The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
‘Crock’ strip coming to its end
By MICHAEL ZITZ
What began as a labor of love has become too heartbreaking to continue.When Bill Rechin of Spotsylvania County passed away last year at age 81, his syndicated comic strip, “Crock,” lived on. His son, Kevin, took over drawing the strip and his son-in-law, Bob Morgan, began writing it.
But as the months passed, drawing the strip has become more and more painful for 47-year-old Kevin Rechin of Arlington, the youngest of seven children, all of whom were very close to their father.
For Kevin Rechin, trying to channel his father’s spirit through the strip was difficult as an artist and as a son. He felt he couldn’t do it as his father would, and he didn’t want to change it to make it his own.
“It’s very hard,” he said. “I still go back and forth. In my gut, I want to keep going. But it will always be him.
“The only one who could do it is my dad. Would I be honoring him by continuing? I think I honor him and the strip more by letting it be him.”
“Crock” will cease to appear in U.S. newspapers.
Publication of new original strips will “go on hiatus” with the May 20 Sunday strip, Morgan said—one day short of the first anniversary of Bill Rechin’s death.
King Features will continue to provide classic “Crock” strips to foreign papers for the next three years, he said.
A new “Crock” website will appear by fall, Morgan said, and a book is being considered.
Rechin and Brent Parker created the strip in 1975. Don Wilder became the writer in 1976.
Parker focused on his “Wizard of Id” strip.
Kevin Rechin is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. His illustrations have appeared in Time, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, National Geographic and Smithsonian magazine. He won a National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for magazine illustration in 1999.
The 57-year-old Morgan, who married Kathi Rechin in 1978, was a writer and editor for newspapers in the Southeast for three decades. Since 2005, he has directed operations and academic programs for Sylvan Learning Centers in the Lynchburg–Roanoke market. He and his wife live in Lynchburg.
When Bill Rechin developed esophageal cancer in 2010, Kevin Rechin began assisting with the strip and Morgan began writing it.
In January 2012, the strip was being read in 14 countries and appearing in 250 U.S. and foreign newspapers and their related websites, Morgan said. It reached its peak, he said, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when it was carried by nearly 400 American newspapers.
“Crock” began as a parody of “Beau Geste,” a film about the French Foreign Legion. The strip’s characters were forever assigned to a forgotten outpost in the desert under tyrannical Commandant Vermin P. Crock.
Rechin and Wilder, who also lived in Spotsylvania, surrounded him with the cowardly Captain Poulet, the simple-minded Maggot, camp follower Grossie and Quench the Camel.
“It was mentally anguishing for Kevin,” Morgan said of continuing the strip. “The characters are an extension of Bill.”
“It was so connected to my dad that, after losing him, it was very hard to draw it,” Kevin Rechin said. “Our styles are very different. I felt like I was trying to mimic my father. It felt wrong and it was just a little overwhelming.”
Kevin Rechin saw his father as bigger than life.
“He had such charisma and was so naturally at ease with people. He was a character himself. That’s why he was a great cartoonist.”
Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163