Sac State English professor by day, self-proclaimed ‘Comicker’ by night

Daniel Bethel’s ‘Long John’ to become a TV show


Jack Freeman

Sac State professor Daniel Bethel stands between Caleveras and Alpine Hall holding the first four volumes of his comic Long John on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Bethel said he’s proud of these books because they reflect the two things he loves doing: English and art.

Jack Freeman and Collin Houck

On a cold night in 2001, Sac State professor Daniel Bethel laid in his bed having a dream that would change his life forever.

“It was a super stylized comic-style dream,” Bethel said. “I had no plan or even story, but there was this really buff cowboy guy who I thought was really cool looking. I woke up and just did some really early sketches.”

One of the first sketches Bethel ever did of his popular character Long John from his comic book in early 2012. He said he was planning for the logo to look like a cattle brand and have a chapter title which Bethel would later use in the comic book’s fourth volume nearly eight years later. (Photo courtesy of Bethel)

That cowboy would eventually become Long John, the main character of Bethel’s successful comic series which bears the name of the main character.

Bethel was working on another comic at the time, but the cowboy never left his mind. Once the comic he was working on ended, he began brainstorming the story for his comic book. 

“I’ve always been interested in that John Wayne/Clint Eastwood type character,” Bethel explained. “I had this design for a character like that, but I wanted to do something new with that concept.”

After doing some thinking, Bethel said he found his unique take on the generic cowboy desperado, taking their clothes away.

“I wanted to analyze what the characters like those famous ones would do after losing everything,” Bethel said. “He’s got no guns, no friends, no clothes– nothing at all. What does that do to someone like that?”

The tagline of the comic, “Losing everything changes everything,” a play on words that Bethel credits to his background as an English professor.

The comic’s television rights were recently obtained by a TV studio in conjunction with the channel FX to start production of a series based around the comic, Long John.

“It’s really exciting, for sure,” Bethel said. “I’m really excited to see where they take my story and this world I’ve built with my characters.”

The story of how this all happened is much like the story of how the creation of the character happened– almost serendipitously, according to Bethel.

“I was doing an ‘Ask Me Anything’ for my fans on Tumblr and one person asked me if Long John was based on an actor named Robert Baker,” Bethel said. “I said no, but they do look a lot alike, so I tweeted a side-by-side at the actor and he retweeted it.”

A year later Bethel got an email from Baker suggesting a TV adaptation of his comic.

“He asked ‘Have you ever thought about making this a TV show?’” Bethel said. “My response was ‘no, but now I am.’”

Almost six years later, the two sides have struck a deal. 

In addition to his comic strip, Bethel is an English professor at Sac State, and his students have said they love his class. 

Luis Munoz, a sophomore environmental studies major, said he appreciates that Bethel is compassionate and understanding with his students. 

“He’s a more chill professor,” Munoz said. “He understands that we have homework for other classes.” 

Munoz also said he finds it interesting that Bethel has the TV show coming out about his comic books. 

“I think that is very cool,” Munoz said. “I might check it out.” 

Bethel’s other passion is English, a passion he has built over the course of his life. He brings his experiences and passion to his classes every day.

Tiffany Thomas, a senior psychology major, said that she enjoys the humor Bethel brings to his classes. 

“What I like best about Daniel Bethel is his teaching style and sense of humor,” Thomas said. 

Thomas said that she’s improved her writing skills by being in Bethel’s classes and has benefited from taking them. 

“What was unique about class with the professor was his ability to make writing fun,” Thomas said. “I struggled a lot with writing and he gave me a lot of tips and suggestions for writing decent papers.” 

Thomas also said that Bethel getting a TV show is a tremendous opportunity. 

“I think it’s amazing that he has the opportunity to get more attention in the media,” Thomas said. “Getting the opportunity to do a TV show is amazing and I hope everything goes well!”