College freshman Steven Fischer goes to sleep dreaming of blue dogs.
Dogs that eat chili dogs, pretzels and antacid tablets.
Dogs that will make him famous, the 19-year-old says.
Fischer published his first comic book last month about Bluey, a dog that goes to high school, joins a rock band called The Grooving Marshmallows and enters therapy to cure his habit of squirting people with water guns.
A year ago, publishers turned down Fischer's children's book.So the Anne Arundel Community College student raided his piggy bank and paid $2,000 to have 500 copies printed in comic book form.
Nearly 350 of the paperbacks have sold for $2.95 each, which doesn't make for high-rolling wealth. But Fischer considers the chance to familiarize book dealers and readers with his characters worth more than money.
The county library system bought 50 copies, and several elementary schools have invited Fischer to speak to classes about how to write a book.
"I like what I've created. I know the stories are good," says Fischer, who is lean and dreamy-eyed, with a soft shock of brown hair.
But there's nothing dreamy about his confidence.
"I guess I'm hard-headed," says the general studies student, "but there's no doubt in my mind people (will) like these characters."
The idea for Bluey, a saucy dog and his adventures in the human world, comes from a blue rag doll Fischer had as a child. The dog's character grew up along with Fischer, he says. "Bluey's personality changed alongwith me."
The Bluey expressed in the comic book views the world wryly. He loves chili dogs, just as Fischer does. He mocks the processof support groups and therapy, with a tinge of Fischer's irony. Whentrapped in a high school locker, he laments, "I think I found Steve's missing sweat socks."
Fischer has eyed the world through comedy since he was about 10 years old, he says, when he started writing short stories and inventing scenarios for characters.
"I believe we're all here for a reason," he says. "I'm fortunate to realize at an early age I have a talent for making people laugh."
At 17, Fischer decided to collect his ideas in a book. When publishers turned him down, he visited printers in Baltimore but discovered that it would costbetween $10,000 and $70,000 to have a hardcover storybook printed incolor -- way over his budget.
Comic books are marketable in blackand white, so Fischer decided to adapt his ideas to that form until he makes enough money to tackle the more expensive child's book.
He incorporated his own company, Blue Dog Productions, and soon his mailbox was flooded with junk mail from accountants offering to manage his billing.
"I had to laugh. I don't have any employees," he says.
He did find county stores willing to stock the book, called "There's a Blue Dog Under My Bed," including children's stores in Croftonand Deale. He's also sold books at craft fairs and received mail orders.
Next year, Fischer will be traveling with his family to England, where he'll study near London at a University of Maryland extension school.
He's torn between pursuing a degree in English literature and "something that would help me with writing and publishing."
Writing children's books isn't just a dream for Fischer; it's a calling.
"I want to teach children to be decent citizens," he says. "Ifeel I can teach them through Bluey better than by saying, for example, 'Don't do drugs.' I want to give them a hero that solves his problems through humor rather than violence."