Kate Worley

Writer, Tulsa

Kate Worley was the writer whose distinctive voice and natural storytelling skills made Omaha the Cat Dancer an international favorite and a landmark in the comic medium’s coming of age in the late twentieth century.

After moving to Minneapolis from her native Illinois in the 1970s, Worley became one of the early contributors to the science fiction-comedy radio program Shockwave. Called the Shockwave Riders, they were an impressive group that included future novelists, professional musicians and award-winning broadcasters. There she met Reed Waller, a cartoonist and musician with connections to several of the Shockwave company members.

Waller had recently become the talk of the Twin Cities cartooning subculture when his adult comic strip Omaha the Cat Dancer made the leap from obscure local publication to a nationally distributed ongoing comic book series. Four pages into the second issue, he encountered writer’s block and turned to Worley for assistance. She soon progressed from her original job as plotter to providing completely scripted pages, becoming the sole writer.

Worley’s work wasn’t limited to Omaha. A dedicated feminist with a fierce social conscience, she contributed stories to Wimmen’s Comix and the benefit anthologies Strip Aids and Choices. She wrote magazine articles on censorship and sexual identity. With Waller she created a light-hearted adventure series called Speaking Stone.

With other artists, she wrote a special issue of Wonder Woman, served as the regular writer for a new Jonny Quest series, and turned novelist John Jakes’ Mulkon Empire concept into one of the few examples of literary science fiction in comics. Flying in the face of easy perception, she was signed up as the regular writer of Disney’s Roger Rabbit comics and turned out a series of ingeniously witty tales for all ages.

In the mid-1990s she married Kings in Disguise writer James Vance and moved to Tulsa. She and Vance continued to write for comics and other media, both separately and as collaborators.

When a publisher offered her and Waller the opportunity to bring Omaha back into print with the provision that they provide a finale to the story, she threw herself into the project, creating a detailed outline and writing key scenes that would anchor each chapter of the ambitious conclusion. The script was uncompleted when she died of lung cancer on June 6, 2004, but she had already provided for the characters to whom she’d devoted so many years of her creative life. At her request, Vance inherited the job of assembling the Omaha conclusion that Worley wrote and outlined, insuring that her vision of the stories and its beloved characters will endure.

Biography courtesy of The Toy & Action Figure Museum, Pauls Valley, Oklahoma