SSP : handcrafted comics since 1985!

Smeary Soapbox Press is the imprint used by Dale Martin for his comic publications since 1985. After creating comics on his own and with friends for a few years, Dale brought his superhero parody character Armen Hammer to the imprint with the digest publication of Armen Hammer #4. While other one-shot digests & minis appeared during the intervening years, that series continued to be the main focus of the imprint through the end of the 1980s. Notable introductions during this time were the shape-changing alien Foof (1986) & Giant Jack, the grumpy pumpkin celebrating Halloween (and other holidays as well) in a series of minicomics beginning in 1987.

During the early 1990s production at Smeary Soapbox Press slacked off as, too busy drawing for other people, Dale finished his design degree at the University of Kansas. He did reformat and re-release his past Armen Hammer issues as The Guy with a Hammer!, giving them a consistent trade dress and digest formatting, a format choice that has served well over the intervening years and publications,.

Inspired by a comment in a Matt Feazell interview. the mid 1990s perked up with a series of comic “singles” and other one-shots not focused on a recurring character. Dale completed his first (and to this day, most successful) 24-hr. comic, published as One Long Day in 1996.

The following year began work in earnest with the most ambitious Smeary Soapbox Press project yet. In collaboration with writer Wendy Griswold, Dale provided artwork for the five-issue feminist SF epic, Invasion of the Space Amazons From the Purple Planet. While it was unable to find its audience in those pre-Y the Last Man days, the title wrapped after five issues with the completion of a novel-length arc; it remains one of SSPs most highly-regarded & well-reviewed titles among those who read it. While future projects have not been as ambitious in scope, it laid the groundwork for much of what was to folllow in terms of production value and editorial focus.

Dale then began development of a comic for young readers, but found that train diverted by two wildly different projects: the cynical alt-weekly comic strip “Continuity & Vine” and the free-form (though all-ages friendly) jam comics featuring Watusi the Talking Dog. Early in the new millennium, Smeary Soapbox Press provided print homes for both of these projects, publishing three “C&V” collections (2001-2003) and an ongoing Watusi digest comic starting in 2002. That year also marked the 20th anniversary of Dale’s career as a working cartoonist and debuted not only the Watusi comic but the popular (and woefully underutilized) character the Human Spring.

Since the middle of the decade, Smeary Soapbox Press has focused largely on the all-ages Watusi series, which began to include more hand-printed design elements to bring out the handcrafted aspect of the physical comics in a digital age. Dale also worked on developing a “voice” for and cast to complement Watusi and give the character legs beyond its jam comic beginnings. 2009 saw the introduction of two new projects: the Doghouse Funhouse anthology designed for young readers featuring a select group of contributors interested in making comics for that audience, as well as an online comic strip blog, which became the primary focus of the SSP website.

In 2011, Dale spun Watusi’s ongoing adventure strip off to its own home at www.watusithetalkingdog.com, and repurposed this site as a blog on comics and comic creation. Smeary Soapbox Press continues to publish physical comics, and Dale regularly makes appearances at comic shows in the region to meet readers and share his enthusiasm for creating comics!