Tag Archives: comics in the 90s

Hartford drawings: Fall 1995, when everything changed in my life. With Jeanne-Claude and Christo, among others!

Jeanne Claude and Christo in Hartford Nov 6 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumMy career in comics ended in the Fall of 1995, when I drew DC’s last issue of Star Trek: The Original Series.

My first marriage ended at the same time. What was the first thing I did when I was no longer drawing comics for a living? Start drawing portraits again, of course. Including the famous installation art team Jeanne-Claude and Christo!

Jeanne Claude in Hartford with Christo Nov 6 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumI was living in West Hartford, just a few minutes drive from my mom.

Jeanne-Claude and Christo, then two of the most famous working artists in the world, came to give a talk in Hartford. I went to see them and made these drawings – it was a small venue and I could see them well.

I don’t usually draw very famous people, then or now, but the setting and the charming pair felt authentic. The art world treated Christo as “the artist” and a monolith, but he himself made it extremely clear at all times that the art team was Jeanne-Claude and Christo. I am glad I got to draw them. Rest in peace, JC&C.

Rob Simpson in Glastonbury Nov 5 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum

Above, my dear friend Rob Simpson.

Rob was an editor at DC who I met a few years earlier at a con. We became good friends in the pre-internet years when comics people used to call each other for long phone calls in the middle of the night, and he came out to St. Paul to visit me when I was living with my husband Steve. We would go have sushi and talk about science fiction. And New York, being both of us Native New Yorkers!

Rob came to see me in November, when my comic had been cancelled, and I was working at a “Cartoon Art Gallery” in West Hartford. It was run by toxic people, but there was some great art there. And I was not ready to think about looking for another comics job, not then or as it turned out not ever.

Rob Simpson Fall 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumWhat I heard from Rob about the state of the comics industry was very scary.

Paramount pulled the license from DC’s Star Trek books, cancelling them all without notice, because they thought the sales were poor. They didn’t realize the sales were poor because the entire comic industry was about to crater. There were firings all over DC. My editor, the wonderful Margaret Clark, was laid off and actually left comics, a loss for the business.

There was a catastrophic speculation bust rolling that lasted for years, with complex distribution and Hollywood involvement issues. The Great Comics Crash of 1996 led to small publishers going under, Marvel filing for bankruptcy, the end of Cap City, and thousands of comic stores going out of business.

Rob Simpson November 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumRob himself left DC and went to Dark Horse, on the West Coast, not that long after.

We loved each other and came close to dating, and I walked away from a really good thing, because I was not making good choices in my twenties and thirties. I was devastated by the loss of the career I’d been working towards since 1984, reeling from years of suicidal depression, and stunned by the fact that my marriage had lasted less than six months. So I blew it. It happens when you’re a trauma cookie. I still miss his laugh.

Portrait fall 1995 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes
This is my friend Amy , one of the very cool young art friends I made in Hartford.

An artist and writer, she moved to SF before I did. We would draw together and it was wonderful. More about the cool young art kids I met in Hartford soon.

And below, my boss at the gallery, Debbie .

Debbie in West Hartford Nov 1995 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesIt was a good time, the nine or ten months I spend in Hartford.

My life blew up completely, and I rebuilt it, then blew it up again by moving to DC in Spring 96, then again by moving to the Bay Area in 1997. That Saturn Return when you’re 28 to 30? Mine was fucking INTENSE.

None of these drawings had ever been photographed; until now, no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.


For the Archives: ballpoint portraits from the 90s.

Gabes birthday probably summer 1991 drawn in ballpoint by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI looked through some of my art school notebooks and found these drawings!

They have never been scanned, photographed or copied; if we had a fire they would just have been gone forever. The one above is the birthday party of Gabriel, the son of a woman I knew in the recovery community. Gabe was what we would call a Spectrum kid nowadays, and there was not much understanding about how to support him, although his parents were devoted.

For some reason he adored me, and I was very fond of him and his older sister Shuli, and spent a lot of time with their family altogether. Based on the notebook this was found in, I am estimating it was done in the summer of 1991. I have only the haziest memory of drawing it!

Gabe and the Monsters 199__ Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is another sketch of Gabe.

It has color notes, as if I intended to make it into a painting. It was clearly an attempt to depict a vision or mental experience he had described to me! I loved that child.

Sadly, his mother chose to publicly out my abuse survivor experience at a party, and I no longer felt safe going to their home. My memory is not clear: I hope I said goodbye to the kids. I was such a seething wreck of trauma in those days, it’s hard to remember.

Teacher at MCAD Fall 1991 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesAnd this is a teacher at MCAD, where I finished my BFA.

Kirk Kristlibas October 1991 ballpoint by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is a drawing done in class of my friend Kirk Kristlibas.

Kirk was a dear friend of mine in my last couple years of art school, a deeply creative and talented person whose personal style was amazing. The kind of self-directed polymath art-generator you only meet a few times in a lifetime. He was a fellow New Yorker and we would drive around in my car yelling about the fucking Minnesotans. I have not seen him in decades, but he is quite googleable and so I see he has written a book, gotten multiple art degrees, done theater work and apparently looks exactly the same?

I drew a lot in my school notebooks and a little bit in my journals.self portrait in bed with Jamie Jan 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

This is a self portrait of me in bed with a boy named Jamie.

In my bedroom in St. Paul, right after I’d been sober for a year. My roommate Anita and I had a party for our sobriety birthdays and I said to him, “You must be my birthday present.” He was a wounded soul, one of several survival sex workers I’ve been lovers with. Self portrait in Woullet uniform Spring 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

This one to the left is a self-portrait of me in my uniform from Woullet Bakery, where I worked for nearly a year when I was newly sober.

My roommate Anita had been forced to go back to prison, through some very fucked up drug testing stuff that was extremely unjust.

I was devastated; she was one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and an extraordinary muse to me right when I went back to art school, at MCAD. She posed for all my homework, and was an amazing cook, and gave me Neuromancer to read.

I’m going to start in soon on photographing some more of the many drawings and paintings I made of her in the short four months we lived together.

Looking back at the way I drew before I worked as a courtroom artist and then on Star Trek, I feel like something was lost.

The spring that I drew this picture, I did my first official tryout for Marvel, with Fabian Nicieza.*

One of Fabe’s critiques of my work was that I needed uniform, enclosed lines on all shapes and consistent, inkable shading. Which was good advice for superhero comics then, and maybe even now. Although in 1990 Baxter and Mando papers and Flexographic printing had long since become part of comic production, a lot of comics were still printed on newsprint, and artists were still being told to pencil for newsprint production.

I had to get rid of the multiple lines, the looseness, the brushiness of my drawing, unless I was gonna ink it myself, which I was never interested in. Comic colorists needed areas that were fully enclosed for each color, to be painted in carefully with Dr. Martin’s dyes, for the hand separated CMYK plates of the four-color printing process.  I believe nowadays it’s all done digitally, with digital shading, stored codes for costume colors, and there is a person in the production line called a flatter, who is somehow involved in preparing digital color files for printing.

My old style probably still wouldn’t work for comics, but it was beautiful and free. Since I don’t have to draw comics ever again (it was not good for my health), I would love to find my way back to that free style. You can see a collection of more older drawings I scanned during my last period of archiving work, in 2009, here.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Again, until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

*the splash page of the tryout script Fabe sent me was a picture of a dead woman, lying in a boat. I talk about some of the many ways women were deterred from working in superhero comics, even by well-meaning editors, here.