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 – waaaaaaay before I had the inkling that I’d eventually have a comic strip of my own in the newspaper – the Minneapolis Tribune ran the following Spider-Man cartoon of mine.

Minneapolis Tribune – December 3, 1978

This being my first experience with newspaper reproduction, I was amazed at how the lines I had carefully rendered on Spider-Man’s costume came out as just one big black blob. Bleaahhhh…


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.”


I must say, I was quite the master of hyperbole at age 13 – but to no avail. They ended up dropping Encyclopedia Brown years later as well, but Spider-Man was never to return.

The story does have a happy ending though. My Aunt Pat who lived in Boston got wind of this and sent me the Spider-Man strip out of her newspaper for the next two years (pretty much the rest of Romita’s run). My Aunt Pat was pretty great that way.

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

And I still have those scrapbooks. 4 years of stellar Romita art and lots of fond memories.

My three scrapbooks – the first one signed years ago by John Romita himself!


For those of you who DIDN’T psychotically and laboriously collect the strip as a kid, and still would like to have a collection of them, check out IDW’s Spider-Man Comic Strip  collections.

Image from tapatalk.com

They did a beautiful job on them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.


Last but not least, I later paid homage to my Aunt Pat by giving her a cameo in Flash Gordon (she’s the one next to the pumpkin in the third panel).

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Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
For more backstory on my Aunt Pat’s page, go to Uncle Whit and Aunt Pat.

-Jim Keefe

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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