intent on becoming a big-time cartoonist may be one step closer to his dream.

Eric Gapstur’s “Belle Plaine” comic strip is among the top 10 finalists of Comic Strip Superstar, a contest to find the next popular comic strip artist. Semifinal round judges included “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau and Lynn Johnston, “For Better or For Worse.” Contest sponsors are Andrew McMeel Publishing, LLC and customers will vote for the winner online through this Friday, Nov. 6. The grand prize is a book contract with the Andrew McMeel Publishing LLC and a $5,000 advance.

“Belle Plaine” is about the adventures of Josh and Collingwood, two fifth graders who use their wit and ingenuity to stave off boredom in a small town.

Gapstur, 26, now lives in North Liberty and works at Barnes and Noble bookstore in Coralville. He said he is a longtime fan of superhero comic books and became interested in drawing comic strips while in high school.

His “Java Man” cartoons were regulars on the high school Plainsman Page before he graduated in 2001. Its lead character was Gapstur’s real-life buddy and classmate, Justin Collingwood, whom Gapstur portrayed as a Walter Mitty-like character who did embarrassing things while daydreaming.

Gapstur took his interest to Iowa State University and the Iowa State Daily newspaper, where he worked as an editorial illustrator and cartoonist. His “Mickey and Joe” strip, about two small kids growing up in a small town, was the precursor to the contest entry, “Belle Plaine, ” Gapstur said.

His ideas come from his experiences growing up in Belle Plaine.

“It’s a combination of every day life you observe and see as funny. You try to infuse that into the strip,” said Gapstur, son of Lea Benson, Robins, and Bruce Gapstur, Belle Plaine. “The characters are an amalgam of a lot of people. The things they do are embellishments of things we might have done. A lot of stuff I make up and try to tie it to things that happened.”

Gapstur said his goal is to earn a living as a comic strip artist.

“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s a tough business to get into,” he stated.

To view the comic strip “Belle Plaine” and  to vote, go to: Winners will be announced Monday, Nov. 9.


UPDATED November 4, 2009 12:21 PM

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