Ms. Trellis ponders her computer. Artist: Bill Holbrook.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1984
Creator: Bill Holbrook
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When cartoonist Bill Holbrook got into comics history with the creation of Kevin & Kell, the first reliable daily on the Internet, he was already well-established in print-media comics syndication. His two comic strips, Safe Havens and On the Fastrack, had been distributed on a daily basis by King Features Syndicate, whose comics range from the classic high quality …

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… of the 1940s Prince Valiant to the marginal publishability of the 1990s Tim Tyler's Luck, for years by the time Kevin & Kell came along.

The first was On the Fastrack, which King launched on March 19, 1984. It was a "working woman" comic, just like Tillie the Toiler, Cathy and Somebody's Stenog, except the protagonist wasn't just a working stiff. The star was the company itself, Fastrack, Inc., a corporation as ruthless and rapacious as the average 1980s business concern, only more so — or more funny, at any rate.

At first, the main character was Wendy Rommel Welding, executive assistant to Rose Trellis, owner of Fastrack. Wendy's husband, Art, also works there, but lower in the company hierarchy. Wendy is the go-getter of the family, with Art more content with his position. Wendy and art have two kids, Rusty and Patina.

But the focus soon shifted to Rose herself, whose ruthless rapacity has gone far toward establishing the "personality" of her company. Rose is a corporate wheeler-dealer along the lines of Agatha Crumm, tho she doesn't look as old. She'd probably have joined the throngs of headline-making, law-breaking corporate CEOs, but never had to. According to syndicate promotion material, she was always able to get whatever she wanted without bothering to step outside the law — or at least, hasn't been caught. Rose's daughter Chelonia, and Chelonia's husband, Bud Spore, run the company's computer network. Their baby, Cookie (no relation), tends to take after Grandma.

Like other Holbrook comics — Safe Havens with the dead grandmother as a continuing character and Kevin & Kell with — well, just with being Kevin & KellOn the Fastrack has a strong fantasy element. For years, Fastrack had dumped its toxic waste at a nearby hidden site, and it eventually came to life as The Moat Monster. Since the company doesn't have a moat, it's likely the creature was named after The Wizard of Id's moat monsters. What with fingernail clippings, stray hairs and whatnot, it contains scraps of all staff members' DNA. Thus, it's the closest thing the company has to offspring. The Moat Monster works for the company as head of security.

On the Fastrack doesn't have anything like the circulation of Zits or Hagar the Horrible, but has comfortable distribution in the 75-paper range, about what Steve Roper & Mike Nomad had toward the end. It gives every indication of being able to continue in the same vein for a long time to come.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.