I first discovered comics in the early ’70s when I was a young kid and read them voraciously. I read mainly superhero comics at this time, and most of them had letter columns in the back. I began to notice there were some people who sure seemed to have a lot of letters published in comic books. I mean, who WERE these people? (Robert Rodi and Rich Morrissey are two of the names that come immediately to mind.) I wished I knew people like this –- there didn’t seem to be any people who lived near me who were all that interested in comic books.
[very early fanzine art circa 1979 by Ben Adams featuring Comic Snipe]
Since I was rabidly interested in comics, I began to seek out books on them. I found a copy of Robert Overstreet’s COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE in a public library and discovered that there were clubs and organizations for comics fans. I also discovered that there existed specialty publications for fans such as Alan Light’s THE BUYER’S GUIDE. Before long (sometime in the late ’70s), I had purchased a sample copy of TBG and it opened the doors to a new and exciting world.
Around this time, I made a new
friend in junior high named Robert Ahern who had a big collection of Marvel Comics and was probably as committed a comics fan as I was. We started reading each other’s comics and talked about the PRICE GUIDE and THE BUYER’S GUIDE. We were both interested in finding other comics fans in southern Minnesota and tried (unsuccessfully) to start some kind of club for comics fans in the area.
Since the club idea didn’t work out, we decided to put together a newsletter for comics fans that people all over the country could subscribe to. This also did not work out very well. (I can’t remember all the details on why it didn’t work out, but I can remember that it was subpar compared to the average late ’70s fanzine.)
For me, the best thing to come out of the aborted newsletter attempt was the creation of a character known as Comic Snipe. I had written and drawn two 2-page strips with the character for the newsletter. They seem pretty embarrassingly bad now, but they were actually a step towards bigger and better things.
[Robert Crumb's old roommate Marty Pahls -- on the right -- was one of the first comics fans I corresponded with.]
When the newsletter fell through, I did a new 20-page story with Comic Snipe that was essentially an expanded remake of the old 2-page strips. I published it as an xeroxed comic book called COMIC SNIPE #1 and advertised it in THE BUYER’S GUIDE. It was also embarrassingly bad, but it was the first ‘zine I actually printed and traded with other comics fans.
One of the people who answered an ad I placed for COMIC SNIPE #1 was Robert Crumb’s old roommate Marty Pahls. You can learn more about my friendship with him by reading my bio. (Hopefully, I’ll blog about this in greater detail at some point.) He was first in the line of many interesting comics fans I would correspond with.
I also began corresponding with a number of other fans who were advertising their ‘zines in THE BUYER’S GUIDE. DEMURA, ULTRAZINE, and THE ARTISTS’ SHOWCASE were three of the earliest ‘zines that I purchased. (Many of the people who contributed to ULTRAZINE now belong to an Yahoo! Discussion Group. It can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UltraZine/.)
[a COLLECTORS' CLUB NEWSLETTER cover by Fred Hembeck & Bill Anderson]
I also joined a club for comics fans called The Collectors’ Club that had members all over the U.S. and published a monthly newsletter. Some of my earliest essays, reviews, and fan letters appeared in THE COLLECTORS’ CLUB NEWSLETTER. In many of them, I probably sometimes came across as a dumb, arrogant little kid. I believe I got mixed up in a number of really silly pre-Internet “flame wars” actually. Amazingly enough, though, many of the members were nice, supportive, and helpful to me even when I didn’t deserve it.
Not long after I joined the CC, a new
kid started attending junior high in my hometown of Madelia, MN. His name was Tony Bjorklund. I noticed one day in history class that I was drawing a comic book featuring The X-Men. It was written by a friend of his from his old junior high school in Saint Louis by the name of Guy Burwell. Before long, I talked him into joining the CC, and we begin talking about about various fanzine projects we might want to do.
We ended up publishing a ‘zine called RAINBOW COMIX #1 that included a Comic Snipe story by me and superhero stories by Tony, Guy, and another Saint Louisian named Steve Kutheis.
[a page from Steve Kutheis' Omniverse]
RAINBOW COMIX #1 was, in many ways, an odd mongrel of a comic. The stories in it by Burwell, Bjorklund, and Kutheis were heavily influenced by Marvel comics like X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and WARLOCK. Comic Snipe, on the other hand, was a humorous character closer in tone to Jack Cole’s Plastic Man and Street & Smith’s old Supersnipe character. We called it RAINBOW COMIX because it had “comics as different as colors of the rainbow”, but it was a black and white comic! And don’t ask me where “COMIX” with an X came from…! Something with “Comix” in the title is usually an underground/counterculture comic, and RAINBOW COMIX most certainly wasn’t!
