WES ALEXANDER

Our friend and longtime GLC member Wesley Alexander passed away on March 18, 2008.

Wes' comic strip, Stormfield, was syndicated through DBR Media. Wes had also self-published collections of Stormfield.

Wes relocated to Texas in recent years, and had spoken of his intentions to move back to Ohio soon. Sadly, it wasn't to be. He will certainly be missed by his many friends in the GLC and NCS. Wes was 42 years old.

Photo: Wes Alexander at the GLC surprise party for Pete Hoffman, Toledo Ohio, August 7, 2004. Photo by Mark Szorady.

REMEMBRANCES OF WES


The following interview was originally posted on 9/20/06.

SANDRA WILLIAMS- Let me start off by asking when your interest in cartooning began.

WES ALEXANDER- Oh, it's hard to say, actually. When I was very young, my Grandmother had a collection of all the PEANUTS books. I guess my interest grew from reading and re-reading those multiple times.

SW- So, would you say that you've wanted to be a cartoonist your whole life?

WA- Off and on. At one point I wanted to be a magician and later on, a film director. Then even later, I dreamed of being Darth Vader which I still yearn for to this day. That kind of career requires too many sacrifices, though, with the getting burned in a river of lava and all.

SW- How long have you been a cartoonist?

WA- I got my first gig in 1988. At the time, I lived in Homestead, Florida. I stopped in a local print shop to make copies of some strips I had drawn. It turned out that the owner published a local magazine and he offered me a job, then and there. Since then, I've drawn cartoons for loads of publications, books and newspapers.

SW- Who are some of your favorite cartoonists, the ones who inspired you the most?

WA- Oh, wow! I'd have to start off with Jeff MacNelly, who, in my view, was one of the greatest of all time! I've always loved the work of Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson and Will Eisner. Of the cartoonists working today, I'd have to say Jim Borgman who draws the great comic strip, ZITS and Jeff Smith, creator of the BONE comic book series. Both of these guys are just amazingly brilliant!

SW- Let's talk a bit about your comic strip. How long have you been drawing STORMFIELD?

WA- It's been syndicated by DBR Media since April of 2000, but I've been developing it since the late 80's.

SW- You seem to have a natural affinity for children, as your strip revolves, almost exclusively, around them. Except for the teacher, MISS PRUITT, there are almost no adults. Why is that?

WA- I just find adults to be very boring. Adulthood is worrying about leaks in the basement, paying the car insurance, and all the stuff that makes life a bit hum-drum. Children are just much more interesting to draw and write about. The world that exists in their minds is utterly limitless.

SW- Where did your characters, ALEX and DALTON, come from?

WA- I've always been a bit of a Mark Twain nut, so I guess these characters are my own versions of TOM SAWYER and HUCK FINN. I find, though, that Alex and Dalton rarely receive the same literary acclaim as Tom and Huck.

SW- What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

WA- To wear a black cape and a cool mask, have my own Star Destroyer with an officer's staff that fears me and to crush the Rebel Alliance, once and for all!

 "Working in cartooning has allowed me to meet most of my childhood heroes and to make many dear friends. Cartoonists are some of the most genuine people I've ever met. When we all manage to get together there is such an air of spontaneity, creativity and general wackiness that is very difficult to imagine existing in other occupations. Except, maybe, for Turkish yak farmers. I hear those folks can be quite rowdy after a few jugs of ale."

Wes Alexander
- from Drawing Attention, 1997

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REMEMBRANCES

I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of Wes Alexander's passing.  I met and became friends with Wes in the early days of the GLC chapter.  He was a genuinely friendly person, who went out of his way to do for others.  Wes would occasionally drop me a line to tell me of some incredibly tiny Texas town's newspaper, in which he had spotted The Born Loser.  They were nice, unsolicited gestures -- that was Wes.  He had a smile on his face the first time I met him, as well as every other time I ever saw him.  That smiling face is the only image I have of Wes -- what a great way to remember someone.

