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Hepcats, by Martin Wagner

Original issues published by Double Diamond Press
Recent issues published by Antarctic Press

If you're a comics fan who likes real-life characters and stories that are done with a touch of humor, listen up. Hepcats, by Martin Wagner, is back and you don't want to miss it.

Hepcats originally started as a comic strip in The Daily Texan, the school newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin. A forerunner strip, Shasta Says, ran in the Daily Cougar at the University of Houston. The story revolves around four college students: Joey, Gunther, Arnie, and Erica. Joey is sort of an egocentric shmuck, but in a good way. Gunther is a solid guy, but not above occasionally cheating on a test. Arnie used to be on a quest for Ms. Right, but now he thinks he's found her. And Erica, who just might be Arnie's Ms. Right, is a dancer working her way through school and trying to keep the secrets of her past at bay.

The Hepcats comic strip covered campus issues, but also dealt with serious issues such as suicide, childbirth, and terrorism, though always in a lighthearted, upbeat fashion. The first big story arc of the Hepcats comic book series, however, has taken a much darker tone.

The current storyline, "Snowblind," explores Erica's hidden past, which catches up to her and comes close to destroying her just as Arnie begins to plan their future together. Issue #11, which finally reveals Erica's secret, was one of the most gut-wrenching stories I've ever seen in any medium. It garnered Wagner awards and much deserved attention.

There are two collected volumes of Hepcats readily available through most retailers, The Collegiate Hepcats and Snowblind, Part One, which reprints issues 2-9. Back issues of Hepcats 1-12 are now difficult to find, if not impossible.

Hepcats is well-drawn and the characters are engaging and real. You really care about them. I know I still do, even though at this point it's been several years since a new issue came out. That will change, however, now that Antarctic Press, famed for its "funny animal" titles, has agreed to relaunch the series. HepFans have had to wait a long time (and not patiently, Martin!) but now's a great time for new fans to come on board.

The past publishing record of Hepcats is abysmal, and even with the new publisher there's no guarantee that it will improve (issues #0 and #1 have lagged months behind schedule). You are guaranteed an excellent story, however, when you finally get the book in your hot little hands.

Covers from Hepcats:

Cover to Hepcats #9

Cover to Collegiate Hepcats

Cover to Snowblind Part 1

Hepcats links:

Review by Sara Lipowitz

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Images copyright © by Martin Wagner
Text copyright © 1996 Flowerfire Productions