Private Strokes (mail order digest)

Raye Horne was an American underground comix artist, who mostly worked under the pen name Wiley Spade. He was responsible for several adult comics in cooperation with Larry Fuller, including White Whore Funnies, Gay Hearthrobs, Adults Only! and a series of mail order digest comics. Historically, their most notable production was 'Gay Hearthrobs' (1976), the first all-homosexually themed comic book  in history. A regular character in Horne’s comix stories was his own alter ego Wiley Spade in several of Fuller’s comix, including the mail order digest 'Private Strokes'.

Thomas W. "Raye" Horne was born in 1944 and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. At age 18 he enlisted in the US Navy and served aboard various ships at home and overseas in Japan, during which time he was an amateur boxer, as well as an avid comic book collector and prodigious reader of hero based fiction. Upon discharge he relocated to San Francisco, where he worked for more than two decades in the employee of the Greyhound Bus Company. He always loved to draw comics and he began to seriously pursue this interest once he was settled in. He avidly studied the works of many comics masters, too numerous to name, but any list would include people like Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, Alex Toth, Harold Foster, Johnny Craig, John Severin, Bob Powell, Alex Raymond, Mort Drucker, Frank Frazetta, among dozens of others. He was completely self-taught, drew constantly and spent literally the rest of his life polishing his craft. In those early years he submitted a great deal of work to various publishers, but had absolutely no luck. However, he was not one easily discouraged and rejection slips were only fuel for his creative fires.


Cover artwork by Wiley Spade (Raye Horne)

Such persistence began to pay off when he met the future underground comix publisher and artist Larry Fuller. They were introduced by Gary Arlington, renowned San Francisco comic book store owner, collector and publisher. Gary knew everybody and anybody who was anybody knew Gary. Fuller and Horne hit it off, both being the only African American comic book artists and writers either knew at that time. This was about a year after Fuller had created and drawn 'Ebon', which Arlington published. Disappointed with that book's reception, US Air Force veteran Fuller had begun attending the SF Academy of Art using his GI bill. He and Horne began creating characters and stories left and right. At that time - early 1970s - underground comix were all the rage, but what they really wanted to do was hero and superhero stuff. Their experiences, however, did not support this, so they went with the flow.


Rawhide Carson - promo poster of B-movie Western character developed by Horne and Fuller. Only one story was ever published.

After a few years of learning how to work together, during which time they developed characters spanning several genres - from westerns to science fiction to sword-and-sorcery to straight up superheroes, most never published though one 'Rawhide Carson' story appeared in The New Funny Book #3 - Fuller and Horne decided do a full sized comic under the imprint FulHorne Productions. This later changed to L. Fuller Presents and then to Inkwell Ink, Fuller's decision because he had become the only source of funding for such ventures. Having noted the success of Bill Griffith's Young Lust and similar titles, they created White Whore Funnies #1, best described as a send-up of relations between white women and black men in comic book form, replete with plainly outrageous, but well-drawn sexually explicit content. The book took no prisoners, skewering all parties from every angle with what they thought at the time was well disguised and sneakily inserted social commentary. As undergrounds went, the book was a hit and lead to reprints. All of the content was done by Horne and Fuller, who created over the top pseudonyms, respectively Wiley Spade and A. Christian Black. They did this because they didn't want their names on "hard core smut" when they later "reached the top!" Of course, since neither ever worked in mainstream comics, this never mattered. Wiley did the cover from a Fuller sketch and about half the stories, including inking of Fuller's first 'Kid Cunt' story. The title character, Kid Cunt, shot two cowboys in this western tale - Bull Horne and Blackie Fuller- who were both caricatures of Horne and Fuller.


Bull Horne Shootout - White Whore Funnies #1 (Fuller pencils, Wiley inks)

With this book being called a noted "first", they decided to do another and put out Gay Hearthrobs #1, for which Wiley did the cover - with its unintentional misspelling - and a couple of stories. To make this happen they began a local search for gay artists to provide authenticity and found several, who provided the bulk of content. This book did better than its predecessor and they decided to try their hand at what they really wanted to do, "clean family stuff", so they did The New Funny Book #2, full sized follow-up to an earlier 16-page digest. This had no superheroes as such, instead a good deal of newspaper style humor strips and a great cover by none other than Alex Niño. Despite all this, it sold poorly, so they returned to what they knew worked best: erotic stories.

White Whore Funnies #2 was promoted as the biggest underground comic of all time - 76 pages - with wraparound painted covers by a newly discovered artist "The Great" James Davis, house painter and shoe salesman, who exhibited raw power in his works, though he was not a cartoonist. This book used a wider variety of other artists, with multiple stories penciled by Fuller and inked by others. Wiley had one story in this book, 'Ozzle & Harrial Bumsterp, Pardon Me'. WWF#2 did well, leading to financing for other works, including Gay HeartThrobs #2, Adults Only Comic Magazine #1, 2 and 3, in which Wiley did a great deal of work. He had developed a real flair for comics with sexual content, due in large part to his ongoing fascination with x-rated movies and what he called "fine girl art stuff" by artists such as William Ward, Bill Wenzel, Pete Wyma, Jefferson Machamer and many others. He often joked he had some of the worst luck in the world with women, something he used to great advantage in comic stories with his fictional alter ego - Wiley Spade! - doing everything from contracting fictional exotic diseases while "romancing" the most beautiful and voluptuous women he could conjure up artistically. A true master at the art of humorous self-deprecation, he made fun of himself to great advantage to the delight critics and readers alike.


Mean Ole Pause splash page - Adults Only! #1

These ran in Fuller's full sized books Adults Only!, and the digest and mini comics Private Strokes and HandJob Library series, the latter two sold mostly by mail and at conventions. By now, both he and Fuller had also begun to venture outside their accustomed comix venue. In 1977, as Raye Horne, he illustrated for Mike Friedrich's Star*Reach #9 the story 'Homestone' by Yves Regis Francois, inked by Danny Bulanadi. An unexpected but continuous source of income developed when he began doing an ongoing series of advertising comics for small local businesses, among them a shoe repair store, a storage unit service, and a few small restaurants. Sadly, though these were of similar quality as his best comics stuff, much of this work is lost to posterity with only a few scattered pieces remaining.

Private Strokes by Raye Horne
Private Strokes (mail order digest)

During the course of their almost 25-year association, Horne and Fuller experienced many successes, but also had numerous mostly creative difference disagreements and some business related issues, the combination of which led to a complete breakup in the mid-1980s, during which they continued their mutually loved pursuits, only separately. A chance meeting several years later outside of a comic book store - of all places - led to them renewing their association and spending many hundreds of hours in new comics related discussions and creativity! For both it was just like old times. They were on the verge of beginning a new publishing phase when Raye Horne died of a sudden heart attack in 1995. He was only 50 years of age. Despite the fact he had recently been seeing his doctor more frequently, this was a shock to family, friends, and colleagues alike, as he would always casually dismiss it as "nothing to really worry about". Always quick with his trademark snappy repartee and thigh slapping one liners, more than two decades later his unique wit and readily apparent personal charm are still missed by those who had the pleasure of his company for so many years!


Cover artwork by Wiley Spade

Series and books by Raye Horne in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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