Eager to leave my native Philadelphia, I arrived at Pratt Institute in the late 70s, blissfully unaware that New York City was in its fiscal dark ages. I got a BFA in painting and later an MFA in illustration from School of Visual Arts. I moved to the East Village when it was still called Alphabet City and stayed for twenty years.
I didn’t plan to be a cartoonist when I grew up. My youthful artistic ambitions were somewhat vaguer, leaving me open to persuasion by World War 3 editor Seth Tobocman. He wanted a feminist artist to strike some gender balance in the radical comics magazine he had started with Peter Kuper. So this budding painter began dabbling in comics on the side - for the time being.
At the onslaught of the Reagan era I joined a group of pro-choice artists called Carnival Knowledge. That summer after art school, I brandished homemade signs at anti nuclear demonstrations, and staged games about reproductive rights at street fairs. But activist carnivals being cumbersome and me not really having the heart of a performer, I found the cheap, portable comic book to be a seductive medium for messages personal and political. People aren’t intimidated by it because it isn’t Art – or is it? Either way, I get to do a lot of drawing.
I joined the editorial collective of WW3 Illustrated and I’ve contributed to most of its issues to this day. In the 1990s, I co-founded Girltalk, an anthology of women’s autobiographical comics with Ann Decker and Isabella Bannerman. For the Real Cost of Prisons Project, I created an educational comic, Prisoners of the War on Drugs, which inspired me to self-publish Mixed Signals, a counter-recruitment tool in comic book form. By the time I sank my teeth into adapting Race to Incarcerate, I had become a cartoonist who did a little painting on the side.
Working on Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, I discovered a love of historical research. I was encouraged by radical historian and comics editor Paul Buhle, with whom I collaborated on books on Isadora Duncan, Studs Terkel, FDR and the New Deal, Yiddishkeit, Bohemians, and Radical Jesus.
I supplement my alternative cartoonist’s lifestyle with work as a scenic artist in the entertainment industry. I’ve been painting scenery for Saturday Night Live since 1994, when I joined United Scenic Artists Local 829. I have a revolving co-habitation with novelist Steve Stern, between his house in upstate New York and my apartment in the heart of Brooklyn.