It’s not surprising that Jim sought to collaborate with comic strip creator Johnny Hart. From childhood, comics played an important role in Jim’s imagination. Jim used cartooning as an artistic outlet going back to junior high. At age thirteen, he had a single panel cartoon published in the Christian Science Monitor. He drew cartoons and spot illustrations for high school publications, and continued to use his cartooning skills in drawing hundreds of storyboards for commercials and Sesame Street counting films. When Jim’s characters became popular on The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street, he saw comics as a viable format for sharing them with the audience. To support the series, comic versions of the characters appeared in newspapers, books, and magazines.
Jim liked the way communities within comic strips worked together and used that as a model for his families of characters. As he described in an article from 1990, “I’ve been a fan of Walt Kelly’s Pogo ever since I was a kid. The characters are some of the best defined characters ever depicted in a comic strip. Pogo, Albert the Alligator and that whole gang has been a big influence on me as well as several of the other major creative people working at the Muppets. I think that the way the characters interact, with Pogo just trying to hold it all together is very similar to the role that Kermit plays on The Muppet Show.”