Chip Sansom
4/1/08


Remembering Wesley Alexander - by Polly Keener

Wes Alexander was a dear friend -- a generous and thoughtful friend -- and a look back at our too-brief friendship of fifteen years has brought the realization that his creative ideas were partly responsible for many of my own, and others', cartoon successes.  Wes' determination helped bring about the book our Great Lakes NCS chapter published.  Wesley even provided the publicity flyers to promote its success and was always ready to help with other chapter projects.

 When he moved back to Texas from Ohio, he kept in touch with late-night phone calls and loved to discuss politics with my husband, Bob, and cartoons with me.  Wes formed his own publishing company, Stormfield Press, that printed a number of cartoon books.  It was an honor to be associated with some of his projects, such as the book of Glenn McCoy's political cartoons, a Stormfield comic book anthology, and more.  He arranged for a book of my Hamster Alley cartoon strips to be published (by another publisher) and, when we spoke a few days before his untimely death, he was excited about progress on a new "Marvin Ghastly" comic book he was creating.

Wes was a publisher at heart and often worked at print shops.  A connoisseur of the fine points regarding a book's production, Wes gave new books a critical eye as to paper quality, margins, type faces, color, and details.  No little glitch escaped his notice.

On Reuben weekends in other cities, Wes headed for the bookstores, hoping to add yet another interesting volume of Mark Twain to his collection.  His knowledge of both Twain's books as well as those of  current comic book authors was exceptional, as was his interest in America's political doings.

Wesley grew up in a family with four brothers, two of whom predeceased him, and two sisters.  At a much earlier age than most of us, Wesley moved out and was living on his own.  After a brief marriage, he remained a bachelor but, periodically, had special girlfriends.  He always had a soft spot in his heart for children and small furry animals and, in particular, cats.  Moreover, he took an interest in everyone else's families and pets and was kind enough to inquire about them, empathizing with others' tribulations or successes.

I have a "contraband" picture of Wes as a small child.  He was a cute little fair-haired kid -- almost a ringer for the "Alex" character in his Stormfield comics.  The picture is "contraband" because Wes systematically got rid of his baby photos, but the one I have was rescued by one of his relatives and sent to me.  Sorry, Wes -- I'm keeping it.  It's too cute to destroy. 

Often, Wesley worked two or three jobs at a time.  While drawing his cartoon features at night, he worked at print shops, and occasionally managed fast-food restaurants by day.  He loved to cook and was a good cook.  He introduced me to Quesadillas during the San Antonio Reuben weekend and Cinnabons, which  he bought for me at an Ohio mall.  Both have been favorites ever since.  Not surprisingly, Wes had to battle a weight problem, but was still a tall, handsome guy, as those who saw him at the Pasadena Reuben weekend in his slimmed-down state might particularly recall.

Another battle Wes always had to fight was against a persistent stutter.  For this reason, he wasn't comfortable speaking in front of  groups, but preferred to accomplish things quietly in the background.  His influence, though subtle, was far-reaching.  For example, he brought Alex Ross's work to a Reuben jury that judged the comic book division and Ross won the Reuben division that year.  He encouraged me to create characters and a story for his "Stormfield" anthology and the characters later evolved into my comic strip characters which have even reached readers overseas.

Wesley was modest about his own accomplishments, but they were many and often achieved with great difficulty.  He was a gallant fellow who brightened my life with outrageous compliments and flirted in a very nice way with his Southern gentleman's charm.  Wes paid so many compliments to ladies at NCS meetings, when we talked, but he was reluctant to address them face-to-face.  So, NCS ladies, old or young, know that Wes had nice things to say about most of you; your charms were not unappreciated.

I find it hard to believe that we won't see Wesley Alexander in New Orleans; he planned to drive over from Texas to see us all.  Life will be poorer without his conversation and plans and enthusiasm, and I will sorely miss those little expeditions to bookstores on Mark Twain or comic book hunts, the late night phone calls about politics and those nice packages of my favorite brush-pens you used to send, Wesley -- you were really special and you left us too soon.

Polly Keener
3/26/08


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