Judd Winick Biography

Cartoonist, illustrator, and author

Born February 12, 1970, in Long Island, NY; married Pam Ling, August 26, 2001. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1992.

Addresses: Home —915 Cole St., No. 301, San Francisco, CA 94117. Website —http://www.frumpy.com.


Cartoonist, illustrator, and author. AIDS educator and lecturer. Participant in MTV's The Real World, 1994. Host of television programs, including: (with Pam Ling) MTV Video Now What?: A Guide to Jobs, Money, and the Real World, and MTV's Real World-Road Rules Casting Special and (co-host) Best Fights of the Real World, both 2000. Author and illustrator of cartoon strip "Nuts and Bolts," published in Michigan Daily, 1988-92, and San Francisco Examiner, 1994, and collected in Watching the Spin-Cycle: The Nuts and Bolts, privately printed (Ann Arbor, MI). Author and illustrator of "Road Trip" comic strip, in ONI Double Feature ; "Frumpy the Clown," syndicated, 1996-98; "The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius," Image Comics, 1999; "Green Lantern," DC Comics; and "Exiles," Marvel Comics. Illustrator, with others, of Jamie S. Rich's Cut My Hair, ONI Press, 2000, and for numerous titles in the "Complete Idiot's Guide" series, Que (Indianapolis, IN). Producer and writer for cartoon The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, 2005.

Awards: Eisner Award nomination for best sequential story, for Road Trip, 1998; Eisner Award nominations for talent deserving wider recognition, best humor artist/writer, and best original graphic novel, for Pedro and Me, 1999; notable graphic novel citation, Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), for The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius ; GLAAD Media Award for best comic book, Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book citation, notable graphic novel citation, YALSA, Publishers Weekly Best Book citation, Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, National Association of Latin American Studies Programs, all for Pedro and Me ; Bay Area Book Reviewers' Award, 2000, and Notable Children's Book selection and Gay Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Roundtable Nonfiction Honor Book, American Library Association, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Award, Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers selection, YALSA, all 2001, all for Pedro and Me.


The world became all too real for Judd Winick in 1993 as one of seven "stars" of MTV's Real World III, a pioneering reality-based television show. It was then that he met not only his future wife, Pam Ling, but also temporary housemate Pedro Zamora, a young man from Florida whose eventual death from AIDS would bring the tragic effects of that disease home to millions of young television viewers. Zamora, an AIDS activist, inspired Winick, a promising young cartoonist, to hit the lecture circuit for more than a year after the filming of The Real World to speak with young people about AIDS-related issues. In 2000 Winick published a moving and honest graphic-novel account of his friendship with Zamora, Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned. Additionally, Winick is also a popular author and illustrator of, among other things, the comic strip "Frumpy the Clown," which follows the trail of a chain-smoking, cynical clown who decides to move in with a typical suburban family, and "The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius," a series of comic books dealing with the misadventures of a cranky, obnoxious, brilliant, and foul-mouthed ten-year-old. Plus, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, a new cartoon that Winick wrote and produced, debuted on the Cartoon Network in 2005.

Born in 1970, Winick grew up in Dix Hill, Long Island, New York, "a grumpy, quasi-budding artist kid," as he admitted to Bill Jensen in Newsday. Schoolwork was not his favorite pastime at Half Hollow Hills East High School; instead, young Winick took refuge in reading comics and then in creating his own. By the time he was 16, he was already a professional cartoonist, selling a single-paneled strip, "Nuts and Bolts," to Anton Publications, which published newspapers in a three-state northeastern region.

When he graduated from high school and moved on to college at the University of Michigan, Winick studied drawing and art. He also continued his "Nuts and Bolts" strip, now expanded into four panels and running five days a week in the college paper, the Michigan Daily. Shortly before graduation, Winick's strips were collected in a privately printed edition, Watching the Spin-Cycle: The Nuts and Bolts, which sold out its thousand copies in a matter of two weeks. Encouraged by such a response, Winick landed a development contract with a syndicator to develop the cartoon as a national strip, but after a year of work in Boston, the "bottom dropped out," as Winick reported on his website. "[T]he syndicate decided that they were not going to pursue 'Nuts and Bolts' for syndication and were terminating the development contract."

