Excerpt from “The Creative Works of Joe Wehrle, Jr.” from The Digest Enthusiast No. 8, June 2018. (Quotes are from Joe’s correspondence.)
By 1964, already an accomplished illustrator, Joe began work on a comic strip, Fawn the Dark Eyed. In the series’ earliest incantation, Fawn was also dark haired. “Fawn started as a self-published fanzine in ’64. We had a number of pages in color, which was unusual at that time—only one or two other people experimented with color in their fanzines.”
I know of only two issues, but as the ’70s dawned, Ed Aprill, Jr., who published a series of comic strip reprint books of Buck Rogers and The Spirit, showed interest. “At one point Ed was talking about doing a high-quality 9” x 12” book with a new Fawn story, and I had actually started work on it when he was killed in a car crash.” A tragic set-back, but Joe continued drawing and writing, with Fawn always in mind.
In 1965, Joe Wehrle, Jr. launched Fawn the Dark-Eyed. Inspired by the heyday of newspaper comic strips like Flash Gordon and Modesty Blaise, the publication presented Fawn’s adventures in Sunday-sized comic strip pages. Unfortunately, this early version of Fawn only lasted two issues, with the second edition published in February 1966.
A third issue was planned, and Joe published a poster of Fawn in 1967 to bridge the gap between issues. All three items are relatively hard to find, but the poster is likely the most uncommon. Fortunately, a small stock of the original print run has been uncovered and is now available via eBay.
The second iteration of Fawn appeared in 1972, as a blonde, in the four-page comic adaptation of Joe’s short story “The Bandemar” in Sense of Wonder No. 12. The story and comic are slated to appear in The Digest Enthusiast book nine in Jan. 2019.
Fawn’s longest run appeared in 1974, in a second series of Sunday-sized comic strips in the Menomonee Falls Gazette No. 142–161, 163–171, 173–176, 178, 179, 181, 183 and 188.
“For thirty-six weeks I drew a Sunday page for the all-comic paper, The Menomonee Falls Gazette, based on my earlier fanzine character, Fawn the Dark-Eyed. This character also appears in a short story published in the first anthology from the famous Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop. I think there was some good art in those pages, and the story was coming along, but I’m sure the strip suffered to some extent from my difficulty in doing finely-detailed work in any quantity to tight deadlines. It’s also true that most strips need time to become what they might, and the Gazette went out of business too soon for that.”