ProJunior, sometimes styled as Pro Junior, is an American comics character created by Don Dohler in 1958. He debuted in a fanzine in 1961, and in underground comix in 1970. Known as “Baltimore‘s blasphemous bad boy,” the character is unusual in the underground genre for being “shared” by a number of different creators, appearing in stories by (among others) Jay Lynch, Art Spiegelman, Skip Williamson, and Robert Crumb. His main period of popularity was from 1970 to 1972.
The name of the character came from the teenage zine-maker Dohler’s self-perceived status as a junior professional editor. By flipping “junior” and “pro,” Dohler came up with “Pro Junior.”
In 1961 at the age of 15, Dohler started a Mad magazine-style fanzine called WILD. As with Mad and Alfred E. Neuman, Dohler used his middle-school creation Pro Junior as WILD‘s mascot. In WILD‘s peak (the years 1961–1963) it featured cartoons by the likes of Jay Lynch, Art Spiegelman, and Skip Williamson, who all later went on to be significant contributors to the underground comix movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In 1970 Lynch and Spiegelman were fooling around and they started drawing Pro Junior again, but this time in a leopard skin leotard. Robert Crumb saw the character—whose name he styled as ProJunior—and decided to draw a comic about him, which appeared in Bijou Funnies #4 (Print Mint, May 1970). From there, other underground cartoonists made ProJunior stories as well.
The character finally appeared in his own title in Don Dohler’s ProJunior (Kitchen Sink Press, October 1971), which featured contributions from 22 underground cartoonists, including Lynch, Crumb, Spiegelman, Williamson, S. Clay Wilson, Evert Geradts, Jay Kinney, Justin Green, Jim Mitchell, Trina Robbins, Denis Kitchen, Bruce Walthers, Joel Beck, Bill Griffith—and his creator, Don Dohler.
ProJunior’s final appearances were in Lynch and illustrator Gary Whitney’s Phoebe & the Pigeon People comic strip, which were first published in the late 1970s.
Don Markstein describes ProJunior this way:
ProJunior was conceived as an avatar of Dohler himself, and aspired to become a professional in the comic book field. . . . [He] could always be identified by two characteristics — his Dagwood-style haircut; and the fact that the “whites” of his eyes were black, and the irises white.
In his original incarnation, Pro Junior had corks in his ears and four teeth. By the time he appeared as WILD’s mascot, he became more recognizably human, with the flat-top haircut and a single tooth. When he began appearing in the comix he sported a leopard skin leotard, and under Crumb’s direction dropped his cartooning aspirations and became more of a rabble-rouser and weekend revolutionary.
Projunior’s first girlfriend was Belinda Berkeley, who left him after becoming “liberated” by the women’s movement. His next girlfriend — and the person who shares many of his adventures — was the Crumb character Honeybunch Kaminski.