Out of work, Winick returned temporarily to his parents' home, commuting into New York City for occasional illustration jobs and working on a development deal with Nickelodeon on an animated series based on "Nuts and Bolts." This deal also fell through and when, in August of 1993, Winick saw a newspaper ad for auditions for MTV's The Real World, to be shot in San Francisco, he jumped at the chance. The six-month-long audition process included doing a video, filling out a 15-page application, having in-person interviews with the producers, and being followed around for a day by a film crew. Finally, Winick, along with six others, were chosen for the cast of the reality show in which these seven—strangers from all over the United States—were put together in a house and filmed nonstop for half a year. One possible stumbling block came when producers asked Winick how he would feel about sharing quarters with another young man who was HIV positive. At that moment, Winick was forced to live up to his liberal PC convictions and confront the fears and ignorance they actually covered up. He told the producers there was no problem with that, but secretly he had his doubts, which he shared with friends. "Here I was, this weenie, open-minded, liberal New York Jew," Winick told Chad Jones in an Oakland Tribune interview. "I should have been fine with it, but I was really scared."

Winick and his fellow housemates gathered at a house on Lombard Street in San Francisco to be filmed cinema-verité style. The HIV-positive roommate turned out to be AIDS activist Pedro Zamora, a Cuban immigrant who had been diagnosed with AIDS as a teenager. Zamora wanted to be on the show to give a human face to the AIDS scourge, and he and Winick became fast friends. Together they and the others, including Asian-American medical student Pam Ling, confronted the day-today hassles of living together. During the filming of the show, Winick's cartoon strip, "Nuts and Bolts," was reprised in the local San Francisco Examiner.

Winick, who took the job on The Real World as a way to get free rent and live in San Francisco temporarily, quickly learned there was much more to the deal. He became known as the serious one of the group and the guy who could never get a date. This was his persona to an entire segment of Generation X viewers, the 20-something audience MTV was hoping to reach. After filming for six months in 1993, the show began airing in 1994 and became one of the most popular in the series, not least because of Zamora's medical condition. It was not long after the show went on the air that Zamora became ill from AIDS complications. Winick agreed to take over his speaking engagements until Zamora could get back on his feet, but the activist never did. In August of 1994, Zamora was put in the hospital and died the following November, shortly after the final episode of The Real World III appeared on television.

Following Zamora's death, Winick continued to lecture about his friend and about AIDS education and prevention. For about a year and a half he devoted most of his time to this cause. It was, Winick explained on his website, "the most fulfilling and difficult time in my life." By 1995 Winick needed to return to his cartooning career. He had, by this time, outgrown "Nuts and Bolts" and was ready to take on new challenges. Working as an illustrator, he began providing artwork for many titles in the "Complete Idiot's Guide" series, a collection of which was published as Terminal Madness. As a writer and illustrator, he worked on his first syndicated comic strip, "Frumpy the Clown," beginning in July of 1996. Stealing one of his favorite characters from "Nuts and Bolts," Winick gave the cynical clown a new home, with a suburban family mom, dad, children (Brad and Kim), and family dog. The children are ecstatic about their new member, Frumpy, but the parents, along with neighbors, wish only that he would go away. Winick depicts Frumpy and family embroiled in such quotidian tasks as getting the kids to school and fixing snacks, but all the while Frumpy attempts to enlighten the children about the dark truths lurking behind the bright lights of so-called reality, taking great delight in warping their young minds. Winick continued the strip for two years, with an initial syndication of 30 national papers. "Unfortunately," Winick noted on his website, "Frumpy ran into trouble." The clown's edginess ultimately cost readership in more family oriented newspapers, and eventually syndication dwindled to a trickle. Also, and more importantly, Winick found the daily grind of turning out a comic strip less creative than he had imagined. "I found daily comic strips to be limiting," he noted, "not just in length and size formats or language, but creatively. I just didn't find the strip fulfilling."

