Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jack Comics' Mel, the Kangaroo Rat!

From time to time, we ask photographers and artists to share their work on the Daily Photo.  We featured Chris Ruggia's Jack Comics on June 16...and here's more from Chris!

Mel is a Kangaroo Rat. There are several Dipodomys species in the Big Bend area, and I never did settle on just one. There is a small species (Merriam’s - Dipodomys merriami) that lives where my story takes place, but I also gave Mel some of the more complicated social interactions from a larger species (Banner-tailed - Dipodomys spectabilis) that occurs a bit farther North.

The hook that really got Mel’s character started was the idea that the small rodent is the biomass that drives much of the desert food chain. If they had human thoughts and feelings, I thought, they’d be bound to feel put upon, and so Mel’s conspiracy theories were born.

Much of his character revolves around this resentment of predators. He schemes of ways to organize and fight back, and has several dream sequences with various fantasies of power.

After I’d got started, Nature Conservancy biologist John Karges loaned me his copy of Special Publication #10 from the American Society of Mammalogists, Biology of the Heteromyidae, which outlined almost everything known to date about kangaroo rats.

Mel’s interactions with his family (episodes 20, 21, and 30), the cheek pouches where he stores seeds for later use (episodes 42, 43, and 50), and even the detailed choreography of his fight over a burrow with another kangaroo rat (episode 33) all come from notes I took while reading this book.

John Karges was consistently encouraging and helpful to me in developing Jack. In fact, he suggested the Grasshopper Mouse as a subject, which let to a whole comic book of its own. Be sure to thank him for me if you run into him!

Read more of Jack: Adventures in Texas' Big Bend at, or follow it on Facebook at

Thanks again to Alpine's Chris Ruggia for introducing his Big Bend characters of Jack Comics! 

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