Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Kim Deitch, born on May 21, 1944, in Los Angeles, California, is a distinguished American cartoonist whose influence reverberated through the underground comix movement of the 1960s. His contributions have endured, remaining dynamic in the subsequent decades with an array of captivating books and comics, sometimes under the pseudonym Fowlton Means.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Deitch’s thematic focus predominantly orbits the animation industry and the vibrant realm of cartoon characters. Among his notable creations is the enigmatic cat Waldo, who metamorphoses across various dimensions. Waldo is presented as a renowned cartoon figure from the 1930s, a tangible character within the comic strips’ “reality,” a hallucination haunting an unfortunate alcoholic named Mishkin (a victim of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams), and even the demonic embodiment of Judas Iscariot. Intriguingly, there are claims that Waldo has transcended Deitch himself, occasionally asserting that he is the actual author of the comics. Waldo’s visual aesthetics evoke the spirit of classic black cat characters like Felix the Cat, Julius the Cat, and Krazy Kat.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Kim Deitch, a scion of the illustrious illustrator and animator Gene Deitch, has occasionally collaborated with his brothers Simon Deitch and Seth Deitch. His journey in the world of comics commenced with his birth on May 21, 1944, into the family of Gene Deitch, a distinguished cartoonist and animator.

Kim Deitch

Born: May 21, 1944
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Nationality: American
Area(s): Cartoonist, Writer, Artist
Pseudonym(s): Fowlton Means

Notable Works: The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Alias the Cat!
Awards: Eisner Award (2003), Inkpot Award (2008)

Partners: Trina Robbins (1969–1970), Sally Cruikshank (common-law, 1971–c. 1982), Pam Butler (m. 1994–present)
Children: 1 daughter (with Robbins)

Career Highlights: Prominent figure in the underground comix movement, influential creator of “underground” comics, Eisner Award winner.

Career Highlights: 

Kim Deitch’s professional journey encompasses roles as a cartoonist, writer, and Editor of Gothic Blimp Works in 1969. His artistic prowess found expression in various exhibitions, showcasing his original drawings at prestigious galleries such as La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, in 1994 and Bess Cutler Gallery in New York, NY, in 1995. Participating in group exhibits like Kartoon Fever, Four Color Images in 1994, and Comix by the Bit at the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, CA, in 1995 underscored his versatile contributions to the comic art landscape.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Notable Works:

  1. Hollywoodland (1987): Published by Fantagraphics Books (Westlake Village, CA), this work is a testament to Deitch’s creative depth and narrative finesse.
  2. Beyond the Pale! Krazed Comics and Stories (1989): Another gem from Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), this collection is a rich tapestry of autobiographical comic-book stories, including the mesmerizing “Keep ’em Flying.”
  3. A Shroud for Waldo (1992): This work delves into the intricate narrative of bringing back the biblical Judas Iscariot as a cat demon who turns out to be Waldo.
  4. All Waldo Comics (1992): A compilation of Waldostrips from various sources spanning late-1960s newspapers, this collection provides a nostalgic revisit to Deitch’s earlier works.
  5. Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2002): Co-authored with his brother Simon Deitch and published by Pantheon Books (New York, NY), this graphic novel unfolds as an allegory of the rise and fall of animation in America. The story revolves around brothers Ted and Al Mishkin, animators working for the small Fontaine Talking Fables studio.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Contributions and Collaborations: 

In addition to being an author-illustrator of comic books, including “Corn Fed Comics,” “Shadowland,” and “No Business Like Show Business,” Deitch has lent his creative genius to comic-book series such as “The Search for Smilin’ Ed” and children’s comic-book series like “Nickelodeon.” His contributions extend to various periodicals, including East Village Other, Raw, Bijou Funnies, Arcade, Comics Journal, Pictopia, Weirdo, Tales of Sex and Death, Details, Zero Zero, and Little Lit. His comic works have found a home in anthologies like “Thrilling Murder Comics” (San Francisco Comic Book Co., 1971), “Lean Years” (Cartoonists Co-op Press, 1974), and “The Narrative Corpse” (Raw Books, 1995).

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Critical Acclaim and Reviews: 

Kim Deitch’s impact on the comic-book landscape is profound. His work is often lauded for its intricate characters, bold narratives, and detailed drawings. “Beyond the Pale! Krazed Comics and Stories” is commended for its Sunday-morning-funnies charm, interpreted through a hippie/Bowery lens. On the other hand, “A Shroud for Waldo” is critiqued for its excellent illustrations but described as somewhat directionless and lackluster in terms of its storyline.

The compilation “All Waldo Comics” is recognized for its countercultural charm, transporting readers to a different period with elements of drugs, sex, and conspiratorial intrigue involving the CIA. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” receives accolades for its marvelous storytelling, engaging characters, and innovative depiction of the 1920s and 1930s cartoons.

