Cartoonist Jim Keefe (age 13) in the Minneapolis Tribune

Time for the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody, to a chilly winter’s day 34 years ago…

Back in 1978, way before my Flash Gordon strip was in the newspapers, the Minneapolis Tribune ran the following Spider-Man cartoon of mine. This being my first experience with newspaper reproduction, I was amazed how the lines I carefully rendered on Spider-Man’s costume came out as just one big black blob. Bleaahhhh…

Minneapolis Tribune – December 3, 1978

Some backstory…

I had been clipping the Spider-Man newspaper religiously for two years – artwork by none other than the incredible John Romita!

Spider-Man newspaper strip by John Romita – 12/12/1977

Then suddenly – out of NOWHERE – the Tribune decides to drop it and replace it with…
(Wait for it.)

Encyclopedia Brown.

(I repeat) ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN!!!

Spidey_Lame

From Dick Cunningham’s editorial:

Wright (managing editor) and Wallace Allen, associate editor of the Tribune, think they have found a suitable replacement in “Encyclopedia Brown,” who appears for the first time in the Tribune today.

Brown is a boy detective confronted with a new crime each Sunday. He solves it by Saturday. Readers are given the same clues that Brown has and are invited to see if they reach the same solution.

“It’s kind of fun,” says Wright.

It’ll have to be to satisfy Keefe. “Woe be it to you,” he wrote. “May Dr. Doom trample your upholstery, may the Rattler bite your dog and may Mysterio make mincemeat of your hamburger.”


The sentiment still stands – once a fanboy always a fanboy.

The story does have a happy ending though. My Aunt Pat who lived in Boston got wind of this and sent me the strip out of her newspaper for the next two years.

An added bonus was that the Boston paper printed their comic strips much bigger than the Tribune – so take THAT Mr. Wright and Allen!!!

Years later, I paid homage to my Aunt by giving her a cameo in Flash Gordon.

And I still have the scrapbook. 4 years of stellar Romita art and lots of fond memories…

About Jim Keefe

Jim Keefe is the current artist of the Sally Forth comic strip, he is also the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip - both available at ComicsKingdom.com. A graduate of the Joe Kubert School, Keefe likewise teaches Comic Art. Teaching and speaking engagements include SVA in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs, The University of Minnesota and most recently the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
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