Josh Neufeld Name Story panel 1

The Josh Neufeld Name Story NFT

Comics, Life, Work

There’s a funny story in today’s New York Times about a battle for supremacy that took place on Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a bunch of guys named Josh. It couldn’t be more apropos because I just drew this humorous one-pager on the story of my name. Touching upon my being Jewish, growing up different, Star Wars, Superboy, and so much more, the comic has fun with our current obsession with identity and self-discovery. (By the way, I have only ever run into one guy with my exact name—the Canadian Josh Neufeld is a professor of microbial ecology and a very nice fellow).

For those in the know, “The Josh Neufeld Name Story” is also an homage to a story by Harvey Pekar, illustrated by R. Crumb, which first appeared in American Splendor #2 (1977). (As I’m sure you know, I was an artist for Pekar on American Splendor for 15 years.) (The best online link to the original story I could find was this mashup of the comic and Dan Castellaneta’s monologue of it from the American Splendor play produced in 1990. [starts at 1:13].)

Furthermore, my piece is not the first comics reference to “The Harvey Pekar Name Story”—Damon Herd did an homage to the Pekar/Crumb piece back in 2013. And of course the story was dramatized in the American Splendor movie… But I like to think my piece puts a different spin on it.

Anyway, I often use the Pekar comic and a set of prompts I created as part of a workshop where I have students draw their own “name story.” Whether they’re high school art students or people who may have never drawn a comic in their lives before, the results are always fascinating. They help the students get into the “comics space” and enable me to learn a little about each participant.

But it always bothered me that—until now—I had never done my own name story. It’s one of the first autobio comics I’ve drawn in a while, and I enjoyed the experience—hearkening back to those halcyon Keyhole days! (Talking about Keyhole, and my long-time collaborator Dean Haspiel, he and I talk about “The Harvey Pekar Name Story” quite a bit in episode 28 of our podcast Scene by Scene with Josh & Dean…)

On a separate note, because I’m fascinated by the emergence of the NFT (or non-fungible token), I am announcing that I am auctioning off the hi-rez NFT of this comic! It seems appropriate that a piece like this—which I created entirely digitally—would become an NFT, which after all helps artists in this age of endless digital copies to benefit from their work. Plus, the comic is a double-layered reference to a previous original story, which somehow also seems appropriate.

To tie it back to Pekar, I will donate 25% of any proceeds from the auction to the  Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library (which features a memorial desk and statue dedicated to Pekar). So hopefully some Pekar/Neufeld fans out there will open their digital wallet for this particular NFT. You can find the auction—and bid it on—here. Otherwise, just read it for free right here!

Anyhoo, enough talk for a frickin’ one-page comic! Here it is, in all its “glory”—“The Josh Neufeld Name Story”:

Josh Neufeld Name Story

And whatever Josh & Sari called each living creature, that was its name.


Choosing our kid-to-be’s first name has been an arduous journey. For one thing, we don’t know whether we’re having a boy or girl. But more importantly, we both feel the weight and responsibility of finding the right name. I don’t know if it’s from reading too much fantasy fiction or what, but the idea of naming something (or someone) — of bequeathing its one, “true” name — is a very powerful idea.

Simply put, we want to come up with a name that means something (to us, to the kid), sounds nice, and we can imagine saying over & over in every imaginable situation or circumstance. And of course won’t leave our kid open to endless schoolyard teasing. One nice thing in that regard is we’re not under any familial pressure to name our kid after some dead or distant relative.

When it comes to kids’ names, our greatest inspiration is a monicker of such beauty, wit, and rhythm that it can never be matched: that of our pal bertozzi‘s daughter, Sabina Edwina LeBonBon Bertozzi. I mean — c’mon!— you can’t compete with perfection!

And Last Shall Be First


When it came to naming our baby, the first thing we had to decide was what the kid’s last name would be. I’ve always resisted the convention of the hypenated name (smacks of English-style faux aristocracy to me), and the unruly combo mouthful of Wilson-Neufeld or Neufeld-Wilson seemed especially dissonent. I mean what if our kid someday meets and has a child with another hyphenater? Their baby would have a last-name-times-four! Plus, when I asked my intern Sara, who has a hyphenated last name, her thoughts on the subject, she was adamant. “Don’t do it! It’s confusing, schools always get it wrong, and me and my friends with hyphenated names all think it’s a drag.” So there you go.

We also thought of giving the baby one of our mother’s last names, but Feuer and Rosler don’t go together any better than Wilson and Neufeld, and it seemed like an uncalled-for dis to reject our father’s names that way. (The patriarchal system exerts a powerful hold, even on supposed free-thinkers like us!)

One bright idea I had for awhile was to make up a hybrid name, some kind of mixture of our two last names: e.g., “Neuson” or “Wilfeld.” (I preferred Neuson. Especially if our baby turned out to be a boy. Get it? “New son”?) And from what research I was able to do, the hybrid last name seemed like a legitimate legal option. Some people argued that this could cause problems for our kid because he/she would have a different last name from either of their parents. My answer to that was, since Sari & I have different last names anyway, this would be a way of making us all unique, without making the kid feel preternaturally connected to one parent over the other. Separate and distinct, our child would feel free to explore all options life made available. But then I realized — mostly due to Sari scoffing at the whole idea — that the hybrid name thing was pretty goofy.

I consider myself a feminist and the last thing I would EVER want is for Sari to take my last name. And even though I’m not a huge fan of my own last name, I wouldn’t change my name either. For one thing, my career, such as it is, is based on people knowing my work through it. Either way — male or female — I just can’t imagine giving up your last name to symbolize your commitment to your spouse. It’s just so obviously a symbol for changing “owners,” from father to husband (or father to wife, as the case may be).

But when Sari brightly suggested giving the baby her last name, my hackles rose. The thought of it felt totally emasculating. Turned out my feminist impulses only went so far! I mean, I actually worried that if the kid didn’t have my last name, people wouldn’t know who the father was. (And don’t talk to me about Spain or other “matriarchal” cultures — this is America, kiddo!) Fortunately for me, however, a friend pointed out that if the baby had Sari’s last name, it de facto had Sari’s father’s name, the Oedipal implications of which being creepy enough that she dropped the suggestion.

In the end, after much consultation with friends and family, we’ve decided to go with “Wilson Neufeld,” unhyphenated, meaning that the middle name is Wilson and the last name is Neufeld. This way both family names are officially included, but the kid will have his/her father’s last name. Long-standing cultural traditions are powerful things, and when even my mom, the O.F. (“Original Feminist”) herself, signed off on it, Sari grew reconciled to it as well.

Next: Genesis 2:19-20