Bill Woggon and Katy Keene

Comic book artist and writer, Bill Woggon eventually changed his comic’s  title to “Katy Keene the Fashion Queen” because “Pin Up Queen” sounded a bit too provocative. Bill Woggon played golf every Wednesday afternoon at the Montecito Country Club in fashionable Santa Barbara. Bill often shared the links with my high school science teacher, Jacob Turnoff. What they say in Hollywood is true. It really is all about, “who you know.”

Because of this  fortunate connection I began an apprenticeship with the Santa Barbara cartoonist at his Mission Canyon ranch. In true cartoonist form, Bill even gave his ranch a wacky name. “Woggon Wheels Ranch” is where I began my cartoon career as a professional. Naturally, I began with grunt jobs such as drawing panels, filling in inked blacks, and cleaning up finished pages. In time, I was given additional duties and eventually began drawing completed comic pages. No longer a geeky high school kid who simply read comics. It would appear I had finally attained the title of professional comic book artist. And, all this while still in high school.

The Katy Keene studio made its home on Bill Woggon’s Santa Barbara ranch located in Mission Canyon. Clearly, Bill had created a cartoonist’s dream. It was the perfect studio that included a view of the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains to the north and the sparkling Pacific Ocean to the south. I had the advantage of working with Bill’s talented team of comic artists and learning the tricks of the trade from them. Graduation from high school eventually sent me to the LA area where I attended Art Center College of Design, and from there, the Disney Studio.

In his later years, Bill Woggon was invited to be a guest at the ComicCon in San Diego. Arriving at the convention center early, Bill Woggon walked the show floor totally amazed at the prominence of comic book art and the sheer size of the exposition. I might add that this was years before the San Diego ComicCon International had even moved into the huge exposition complex near the marina. The Santa Barbara cartoonist was given a warm reception and I honestly don’t think Bill had any idea how many fans he had acquired over the years. Many young women became fashion designers because they had sketched dresses for Katy while still young girls.

In time, Bill Woggon retired from the comic book business and Katy Keene comics no longer filled the racks. Regretfully, a visit to Woggon Wheels Ranch revealed land development encroaching on the once pristine area. Sadly, things would never be the same. I attended Bill Woggon’s memorial service along with his children and grandchildren. I even met one of Bill’s grandsons who, like the handsome, dashing Randy Van Ronson had decided to become a professional airline pilot.

Not particularly known for their sense of humor, the Lutheran pastor managed to tell several funny Bill Woggon stories during the memorial. Bill Woggon was not only a talented cartoonist he was a very funny guy and quite a character in his own right. He was my mentor and my friend. I can honestly say my life is much richer today for having known him.