Artie Stick in "Leafy Wanders in Space" (1981)

Artie Stick: Detail of a painting published in The Comics Journal #62, 1981

This is NOT Bart Simpson.

In 1972 while studying art in college, Artie Romero created the unique comic book character Artie Stick. Mr. Stick's head is a broken piece of wood. His wife is a mayonaise jar.

Stick appeared in Muskrat Flyer (1974), The Everyman Flyer (1974-75), Realm #6, 7 and 8 (1975-2016), Scrabbits Reno Comics (1976), Scrabbis Treno (1977), Everyman Comics (1977), Platinum Toad (1978), Hobo Stories (1979), Artie Stick in Stick City, 1983Stick City (1983) and other fine Everyman Studios publications.

In 1981, Romero and Everyman Studios formed a joint venture (hee hee!) called Oxo Films™. The only film Oxo ever released was "King's Elevator" (1982), a 5-minute animated music video for the band Once, AKA Gibraltar. But the Oxo crew had big dreams, and their biggest was a proposed short, "Leafy Wanders in Space," which was set to showcase the characters Leafy Wanders, Platinum Toad, Artie Stick and Old Kirk.

Although nothing was ever animated, character sheets were drawn up, a storyboard was completed, Romero appeared on local TV news promoting the project, and in 1981, the concept piece shown above was painted by William Kirk Kennedy (1953-2010), Darrel Anderson, John Peterson and Artie Romero. It was published as the front cover of the entertainment section Weekend in the Colorado Springs Gazette, and as a back cover on The Comics Journal issue number 62, March 1981. Also in the latter, "The Colorado Cartoonists and the Disney Dream," starting on page 81, TCJ animation columnist Jim Korkis interviewed Romero and Kennedy, and some black & white production drawings were included.

After "The Simpsons" first appeared on "The Tracey Ullman Show" in 1987, strange things started to happen. Upon seeing Artie Stick for the first time, people started saying things like, "Wow, he looks just like Bart Simpson!" Naturally, Romero was annoyed by these comments, since Artie Stick was created at least a decade before Bart, published extensively and copyrighted. Romero doesn't suspect Matt Groening of trying to copy his character; in fact, there are many obvious differences between Bart Simpson and Artie Stick. Cartooning is a language, with new expressions developed every day. Cartoonists have always followed others, learned from each other, and historically they've been very open about their influences. It's all good! Just don't say, "Oh, I see you like to copy Bart Simpson" to Romero unless you would like an earful.

Finally, Romero would be flattered to learn that his work contributed in some small way to The Simpsons. But since confusion over "who copied who" continues to this day, it must be stated once and for all that Artie Stick came first. As keepers of the Everyman Studios/Oxo Films legacy, we at ARG! welcome your comments.

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