In June, Fantagraphics Books will publish a collection of Norman Pettingillâs work. Comic fans may remember that Robert Crumb published some of Pettingillâs cartoon drawings in Weirdo in the mid-â80s. The idea of publishing an entire book collecting Pettingillâs work was first broached to me by Johnny Ryan, a Pettingill fan (and the cartoonist behind Angry Youth Comics and Prison Pit), a few years ago. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is the repository for most of Pettingillâs work, and agreed to help us put together a book. Johnny wrote a brief appreciation; R. Crumb loved Pettingillâs work and wrote a brief introduction. But, so little is known about Pettingill himself that I felt the book required a short biography of the man â so I wrote one.
There has been very little written about Pettingill, making it difficult to put together a story of his life. I had only previously read âA Visit with Norman Pettingillâ by Rodney Shroeter from Comic Art # 3 (2003), which was useful but also problematic: it charted the broad arc of Pettingillâs life in desultory fashion, but also contained inaccuracies and internal discrepancies. I was able to separate fact from fiction by interviewing Pettingillâs sons, Bud and Jack, and by consulting a lifelong friend of Pettingillâs, Jim Pink, all of whom proved generous with their time and helpful.
*This is the latest draft, which may be slightly revised for publication.