• Steven Heller

Ted Stearn: The Jerry Lewis of Comics

I did not know about Ted Stearn‘s work before he passed away on February 1, 2019. I wish I had. I learned about him from David Langton, a creative director in New York and a friend. Stearn was featured in this Comics Journal Interview with David Mazzuchelli a few years ago and is best known for his “Fuzz and Pluck” books published by Fantagraphics. “I often teased him that he was the Jerry Lewis of comic book artists,” Langton wrote in a note to me, “under appreciated in the States and adored in France. His book signings in France would attract long lines. More can be found on the Ted Stearn website. I know you sometimes feature great Illustrators, and Ted was one of the best craftsman I’ve ever seen.”

Fuzz and Pluck: Two Sides of the Same Coin

When I saw the range of his work, I too was smitten by the gesture, expression, and wit he brought to the fore. An obituary their alumnus wrote for RISD says that in 1992, he began making comics, including a haunting series of strips called ‘The Forgotten Dream of a Melancholy Chef,’ and his best-known work, the Fuzz and Pluck stories.

Described in ‘The Comics Journal,’ Fuzz and Pluck was depicted as: ‘Fuzz, a rejected, perennially abused teddy bear with no self-confidence, and Pluck, a poultry-slaughterhouse escapee with self-confidence in (over)abundance…unlikely companions trying to survive in a world of users, losers, and desperate seekers.” Ted claimed they were inspired by the two sides of his personality.

Fuzz and Pluck Go to France

Stearn’s work was nominated twice for the prestigious Ignatz Award. The second Fuzz and Pluck book, “Splitsville,” an exquisitely drawn, comically violent allegory of freelancing, was released in 2009. This and the first book were published in French translation in 2013. The last, riotous installment, “The Moolah Tree,” was published in America and France in 2016. Publisher’s Weekly wrote: “Stearn’s simply drawn cartoon protagonists…move through a richly rendered world of dramatic mountains and ramshackle pirate ships cutting through stormy seas in a bleakly funny parable as the opportunity of unlimited riches floats just beyond reach for the hapless duo.”

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →