James Vance, April 2, 1953 - June 5, 2017
Kate Worley, March 16, 1958 - June 6, 2004
James Vance and Kate Worley, two of Comics most notable authors had two children together, Jacob and Sarah. They both have been diagnosed on the Autism spectrum and will need assistance with living skills for many years to come if not the remainder of their lives. James also stepped up and became the father she never had to his step-daughter from his marriage to Jodi Berg. Kaitlyn suffers from Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction, a debilitating disorder.
Jacob takes after his parents in that he is brilliant and a talented writer and musician. James and Jo fought for many years to get his disability recognized. He is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. He graduated Valedictorian of his class, yet he struggles with daily living skills. He can figure out the most complicated statistical problems but it takes months to accomplish what most people would consider everyday tasks. Currently he is working part-time and is considering vocational school in the fall. Because of his high intelligience, Jake does not qualify for Social Security disability assistance. He will most likely be able to live independently at some point in his future, but due to his autism, it is going to take him longer and require more assistance than it does for most young people to get to that point.
Sarah is a bundle of sunshine. She has a diagnosis of PDD/NOS. Which in laymans terms means she has autism without all of the symptoms and with some extra symptoms most children with autism don't have. Sarah is highly intelligient, yet struggles with communication. She didn't speak more than a handful of words prior to her 8th birthday. Around that time, it was discovered that Sarah had Pica and a food gorging eating disorder. This caused her an immense amount of belly pain which was one of the major obstacles to her ability to communicate effectively.
At the beginning of 4th grade she was still doing pre-K work. By the time she graduated in the Spring of 2017, she had caught up to her peers and graduated with a standard High School diploma. She has an interview in two weeks to see if she can be accepted to a horticultural job training program. She also has plans to take a college class in American Sign Language.
James fought hard against his cancer, as he was determined to see Sarah walk across the stage for that diploma. He lived to see her do that.
Kaitlyn is Jo's daughter from a previous marriage. She never had a relationship with her birth father. Jim stepped up and accepted her and raised her as one of his own. James Vance never had any step-children in his eyes or in his heart.
When she was 12 years old, Kaitlyn was given 5 immunizations at the same time by her physician. Within 2 weeks she could no longer walk down the flight of stairs at home. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. CFIDS is a lifetime debilitating disorder. Kaitlyn is a fighter, she had to extend her schooling by a year, but despite being wheel chair bound at during the school day for 2 years and taking a year off, she still graduated with honors. She is now attending the local Community College part-time and is on the deans list. She is studying art.
Check out her Instagram page with her artwork. https://www.instagram.com/ryvenfox/
During the last 2 years of Jim's life, the family would not have survived without Kaity's devotion to her Dad. When the insurance wouldn't cover in home assistance, she stepped up and did it. She helped Jo nurse her Dad through chemotherapy, hospitalizations and daily bouts of illness, as well as providing care for Sarah (There is no special needs daycare in Tulsa for kids between the ages of 13 and 22). Her loving care enabled Jo to continue working and keep the health insurance and to help James to meet his goal of seeing Sarah graduate.
Jo’s own health has suffered in caring for James and these great kids, and she needs to be able to continue to be able to afford to take herself to the doctor to be treated for Type 1 Diabetes, Thyroid disease and herniated discs, which have all worsened in the last few months. Being a caregiver has been taxing and she just got over a bout of pneumonia in April.
James’ wife Jo, is now raising and caring for these young adults on her own with no assistance other than a small amount of Social Security. Jo has not received a paycheck since January, due to her taking FMLA leave to care for James in his final months. Even though she has been back to work for several weeks, her checks will continue to be $0 until she has paid her employer back for the insurance payments they covered for her while she was on family medical leave.
Once she has paid her employer back, Jo's paychecks after paying for medical insurance will still not cover the home mortgage. The home has been left in a trust for the family, but the mortgage payments will still need to be made. They need $67,582.96 to pay off the home. Any additional money raised will be used to complete the kitchen remodel that has been put on hold in mid-renovation and other home repairs that are needed. Additional money will also be used to help continue paying the taxes and insurance on the home and cover other expenses.
It was James’ final wish that his friends and fans would step up and show their appreciation for his work by helping out the family he and Kate have left behind.
In lieu of flowers or other memorials, his friends and fans are being asked to donate to this GoFundMe site that has been set up to help with the mortgage on the Vance family home.
