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Sam Hurt of Austin is an Unappreciated Genius
Sam Hurt of Austin is an Unappreciated Genius | Sam Hurt, Eyebeam, Ratliff, Hank, Hank the Hallucination, Studmuffins, IM4U, Austin, Krazy Kat, George Herriman,

Sam Hurt of Austin is an unappreciated genius.

That’s not hyperbole. Hurt is unacknowledged both as an artist and a wit.

Yes, Austin has a large number of artists and wits, both as a percent of population and per capita.  A great part of Austin’s economy is based on the arts and entertainment sector.

However, Hurt should be better known than just by the Austin arts community. There’s an underground, subculture of us who are fans in the fanatic sense about Hurt.

He does sculpture, animation and art, which I greatly admire. His stuff should be shown and discussed in the world’s finest galleries, schools of psychology, asylums, child care centers and youth counterrevolutionary hangouts.  His style is unique.

Hurt also draws and writes Eyebeam. Eyebeam is a comic strip with a rich community of characters that feel alive to me. Eyebeam himself is a bizarre everyman that ends up in law school and then works as an attorney in the early books. His roommate, Ratliff McNubb, still operates as if he was a sophomore in college and goes from job to job. Odd personalities appeared on a regular basis, such as  IM4U the robot from out of the solar system who ends up fathering a baby robot on earth.  The self-absorbed egomaniac Rob Rutherford and his sometimes fawning and sometimes distant girlfriend Beth, Ratliff’s niece Peaches who is carefully respected by all, and Eyebeam’s coworker Vernon spin their lives in a shifting, sometimes Daliesque landscape that reminds me of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat warped and woofed by Austin’s ethos.

And here I blaspheme. Here I commit sacrilege.  As a lifelong fan of Herriman and Krazy Kat, Hurt’s Eyebeam is better.

Hurt started the strip when a law student at the University of Texas at Austin. The strip ran in the Daily Texan for years.  One of the legends that surround Eyebeam and Sam Hurt is that the UT student body elected the character Hank the Hallucination as student body president through a write-in vote, soundly stomping the human candidates.  That legend is true.

The strip ran in the Austin American-Statesman for a while and a few other dailies, but I searched for the book compilations.

I first stumbled across Eyebeam from a copy someone flipped me in the early 1980s, I’m Pretty Sure I Got My Death Ray In Here Somewhere..    Within five minutes, I became a Sam Hurt fan for life.   Over the years, I greedily pulled together the collections that Hurt put out, including Our Eyebeams Twisted; Teetering On The Blink;  Eyebeam, Therefore I Am; The Mind’s Eyebeam; and Eyebeam: Render Unto Peaches.  It’s an inspiring, extraordinary body of work.

Last December, I discovered that another collection had come out:  Eyebeam Returns. On my next trip to Austin, I searched it out and scored a copy.

I tried to make it last, hoping for almost a year of Eyebeam. I was disciplined for almost four months. It had been so many years since the last Eyebeam book.

But in a moment of weakness, I devoured it all last night.  A few minutes of Eyebeam is better than two nights of blissful sleep.

Why doesn't the world come knocking on Sam Hurt's door? The world is a buffoon and an ass. 

Sam Hurt of Austin is an unappreciated genius.