a page by Jay Stephens (admired by Craig).
I've long been a fan of Jay Stephens' cartooning, and my life is a wee bit sadder because he doesn't draw comics much anymore. His latest comic, released in early 2008, was Teen Titans: the Lost Annual, a nifty evocation of Titans stories from the go-go-checked '60s, written by Arnold Drake, penciled by Stephens, and inked by Mike Allred. Stephens actually drew The Lost Annual back in 2003, however, and the comic was inexplicably shelved by DC for several years. For much of the new millennium, Stephens has channeled his energy into animation rather than comics, winning Daytime Emmy awards for his Tutenstein TV show, and if he's currently producing comic book or strip cartooning on a regular basis, I don't know about it. (I've poked around his website for evidence of new print work, but no luck. Visit his blog, too, because he updates it fairly often, and because there are pictures of Boris Karloff and Alfred Hitchcock there.) During the 1990s, though, Stephens belonged more to alt-comix than to Nickelodeon--no doubt he lived in abject poverty back then, drinking out of gutters and rooting through garbage cans for his next meal--and my weekly trips to the comic shop were considerably brighter when a new issue of Sin Comics or the Dark Horse Land of Nod ("Featuring Jetcat!") came out.
My favorite Stephens work is the short-lived (only three issues, alas) Land of Nod comic book published by Michel Vrana's Black Eye Productions in 1996. In those Black Eye Nods, Stephens pulls off a bizarre mix of Hanna-Barbaraesque protagonists (like the super cool Space Ape Number 8) and a cynical, profane, "mature" sensibility. Evan Dorkin nailed the Nod aesthetic in a letter to the comic, where he directly accused Stephens of "always drawing these cute and funny characters" and then killing them. In the preface to The Land of Nod Treasury, Dorkin further defines Stephens' art as "the fever-dreams of cartoon-addled children zonked out on sugar-coated breakfast cereal and 'shrooms." I loved Fruit Loops as a kid, and Stephens' comics remain some of the fruitiest loops around.