RANGELY I Ken Bailey was always artistic, but growing up in Rangely gave him the unique desire to combine both his creative talents and interest of the oil field in a unique way, cartoons. While Bailey has not lived in Rangely for the last few decades he is still very much a Rangelyite at heart. As creator of the This Was Rangely Facebook page, which is dedicated to local history and photos, and the popular EnergyGirl comic, Bailey is able to find a virtual and artistic way to stay connected to the community.
Bailey moved from the East Coast to Rangely in August 1966, just before starting middle school. He and his parents stayed for six years until just before his senior year of high school when they relocated to Wisconsin, where he still resides. “I have never ceased to think of Rangely as my favorite and most applicable home town of all the places I have lived, before or since,” he said.
Bailey has had an artistic bent for as long as he can remember and describes himself as a self-taught artist and writer.
“While I love drawing most types of cartoons, comic books have always been a specialty.” However, it hasn’t always been easy for him. Bailey is colorblind, an especially challenging problem for someone who uses color to create art. “I cannot mix colors and must rely on colored pens that have the color names printed on the barrel,” he said.
Upon moving to town Bailey became fascinated with the oil field, spending his spare time out in the field taking photos and asking questions. “I guess I am a rarity—a person who loves oil fields, especially this one,” he said. “The few oilmen, or their kids, unlucky enough to come in contact with me were deluged with questions! There were several who graciously took time to field these, and two even took a day off to drive me around the field, for which I am grateful to this day.”
After spending years creating various comics, exploring what worked and what didn’t, Bailey landed on his heroine EnergyGirl in the early 2000s. EnergyGirl (who Bailey says was partly inspired by his wife) and her mortal, behind-the-scenes husband Stan Peabody have starred in 33 feature length books and numerous short stories. After one story featured E-Girl flying over the skies of a 1960s version of Rangely Bailey found himself responding to requests for more from Rangely locals. Inspired to add more of the town into the comic, Bailey spent last summer creating a Rangely-centric adventure for his heroine. Describing the story Bailey says, “A number of landmarks were worked into the story, chief among them the “Sonic” TANK (to coincide with the opening of the actual attraction in the “real” Rangely). I also obtained permission to involve several old friends into the story, as fictionalized characters, yet recognizable as themselves. And, of course, old oil wells!”
In addition to the comic series Bailey created and administrates the “This Was Rangely” Facebook page which has become a favorite for locals. Despite leaving Rangely as a teenager Bailey felt compelled to know what had happened to the small town and its inhabitants. “In the years after I moved, I was cut off from pretty much all news of Rangely for years. This led to a hunger to know what had happened to all my friends, and to the familiar oil field wells as well. On top of this, I had always been eager to see pictures of the field and town in the years before I came … but opportunities to do so were few. With the coming of the internet, I was able to share the old pictures I had taken with others who came later, and share memories with friends new and old who desired to do so … and, of course, get to see and hear theirs. That is why I started the “This Was Rangely” page on Facebook.”
During his school years in Rangely, Bailey participated in the school’s Foto Club where he took countless pictures of the town and surrounding area. Posted to the Facebook group these pictures, along with the many photos posted by others who grew up in the area, provide insight and historical detail to the town.
People who are interested in following EnergyGirl or learning more about Bailey’s artwork are encouraged to seek him out on Facebook in The Mighty EnergyGirl fictional character page and the Fans of Mighty EnergyGirl group. The Rangely edition of the story is currently available through the library and Bailey donates the money generated from the story to the Rangely Outdoor Museum.
As for the future of EnergyGirl and Rangely, Bailey plans to continue hiding what he calls “E-Girl Eggs” within the stories. These eggs provide a little glimpse of Rangely which Bailey says only those in the know would recognize. “If it comes to the point that reader interest justifies it, yes, I may send her back there again for a full issue,” he said.