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

Al Baruch Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Al Baruch (1928-2015)

I first met Al Baruch back in 2003. He was head of the Cartooning department at Hofstra University’s UCCE Youth Programs at the time and hired me as one of the teachers.

A Navy veteran, Al had studied at the Art Students League of New York, SVA (at that time the Cartoonists and Illustrators School of NY) and Pratt Institute (1949 – 1952). In the 1950s he worked for Disney as an inbetweener on films like Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp. In the 1980’s he turned to teaching and never looked back.

Al was in his seventies when I met him, but had the energy and enthusiasm of a man in his twenties. He mentored a multitude of students through the years, passing on his love and enthusiasm of cartooning to a whole new generation of artists.

He’ll be sorely missed.

The following are just a few articles, pics and video from around the web on Al. I hope you enjoy…

Hilary Fine and Al Baruch

Al was an amazing man, artist and teacher. To the kids at HAAS, he was one of their magical Art Masters who would visit them and work along side of them at their Art Master Workshop. To me, he was a good friend and mentor. He also taught kids with special needs and was an advocate for the Holocaust Memorial and the Florida Youth Orchestra. You are loved by so many and you are in our hearts forever. Much love to you and your family.
-Hilary Fine

Al Baruch, Mike Stern, Mort Drucker
©Mike Stern – Animator at Pixar Animation Studios

1996 Al Baruch Interview
by Matthew Kalamidas

Ex-disney Animator Draws On Expertise
by Jerry Libonati for the Florida Sun Sentinal – 2005

Artist Spotlight John Romita

John Romita – The Crying Game

John Romita’s artwork is pretty much a staple of romance comics from the 1950s on, and for good reason. Here’s a quick sampling…

When Romita took over drawing Spider-Man from Steve Ditko, it was inevitable his strength for the Sturm und Drang of romance comics would be thrown into the mix.

The following examples are from the Spider-Man newspaper strip.
Click on artwork for larger image.

So when I needed to up the ante for Hil and Nona in the March 25, 2017 Sally Forth strip I leaned heavily on Romita for inspiration.

So much so I even snuck his name into the last panel as a tip of the hat.

Need more of a Romita fix? Check out the following…

For more of Romita’s Spider-Man comic book work: John Romita

For more comic strip art: Holiday Greetings – Stan Lee & John Romita

And last but not least, for some video of Romita at the drawing board…

Artist Spotlight Hy Eisman

Hy Eisman’s 90th!

It’s Hy Eisman’s 90th Birthday! (Born March 27, 1927)

I had Hy as a teacher for my first year of the Joe Kubert School (circa 1986-87). Hy taught lettering; which in those days meant Ames guide, a B6 lettering nib and india ink.

Hy was the kind of teacher you’d bring assignments to you’d been working on from other classes. His critiques had straightforward advice, with a little bit of biting wit thrown in for good measure. And if you paid attention and followed his advice, it made you a better artist. The class was INVALUABLE and had a real world payoff years later when I was doing the Flash Gordon comic strip.

Hand lettered Flash Gordon Sunday page from November 23, 1997.

A National Cartoonists Society Award winning cartoonist, Hy has worked for many different publishers over the years (Charlton, Marvel and Harvey to name a few) and has also worked on such classic comic strip characters as the Katzenjammer Kids and Popeye.

I point out his Syndicate work as I coincidentally get to work on Hy’s artwork as colorist.
It’s been a privilege to be able to work on Hy’s comic strip work for all these years (Hy started on the Katzenjammer kids in 1986 – I’ve been colorist since 1989).

Color guide for September 4, 2016 Popeye strip.

To wrap up, here’s some links from around the web spotlighting Hy.
Hope you enjoy!

Spotlight on Hy Eisman – by Mark Squirek for Hogan’s Alley

Hy Eisman: A Life in Comics – teaser

Behind the Tracing Paper: Interview with Hy Eisman and Fernando Ruiz
Filmed at the Kubert School in 2016.

What’s more to be said than…

The preceding pic is for a wall of birthday greetings to be displayed at the Kubert School. It was hand lettered to show Hy I’m not slacking off after all these years.

Update: Pictures from the Kubert School Facebook page.
Hy being shown the display of birthday wishes…

Hy Eisman
Display with illustrations wishing Hy a happy 90th.
Display with illustrations wishing Hy a happy 90th.
Examples of Hy’s work through the years.
Birthday cupcakes spelling Hy!
Artist Spotlight Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan R.I.P. – by Alex Saviuk

Paul Ryan at GraniteCon 2015, Manchester, New Hampshire
Paul Ryan at GraniteCon 2015, Manchester, New Hampshire

Paul Ryan (September 23, 1949 – March 6, 2016)

Reprinted from Alex Saviuk’s Facebook page with permission.

I am deeply saddened and stunned by the passing of Paul Ryan so quickly and way too soon. I found out yesterday late morning and could not work anymore and had to make inquiries as to what happened that took him away from us and more importantly from his wife and immediate family.

I was able to speak at length with some close friends to share in our grief but at the same time revel in delight at what a wonderful guy he was and of course terrific artist he was as well. When I got to Marvel in 1986 Paul was just breaking into comics and he and I worked together on a NIGHTMASK fill-in in which he inked my pencils, but as time went on very quickly he became more prolific as a penciler and storyteller with an incredible work ethic that left many of his colleagues scratching their heads in awe.

At his peak he penciled the Fantastic Four and an Avengers book every month without missing a beat or sacrificing quality because of the sheer volume of work that he did religiously day after day with joy.

Even to this day he penciled inked and lettered the Phantom Daily strip without assistants and still just recently finished penciling and inking a Phantom story for Egmont overseas. I got to see his work first hand because his was the first part of a three part story and I needed to see his pages since I was drawing the second part. That was the last time I will have seen Paul Ryan…through his wonderful work.

Click on images to see larger.



Paul Ryan - pencils
Paul Ryan – pencils

Paul Ryan - inks
Paul Ryan – inks

I wanted to call him and talk to him about how he managed to fit this into his already incredibly busy week but I didn’t which I now regret tremendously. I already miss that conversation that never happened. But I did speak with a mutual friend last night, Pete Klaus, who did manage to speak with him just a few days ago and things seemed well enough for the most part.

I am happy about being instrumental to some degree in getting Paul to Australia in 2014 the year after I was there so he could meet the adoring fans in that beautiful country and I know how appreciative they were that he and his lovely wife Linda made the trip. As far and as long as that trip was Paul made it back home and got back to work as usual.

This latest trip unfortunately will be his last from which he will not return in person…but the body of work that he left behind will be an everlasting legacy along with the many memories of the truly wonderful man he was.

Rest in peace, Paul… You will be a hard act to follow.

Alex Saviuk has worked for both DC and Marvel Comics – he currently draws the Amazing Spider-Man Sunday comic strip.

Alex Saviuk
Alex Saviuk

Paul Ryan Remembrances

From Marv Wolfman's Facebook page.
From Marv Wolfman’s Facebook page.

From Joe Rubinstein's Facebook page.
From Joe Rubinstein’s Facebook page.

From Ivan Pedersen's Facebook page.
From Ivan Pedersen’s Facebook page.

Paul Ryan, R.I.P. – Tony DePaul (Writer for the Phantom)

King Features

2015 Overstreet interview with Paul Ryan by Jason Versaggi.

Ed Rhoades interview with Paul Ryan – 2005
-Source of preceding Phantom pencils and inks.

Paul Ryan obituary notices

The Boston Globe
The Comics Beat
Comic Book Resources
Bleeding Cool