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

Artie Stick: Detail of a painting published on back cover of Comics Journal #62, 1981
Click for larger image
of painting published in Comics Journal #62, 1981

This is NOT Bart Simpson.

While studying art at Missouri State University, Artie Romero created the character Artie Stick. Mr. Stick's head is a broken piece of wood. His wife is a mayonnaise jar.

Artie Stick appeared in Muskrat Flyer AKA Muskrat News (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), Stick City (1983), Arnsrarngen Comix #0 (1991), Nutso Toons #2 (2016) and other wild and wooly Everyman Studios publications.

In 1981 Romero, William Kirk Kennedy (1953-2010) and Everyman Studios formed a joint venture called Oxo Films. The only film Oxo ever completed was "King's Elevator" (1982), a 5-minute animated rock video for the band Once, AKA Gibraltar. But the Oxo crew had big plans, and their biggest was a proposed short, "Leafy Wanders in Space," which was intended to showcase Kennedy's character Leafy Wanders, Darrel Anderson's Platinum Toad and Romero's Artie Stick.

Although nothing was ever animated, character sheets were developed, 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 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 of Kennedy's concept paintings for the production were published.

After "The Simpsons" first appeared on "The Tracey Ullman Show" in 1987, and especially after they got their own show, strange things started to happen. Upon seeing Artie Stick for the first time, people would say "Wow, he looks just like Bart Simpson!" Naturally, Romero was annoyed by these comments, since Artie Stick comics were published extensively at least a decade before Bart was created.

To be clear, 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 other artists, learned from each other, and 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 to hear a rant.

Soon, Artie Stick will appear on nationwide TV. Mr. Stick will host a half-hour TV special consisting exclusively of ARG! animations.

Finally, Romero would be flattered if 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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