Fall 2016

An Unlikely Comic Book Hero

Contraceptives for deer may not bring on the belly laughs, but the artist's primary goal was to educate

300W_cartoonA zoologist who stalks the suburbs to stop deer from reproducing is the improbable star of a comic strip that Tufts University sophomore Ben Rutberg inked for the Boston Comics Roundtable science anthology Boundless. He didn’t have to tip too far into fiction to find inspiration for his primary character.

The strip “Not Tonight, Deer” is based on the work of his dad, Allen Rutberg, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Cummings School.

The U.S. deer population has grown nearly tenfold since the European settlement of North America. When there are too many deer, the animals devour native plants and increase the number of ticks that carry Lyme disease. To keep the population in check, the senior Rutberg uses a contraceptive vaccine called porcine zona pellucida (PZP). Ben says he created the strip to educate readers about both sides of the often contentious issue.

The strip is set in Hastings-on-Hudson, a hamlet north of Manhattan where Allen Rutberg has been dispensing PZP since 2014. Ben’s drawings of his dad very much resemble Sheriff Woody, the cowboy doll voiced by Tom Hanks in the animated film Toy Story. “I’m not unhappy with how he drew me,” says Allen Rutberg. “It’s me, but it’s sorta not me.” –Catherine Arnold

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