“Cartoon Trader was monthly from October to December 1989. The fourth issue, dated March 1990, was the last I’ve seen. In addition to Joe’s covers, it included Classic Cartoonist Cards, paper dolls, and a page of comic strips with Joe’s Cat Burglar, Stovepipe, Night Radio, and Karen’s Litter Lane.
“Night Radio offered a peek into another great interest of Joe’s—classic jazz. He collected 78s and played the saxophone, clarinet, and guitar. ‘I have fond memories of those few months we produced the Cartoon Trader, and still in my collection is a handful of very charming strips I prize which Karen drew for the zine about a feline couple living a zany suburban life. There will never be any more of those.’ In 2014, Joe published a 16-page mini comic collecting The Unknown Comic Art of Karen Wilson Wehrle. It includes her Litter Lane comic strips and eight color cartoons she drew fora proposed children’s book.”
It’s hard to believe that two years ago today Joe Wehrle, Jr. passed. Just days after completing his cover portrait of Rick Ollerman for The Digest Enthusiast No. 7.
The photo shows Joe at the drawing board in his home studio surrounded by drawings of Fawn, reference material, and comic strip originals. The comic strips on his board are for “Houseboat Summer,” an unfinished project that first sparked his imagination in 2014. He wore the Mickey Mouse watch on his wrist every day, even between battery changes.
Joe Wehrle, Jr. (pronounced “Wer-lee”) was a big part of The Digest Enthusiast right from the start. He wrote articles, contributed stories, and created illustrations—including five of our first seven covers. Just days after the last issue wrapped, Joe passed away, suddenly, the victim of a stroke. He died at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh on Sunday, December 10, 2017. He was 76.
Joe was born February 16, 1941, to Ruth and Joe Wehrle, Sr. in Punxsutawney, where he grew up and lived his life. He taught school for a few years as a young adult but worked as a freelance artist for most of his career. He married Karen Wilson in 1967 and collaborated with her on many of his creative endeavors for nearly 44 years. She was the model for many of his illustrations, most notably Fawn the Dark Eyed, and assisted him with the Cartoon Trader adzine in 1989. An occasional cartoonist herself, Karen was an avid blogger and an active seller on eBay. She preceded Joe in death on September 6, 2010.
Joe’s fiction continues to appear in The Digest Enthusiast courtesy of Jillian Rouse. In January 2020, issue No. 11 will feature Joe’s “Zymurgy for Aliens” with an illustration by Michael Neno. Joe’s bibliography appears on the Larque Press website.
“In 1989, my wife Karen and I came up with the idea of producing a monthly Cartoon Trader, which would focus on the buying and selling of newspaper comic strips, the way the Comics Buyer’s Guide mainly concerns itself with comic books. Unfortunately, we were never able to get enough ads to make it a really substantial-looking monthly or to make it the self-supporting venture we’d hoped for, so we had to discontinue it after just a few issues. We did create several continuing features for the magazine, though—classic cartoonist trading cards, retrospectives, paper dolls (Trina Robbins sent us some outfits!) and a monthly page of original comic strips.”
Today, Cartoon Trader’s ads offer only a passing glance at yesterday’s prices, but Joe and Karen loaded each Trader with such charming original content it’s still fun to read today.
“The Bandemar” was part of the first Clarion anthology, written by the workshop’s lecturers and alumni, published by Signet in 1971. Joe also drew a four-page wordless comic version that appeared in Sense of Wonder No. 12. By this time, Fawn, who encounters the bandemar, was modeled after Karen Wehrle and appears with lighter hair.
In 1981, the story was translated into German (“Der Bandemar”) for Germany’s Science-Fiction Story Reader.
The story and the comic version appear together in The Digest Enthusiast No. 9, Jan. 2019.