The Editorial cartoonist of the Anchor, the student newspaper of Hope College in Holland, Mich., never directs his sarcasm toward the school's basketball coach, Glenn Van Wieren, even though Van Wieren, who bears a faint resemblance to Mr. Spock, would seem to be an inviting subject. No doubt this reluctance might have something to do with the fact that the cartoonist, senior Wade Gugino, is also the star center for the Flying Dutchmen, who are hoping to be good enough this season to earn a spot in the NCAA Division III Final Four.
Gugino, whose style is more Garry Trudeau than Charles Schulz, began doing his weekly cartoon strip, Perkins, as a freshman. Looking for a name and a theme, he decided to base the main character on Mike Perkins, then a student-assistant to Van Wieren. Seems that Perkins was one of those lovable sorts who always seemed to find himself in some kind of pickle. "It was like I'd get him on the phone," says Gugino, "and I'd say, 'Perk, who dumped on you this week?' He would tell me what happened and why it was embarrassing, and—boom!—I'd have my strip for the week."
Even though the real Perkins graduated in 1990, the cartoon has grown in popularity, and Gugino's reputation as a cartoonist now almost outstrips his celebrity as a basketball player at Hope, a liberal arts college just south of Grand Rapids. Not that all of Hope's 2,750 students appreciate his humor, understand. Once, Gugino answered the telephone only to find an entire sorority on the other end, serenading him with a hate song. Even his teammates aren't always sure what to make of him. Last season, point guard Eric Elliott described Gugino as "weird," and guard Colly Carlson, a fellow senior, doesn't hesitate when asked if Gugino is more of an artist with ball or pen.
"Basketball," says Carlson. "But everybody on the team reads his cartoon and looks forward to the next episode. We don't hesitate to give him some..."
"...valid criticism," says Gugino, laughing.
Gugino can remember drawing when he was age five, which is about the same time he became interested in basketball. As a junior in his hometown of Midland, Mich., he grew from 6'1" to 6'8". When it came time to pick a college, he chose Hope—despite the fact that an older brother had gone there and played basketball. "I wanted to play basketball in college, and I knew I couldn't do it at an art school," he says. "I was originally prejudiced against Hope because of my brother, but I finally became sold on the value of getting a liberal arts education."
Gugino confesses that he was "really uncoordinated" when he arrived on campus, but under Van Wieren he has made major progress. Last season he averaged 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds for a 24-2 team that was 12-0 in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Gugino estimates that he spends as much time on his cartoons, about 15 to 20 hours a week, as he does on his basketball, which is just fine with Van Wieren. "Cartooning, theater, premed—those kinds of interests are encouraged here," says the coach. In addition to his campus activities, Gugino has also taught a Sunday school class for second-graders.
As both a player and a cartoonist, Gugino's main fault may be that he's too nice a guy. "He can be unstoppable," says Carlson, "but his weakest point is his aggressiveness...he's just not mean enough." It's the same with his cartoons. Although Gugino loves to satirize campus issues, he draws the line at hurting someone's feelings, though at times he yearns to poke fun at the conservative nature of Hope, which is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, and at Holland, a predominantly Dutch community.
"I like to do social satire," says Gugino, "but I try to cut on stereotypes rather than cutting on somebody's livelihood or their personal identity."
An enterprising sort, Gugino has combined his majors, business and art, by putting drawings on T-shirts and selling them to other campus organizations. After graduation, he would like to play ball for a couple of years in Europe or Australia and earn enough money to pursue a career as a cartoonist.
Meanwhile, he hasn't ruled out the possibility that a new character, based on a coach, might appear in Perkins at an opportune time—like when the basketball season is finished.
Gugino's pen is as sharp as his skills on the court.
DIVISION III TOP 10
1. Franklin & Marshall
5. UC-San Diego
7. Salem State
8. Emory & Henry