Reviews highlight Deitch’s ability to weave drama and humor into a non-linear, meta-fictional narrative. His black and white pen work is often praised for its complexity, sometimes verging on the hallucinatory, without ever confusing the reader. The characters crafted by Deitch consistently elicit interest and emotional responses from readers.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Biographical Insights: 

Kim Deitch’s artistic roots draw inspiration from luminaries such as Winsor McCay, Chester Gould, Jack Cole, and Will Eisner. Before embracing his destiny as a professional cartoonist, Deitch engaged in various odd jobs and manual labor, even venturing into the merchant marine. His eclectic journey includes phases of joining the Republican Party and a stint as a Hatha yoga devotee.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

The New York City underground scene was introduced to Deitch’s comical, psychedelia-tinged comic strips featuring characters like the flower child “Sunshine Girl” and “Uncle Ed, The India Rubber Man” in 1967. His editorial role alongside Bhob Stewart at EVO’s all-comics spin-off, Gothic Blimp Works, 1969 marked a significant chapter in his career. During this period, he shared living quarters with fellow cartoonist Spain Rodriguez in a sixth-floor walk-up apartment in New York’s East Village.

In the realm of publishing, Deitch co-founded the Cartoonists Co-Op Press, a venture involving notable names such as Jay Lynch, Bill Griffith, Jerry Lane, Willy Murphy, Diane Noomin, and Art Spiegelman, operating from 1973 to 1974.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Recognition and Personal Life: 

Time magazine’s recognition of Deitch’s “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” in 2005 as one of the 100 best English-language graphic novels is a testament to his enduring impact. In 2008, a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art further underscored the significance of his contributions.

Relationships with notable personalities mark Deitch’s personal life. His daughter, Casey, is from his first relationship with cartoonist and author Trina Robbins. Many of the 1970s saw Deitch in an 11-year relationship with animator Sally Cruikshank. In 1994, he crossed paths with Pam Butler, whom he eventually married.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond

Awards and Nominations: 

Deitch’s accolades include the 2003 Eisner Award for Best Single Issue for “The Stuff of Dreams.” In 2008, he received the prestigious Inkpot Award. His work, “The Amazing, Enlightening and True Adventures of Katherine Whaley,” earned a nomination for the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel in 2014.

Kim Deitch (1944–): A Trailblazer in Underground Comix and Beyond


Kim Deitch’s artistic legacy is one of dedication, innovation, and influence in underground comix. His creations, mainly the mysterious cat Waldo, have left an indelible mark on generations of cartoonists and readers. His ability to seamlessly blend humor, drama, and social commentary, combined with his distinctive artistic style, has solidified his place as a comic trailblazer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kim Deitch

Who is Kim Deitch?

Kim Deitch is an American cartoonist born on May 21, 1944, in Los Angeles, California. He is a prominent figure in the underground comic movement of the 1960s and has remained active in the comic industry for decades.

What is Kim Deitch best known for in his work?

Deitch is best known for his work related to the animation industry and characters from cartoons. His most famous character is a mysterious cat, Waldo, appearing in various forms and settings in his comics.

What are some notable works by Kim Deitch?

Some of Kim Deitch’s notable works include “Hollywoodland,” “Beyond the Pale! Krazed Comics and Stories,” “A Shroud for Waldo,” and “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

Who is Waldo, and what role does he play in Kim Deitch’s works?

Waldo is a mysterious cat, one of Kim Deitch’s best-known characters. Waldo appears in different forms, such as a famous cartoon character, a hallucination, and even the demonic reincarnation of Judas Iscariot. The character is a central figure in Deitch’s storytelling.

Has Kim Deitch collaborated with anyone in his career?

Kim Deitch has occasionally collaborated with his brothers, Simon Deitch and Seth Deitch, in his cartooning and writing projects.

What awards has Kim Deitch received for his work?

Kim Deitch has received notable awards, including the Eisner Award in 2003 and the Inkpot Award in 2008 for his contributions to the comic industry.

What is “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” about?

“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a graphic novel by Kim Deitch that follows the lives of animators Ted and Al Mishkin. The story serves as an allegory for the rise and fall of animation in America, featuring Waldo as a central character.

What is Kim Deitch’s background in the animation industry?

Kim Deitch is the son of illustrator and animator Gene Deitch. Much of his work is influenced by the animation industry, where his father worked. His intricate drawings and complex narratives often reflect this influence.

Is Kim Deitch’s work suitable for beginners in comics?

While some of Kim Deitch’s works are complex and target mature audiences, he has also produced comics suitable for beginners, such as “iNickelodeon.”

How can I explore more of Kim Deitch’s work?

Kim Deitch’s works are available in various collections and graphic novels. You can find his comics in publications like “Fantagraphics Books” and explore his contributions to anthologies and periodicals.

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Written by Gustav Michalon

Greetings, fellow toon enthusiasts! Gustav Michalon here, the electric mind behind dynamic action cartoons. Whether it's superheroes soaring through the sky or toon characters caught in a lightning storm of humor, I'm here to charge up your day with electrifying visuals and witty narratives.

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