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Chester Comix at 20

Proving just how hard his shell is, Chester Comix turns 20 years old this year.

My Chesapeake Bay buddy first showed up in 1995 in the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, but the business that sells his adventures to young readers across the country started in 2003.

The business has survived the Great Recession. And the COVID crash. And some personal crashes. It surviving moving the whole shebang from Virginia to Ohio the fall that my dad was in hospice. That was a lot of boxes of inventory in THREE truck trips.

There has been plenty of joy. I met Weird Al and Doris Kearns Goodwin and handed them signed copies as thanks for inspiring me.

In these 20 years, I’ve spoken in classrooms from Boston to San Antonio, from Ohio to South Carolina. I loved driving all around the MidAtlantic with my boxes of books and speaking props and a really bright felt crab hat. I even found myself hauling boxes of Chester Comix across rain-soaked sidewalks in NYC one day. The cardboard boxes are a constant.

When I began, there was only one other cartoonist in the United States regularly creating history comix. Now history comix are published regularly, by a slew of artists of all generations. Your local comix shop probably has a whole shelf of these titles. It’s not just Batman and Spider-Man anymore. I like to see what the kids are doing, and I buy what I can to support them. Some of the history comix, like “March,” are true milestones in our culture. It feels like the comix scene has grown way beyond me, that it has left me and Chester behind.

But then a new fifth grader finds Chester Comix, and he lights up. And his mom or his teacher thanks me. And I light up again. And I draw some more. I’ve published 38 books in 20 years.

I’m proud of my small contribution to the rich diversity of comix storytelling you can find in 2023. The core Chester Comix idea wasn’t that revolutionary—it is a nonfiction version of the Classics Illustrated comix made for reluctant readers in the 1950s—but along the way I did create something I’ve never seen anyone else do: Choice Comix! That still feels pretty special, and I plan to keep making more of those.

The first generation of Chester readers are now doctors and professors and soldiers and parents themselves. I’m on my third generation of young readers. What a tremendous blessing.

Thanks to everyone who has helped carry me across the waters when they got rough. The loans. The extra marketing pushes. The reassurances and the quiet patience. The travel to the conferences and speaking engagements. The recommendations to your child’s school. Thanks to Chuck Durfor for taking the fun photo you see here!

And, yes, thanks to you folks who hauled some of the boxes.

I love you all.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 5th, 2023 at 5:45 pm and is filed under Author's Purpose. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Chester crab comics