Jok Church, creator of both the Beakman’s World television show and the You Can With Beakman & Jax comic strip, has died. He was 67.
Church, who was born in Akron, Ohio, created You Can With Beakman & Jax in 1991 after a stint working at Lucasfilm answering George Lucas’ fan mail. The strip, which first ran in his local paper in Marin County, California, was the first comic ever drawn and distributed by computer—a Macintosh SE using Adobe Illustrator. A sort of guided question and do-it-yourself answer, You Can With Beakman And Jax invited readers to write in with their science questions, which would then be explained via an experiment the kids could perform at home. It’s still published today, and according to a San Francisco Bay Times story, about 80 percent of the letters the strip receives are from young women.
At its peak, the comic was published in 300 newspapers in 13 countries, reaching about 52 million readers. According to SF Gate, at the time of his death, Church was working on strips about why rubber balls bounce and what makes glue stick.
In September 1992, Beakman’s World premiered on TLC and in national syndication, and one year later it moved onto CBS’s Saturday morning lineup. At one point, the show, which went off the air in 1997, aired in over 90 countries around the world.
The strip and the show also inspired a touring museum exhibition and a number of Beakman & Jax books, as well as a science-focused website for kids. Interestingly enough, Church was also the webmaster for the experimental “wrapping” artist Christo, who he first met in 1976.
Church was an openly gay man and first came out on air when he was news director at Sacramento’s KZAP radio station. He founded the Damian House Gay Men’s Collective in Sacramento and was with his late partner, Adam Kazimir Ciesielski, for 34 years.
Church is survived by his partner, Michael Hemes, and his brother.