Ortonville, Minnesota—situated on the western side of Minnesota in Big Stone County—is in many ways a quintessential small town and to most people may seem an unlikely hometown to one of the greatest comic book artists of our time, a writer of Superman, Booster Gold and Captain America. But that’s exactly what it is.
When Dan Jurgens was five he began attending James Knoll Elementary School, the town’s only primary school and even from that young age David, “enjoyed education.”
Fortunately for story lovers, comic enthusiasts and art aficionados everywhere Dan found in his education the opportunity to foster his talent for art through the school district’s theater, music and art programs and always signed up for the available art classes.
Thanks to his positive attitude and supportive parents, Dan took advantage of the “complete” art program the district offered and in high school he found himself enraptured in art classes allowing and teaching him to paint, sculpt and create murals taught under the direction of Pam Scheck who was, according to Dan, “terrific.”
Dan took things even further than the traditional definition of art and signed up for shop, architectural drafting and mechanical drawing classes. At 18 Dan decided to see what his talent could do for him in a larger community and moved to the Twin Cities to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD).
Taking well to both city life and MCAD, Dan studied graphic design and illustration, and continued doing his own comic artwork on the side—always retaining his original interest and passion in art. The second year at MCAD meant it was time for an internship and Dan began working at Honeywell .
“I really learned a lot there,” he says of the experience, wherein he was responsible for creating presentations for companies such as NASA and the United States Military. “I learned a lot about professional conduct, too.”
In 1981, an artist Dan admired visited the Twin Cities. Seeing this as an opportunity, Dan compiled his portfolio and showed it to the artist. By 1982, Dan was working for them. With that effort Dan had his first chance and foot in the door.
“It was as though I just said, ‘I’m here,’” Dan says of his first break.
The break paid off and David developed some of the most notable comic book characters of the time, including Booster Gold, and in the late 1980s—Superman.
“The barometer of loving something is simple. If a person or a child wants to do something they will be doing it on their own. An artist is someone who always wants to sit down and draw.”
Partly due to the art program at his school and adults who acknowledged and encouraged his talent, Dan reflects on his family, education and town as, “a great way to grow up.”
“Because it was a small community teachers knew entire families,” Dan said. There is a mutual interest in small towns—the community has an interest in everyone’s well-being. Needless to say, my teachers were very interested in my well-being and took it seriously.”