The comics you'll see here are utterly adorable, but wait for it... They might seem cute at first until you reach the twisted ending you didn't see coming.
The creative mind behind these comics, Chicago-based Ryan Pagelow, has been drawing comics for most of his life and has built quite a fandom over the years. The contrasting combination of cute and dark might be a goldmine as he has 653k followers on Instagram and over 89k followers on Facebook who always come back for a dose of darker humor to brighten their days. Ironic, isn't it?
What started as a journey of an optimistic Buni with terrible luck who is tested by the cruel world every step he takes has now evolved into a surreal world of many unexpected characters such as animals, ghosts, everyday objects, and foods that come to life in ridiculous, funny, and sometimes sad situations.
You never know if the comic will break your heart, fill it with warmth, or simply make you laugh, so take a chance! And don't miss an opportunity to get to know the artist better by reading an interview below! When you are done, check out the previous post on Bored Panda.
Ryan Pagelow told Bored Panda how his career in the comics industry took off: "I’ve drawn comics for most of my life and started out by drawing a comic strip which appeared in university newspapers. I then started freelancing for Mad magazine. I created Buni in 2009 and since then, it has been featured on GoComics and Webtoon."
When he's not drawing comics, Pagelow works as a full-time photographer and videographer.
"I enjoy photography and videography because you’re capturing the outside world, while comics are much more about illustrating your internal world."
Buni comics are a winning combination of cute and dark which is created through the story of the adorable main character, Buni, who is treated harshly by life, yet doesn't give up.
"As a mostly wordless comic, I rely on images to tell the story in my Buni comics, which is often twisted, sad, and funny all at the same time. The main character, Buni, doesn’t understand that the visually cute world he lives in is usually out to get him. Buni inhabits a surreal world populated by teddy bears, cupcakes, unicorns, and zombies."
Although the comics mostly follow the main character, Buni, Pagelow spices them up with new weird characters that he introduces to his surreal comic universe. It can be anything you could possibly think of―from pizza to a plant, to a missing sock or planets. The artist thinks out of the box and is not afraid to step out of the usual when it comes to comics to keep himself and others entertained.
"First and foremost, I try to entertain myself. So if I think a comic idea about a cupcake is funny, I’ll draw it. I don’t feel like I have to stick to only drawing a limited set of characters in a limited world. I wanted to create a world that was big enough to keep me entertained for years rather than be boxed in by a narrow set of perimeters.
Also, creating a wordless comic is very difficult, especially in only four small panels. I find that relying on simple emotions and common things like food and animals is a fast way to communicate an idea to the reader. Comics involving anthropomorphic pizza or hot dogs don’t require the reader to have read previous comics and know the Buni character. They instantly understand pizza and hot dogs and what their world might look like. When I create comics with the Buni character, it’s funnier if you understand the character and the history of the character."
"I get my ideas from just sitting down and thinking for about 30 minutes every day. I try to imagine if everyday objects had feelings, what would motivate them. What would make them happy, sad, jealous, angry, love..." the artist told Bored Panda about his creative process.
We asked Pagelow what's the most challenging and the most rewarding part of creating comics.
"Creating comics is a daily meditation and I would probably do it whether anybody looked at them or not. I like that webcomics are quick little mini stories. Once I make one, I’m already working on the next one. I’m not dwelling on the past. It’s not like a novel where you’re thinking about the novel for months or years before it’s finally done. The most challenging aspect is drawing comics week after week and sticking to it and looking for ways to push the boundaries."
Pagelow thinks that Buni comics stand out on the internet because of the lack of dialogue that makes them easy to understand beyond borders and languages, but the unique sense of humor plays a big part here, too.
"Humor comes from the unexpected, twisted ending. If a normal, happy ending is expected, you can create humor with a dark or sad ending. Although many people describe my comics as dark, I think of them as optimistic, because Buni wakes up happy every day with good expectations despite everything that has happened in the past."
But with more recognition and fame, comes even more feedback of all sorts. Over the years, the artist has learned to stay away from the negativity in comments.
"I learned a couple of years ago not to read the comments on the internet, apart from a glance to make sure in general people understand it and there wasn’t an unforeseen controversy. But I do try to always respond to people who email me or direct message me. I appreciate that people enjoy my comic. Sometimes I make a comic and think, am I insane for thinking this is funny? And then 40,000 people like it, so I can’t be too insane if that many people find it funny too."
The artist's ultimate goal is to spread happiness and positivity.
"Mostly I just want to give people a couple of seconds of happiness. If it brightens their day, I’m happy. I also hope that they learn to stay optimistic despite this dark world."
Especially in light of current events in the world, when we all need a big hug we can't get because of social distancing, Pagelow comes in to save the day with his comforting comics that are far from our absurd reality.
"When the pandemic started, I did some coronavirus-themed comics, but found I was tired of everything being about the pandemic, so I kind of stayed away from it and just tried to entertain people looking for an escape from the pandemic and right-wing American politics. My comic is a sanctuary from this crazy world."
"I’m motivated by the desire to make an even funnier comic next time. It’s like an endless chase to find the perfect comic which probably doesn’t exist. Also, I have enjoyed comics since before I could read. And I’ll probably continue to enjoy visual storytelling until I die. In that sense, comics will be a part of my life forever."
Pagelow's motivation to better himself has resulted in worldwide success. Besides having an army of followers across different social media platforms, he lists some of the most significant moments of his artistic journey so far.
"One of my proudest moments was when a New Zealand crematorium asked me to use one of my comics on a billboard to advertise their crematorium services. Getting syndicated, publishing a book of Buni comics, and being named Best Online Comic by the National Cartoonists Society in 2013 was also nice. Also meeting some of the cartoonists I grew up reading was great."
As Pagelow has mentioned, in 2018, the artist put his favorite comics into something you can actually hold in your hands―a book called "Buni: Happiness Is a State of Mind" that you can order here.