Bob Conroy, with his cartoons and his guitar. Valley Dispatch/Dennis Shaughnessey
Bob Conroy, with his cartoons and his guitar. Valley Dispatch/Dennis Shaughnessey

DRACUT - Bob Conroy still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up.

At an age when most people would be considering retirement, the 64-year-old Dracut resident is wondering what he should do next. In 2004, after losing his long-held job as a graphic engineer, Conroy began publishing "The Pink Slip" comic strip, which appeared weekly in The Sun. It was a huge success.

During that time, he was also drawing editorial cartoons that would show up in other publications. He put the comic strip aside in 2009 to devote his efforts to the editorial cartoons. His work has appeared in more than 300 publications and newswire services on the Internet.

But deep-seated personal convictions prompted him to step away from his pens, pencils and storyboard in 2011. He has dedicated the past year to mastering the guitar, an instrument for which he's always had an affinity.

Conroy, who is married and has three daughters -- the youngest is a junior in high school -- is considering reviving "The Pink Slip" comic strip in some incarnation. If he does, he says, he'd like to see it go into syndication.

Or he may decide to grab his guitar and become a singer in a rock 'n' roll band. There's still plenty of time to decide.

Q: Why did you stop drawing editorial cartoons?

A: "There were other things I wanted to do and I was in a financial situation where I didn't have to worry too much. I felt that I was using the cartoon to shred people and situations that I really didn't know anything about. I started feeling like a loose cannon out there just firing to hear the bang and not thinking about the ramifications the drawings might have.

"As the cartoon began to get more popular and I started seeing some of the comments, I decided I needed time to readjust and I asked myself if I really wanted to keep on doing this. I did some soul searching and had to decide what was worthy of attacking and what was worthy of being left alone. So I started spending a lot of time on the guitar."

Q: What was one of the toughest things you've ever done in terms of political cartoons?

A: "I drew President Obama with a bomb directly over his head about to land on him. It was called 'ObamaGates' and came right after the president said the Cambridge police 'acted stupidly' following the arrest of (Harvard professor) Henry Gates. It was a powerful, heavy cartoon and I think it spewed out the wrong message. I'm not like that. I'm not a malicious person. The cartoon received a lot of positive comments and I think that bothered me even more. It was kind of nasty."

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

A: "When I was doing 'The Pink Slip,' my ideas came from the events in my life, getting let go from a job I loved, and it kind of evolved to things that were happening in my household with my family. A little exaggerated for comic effect, but not too much.

"The ideas for the editorial cartoon come from global situations that are in the news. I would try to get a worldview of things that were happening because many of my cartoons were featured on the European Worldwide News Service. But it always reminded me of parts of the human body. If you do something to one part, if affects all the other parts. If something happens in England it affects what happens in Japan or New Zealand or the United States."

Q: What comes first, the message or the drawing?

A: "The message comes first usually. For me anyway. I'll get the idea and the drawing and the idea kind of evolve together. Sometimes it may go the other way. I'll wake up in the morning and I just want to draw something. I once drew a big black bear for no particular reason. Several months later, around Thanksgiving, I drew some Pilgrims hunting and as they were being chased by the bear the caption says, 'Hey, let's just go with the turkey this year.'"

Q: Do you envision yourself playing the local coffee house circuit?

A: "Oh, I'd love to. Absolutely. I have a few friends who are excellent singers and excellent musicians but trying to get us all together at the same time is really difficult. I'd love to find a female singer who sounds like Alison Krauss. My youngest daughter (Meredith) has an unbelievable voice by so far she's been resistant. I know she has a lot of schoolwork and a lot going on, but I'd love to be able to perform with her. Maybe someday. Who knows?"