James Vance, April 2, 1953 - June 5, 2017
James Vance, an award-winning playwright and graphic-novel author, died Monday, June 5, in Tulsa. He was 64 and had been battling cancer for more than two years.
Born April 2, 1953 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Vance became a presence in the Tulsa theater community during the 1970s, while studying at what was then Tulsa Junior College. Encouraged by Carlton Winters, who ran the theater program for the school, Vance began writing plays, often directing and acting in them as well. He was especially fond of a lavishly mounted version of the Robin Hood story that played outdoors in a Tulsa park and included, among other things, live horses.
Another acting venture came when he was cast as the young male lead in the Tulsa-produced feature Blood Cult (1985), generally recognized as the first made-for-home video movie ever made. He also starred in two other locally produced pictures, Bio-Kill (1994) and Cafe Purgatory (1999).
One of Vance's earliest successes as a playwright was the one-act Stations, a look at the societal influences of televangelism. First staged in 1980, it went on to win regional and national competitions, ultimately representing the United States at the International World Theatre Festival in Monte Carlo. He also wrote Halls of Ivory, the true-life story of the attempt to integrate the University of Oklahoma Law School in the 1940s. Produced by the Tulsa Junior College Community Theatre in 1987 as an official event of the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States Constitution, Halls of Ivory continues to be periodically revived.
A Vance play from 1979, On the Ropes, became the inspiration for Kings in Disguise, a six-issue comic-book series from Kitchen Sink Press that found Vance collaborating with artist Dan Burr. First published in 1988, this story of a 13-year-old boy riding the rails as a hobo in Depression-era America went on to win both Eisner and Harvey Awards, the two highest honors given in the comics industry. Kitchen Sink collected Kings in Disguise into a one-volume trade paperback in 1990; by the time it was issued by W.W. Norton in 2006, it had been recognized as one of the top graphic novels ever published, with Italian and French as well as American editions.
Seven years later, Norton published On the Ropes as a sequel to Kings in Disguise, with Vance working from his original play and Burr once again doing the artwork. On the Ropes also received a warm reception from critics and readers. Publisher's Weekly, for instance, called it “as layered and encompassing as the classics of Steinbeck or James M. Cain.”
During the 1990s, Vance wrote issues of Batman, Aliens, Predator, and the Crow, and the entire run of Mr. Hero: the Newmatic Man. Following the death of his wife, writer Kate Worley, in 2004, Vance stepped in and finished editing and scripting her long-running series, Omaha, the Cat Dancer, with artist Reed Waller.
Also in the '90s at various times, Vance worked both as an entertainment writer for the Tulsa World newspaper and an editor for Kitchen Sink Press. From the 1980s until the end of his life, he periodically wrote text pieces and other material for a variety of publishers. One of his most unusual – and attention-getting – creations came in 1992, when he paired with artist Mark Landman on the Republicans Attack! trading card series from Kitchen Sink Press, a politically themed parody of the Mars Attacks! bubblegum cards of the 1950s
You can read James’ final blog post telling the world about his cancer journey here: http://james-vance.com/jvblog/
Kate Worley, March 16, 1958 - June 6, 2004
Kate Worley was the writer whose distinctive voice and natural storytelling skills made Omaha the Cat Dancer an international favorite and a landmark in the comics medium’s coming of age in the late 20th century.
After moving to Minneapolis from her native Illinois in the 1970s, Kate became one of the early contributors to the science fiction comedy radio program “Shockwave.” Called the Shockwave Riders, they were an impressive group that included future novelists, professional musicians and award-winning broadcasters. Kate found her niche among that fast company as an occasional performer and a writer with the wit to keep up and the organizational skills needed to edit the group’s freewheeling story sessions into a working script.
She also found Reed Waller, a cartoonist and musician with connections to several of the “Shockwave” company members. Mutual appreciation led to mutual attraction. Soon they were not only collaborating on songs, but had moved in together. Working with bands and as a duet, they performed at local clubs and were mainstays of the legendary Minicon music suites. Known for their tight harmony and impeccably polished performances, Reed and Kate also developed into skilled songwriters.
