Magazine / People

Ed Stein reinvents his Denver comic strip for a national audience

Ed Stein's "Freshly Squeezed" comic strip

"Freshly Squeezed" by Ed Stein

Ed Stein’s Mile High City-themed comic strip Denver Square ran for 12 years in the Rocky Mountain News. When the News folded in 2009, Stein reinvented the strip as Freshly Squeezed, a nationally syndicated daily comic about a multigeneration family forced to live together because of the economic downturn.

“I wanted to do a family comic strip, but I didn’t just want to do a gag-a-day strip,” says Stein (BFA ’69), who brought the characters from Denver Square to his new comic. “This is about a family that is being forced to live together because of the economy. And there are pluses and minuses to it. They’re a family of people who love each other, but they also have issues with each other and there’s a certain amount of pain and difficulty involved, as well as joy. I wanted to capture all of that; I wanted it to be emotionally honest.”

Stein studied graphic design at DU, but at the same time he was drawing cartoons — later for the Clarion but first for a short-lived radical 1960s student paper called the Student Free Press.

“I was the only art major they knew, so they asked if I would draw some cartoons for it,” he says. “So I did, and the next day in the student union kids are going, ‘Did you see that cartoon?’ Wow, that was great — instant gratification. It’s not like hanging a painting on a gallery wall and waiting for somebody to buy it. People were commenting about it the next day.”

So Stein stuck with comics, eventually landing a gig at the Rocky, where he drew editorial cartoons for 31 years in addition to Denver Square. He launched Freshly Squeezed on the web and in papers around the country (including the Denver Post) in fall 2010.

“It’s like writing a novel; you really have to know who the characters are,” he says of drawing comics. “Years ago when [Bloom County cartoonist] Berke Breathed used to live in Evergreen [Colo.], he and I became friends and we would talk a lot about comics. At one point he said, ‘Do you know what the secret to a good comic strip is?’ and I said, ‘great characters.’ And he said, ‘No, great relationships between characters.’ That always stuck in my mind.”


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