The most successful feature in RAINBOW COMIX – I would say – was Steve Kutheis’ Omniverse. Much of the art in it was quite stunning, and Steve seemed like a budding Jim Starlin or Michael Golden.
On the other hand, the Comic Snipe story I did had major problems. It was yet another remake of the same story I had planned for the old failed comic book newsletter. The art on it was quite a bit better than the art on the previous versions, but I still had a very long way to go.
[Marc V is on the far left, and Galaxystorm is second from the left. I would later write stories with both characters.]
As I understand it, Burwell and Kutheis weren’t particularly thrilled with Comic Snipe (in hindsight, I can’t say that I blame them) , and this is a large part of the reason I was fired from the RAINBOW COMIX “partnership”. (RAINBOW COMIX #2 was produced completely without me.)
I was unbelievably upset when this happened, but — for reasons I’ll explain shortly — it ended up being a very good thing for me. (Both Marty Pahls and another new friend of mine — Dan W. Taylor — helped get me out of the funk I went into when this happened.)
I consider my departure from
the RAINBOW COMIX partnership to be the end of this phase of my life as a comics creator. Many of the stories I did after this period I am still at least somewhat proud of. During this period, I was frequently guilty of slobbering superhero worship, and, when I created comics, I was simply emulating the comics I worshipped. The comics I did after this period became a lot more personal and thoughtful.
During the period I learned — often the hard way – how to get along with all the various personalities who want to create comics. Feuds and personality conflicts are simply a part of doing small press comics. (Frankly, if you read THE COMICS JOURNAL or the COMICON.COM message boards, you’ll discover they are a part of creating comics professionally too.)
One of my favorite essays on the perils of creating small press comics is in fact a comic called JEFF NICHOLSON’S SMALL PRESS TIRADE. It’s currently on display at Jeff Nicholson’s website at http://www.coloniapress.com/Tirade_contents.html. Jeff has done some fantastic comics work in recent years, and, when you read TIRADE, you’ll see that he had his painful experiences doing small press comics too. Actually, according to Marty Pahls, even Robert Crumb did! (I’ve got more to say about Nicholson — and his Ultraklutz character — in the coming section.)
BIZARRE ESCAPADES &
Newave Comix Period
Around the time I was in 6th or 7th grade, my parents got me a copy of Maurice Horn’s WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMICS as a Christmas present. Although I later learned that this book was full of some serious historical errors, I absolutely adored it when I first got it. Through it, I learned a lot about comic books and comic strips that I just didn’t have access to while living in southern Minnesota.
One section that absolutely captivated me was about this unbelievably weird dude named Robert Crumb who did these psychedelic comics about his sexual fantasies, drugs, and the ’60s.
Back then I found ’60s counterculture types to be colorful and fascinating people. I had some very limited exposure to them because my father was a high school art teacher in Mankato, MN and had many hippie types in his art classes. I didn’t meet most of his students (and if I did, I didn’t say much to them).
['60s underground comix art by R. Crumb]
In the back of my mind, I really wanted to learn more about ’60s hippie types and what they were all about. Let’s face it though — there were lots of very conservative, midwestern people in my life at this time …you know, people who were very uptight and afraid of sex and drugs and what many consider the excesses of ’60s counterculture. Because of this, I often felt guilty about my interest in the ’60s and probably didn’t learn about this era as much as I should have.
I still have vivid memories of attending a program for “gifted” junior high students at Mankato State University and spending most of my time flipping through old ’60s Bay Area underground newspapers like YARROWSTALKS on microfiche that contained work by many of the most popular underground cartoonists. I was fascinated, but, at the same time, I still felt very guilty about doing this.
To be perfectly honest, I was not always a happy teenager. I wasn’t one of the popular kids. (The smart kids almost never are the popular kids, are they?) I was highly critical of the “social order” that existed in the high school I went to in Madelia, MN. Aside from my comic book collecting friends, I didn’t really like many of my peers. The “social order” called comics fandom was frankly a lot more acceptable to me. (There were also some unpleasant things going on in my family around this time, and I plan to go into them at a later date.)
