Artist Spotlight Bud Grace

30 years of Ernie/Piranha Club

A quick spotlight on 30 years of Bud Grace’s Piranha Club.

The last Piranha Club Sunday page – January 28, 2018.

When the comic strip started it was originally called “Ernie.”
Here’s the very first Ernie Sunday from February 7, 1988.

The strip’s name was changed to “Piranha Club” in 1998 (overseas it is still known as “Ernie”). Bud gave the reason for the change in this excerpt from a Q&A moderated by Suzanne Tobin of the Washington Post.

Bud Grace: ‘The reason is because we tried a promotion here in the States, and we thought that by changing name we might pick up some papers. That didn’t work, so now I’m going to change my name to Bill Watterson.”

From that same Q&A, when asked if there was any Robert Crumb influence in his drawing style, Bud responded,

I started drawing in an underground style, originally. While I can’t draw nearly as well as Robert Crumb, I’m not surprised you can see the influence. I was also influenced by underground cartoonist Kim Deitch.”

In 1989 Bud Grace received the the Adamson Award presented by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art as Best International Comic-Strip Cartoonist – and in 1993 he won the National Cartoonist Society’s Reuben Award for Best Newspaper Strip.

Bud Grace Fun Fact:

• Born in 1944, Bud Grace received a doctorate in physics from Florida State University before turning to cartooning.

From the National Cartoonist Society member album.

I was lucky enough to meet Bud Grace when I worked at King Features on staff as the colorist in the Comic Art Department. The cartoonists that didn’t come in regularly to drop stuff off (generally because they didn’t live near New York – we’re talkin’ pre-internet here) we’d get the chance to see if they stopped in before the annual King Features Christmas party.

Bud always reminded me of Groucho Marx when I’d see him at King. If you ever saw a Marx Brothers film, the energy would always pick up a notch when Groucho entered a scene. It was the same with Bud.

Bud Grace and fellow Comic Art department veteran Jerry Craft.
December of 1992.

When you worked in the Comic Art department at King you got to see the originals before they saw print. Here’s an example of an Ernie strip circa 1995 pre-edit.

Bud of course knew that the above strip wouldn’t make it through editorial without a change to the language in the last panel. That he sent it in anyway was what made him a favorite in the Comic Art Department up at King.

Here’s another example from 1995 where editorial actually made Bud change the drawing.

And so with the final strip on February 3, 2018, we bid adieu to the Piranha Club.

Fortunately we don’t have to say adieu to Bud Grace. You can still check in on Bud at

And for those interested in book collections of Ernie/Piranha Club dailies, here’s a heads up from Bud’s website…

“All the daily cartoons that were published plus many that were not. The 88-89-9o book has about 230 pages of comics. The 2017 book (Which also has the month of January 2018) has about 100 pages. The other books contain about 160 pages. The books are 8.5 by 11 inches, black and white.  The best price is direct from Lulu.

Lulu: Ernie and the Piranha Club

By Jim Keefe

Jim Keefe is the current artist of the Sally Forth comic strip. From 1996-2003 he was the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip. 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, and most recently the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

10 replies on “30 years of Ernie/Piranha Club”

Roderic Stanleysays:

Bud and I were at FSU 1974-8. The was doing post-doc work for Jim Skofronick, and I was a 1st year Ph D student. We spent many happy hours at the Pastime on Tennessee St in Tallashassee, especially the friday nights. Vividly remember the wedding, as a group of us went down from Tallahassee. Rod.

Don Rogerssays:

I would like to work my way through the strips,what’s the source?

I updated the post recently with a link to where you can by book collections through Lulu if interested!

It was funny is a sardonic, twisted way. When our local commie paper dropped it, I missed The Pirana Club and Earl (and of course his crooked Uncle Sid). I hope someday I cna buy a reprint.

You can! I updated the post recently with a link to where you can by book collections through Lulu!

Chandresh Sharmasays:

Thanks Bud for helping me fight my own sanity at times when I needed a “tuning”.

Barry Watkinssays:

Cheers Bud, all the best from down here in sunny South Africa. Our local news paper decided to drop your strip a few years ago…well there was such an outcry and threats of beheadings from us readers that it was back on faster than Sid could pick up ten bucks from the sidewalk.

ray wilmotsays:

There are strips that I cut out years ago. When I go back and re-read them, I still go into hysterics. I’ll miss you, Bud

One of the best strips ever!

Ron Warnersays:

Just about the funniest strip out there’ I’v been working my way through all the strips from the start and am up to 2013. When I get to 2018, I’ll probably shed a tear.

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