It was about this time that Winick began work on a graphic novel about his friendship with Zamora, a project that would last more than two years. Meanwhile, he also formed a relationship with ONI Press, and began work on a comic, "The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius." Barry is not your typical ten-year-old. Possessed of an IQ of 350, the youth delights in days spent on his own with the sitter heavily sedated, allowing him to work on his anti-terrorist equipment, or alternately build an atom smasher that fits under his bed. He gets into adventures with his pal Jeremy Ramirez, such as dealing with art thieves and time warps, repairing a stranded space ship of an alien on the run from intergalactic mobsters, and rescuing his buddy from the government. Popular with audiences already keen on the graphic format popularized by such works as Maus by Art Spiegelman, both "Barry Ween" and "Frumpy" were published in paperback collections by ONI Press. "Barry Ween" was optioned for development as an animated television series by Platinum Studios.

Throughout 1999 Winick continued work on his graphic novel Pedro and Me. Armistead Maupin, the San Francisco-based author of Tales of the City, saw an early version of the work and encouraged Winick to push on and to be even more open and frank about his friendship with Zamora. Submitting the manuscript to his agent, Jill Kneerim, Winick was hopeful for early publication. But 30 publishers saw it, loved it, and failed to buy it. Then the manuscript was sent to editor Marc Aronson at Holt who was "very hands-off but provided lots of guidance," as Winick told Shannon Maughan in a Publishers Weekly interview. "He helped me work on the pacing, finding a moment here, a moment there, building a true beginning, middle and end." Eventually, through working with Aronson, Winick whittled down his manuscript to 180 book pages. It was also decided to target the book at a young adult audience, the population most at risk for contracting AIDS.

Pedro and Me tells the twin stories of both Winick and Zamora. One young man came from Cuba in the Mariel Boatlift of 1968 that saw the immigration of 125,000 refugees from Castro's Cuba. Still in his early teens, Zamora watches his mother die of skin cancer in Florida; at 17 he contracts the AIDS virus and soon thereafter becomes a major activist and AIDS educator. Meanwhile, Winick grows up safe and sound on Long Island, mowing lawns in the summer. As fellow cast members, Winick and Zamora grow to understand one another. Winick does not spare himself when he shows his own initial ignorance and fear of Zamora's disease, nor does he replay the events of The Real World house; rather he focuses on the friendship and what he learned from his brief time with Zamora. The story continues after the filming of The Real World is over, as Zamora becomes ill, and both Winick and Ling take time out from their busy lives to be with him. It ends with the emotional deathbed scene with a gathering of friends.

Reviewers and critics had high praise for Winick's book and its message. Writing in the Advocate, a contributor called Pedro and Me a "touching remembrance" and a "cathartic experience," while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the graphic novel as "powerful and captivating," and felt that it struck "just the right balance of cool and forthrightness to attract a broad cross section of teens, twenty-somethings, and beyond." The same writer noted the "deceptively simple" black and white comic-strip art that contains a "full spectrum of emotion," concluding that Winick's book was an "innovative and accessible approach" to a very difficult subject. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin lauded the cartoonist's illustrations, noting that "facial expressions count most" in a book filled with "great tenderness and a keen sense of loss." In a review for School Library Journal, Francisca Goldsmith commented, "This is an important book for teens and the adults who care about them. Winick handles his topics with both sensitivity and a thoroughness that rarely coexist so seamlessly." Horn Book 's Peter D. Sieruta concluded, "In this warm and ultimately life-affirming remembrance, Winick gives the world a second chance to know Pedro and his message."

Reader response was equally positive, and Winick soon found he was once again a sought-after speaker at schools. "My hope is that people learn from Pedro the way I did," he noted in an interview for the Advocate , "that they have their stereo-types broken and learn about AIDS and the people who live with it—and that they are empowered by his accomplishments. Lastly, I hope they remember my friend. That's why I wrote and illustrated this in the first place."

Winick eventually moved beyond the bounds of the world he first confronted in The Real World. While he hoped never to forget the message Zamora gave the world about AIDS and people with AIDS, he had other creative plans in the works, including another graphic novel. In March of 2000, Winick proposed to Ling, his girlfriend of six years, by dressing up in a gorilla suit and holding a clipboard. The clipboard held a marriage proposal with a choice of two cartoon sketches of Winick, one happy for "yes" and one sad for "no"; Ling chose happy Judd. On August 26, 2001, the couple married at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis hotel in a ceremony performed by one of their friends.

