Jay Kennedy was the Comics Editor up at King Features from 1988 up until his untimely death in 2007 at the age of 50.
I first met Jay back in 1989. I was fresh out of the Joe Kubert School and he was interviewing applicants for a colorist position that had just opened up at King Features. Suffice it to say Jay saw some potential and ended up hiring me.
Jay was in his early 30’s when he started at King and signaled a changing of the guard in the Comics Art department. He seemed to have a very clear vision in what he wanted to accomplish at King. A fan of the medium, and underground comics in particular, he wanted to bring that sensibility to the comics page. For a field so entrenched in the mainstream it was quite the juggling act. I never fully appreciated his skill at this until after the fact. Over the years I saw him help bring a number of strips on board to King, among them such hits as Baby Blues, Mutts and Zits. And in a field that was dominated by men, he also championed women cartoonists, including Hilary B. Price’s Rhymes with Orange, Sandra Bell-Lundy’s Between Friends, Rina Piccolo’s Tina’s Groove, as well as Six Chix, which had a rotating series of strips all created by women.
Back around 1995 when they were shopping around for a new artist for Flash Gordon I started drawing up samples – and Jay promptly rejected those initial pages of mine. I tried my hand at it again months later and to my surprise Jay not only hired me as the artist but as the writer as well!
Suffice it to say it was an amazing opportunity for a cartoonist still learning the ropes. That first year I did the strip Jay was very hands on. He’d make me do changes to everything from the artwork to word balloon placement. Jay could be rather blunt giving a critique, but it was never mean-spirited. It all had to do with telling a better story. After that first year I was on my own.
I worked with Jay on staff for close to ten years. Too many memorable moments to pick just one… so I’ll end it with saying his legacy is the great strips he brought on board while at King. He also gave me my first big break into this field – and for that I owe him a lot!
-Jim Keefe, Flash Gordon and Sally Forth
In memory of Jay Kennedy King Features established the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Fund which is awarded yearly and “designed to acknowledge excellence among college-aged aspiring cartoonists”. The award is presented at the annual NCS Reuben Awards dinner.
Jay Kennedy was also the author of The Official Underground and Newave Comix Price Guide (Boatner Norton Press, 1982). It was the first price guide for the underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s. Much of the information in the book was based on Kennedy’s personal collection of more than 9,500 comix.
Kennedy’s underground comix collection was donated and currently resides at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.