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I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion – Jack Kerouac

To read this series from the beginning, click here…

Staggering Heights – the first strips…

In 1994, after years of drawing several different strips, panels, and editorial cartoons for publication, I created what I thought was a one-off character named Jake for a comic strip titled Wolfbane, then published in over 50 college papers nation-wide through a college syndication service.

I guess I had been reading a lot of Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, and Raymond Carver at the time. The music of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, early Bruce Springsteen were omnipresent in my studio, and the comics pages seemed overrun by cutesy one-note family humor that I wasn’t interested in (and couldn’t have made if you held a gun to my head). What about adults who liked comics? What about adult ideas, and adult humor?

The first appearance of Jake in Wolfbane, an earlier comic strip

The first appearance of Jake in Wolfbane, an earlier comic strip from 1994

I’d been looking to have some fun with the form and threw in this character as a lark. The character was a hit, I was having fun, and so I set off to develop a new strip. Created with more influences from fiction, music, poetry, and film noir than from the comics pages, and with Tucson, Arizona as a backdrop and inspiration, there was plenty to riff on. What possessed me to think this would all translate into a good comic strip is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Staggering Heights 001

The first Staggering Heights cartoon 1995

So, Staggering Heights started its weekly run in the Tucson Weekly in 1995 and ran in a constantly changing number of alternative press papers until 2003, when after 20 years of cartooning – comic strips, cartoon panels, editorial cartoons, children’s books, editorial illustration, I put it aside to concentrate more on my painting, which I had also been pursuing at same time (see joeforkan.com and joeforkanblog.com).