After a month stuck indoors because of the pandemic, a UA graduate began to draw a tattoo, hoping to stave off the boredom brought on by the pandemic. A father and avid karaoke singer, he planned to incorporate those passions into the design, including elements of a treble clef, several musical notes and the names of his children.
Doug Teaster, an operations manager for a local supply chain company, never finished the tattoo in April 2020. Instead, he turned his gaze back toward comics, creating 101 new strips of his former series that would ultimately end up being published as a part of a larger collection.
As a second-year law student at the UofA, Teaster created the nationally syndicated college newspaper comic strip "Wimpel Hall" in 1985. “Wimpel Hall” lasted five years, well after he earned his Juris Doctor, until writer’s block and work demands pushed him to abandon the art form. When Teaster picked up his pen in an attempt to create a tattoo, he inadvertently reignited his passion for the retired four-panel comic, he said.
“The act of drawing something on paper kinda led me to the idea of: ‘hey, maybe I should try drawing comic strips,’” Teaster said. “Now that I’ve got some money in the bank and time on my hands, I think I can do this.”
Back in 1985, Teaster walked into the office of The Arkansas Traveler and dropped a manilla envelope packed with 26 original strips of “Wimpel Hall.” Each strip was inspired by Teaster's undergraduate experiences, including the clashing cultures of northern and southern Arkansans living alongside Teaster in Pomfret and Yocum Hall. Most touched on racism, sexism and social egoism, which in turn led the college newspaper to reject 20 on the basis of being “too offensive,” Teaster said.
Despite an early brush with censorship, Teaster said he never had the same problem again. “Wimpel Hall” soon began printing in all corners of U.S college newspapers before he halted production of the strip in 1990 to work a variety of jobs, from tanning salon owner to childcare worker alongside his then-wife, before eventually settling at Transplace, a supply chain company in Lowell.
Teaster was eager to get back to work as he exited his 30-year hiatus. Lilyan Teaster, a junior English education major and Teaster’s daughter-in-law, knew of his artistry from brief conversations with her husband Cole, she said. It was not until around May 2020 that she spoke with Teaster about his revived efforts with “Wimpel Hall.”
“He said that he was staying up all till all hours of the night after he would get off of work because he was filled with so much inspiration, and that he had only intended on doing a few comics,” Lilyan said. “But then, the inspiration just kept flowing and he just kept writing and writing.”
Teaster eventually approached Lilyan to proofread a draft of his book that contained the 101 new “Wimpel Hall” strips.
2020 provided enough inspiration to create far more than the 20 to 25 strips he initially intended for.
“I just wanted my book to be funny, touching social issues, but not really dwelling on it,” Teaster said.
Teaster's comics still feature social issues, and the newest edition includes interracial couples and some existing characters that were revealed to be gay. Micaela Serrano, a coworker of Teaster, said he sought her help in the creation of Mexican-American character Miguel Serrano, named in her honor.
“I’ve told him a little about my upbringing, being a Mexican-American in the United States,” Serrano said. “According to Doug himself, he said that several things and several conversations that we’ve had have kind of changed his perception of what a first-generation Mexican-American kind of goes through.”
Teaster is no longer worried about censorship and self-published his collection of old and new strips, titled “Wimpel Hall: Into the 21st Century Kicking and Screaming,” in December 2020, he said.
For now, Teaster plans to stop the creation of “Wimpel Hall” a second time, but anticipates a possible return in the future, he said.
“I think I’ll probably just spend some time taking it easy, and then maybe pick up the pen again, and see if I had that creative explosion I had this past year,” Teaster said. “And if I do, there may be another book in the future, but I’ll be years down the road.”