[an old high school yearbook picture of yours truly]
The networks in those days for people interested in underground comix were not comprised of exactly the same people who were interested in superhero comics, but there was more overlap than you might initially think. I can think of a few comics and a TV show that served as “bridges” from the world of superhero comics to the world of underground comix – Steve Gerber’s HOWARD THE DUCK (who I identified with) and Gene Roddenberry’s STAR TREK come immediately to mind. (I had a stridently leftwing teacher in junior high who encouraged my interest in TREK.) I also recall reading an essay on underground comix in Marvel’s EPIC ILLUSTRATED magazine. Science fiction novels with a counterculture slant like Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND also caught my interest during that time.
Since Madelia was in so many ways a “dead end” to me and I still needed friends and a social network, it made sense that I should continue to explore what comics fandom and the small press had to offer. And since my interest in underground comix and the counterculture was clearly growing, why not explore it through underground comix networks through the mail?
The first penpal I had who was interested in underground comix was undoubtedly Robert Crumb’s old friend Marty Pahls. (Part of the reason I was interested in UG comix was because he was such a nice guy and because he had convinced me I was somewhat like Crumb.) The second was Dan W. Taylor.
Taylor was also in The Collectors’ Club and was one of the few members with an interest in underground comix. Like me, he was also drawing a comic strip for a weekly comics-zine called COMICS*TRIPS WEEKLY published by Joey Manley. (This is the same Joey Manley who would go on to mastermind the ModernTales.com portal for online comics.) Taylor was drawing a strip called “Iggy And Snurt”, and I was drawing a not-particularly-great Comic Snipe strip that was a sequel to my RAINBOW COMIX story.
[the front cover to BEDTIME FOR RONZO by Jerry Goebert & Ben Adams]
Taylor was the guy who introduced me to Clay Geerdes’ newave comix network, which was an outgrowth of the counterculture-ish ’60s underground comix scene and began when the distribution network for underground comix (comprised largely of counterculture-ish head shops, as I understand it) fell apart. He published a minicomic called BOOK OF ART that some of my work appeared in. He also introduced me to Jerry Goebert, who wrote and published minicomix. (I illustrated two comics written by Goebert. My first, BEDTIME FOR RONZO, was about Ronald Reagan. My second, TMI: THE MISHAP INCIDENT, was about Three Mile Island. Goebert also worked with Tom Brinkmann, Jim Ryan, Alex Tamsula, Clark Dissmeyer, and some of the biggest stars of the newave comix movement.) I also had some of my work published in Geerdes’ BABYFAT around this time.
I hadn’t yet abandoned the character of Comic Snipe at this time. In fact, he stars in some of my favorite stories from this period. Everything I had done with the character up to and including the COMICS*TRIPS WEEKLY story, I’m thoroughly embarrassed by. However, I launched a ‘zine called BIZARRE ESCAPADES in 1981 that featured Comic Snipe and I am still at least somewhat proud of all 4 issues that I published.
I began BIZARRE ESCAPADES because I wanted to publish a team-up between my character Comic Snipe and Dan W. Taylor’s Iggy and Snurt characters. I wrote and pencilled a 13-page story for BIZARRE ESCAPADES #1 that Dan inked. The story isn’t deep at all, but I still find it at least mildly amusing. I still like the way Dan inked my pencils and I still love the cover he did. It was definitely the best drawn Comic Snipe story to date when it came out.
[my wraparound cover for BE #3]
Since I was at this point out of the “Rainbow Comix partnership”, I decided to make BE Comic Snipe’s new home. The second issue of BE (which I numbered “No. 3” to be different) was a solo Comic Snipe story written, pencilled, and inked by me. I think it was the best Comic Snipe story I ever did, and my favorite story from my “newave period”.
Comic Snipe was created to be a superhero parody and was loosely based on the old Street & Smith character Supersnipe. He was the kid with the most comics in the world, he had a wealthy father, and he decided – largely out of boredom – become a superhero. As a superhero, he was unbelievably clumsy and inept.
To be quite honest, I created this character because I wanted to have my own character, because I was interested in drawing comics, and because I liked humorous superhero characters like Plastic Man and the Inferior Five. “Bigfoot style” cartooning just came a lot more naturally to me at that time than superhero illustration and that was probably one of the big reasons I started out with a superhero parody.
[the splash page from BE #3]
Anyway, BE #3 centers around Comic Snipe’s alter ego, Gerry McGoon, and the high school he attends and hates. He has trouble relating to his peers. And … uh … who do you SUPPOSE Gerry is based on in this story? Obviously, BE #3 was the first loosely-autobiographical comics story I had done. Up until this point, he was a pretty inconsequential character who became interesting because I started to put a lot of myself into him.
BIZARRE ESCAPADES #’s 2 -4 are hardly masterpieces, but they have some of my best art from this period and they do have a fair amount of what I would call “soul”. They’re stories about real things that made me sad. They remind me just a tiny bit of some of John Hughes’ teen-themed films like PRETTY IN PINK and THE BREAKFAST CLUB.
They’re also some of the first comics I send to BUYER’S GUIDE columnist Cat Yronwode – who is highly-regarded by many in the comics industry — for review, and I’m proud to say I got some positive reviews from her.
If I had kept doing Comic Snipe stories beyond this point, I suspect I would have channeled even more of myself into him. He would have gone through an evolution similar to those that Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Jeff Nicholson’s Ultraklutz went through. (Cerebus started out as a parody of Conan, but it’s pretty obvious that the character is a stand-in for Dave Sim. Ultraklutz was originally a parody of the Japanese character ULTRAMAN, but he eventually became a stand-in for Nicholson.)
After BE #4, I drifted away from the newave scene and towards small press superhero comics. This may have been a bad decision, but there are a number of reasons why this happened. One big reason is that I never sold a lot of issues of BE, and I had heard stories of superhero stripzines moving hundreds of copies. I honestly wanted to see how high I could crank my sales numbers up. Another is that I was often frustrated with the amount of time it took to write, pencil, and ink a comic book story. I was interested in focussing strictly on my writing. Most of the artists I knew were superhero artists and expected superhero material.
Frankly, I was still under the age of 18, and I was a little bit uncomfortable with a lot of the newave comix people I corresponded with. There was a limit to how much I could relate to them. I wasn’t a college student who hung out with punk rockers and people into newave music … I was a bright 17-year-old kid who didn’t have a car and lived on a farm! (Patrick Fugit’s William Miller character from Cameron Crowe’s film ALMOST FAMOUS reminds me a bit of the way I was during this period.)
[panel from one of my favorite '80s newave comix, Steve Willis' CRANIUM FRENZY #1]
Yet another problem was that I was honestly less than enchanted with a lot of the newave comix material I encountered at this time. Newave comix tended to be very short stories –- because of this, many of them lacked scope, depth, and meaning to me. (I can think of some exceptions –- Steve Willis’ CRANIUM FRENZY comix come immediately to mind. I still adore them to this day.)
Some mainstream comics like THE SILVER SURFER, HOWARD THE DUCK, and even THE X-MEN had more depth and meaning to me that what I was getting from newave comix. (On the other side of the coin, I don’t think I was yet smart and worldly enough to fully appreciate what was going on in some underground comix by Crumb and Bill Griffith. They were simply over my head.)
When you get right down to it, newave comix were a way for a smart kid like me to rebel against an often oppressive small town environment. A couple of years after this period ended, I remember coming home from college and seeing lots of punk rock related items in my younger brother’s room. I saw a few issues of Robert Crumb’s WEIRDO too. Clearly, he had a lot of the same problems and issues.
In many ways, I was a lot like a young skatepunk during my newave period. Even though most people don’t draw newave comix when they’re alienated teens, I think there are many people out there who can relate to what I was going through.
Small Press Superheroes Period
As I explained in the previous section, there were a number of forces that caused me to start working on small press superhero comics. There are a few more that I haven’t gone into yet.
One big factor was that I had papered over my differences with Tony Bjorklund after the RAINBOW COMIX breakup and started hanging out with him. It was pretty easy to jam on comics with him because he was local.
Another factor was that I was beginning to connect and identify with such Marvel characters as The Silver Surfer, Warlock, Captain Mar-Vell, and The X-Men. When I originally met Tony, I was a fan of humorous comics like PLASTIC MAN, THE INFERIOR FIVE, and Fred Hembeck’s work. This led to my interest in HOWARD THE DUCK, which led to my interest in Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.
[revamped versions of Marc V and Galaxystorm appeared in Tony Bjorklund's '90s series Future Shock]
If you know anything about the Surfer, Warlock, Mar-Vell and the X-Men, it’s pretty obvious that all these characters have STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND qualities. An alienated “smart kid” interested in satire and social commentary who wants to write can find interesting things to do with these characters.
