Excerpt from my tribute, “The Creative Works of Joe Wehrle, Jr.” from The Digest Enthusiast No. 8, June 2018:
I first became aware of Joe’s work in 1981 when he published the Big Little Book, Cauliflower Catnip: Pearls of Peril, advertised in Alan Light’s The Buyer’s Guide. The book remains one of the most impressive self-published productions I’ve ever seen. I asked Joe about the project’s evolution.
“I guess Cauliflower Catnip is kind of an amalgam of many influences.” The anthropomorphic dogs of Thomas Aloysius Dorgan (TAD) comic strips, the hardboiled detective fiction of Nero Wolfe, and the sound of Thomas “Fats” Waller’s voice.
“I began to explore who Cauliflower Catnip was in a series of one-panel cartoons. I’ve long suspected that I’m too slow to do a regular daily strip unless I get an assistant or the concept is extremely simple. I enjoyed turning out the panels, but I could see they’d go nowhere. Besides, I wanted a detective story continuity with Cauliflower. How could I progress the suspense by drawing single panels? Had anyone ever done something like that? Of course they had—and called the results Big Little Books!
“So—how to get other people interested in Cauliflower, too? The character cavorted, full-blown, inside my head, and I felt I could sense the mood of the story and the type of cronies and adversaries he would encounter. But I hadn’t yet written a word of it.
“The Buyer’s Guide had fairly inexpensive ad rates at the time, and I had some old comic stuff to sell. So I created a block ad, with my sale items at the bottom, and a single-panel cartoon above, to scale with the old Big Little Book pages, with short text paragraphs to the right. For several weeks, I don’t know how many, a comic panel and corresponding text appeared in every issue of TBG, andI started to get encouraging mail from fans. As we approached the end of the story, I began to solicit advance orders for the actual book.”
Joe’s bibliography appears on the Larque Press website.