Gay comics star “Jayson” returns in two new anthologies (2005)

“Jayson” cartoons have entertained generations of readers by taking a
lighthearted look at gay life in the big city. Title character Jayson Callowhill doesn’t want much: just a job and a man worth having. That’s what he left Farmville and moved to Philadelphia to find. But like many of us, he’s still searching.

At least Jayson has interesting friends. Arena Stage, his unemployable gal-pal, has taken up residence in his living room. And Robyn Ricketts, a cross-dressing adult filmmaker, has set up shop next door. Together they comprise what might best be described as an “Algonquin card table” – cracking wise as they struggle to make the rent.

The brainchild of creator Jeff Krell, “Jayson” began life in 1982 as an occasional feature in the Philadelphia Gay News but quickly graduated to Gay Comix and the Meatmen series of gay male cartoon anthologies. A syndicated version of the strip debuted in 1990. In 1998, Krell collaborated with songwriters Romanovsky & Phillips on a “Jayson” musical that enjoyed a successful off-Broadway run.

Now, the best “Jayson” cartoons from the past two decades have been published in a pair of new anthologies.

“Jayson: Best of the 80s” contains Krell’s earliest, most groundbreaking work, including Jayson’s first appearances in the Philadelphia Gay News, Gay Comix and Meatmen; classic catfights between Arena and Robyn; and a cliffhanger ending that’ll leave you begging for more.

“Jayson: Best of the 90s” resolves the cliffhanger and then plunges the cast into a series of epic adventures involving Sapphic saleswomen, oversexed aliens, and Jayson’s elusive “dream man.” The syndicated strip contributes hilarious encounters with gym bunnies, video dates, and Christian telemarketers.

Whether you’re already a fan of “Jayson” or just you’re discovering his unique brand of cynical optimism for the first time, you’ll treasure these anthologies for years to come. “Jayson: Best of the 80s” (96 pp.) and “Jayson: Best of the 90s” (96 pp.) are available in finer bookstores, comics shops, and on Amazon.com for just $9.95 each.

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