Tony had a character called Marc V that he written and drawn a story with who was clearly inspired by Warlock and Mar-Vell. (The story he did was actually a sequel to a story written and drawn by Guy Burwell.) I took over the writing on Marc V for the third story (which was completed but never published). This was one of my first “serious superhero” stories. I wrote a story featuring Galaxystorm (who was also created by Burwell and had appeared in RAINBOW COMIX) that was also completed but never published.
Three other people who ended up having a big impact on me around this general time were Matt Bucher, Jim Kramer, and Rick McCollum. Shortly after entering fandom, I began getting superhero stripzines (i.e, photocopied amateur superhero comics) from Matt Bucher. (Bucher is a member of the Ultrazine Yahoo! Group.) Many of them had very good artwork by people who looked like they had the potential to work for Marvel or DC. Bucher had essentially put together a network of writers and artists, and many of them started collaborating on comics. I thought it would be quite a kick to work with some of Bucher’s better artists. Many of them were very approachable people, and it was not too incredibly difficult to talk them into drawing a story or two. It was really Bucher’s ‘zines that first planted the idea in my head that I could potentially write scripts for other artists and produce stories nearly as good as the better comics from “The Big Two”.
[Jim Kramer's Starflame was inspired by The Silver Surfer.]
Jim Kramer was a member of Bucher’s network who wrote a series of essays on THE SILVER SURFER and HOWARD THE DUCK for THE COLLECTORS’ CLUB NEWSLETTER that had a significant effect on me. Jim argued that HTD and THE SILVER SURFER were two of the few comics published that could actually be considered serious literature. These essays inspired to learn more about these two very memorable characters.
In addition to writing about two of my favorite characters from this time period, Kramer had created a character called Starflame who strongly reflected his interest in the Surfer. One of the earliest stories I wrote for artists from the “Bucher network” was a team-up featuring Starflame and two other characters. (Kramer wrote the first chapter of the team-up, and I scripted the second chapter from his plot. I talked him into letting me take over the writing after it became clear that he didn’t have the time to finish writing it himself.) I actually ended up plotting and writing a number of Starflame stories all by myself. (Many of them were completely drawn, but none of them were ultimately published.)
Rick McCollum was my favorite writer/artist from the Bucher era. The guy drew nearly as well as Frank Miller, Marshall Rogers, and Walt Simonson. He was a little older than most of the Bucher people, and he was interested in underground comix. He seemed like he’d be a fascinating person to hang out with. He had a degree in painting and had also studied art history. He had apparently lived a very colorful life in Cincinnati and had held a wide variety of jobs there. He was interested in theology, metaphysics, JFK conspiracy theories, Richard Corben, and Robert Anton Wilson. His work generally had a lot more brains and personality than some of the other small press superhero stuff from this era. (Superhero fans who like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison could very well be delighted with a lot of his work.)
When you get right down to it, people like Rick McCollum were a huge part of my attraction to small press comics. There was no one nearly as colorful or as fascinating as he was in Madelia, MN. (There were at Saint Olaf College and in Seattle, but those are other stories.)
['80s art by Rick McCollum that appeared in a Matt Bucher stripzine]
All of the superhero stories I wrote during this period – except for the Marc V and Galaxystorm stories — were supposed to be published by someone named Ron Fleming. For whatever reason, he did not end up being a very reliable publisher, and nothing I wrote for him ever saw print. This disappointed me – I was quite taken with the work of some of the artists I worked with. Dave Garcia and Keith Royster in particular did some very nice work. (Dave Garcia did an absolutely GORGEOUS STARFLAME cover that never saw print. He would later find fame and fortune as the creator of PANDA KHAN.) Royster would later become an assistant to FANTASTIC FOUR penciller Rich Buckler. (Buckler is controversial and unpopular with some people, I know. Nevertheless, I was very impressed with Royster’s work.)
Actually, around this time, I had quite a bit of contact with people who would go on to do comics professionally and have some interesting stories to tell. First of all, I should mention that Guy Burwell would go on to work for both Caliber Comics and Dark Horse Comics. Also, I should add that Rick McCollum would later produce a sketchbook called SCREAMING MASKS for Tundra. (It was an introduction to a series based on stories done during the Bucher era. The series was never published — probably because of Tundra’s financial problems.)
