German Village resident and cartoonist Jeff Stahler is a doodler.

German Village resident and cartoonist Jeff Stahler is a doodler.

"I was the kid in the back of the classroom doodling on the side notes of my term papers and essays," he recalled last week.

Those doodles have paid off. Aside from his full-time job drawing cartoons for The Columbus Dispatch, Stahler also pins "Moderately Confused," an ongoing series that runs six days a week in about 600 newspapers.

He recently released his first compilation of the comic strip called "21st Century Confusion: A Moderately Confused Collection," which is a print-on-demand book and can be ordered at Amazon.com. Hard copies are available at the Book Loft, 631 S. Third St.

Stahler, 53, described the series as a whimsical and lighthearted look at today's society, which draws on popular culture.

"'Moderately Confused' came around when somebody asked me what my political position was, and I just right away told them I'm moderately confused," Stahler said.

The collection, published by United Media, draws on the strip's five years of publication, though its main content is from the last three years.

"I just think it is a clean nice collection of my favorite comics," he said.

Stahler, whose mother was an art teacher, got his start working as an illustrator at a local magazine and was picked up by the now-closed Columbus Citizen Journal and then moved on to the Cincinnati Post, also now closed.

"So I've killed two papers," Stahler joked. "I'm hoping not to kill the Dispatch."

As a cartoonist, Stahler said he tries to take on another person's perspective.

"I'm kind of like the man on the street; I like to look at the cartoon through somebody else's eyes and see how it would reflect," he said. "I think the whole idea is a quick response on these types of things; what bubbles to the top fastest."

An example would be a recent cartoon he drew after the death of Tim Russert, the host of "Meet the Press."

Stahler heard the news and decided to do an extra illustration that week.

"I called real quick and said I'd like to do a Tim Russert remembrance cartoon and they said, you have 30 minutes," Stahler said. "I just had an angel in the clouds watching 'Meet the Press.'"

Still, Stahler favors tight deadlines. He said without them he would constantly work on one piece.

Among his other duties at the Dispatch is a caption contest, which has been running for about a year and a half. Stahler reads each entry himself -- between 1,500 and 2,000 responses -- and picks the winner.

Jim Borgman, cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer and creator of "Zits," is one of Stahler's inspirations.

"I suppose I should say we were competitors, but it only felt that way for the nanosecond when I opened the Post to see if he'd beaten me to a topic each day," Borgman said in an e-mail.

Borgman praised his colleague's work.

"Where most editorial cartoonists approach a topic head-on, Jeff always seems to find his way in through a back door," Borgman said. "He uses almost no labels or tortured metaphors."

Borgman said Stahler's work is never remote.

"It's all about how the news works its way down into our daily lives," Borgman said. "Jeff's work is a great relief from the peachiness of editorial pages."