From the cover of one of the collected editions. Artist: Martin Wagner.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: The Daily Texan
First Appeared: 1987
Creator: Martin Wagner
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Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed's first published comic strip was The Academia Waltz, which appeared during 1978 in The Daily Texan, the student newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin, and from there he went on to become one of America's most talked-about cartoonists of the 20th century's last couple of decades, as first his Bloom County and then his Outland achieved outstanding success in national syndication. Martin Wagner, a pre-teen when Breathed's …

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… first comic began, also contributed to The Daily Texan as a college student, but his cartooning career didn't take him nearly so far in the field as Breathed's did.

Wagner's Daily Texan work didn't quite launch his career as a published cartoonist. That happened at The University of Houston's Daily Cougar, which published his Shasta Says before he arrived in Austin. Once there, he started Hepcats with the summer, 1987 session.

Like many campus comics, it concerned regular life in and around the college. Unlike most, it was cast with funny animals. It didn't stick to the usual pet or barnyard species, like the average Disney or Warner Bros. offering, but ranged farther afield. One of the regulars, Gunther, had a perfectly human body with the head of a rhinoceros.

The strip started in normal daily strip format, a single tier of a few panels delivering a gag each day about its protagonists (Joey, Gunther, Arnie and Erica). It quickly evolved into a soap opera. About half of the strips were collected in 1988, while Wagner was still a student. He self-published it as Yo: The First Hepcats Book, which he now characterizes as "hyper-rare", noting that even his own copies are gone.

The following year, he organized his self-publishing efforts under the imprint "Double Diamond Press" and started publishing Hepcats as a regular comic book. The first issue had a cover date of May, 1989. The third started an ambitious multi-part story. It got generally favorable reviews, but the 11th issue, which came out in 1994, was especially well received. By that time, Double Diamond had published The Collegiate Hepcats, a pair of 1993 volumes that collected the whole run of the Daily Texan series.

While Wagner apparently handled the creative end of his publishing ventures reasonably well, he wasn't so good at the business end. Hepcats folded with its 12th issue (July, 1998), its lengthy storyline, "Snowblind", still unfinished.

In 1996, Wagner made a deal with Antarctic Press (Ninja High School) to pick up publication of Hepcats. The agreement called for Antarctic to reprint the dozen self-published issues, plus a "#0" special to bring readers up to speed, then continue with new material. But the "0" issue was the last new material ever published.

In 2006, Wagner began publishing the conclusion of "Snowblind" on the Web.


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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Martin Wagner.