At one point I advertised in THE BUYER’S GUIDE for artists to work on comics to be published by Ron Fleming. Two of the artists who answered the ad were Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, who would later go on to create TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. (I believe I didn’t end up working with them because they wanted a page rate.)
I remember one day receiving a ‘zine in the mail from Kevin Collier that had a short article on my Marc V work. In the same ‘zine was a feature about a young artist named Erik Larsen and his character, THE SAVAGE DRAGON.
A number of alternative comics imprints such as Eclipse and Comico were sprouting up around this time, and lot of small press folks were submitting work to them. I submitted a story to Comico’s “new talent showcase” called COMICO PRIMER and had it rejected by a young editor named Matt Wagner. Matt would go on to create GRENDEL, MAGE, and SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE.
One of the strangest stories I can tell from this period involves someone named … Ben Adams.
There was another person active in small press comics during this period with my name. He apparently published a ‘zine called SENSAWONDA. He wrote me a very amusing letter when he saw both our names listed in some sort of fandom directory. To this day, I still run into comics fans who think I’m him. (He’s mentioned in JEFF NICHOLSON’S SMALL PRESS TIRADE.)
We’re pretty easy to tell apart actually. He wears the salad bowl with the wings on it, while I wear the much sportier scarlet cowl. We occasionally team up to fight the sinister Vandal Savage.
I’m joking. Sorry.
This period of my comics career ended during my senior year of high school in ’83-’84. I shut down all my comics fandom related responsibilities during this year so I could focus on having a successful freshman year at Saint Olaf College in Northfield, MN.
Busy-With College Period
When I became a student at Saint Olaf College in 1984, a lot of the motivation for me to be involved in small press comics went away. Back in Madelia, MN, I just didn’t have a lot of access to people who I found all that interesting or could relate to. Saint Olaf is a college attended by “smart kids” from all over Minnesota and beyond. (In some ways, it’s a bit like Professor Charles Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Children from THE X-MEN.) I now had lots of “mutant kids” to hang out with, so there was no need to focus on corresponding with them through the mail.
I made the decision pretty early on to major in physics and mathematics. (I was often great at math and got A’s in the Honors Calculus classes I took during my freshman year.) I’ve got plenty more to say about my time as a Saint Olaf student, and you better believe I’ll go into it more in the future. (There’s a little more information in my bio.)
The main thing I want to stress in this section is that I was preoccupied with trying to excel in my two majors. I spent quite a bit of time hanging around physics geeks, and my interest in comics fell by the wayside. I briefly considered trying to be a cartoonist for the student newspaper, but it became clear pretty quickly that I just wasn’t going to have time for that if I wanted to excel at my majors.
I still read a few comics during this time. Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING was a favorite during these years. I also followed John Byrne’s SUPERMAN, Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and Steve Engelhart’s SILVER SURFER. I first started reading Harvey Pekar’s AMERICAN SPLENDOR and Robert Crumb’s WEIRDO during this period too.
[Ward Sutton attended Saint Olaf College while I was a student there and drew comics for the school newspaper.]
One of many highlights of my time at Olaf was watching Ward Sutton develop his skills as one of the main cartooonists for the Saint Olaf student newspaper. Ward was one year behind me. As you might imagine, his art has improved by leaps and bounds since he was a freshman. (Ward’s currently a cartoonist for THE VILLAGE VOICE. You can see his current work at here and here.)
I never really knew Ward, but I have one cool story to tell about him. During my senior year, I had a dorm room right inside the main entrance to the legendary Ytterboe Hall, which was known for its eccentric, colorful, and highly-creative residents. I had quite a few comic art panels pasted on my dorm room door. (As I recall, a number of them were AMERICAN SPLENDOR panels.) At one point, Sutton did a spoof of Bil Keane’s FAMILY CIRCUS for the school paper (long before it was trendy to make fun of Keane). The panel had Billy freebasing cocaine and Dolly screaming “Mommy! Billy’s basin’ !” . Call me sick, but I thought it was roll-on-the-floor hilarious and posted it on my door. Sutton apparently passed by my room at some point and autographed the panel. If you’re reading this, Ward, THANKS! I’ll never forget this!
Following Saint Olaf, I went off to graduate school at the University Of Washington in Seattle only to drop out and start doing comics again. I cover this elsewhere on this site of course. I will most definitely have more to say about this in the future too.
(The essays and retrospectives on this page were originally completed by Ben Adams on March 13, 2004.)
Characters and artwork used on this page are (c) and copyrighted by original creators.