Cartoon artist Paul Trap has to keep the creative juices flowing to come up with plots and punchlines for his daily comic strip, Thatababy. Sometimes the inspiration needs coaxing.
“I attribute it to caffeine and the pressure of deadlines,” Trap said.
The strip centers on two parents and their curious, often mischievous infant, inspired by Trap’s own family. It runs in about 100 newspapers across the country, including The Boston Globe; The Moab Sun News is delighted to begin featuring Thatababy in our pages this week.
Trap moved to the Moab area last year with his wife, Patricia, who serves as the superintendent of the Southeast Utah Group Area National Parks. As a freelance artist, Trap has the ability to work from anywhere; he and Patricia have lived in various locations around the country following her National Park Service career, including a stint in nearby 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. On that trip they struck up a friendship with Moab writer, photographer, and nature-lover Fran Barnes. On subsequent trips Barnes would invite the Traps over to look at maps and discuss new places to explore.
“Moab’s always been on my radar,” Trap said. Before the real Traps moved to Moab, the family home in Thatababy 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 newspapers at Michigan State University, working for the school paper while attending. From there he worked in several newsrooms as an artist, creating illustrations, cartoons, and infographics.
The mainstreaming of the internet made remote work easier and when he and Patricia moved to Denver and had a son, Trap decided to transition to freelance work. Their son was the inspiration for Thatababy.
“When my son was born he kind of took control,” Trap said. “He was the kid who would not sleep for two years.”
Real parenting foibles 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 up constantly as an infant.
“He was a wakeful baby. He never wanted to miss out on anything,” Trap said. Eventually the real baby learned to sleep through the night, and grew into an adult. Trap’s son is currently attending graduate school in North Carolina, studying public health. He’s an artist as well, and used illustration as part of educational campaigns while serving with the Peace Corps in Panama.
The cartoon baby has remained an infant for over ten years. Along with parenting jokes, the strip makes pop culture references and sometimes revolves around interesting facts about natural history and the animal kingdom—interests of Trap’s. When he moved to Moab, he was fascinated to observe scorpions glowing under black lights, and he said “disco scorpions” is an activity he shares with guests.
Trap also continues to draw cartoons, illustrations, and visual data representations for various publications. He’s the editorial cartoonist for Baseball America magazine.
“It’s great to have a little soapbox,” he said.
In the past Trap has given presentations about cartooning for scout and school groups and youth and adult art classes. He talks about how he got into drawing comics, and gives tips for aspiring cartoonists—one piece of advice he offers is to read and absorb a lot of information. Often his panels are based on something interesting or surprising that he’s recently read.
Another bit of wisdom he offers: “Editors are a gift. Any feedback makes you a better cartoonist.”
He said it’s great to be able to point out the strip running in a local paper when giving presentations, and the Moab Sun News is pleased to have another local contributor to our pages!