A couple months ago, I got an email from someone at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. She asked if I was available to do some cartooning for an upcoming public health advertising campaign.
“The campaign is to promote the use of female condoms,” she wrote.
For several years, I did cartooning for the SF Health Department’s syphilis prevention campaign, which featured a happy-go-lucky cartoon penis named “Healthy Penis.” Those comic strip ads were fun to write and draw, so I was interested to find out what their new “female condom” campaign was all about.
I thought, Maybe they’ll want me to draw a talking female condom. She could be called Connie the Condom!
I emailed back saying that I was available and asked for more information. Turns out there wasn’t going to be any mascot for this campaign. They had something completely different in mind.
“We want to promote the use of the newly redesigned female condom (called FC2) among gay and bisexual men,” she said. “We’d like you to draw a series of illustrations which would show men how to use it.”
I was sent samples of illustrations showing women inserting the condom. They were plain and looked like typical textbook illustrations. She asked if I could create a new a series of cartoony illustrations of a man using the female condom. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a goofy cartoon mascot involved, but was happy to accept the job.
Over the next few days, I worked on the sketches. The first drawing was a hand holding the condom. Pretty straightforward.
Then I started drawing the second sketch: a guy standing up, with his partner about to insert the condom. My wife was there for instant feedback.
“It’s weird to see one of your cartoon characters with his pants around his ankles,” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied. "It's really weird."
“What’s that behind his butt?”
“It’s his partner’s hand,” I said. “He’s about to insert the condom.”
“Don’t you think the hand should be a lot closer?”
“It’s close enough,” I said.
“His hand is like three feet behind the guy’s butt,” she said. “You have to make it much closer—he’s his sex partner.”
“You really think it’s too far away?”
“The way you have it drawn now, it doesn’t look like he’s about to have sex with the guy. It looks like he’s going to throw the condom at him and run."
She was right. It looked ridiculous.
I went ahead corrected the sketch and proceeded to work on the others. One Saturday morning, my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter walked up next to me while I was drawing a tattoo on a naked butt.
“What’s that, Daddy?”
“It’s a tattoo,” I said, then quickly moved the drawing pad out of view. “Why don’t you go play with your toys?”
In about a week, the cartoons were finished and approved by the Health Department. Here’s an excerpt (censored for the kids):
The campaign launched this past Monday, on Valentine’s day, at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza.
I really enjoyed working with the Health Department. They’re great. Still, I wish I could’ve drawn a cartoon character named Connie the Condom. That would’ve been a lot of fun.