Digging deep into my personal past, which is where our strongest inspirations come from I am convinced, I can’t avoid commenting on the powerful impact the ground-breaking, prime-time cartoon show Jonny Quest had on my young imagination. Jonny’s breezy, globe-trotting adventures gave me a taste for that sort of exotic setting and high adventure storytelling. At the time, I had no idea that a key to making the show so compelling was the strong sense of design in the characters and settings. I was just caught up in a great “yarn”. Looking back, it’s so clear that the design and layout work of Doug Wildey (along with some guy named Toth that I’ll have to talk about another time…) is what set Jonny apart from all the other “Saturday Morning” cartoon fare, and it’s also why those early 1960’s cartoons, primitive animation and all, remain revered and a source of inspiration for storytellers throughout this industry.
In the early ’80’s, the late, lamented Comico Comics printed a delightful run of new Jonny Quest stories that were faithful to the spirit and standards of the original TV series. How faithful? The got Doug to to several covers, and even better, a number of interior issues as well. If you come across these gems, pick them up and savor. I think Wildey was a cowboy at heart. And that’s where his real passion was. So it’s no surprise that he created his own, completely unique western character, Rio, and returned to telling his adventures whenever possible. I know something about having a “passion project” that keeps its hooks in you, and brings out all the commitment to craft and artistry you can muster on every page. And Rio serves as a work of power and inspiration for anyone who wants to master the art of great comics making.I met Doug once, briefly, at the San Diego Comic Con. It was in the mid-eighties. I was just starting Trekker, and Doug was already a past master and legend by then. He shook my hand and said the most complimentary things about my work on Trekker. I was floored he’d even seen it. Maybe what he was responding to was another artist who, while still rough around the edges,had been bitten with a similar love for telling a great adventure tale. A love he himself had done so much to spark in me from some of my very earliest memories. Funny how life circles around like that.