by Maureen Foley

Bill Woggon, a cartoonist, created a devilishly stylish character named Katy Keene in 1945. Though Woggon’s career would ultimately take many twists and turns, it was Katy who remained his greatest success. From 1949 to 1961, Archie Comics published the Katy Keene comic book to thousands of adoring teen-age fan. In each issue, Woggon chronicled Katy’s adventures with boys, clothes and her little sister. But it was his choice to incorporate the fashion designs of his young readers, and give them credit, in each story that guaranteed Katy’s success.

In 2005, Katy Keene turned 60 (although Bill Woggon passed away in 2003) That winter, Maureen Foley, a freelance writer and artist, interviewed a few members of Woggon’s family to finally get the low-down on Bill and Katy. Foley talked to two of Bill’s children, Susie Bothke (the inspiration for Katy’s sister, Sis the Candy Kid) and Bill Woggon, Jr., and his grandson, Jerico Woggon. For the first time, fans can read about their favorite cartoonist and comic book character, as told by his family.

MAUREEN FOLEY: How did your dad, Bill Woggon, get involved with comics?
BILL WOGGON, JR.: My dad quit school when he was in the 11th grade, from what I recall, and he went to work at the Toledo Blade, where his older brother, Elmer Woggon, was the art director. In those days, they drew pictures of things that were on sale, and my dad went to work for that. He had no training. He was just a natural artist with a God-given talent. So, he went to work [drawing for the Toledo Blade]. He also had two younger brothers who also had talent and went to work for the newspapers. Eventually Elmer developed a relationship with Allen Saunders. He and Uncle Elmer created this character called Chief Wahoo. Allen Saunders was the artist and my uncle was the cartoonist. There was a number of comic strips. Eventually, my dad started working with my uncle. He would ink the borders and the letters.

MF: How did your dad create Katy Keene? Was Katy based on anyone in particular? Were the other characters based on anyone?
BILL WOGGON, JR.:During the war years, there were many pin-ups of young women for calendars and young G.I.s would have these characters. No one could ever get a definitive answer [from Dad] about who [Katy Keene] was, although other characters were patterned or taken over by [real people]. Katy’s boyfriend, K.O. Kelly, a boxer, was fashioned after my grandfather. Sis the Candy Kid, was after my sister Susie and Gloria, Katy’s rival, was patterned after my mother. But Katy herself was just a creation. My dad wrote the strip and did the cartooning. Unlike my Uncle Elmer, my dad did it all. It started in 1945.

MF: How did your dad get the idea to get his fans involved in designing Katy’s outfits? Was there another artist doing that?
BILL WOGGON, JR.:He was the only one creating a comic strip who sort of involved the kids… [Katy] was a model aspiring to be an actress. Someone else was doing it but he ended up taking it to a further degree. [Katy] was always wearing these neat clothes. Kids would send in their drawings. He would take the drawing and no matter how good the drawing was, re-draw it but keep it as close as possible to what [the child] wanted to do. [The kids] would see their name and they started fan clubs and pen pals.

MF: What was his relationship to his fans?
SUSIE BOTHKE: He affirmed [his fans] in their creative ability but also warned them that they should do something else [besides art] as well. He listed enough of an address [when he published the drawings created by young fans in Katy Keene] so that they could be pen pals. [You would look in each issue to] check to see if your artwork gets in there.

MF: Did any fans get involved in art careers, based on Bill Woggon’s encouragment?
BILL WOGGON, JR.: The great part about all of this was that there were half a dozen kids were were extremely talented and wise. They came to our house in Santa Barbara and would visit. What we found out is that these kids ended up in careers in the arts, directors of art departments or interior designers. One of the highlights of my dad’s career was the kids that went into art because of his encouragement they got from my father and the comic book. Trina Robbins, John Lucas, [for instance]. Floyd Norman was an African-American kid who lived in Santa Barbara. He was reading the comic book and came to visit my dad. He applied for a job. He started out inking and doing borders. He went on to work for Walt Disney and Hanna Barbera. He was 16 or 17 [when he worked for dad].

MF: How did your family end up on the Woggon Wheels Ranch, in Santa Barbara?
BILL WOGGON, JR.: Dad moved the family from Ohio to California. In 1948, the family [took a vacation to California] to see MGM studio and and to tour other studios. We came out on vaction [and to research Hollywood for the Katy Keene comic book.] We took a side trip to Santa Barbara. Back in Ohio, we took a family vote and decided to move from Ohio to California. After we moved to California, more of the [Katy Keene’s] script took place in Hollywood.

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