Winick went on to write for many different comic book series, one of which was titled Exiles. The series was "an unabashed hybrid of television's time-traveling Quantum Leap and dimension-spanning Sliders, mixed in with the mythology of the X-Men," Bill Radford explained in the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. The heroes of the series are mutants pulled from alternate realities to work together to fix glitches in the chain of time. By fixing the problems, they save their own pasts. Starting in 2001, Winick also wrote for DC Comics' "Green Lantern" series, taking the story line in new directions, including introducing an HIV-positive character. By May of 2005, he had written many issues for the series, while also writing Batman: As the Crow Flies, Green Arrow, The Outsiders, another book of Barry Ween's adventures, and other projects. One of those other projects was a show for the Cartoon Network called The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, scheduled to debut in February of 2005. The eleven-year-old girl of the title is secretly a superhero crime fighter. According to Children's Business, "On any given day, she may be forced to bail on her best pal's birthday bash to corral a crew of unruly giant leprechauns or discipline a gang of troublemaking gnomes." Winick was a writer and executive producer for the cartoon.

In his talks with students, Winick encourages other budding cartoonists. "Develop a style," he tells cartoonist hopefuls on his website. "It's not necessary to be a jack of all trades. And get published! Any little paper that'll have you, or print them up yourself and give them away in comic stores. I don't believe in luck. Success comes when opportunity meets preparation."

Selected writings

Self-illustrated works

Terminal Madness: The Complete Idiot's Guide Computer Cartoon Collection, Que (Indianapolis, IN), 1997.

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, ONI Press (Portland, OR), 1999.

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, 2.0, ONI Press (Portland, OR), 2000.

Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned, Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

Frumpy the Clown: Freaking out the Neighbors, ONI Press (Portland, OR), 2001.

Frumpy the Clown: The Fat Lady Sings, ONI Press (Portland, OR), 2001.

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, 3.0, ONI Press (Portland, OR), 2001.

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, Gorilla Warfare, ONI Press (Portland, OR), 2002.

Storyline writer

Road Trip, Oni Press, 1998.

Green Lantern: New Journey, Old Path, DC Comics, 2001.

Exiles: Down the Rabbit Hole, Marvel Comics, 2002.

Green Lantern: Circle of Fire, DC Comics, 2002.

Exiles: A World Apart, Marvel Comics, 2002.

Star Wars: A Valentine Story, Dark Horse Comics, 2003.

Green Lantern: The Power of Ion, DC Comics, 2003.

Exiles: Out of Time, Marvel Comics, 2003.

Green Lantern: Brother's Keeper, DC Comics, 2003.

Exiles: Legacy, Marvel Comics, 2003.

Caper, DC Comics, 2003.

Blood and Water, DC Comics, 2004.

Outsiders: Looking for Trouble, DC Comics, 2004.

Exiles: Fantastic Voyage, Marvel Comics, 2004.

Green Arrow: Straight Shooter, DC Comics, 2004.

Teen Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, DC Comics, 2004.

Green Lantern: Passing the Torch, DC Comics, 2004.

Batman: As the Crow Flies, DC Comics, 2004.

Outsiders: Sum of All Evil, DC Comics, 2004.

Green Arrow: City Walls, DC Comics, 2005.



Advocate, February 1, 2000, p. 2; September 12, 2000, p. 61.

Billboard, September 7, 1996, p. 100.

Booklist, September 15, 2000, p. 230; December 1, 2000, p. 693.

Boston Herald, September 5, 2000.

Children's Business, June/July 2004, p. 19.

Entertainment Weekly, July 23, 2003, p. 79; December 19, 2003.

Horn Book, November-December, 2000, pp. 775-76.

InStyle, January 15, 2002, p. 250.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 2, 2001.

Library Journal, November 1, 2003, p. 63.

Newsday, April 16, 2000.

Oakland Tribune, September 6, 2000.

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2000, p. 92; September 18, 2000, p. 37.

Ross Reports Television & Film, November 2004, p. 11.

Sacramento Bee, August 31, 2000.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 2000.

School Library Journal, October 2000, p. 192.

TV Guide, July 29, 2000.

USA Today, September 18, 2000.

Washington Times, January 11, 2003, p. B2.


"The HIV-positive superhero sidekick," CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com (March 4, 2005).

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