Steve’s most enduring, and probably most recognized, character is Puck the raccoon.
Say hello, Puck.
Puck was the seed from which sprung The Grove. Originally, Puck was simply a hand-painted picture of a raccoon — nameless, but recognizable.
Around this raccoon, who very quickly acquired his name, a cast of characters assembled.
Exactly when Steve started creating comic strips with these characters is difficult to say. He posted these strips on a webpage hosted on a site run by acquaintances in Calgary. There was by no means a regular update schedule. It would not be unreasonable to think that he began this process in 1997 or 1998, because in 1999 Steve distributed a booklet of photocopied comic strips that featured Puck and friends. The comic strip at that point was entitled “Wildwood.”
The webpage with the Wildwood strips went on permanent hiatus in 2000, and has since disappeared from the internet entirely. At some point after Christmas 2000, Wildwood changed its name.
I remember Steve’s sigh of resignation when he discovered that there was already a comic strip with the name “Wildwood.” After much hemming and hawing, he chose to name his strip “The Grove.”
But that didn’t end The Grove.
In mid-to-late 2005 (it is hard to exactly pin down a beginning date as it was a bit of a stuttering start), The Grove began to appear in a weekly paper — the Wheat City Journal (now Westman Journal). Once Steve found his groove, The Grove remained a weekly feature until it ended the same way it began… slowly. There would be a missed week, then a strip, then another couple of missed weeks, and so on. Again, it would be difficult to say exactly when The Grove stopped being a regular feature in the paper, but mid-to-late 2007 would be the general vicinity. [Thanks to Westman Journal for allowing me to dig through their archives!]
While there were a couple of aborted attempts to establish The Grove as a regularly-updated webcomic, the characters continued to appear in Steve’s art. Puck, in particular.
Although Steve always had a number of projects on the go, Puck stuck around. Although he might not have been part of any ‘official’ project, he was Steve’s unofficial mascot.
Puck will absolutely be included in Unfinished Stories: The Art of Stephen Groves. Please check out the Kickstarter for more information about the project.