Craig Yoe: Preserving the History of Comics

Graphic designer Craig Yoe is a man on a mission: to preserve for future generations the works of lesser known comic book creators and rare efforts by well-known cartoonists. It’s a cause Yoe pursues with almost religious zeal, and he’s using the book division of his and Clizia Gussoni’s design company, Yoe Studio, to make it happen.

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Craig Yoe and civil rights icon John Lewis holding their Eisner Awards

“I’m preaching the gospel of how cool old-school comics are and championing underappreciated artists,” Yoe says. “I love researching, writing and designing books about the history of great comics—it excites me.”

Yoe is much more than just a comic-book historian. Over the years he has held a variety of jobs that would make pop culture geeks swoon, including designing new products for the famed toy think tank Marvin Glass & Associates, being a creative director for Disney and Nickelodeon, and working along side Jim Henson as the creative director and general manager of the Muppets. Today, as the guiding force behind Yoe Studio, Yoe and his team provide design work for such prestigious clients as MTV, Mattel and DC Comics.

There’s a philanthropic side to Yoe Studio as well. Last year the company created a series of comic books sponsored by Unilever to help children in Africa better understand health issues that can save their lives, such as washing their hands. The books have been distributed in 23 countries and in 21 languages to date, Yoe says.

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It Started With Disney

Yoe’s love of comic books dates back to his childhood, when he received a subscription to Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories as a Christmas gift. He put comics aside as he got older, then dove back in upon discovering the revolutionary titles published by Marvel Comics in the early ‘60s, including The Amazing Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four.

“I started publishing fanzines 50 years ago next year using a used mimeograph machine I bought from a church, and I haven’t looked back,” says Yoe. “Now I’m putting out glorified fanzines in the form of hardback books.”

The books Yoe publishes are a unique blend of craft and history, showcasing creators younger comic book fans have likely never heard of, such as Dick Briefer, Howard Nostrand, Jack Cole, Boody Rogers and Bob Powell. He also celebrates the lesser known comic book work of popular comic strip artists such as Walk “Pogo” Kelly, Bud “Popeye” Sagendorf, Otto “Felix the Cat” Messmer and Milt Gross.

Yoe is also fond of themes. He publishes an ongoing comic book titled Weird Love, which reprints the strangest love stories he can find (“I Fell For A Commie!”) from long-defunct romance titles, and has collected the very best of the series in three hard-cover books. Themed collections also include Devil Tales, The Complete Voodoo, Zombies, and the company’s most recent volume, Snake Tales, which boasts a preface by Dr. Frank Burbrink, a herpetologist with the American Museum of Natural History.

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Joe Shuster’s Dark Secret

Perhaps the most controversial book that Yoe has published is Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman Co-Creator Joe Shuster, which contains scores of gorgeously rendered B&D fetish illustrations created by Shuster for publication in booklets that were sold under the counter.

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Yoe first became aware of this unique aspect of Shuster’s career while perusing boxes of old magazines at an antique book show, then spent years trying to amass the entire collection. The illustrations were unsigned, but Shuster’s distinctive style was evident, and the artist’s sister later confirmed to Yoe that they did, indeed, spring from the pen of Superman’s first illustrator.

“Even though it was totally underground because it was illegal, Joe obviously put a lot of care and love and craftmanship into the work,” Yoe says. “He didn’t brag to a lot of people about it because it wasn’t socially acceptable.”

For a complete list of titles published by Yoe Books, visit yoebooks.com.


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