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FRANK STACK AND FOOLBERT STURGEON

New adventures of jesus redAs Foolbert Sturgeon, Frank Stack is one of the legendary fomenters of underground comix: working on a post-graduate degree in art at the University of Wyoming in the fall of 1962, Stack sent one-page cartoons about the modern travails of Jesus back to Gilbert Shelton, a cartooning friend from Stack’s undergraduate days at the University of Texas (and another of the “founders” of comix), who subsequently (in early 1963) caused the Jesus cartoons to be photocopied in modest quantity and stapled together behind a title page proclaiming The Adventures of Jesus, often termed, with perfect hindsight, the “first comix book.”

Stack enjoyed a life-long career as a professor of fine art at the University of Missouri, where he managed the art department gallery, served as chairman of the department for a time, and founded the Comics Collection at MU’s Ellis Library. He once told me that he believes he’s produced more watercolor paintings than any modern artist, and I, having seen a few thousand of them heaped around his home, believe him. Despite his devotion to watercolor and print-making, Stack continues with an almost equal passion to produce comics. His current project, a graphic novel entitled Kiss Me, Jesus! The Passion Story Told by Mary Magdalene, was to be released this summer, but only, so far, in French.

Frank StackWe had dinner together one evening at last summer’s Sandy Ego Comic-Con, where Frank was one of this year’s Special Guests, and I’m happy to report that Stack is as peevish as ever about many aspects of modern life. We agree on virtually everything. Two peevish old coots.

“Comic strips in newspapers no longer appeal to artists,” he pronounced, a pained and thoughtful expression slowly spreading across his whiskery visage as he chose his words, “ — they don’t give you enough space to draw in.”

As for art in general, he anoints Peter Bruegel “the best artist: you can look at him all your life and still not have seen everything in there.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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