Some of the drawings from Gary Blehm’s first poster drawn at age 15 in 1980 would eventually make it to the first official poster published in 1989. 100,000 PENMEN® posters were sold in the 1990s. From there in 1995 the PENMEN® comic strip was signed for newspaper syndication. The feature found it’s greatest success as a color Sunday version of the popular posters.
The comic strip was cancelled in 2001. The daily comic strip was a wordless feature and consequently was not suited well for mass consumption. There was a good fan base of the PENMEN® comic strip that appreciated it’s unique form of clever and artistic visual humor.
By 2005 Blehm was approached with an opportunity to animate PENMEN® for Jetix, Europe, a Disney owned European kids’ television network. After animating 6 short episodes the short feature programming was cancelled before the PENMEN® animations were ever released. Five years later Disney released a video game with Mickey Mouse featuring a very similar concept that Blehm had created with PENMEN®.
By 2007 Blehm began printing some t-shirts and expanding his PENMEN® poster line with some magazine publications and various animation projects. Within months Blehm was out for an evening of live music in Manitou Springs, Colorado when he noticed someone wearing a t-shirt that looked remarkably similar to his own PENMEN® poster designs. At three in the morning he went home and found the company on their website and noticed many other designs that seemed to have come from his PENMEN® posters.
He was crushed.
After a long legal fight, Blehm had to find a path forward without giving up. Having drawn his character with the Big Grin since he was 12 years old he simply had to keep going. He created Grin Big!™ Apparel using derivative designs from his many years as a professional cartoonist and motivational speaker. The mission of optimism at the forefront of his messaging since 1989, Grin Big!™ would carry the dream forward with a new line of t-shirts featuring Positive Vibes and Outdoor Living. Just as he had told schools in speeches about optimism he would “Do What You Like to Do” and “Be Positive and Follow Your Dreams”. Visit GrinBig.com to see the t-shirts offered today.
This is Optimism