Reed had recently become the talk of the Twin Cities cartooning subculture when his adult comic strip Omaha made the leap from obscure local publication to a nationally distributed ongoing comic book series. But after a wildly inventive beginning, the scripting became increasingly difficult. Four pages into the title’s second issue, the writing ground to a halt. The work languished for months until Reed confided to Kate his mounting conviction that there would be no more Omaha. As she recalled it years later, over the next few days she offered a few tentative suggestions about directions for the storyline, new characters, anything she could think of that might help Reed break through his writer’s block. He responded with the simple question that would save his series and change their lives: “Would you like a job?”
Before that installment of Omaha was completed, Kate progressed from her original job as plotter to providing completely scripted pages. It was such a remarkably seamless transition, capturing Reed’s naturalistic dialogue and casually inevitable scene progression, that her contribution wasn’t readily apparent to the readership. During her early months on the series, she occasionally chafed at the perception among the uninformed that she was simply Reed’s girlfriend who’d managed to attach her name to his work. Eventually, even the most entrenched members of the boy’s club realized that the Cat Dancer’s stories were being told in a new and richer voice that gave the impression of eavesdropping on a group of fascinating characters
Reed’s original approach to the series was an entertaining blend of melodrama, explicit sex and romance that could have enjoyed a healthy run as an unusually appealing underground comic. Kate transformed it into an ongoing serial that dug deeply into the characters’ lives, introducing storylines about gay and handicapped characters that allowed her to broaden the series’ social themes. Her approach expanded the readership, including a phenomenal number of women and a growing number of fans who bought it for the stories even more than the sex. Freed of the burden of writing, Reed evolved into an artist’s artist, bringing Kate’s words to life with page after page of inimitably expressive cartooning and fluid inking that gave Omaha a look unlike anything else in comics.
Their work was a critical and popular success, with back issues and collections kept constantly in print, building a growing international appreciation in foreign editions. They weathered the publicity-grabbing police raids on comics shops of the 1980s and ‘90s by producing a series that was too humanistic and simply too well done to be labeled obscene. To many who hoped to see comics fulfill their potential beyond simple picture stories for kids, Reed and Kate were the poster children for the First Amendment among comics readers.
They were popular guests at conventions, Kate taking point and seducing the crowds with her approachable smile and tough intelligence, a tall willowy figure with vivid burgundy hair and endlessly moving, expressive hands. She loved being a rebel, and enjoyed being a star while Reed moved quietly along the periphery and turned out endless sketches for their fans. Even while their series was at its creative peak, they’d never stopped performing together, and their public appearances were as much a part of their act as their concerts.
Kate’s work wasn’t limited to Omaha. A dedicated feminist with a fierce social conscience, she contributed stories to Wimmen’s Comix and the benefit anthologies Strip Aids and Choices. She wrote magazine articles on censorship and sexual identity. With Reed, she created a light-hearted adventure series called “SpeakingStone.” With other artists, she wrote a special issue of Wonder Woman, served as the regular writer for a new Jonny Quest series, walked away from the science fiction series Primortals after one issue of maddening editorial confusion, and turned novelist John Jakes’ Mulkon Empire concept into one of the few examples of literary science fiction in comics. Flying in the face of easy perception, she was signed up as the regular writer of Disney’s Roger Rabbit comics and turned out a series of ingeniously witty tales for all ages.
She continued to work with Reed on Omaha after their relationship ended in the mid-‘90s, but collaboration became more difficult and the long-running story was left uncompleted. During that time, she married Kings in Disguise writer James Vance and left Minneapolis. She and Vance continued to write for comics and other media, both separately and as collaborators. Eventually, the realities of raising their two children slowed their creative output, but Kate continued to outline new projects against the day when time would permit her to resume writing full-time again.
She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001 and entered an aggressive program of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that drained her physically, but rarely diminished her spirit. When a publisher offered her and Reed
the opportunity to bring Omaha back into print – with the proviso that they at long last provide a finale to the story – she threw herself into the project, creating a detailed outline and writing key scenes that would anchor each chapter of the ambitious conclusion. The script was uncompleted when she died on June 6, 2004, but she had already provided for the characters to whom she’d devoted so many years of her creative life. At her request, Vance inherited the job of assembling the Omaha conclusion that Kate wrote and outlined, insuring that her vision of the stories and its beloved characters will endure.
The tall redhead is gone, but she left a body of work that still resonates in her own rich voice. The music she made will be heard for generations to come. Turn the pages of Omaha, and you can hear her singing still…
- Ida Jia
- Constance D
- Matthew Snow