Macintosh History: The Lost Art Of Trici Venola

The mid-1980s were a great time to be a Mac fanatic.

The machine was new, developers were coming out with neat stuff for it, and even though there wasn’t an Internet, we all felt connected through magazines, Bulletin-Board Systems (BBSes), CompuServe, user groups, newsletters, and the floppy disk service EduComp.

One of the stars of that period was a young woman artist named Trici Venola.

Her artwork was seemingly everywhere and it was easy to spot because of her very distinctive style.

One of the things she worked on was Foundation Software’s Comic Strip Factory. But I remember her most from her work for MacWeek, a weekly electronic magazine that was distributed via BBSes and those EduComp floppy disks. (This MacWeek was before there was a weekly tabloid on paper.)

Oh yes, kids, long before there was a Palm Pilot and Peanut Press and Fictionwise doing eBooks, there were electronic publications. And the Macintosh had the best. MacWeek was memorable due to the passion of Jerry Daniels, Mary Jane Mara, and the artwork of Trici Venola.

For an upcoming post about screen design for publishing, I tracked down Trici (she is currently enjoying life in Turkey). I asked for one thing, didn’t get it, but wound up with some delightful lost Macintosh history that I’m excited to show everyone.

It’s a comic strip done for the MacUnderground, an early online service for Macintosh users.

Trici doesn’t remember, but I met her briefly at Foundation Publishing’s booth at CES in Chicago way back when. Doug Clapp (where’d he go?) was manning the booth and Trici was there too. She showed me her mouse finger and how it was bent inward. She drew all of her work by mouse. Keep that in mind!

After the break, words from Trici herself and some sample panels.

Trici said in email:

It’s pretty silly to think of how hard these were to create, like chiseling them from stone. These comics were created using a mouse and SuperPaint in 1986… Mah Gawd, I just realized these were undoubtedly built on a Fatmac. Yep, that’s Fred using his Fatmac on the cover. Each page probably took about a day or more. The type was crawled — meaning typed out and then moved manually into position — the bold type was customized to be sharper and funnier — from Geneva caps, since we hadn’t come up with our own font yet. And we had to be safe and nice or alienate our mostly-Midwestern customer base.

Fred Nerd was the star of a comic series, Astral Byte, by myself, published by the MacUnderground. The dozen Astral Byte strips have survived in much better condition. Like the pages here, they were created with a mouse and SuperPaint on that tiny screen the size of an Etch-a-Sketch. The Astral Byte strips, designed to print out on one sheet of standard size paper, took a week each to draw. The character of Fred Nerd was created for a program called Comic Strip Factory, created by David Durkee the programmer, myself and my then-husband Kurt Wahlner, characters and backgrounds respectively, and Doug Clapp, publisher. CSF featured modular characters and was a steady seller for about eight years. I recently heard from David Durkee who is rebuilding CSF for vector graphics. They look great!

And this is a classic sequence I recall to this day:

Artwork Copyright ©1986, 2010 by Trici Venola Works, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

We could use that spirit in the tech world today too!

Trici has graciously allowed me to post the PDFs she sent. This is a link to Google Docs where they can be downloaded as one ZIP file (1.4MB).

In a week, Apple will announce the iSlate/iTablet. It will change publishing — and everything — forever. But we shouldn’t forget the pioneers who helped bring us to this point, especially those who laid the early foundations for electronic publishing with digital artists such as Trici Venola.


Drawing on Istanbul by Trici Venola
Time Out magazine Istanbul: Trici Venola
Trici Venola artwork for Hotel Mario CD-I
Hotel Mario wiki
Interview with Trici Venola
Finally we have Signboards (Photos of Trici at work!)
PDF Link: “MacArt”: Revolution on a Desktop 1984-1990

Previously here:

Sign The Abandonware Petition!

6 Responses to Macintosh History: The Lost Art Of Trici Venola

  1. Very nice piece of history, Mike. As I tweeted, it reminded me as well of Pepe Moreno’s Batman: Digital Justice ( Thanks. {ProfJonathan/PalmPreLawyer}

  2. Thomas Hart says:

    Sadly, the French Resistance had more members after the war than it had during the war. To invoke the French for anything other than good food, good wine, and beautiful women is to invoke nothing.

  3. Tim at IMM says:

    I have an old copy of the book The Macintosh Reader with some of Venola’s work in it. Love that low-resolution comic art! Every pixel serves a purpose.

  4. Wow, fantastic! I love the gradients on computer artwork of this time…

  5. David Durkee says:

    Comic Strip Factory is finally back, and Trici provided color vector versions of some of her fantastic original characters and some new ones.

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