Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Indiana Illustrators and Hoosier Cartoonists

Beginning today, I have changed the title of my blog to Indiana Illustrators and Hoosier Cartoonists. I have directed readers of my Hoosier Cartoonists blog to this updated blog. Welcome, readers and fans of cartoons and comics. I have covered a few cartoonists so far on Indiana Illustrators, including today's entry. There will be more to come. I will also continue to cover Indiana's illustrators. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at:

Thanks for reading.

Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

Dick Wingert (1919-1993)

Richard Thomas "Dick" Wingert was born on January 15, 1919, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although his father wanted Dick to follow him in the printing business, the young artist had other ideas. Dick Wingert's Indiana-born teacher, Eliot Porter, arranged for a three-year scholarship to the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. Wingert started out in the fall semester of 1937 hoping to become an illustrator. His teacher, Paul Wehr, claimed Wingert as one of his best students. When Wingert's scholarship ended in 1940, he returned to his father's print shop and enlisted in the Army National Guard. Inducted in February 1941, Wingert shipped out a year later with the 34th Infantry Division, the first American division dispatched to the European Theater. Wingert was first billeted in Ireland and was assigned duties as a medical illustrator. Upon discovering that a revived Stars and Stripes was in the works, Wingert submitted some cartoons to an early weekly edition of the paper. By May of 1942, Wingert was transferred to the paper's main offices in London.

Once in London, Wingert began illustrating the Stars and Stripes humor column, "Hash Marks," and at the suggestion of reporter Sgt. G.K. Hodenfeld developed a character for a regular cartoon. "Hod and I went through my cartoons," Wingert remembered, "and selected the scuffiest [sic], oddest looking goof-off I'd drawn and named him 'Hubert'." Paired with a sidekick named Stanmore, Hubert made his way across Europe, dodging bullets, bombs, and any trouble he might run into with NCOs and MPs. Hubert was a favorite among GIs, many of whom preferred the cartoon dogface to Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe. While on staff with Stars and Stripes, Mauldin met cartoonists Curt Swan, John Fischetti, Roy Doty, and Gill Fox, and journalist Andy Rooney. He also met William Randolph Hearst, Jr., who asked Wingert if he had ever considered syndicated cartooning. Whether he had or not, there was still a war on.

Wingert returned stateside not long after the war in Europe ended. Back in Cedar Rapids, he worked up samples of a civilian version of Hubert and shopped his character around to the syndicates. King Features gave him the go ahead, and Hubert made its debut on December 3, 1945. Hubert would become Wingert's life's work, running for almost four decades and outlasting many of its contemporaries from World War II.

Dick Wingert lived in Connecticut, the home of cartoonists, for many years. John Frost (a Hoosier) and Tex Blaisdell assisted Wingert on Hubert. Among Wingert's friends were fellow sports car fans Stan Drake (The Heart of Juliet Jones) and Alex Raymond (Rip Kirby). (Drake was riding with Raymond when Raymond was killed in a car crash in 1956.) Dick Wingert returned to Indiana in 1989 after nearly half a century away. The cartoonist settled in Nashville, home of Indiana's famed art colony, and continued drawing Hubert until his death on November 21, 1993, in Bloomington. Hubert came to its end exactly eight weeks later, a day after what would have been its author's seventy-fifth birthday.

Dick Wingert illustrated several books. His first was a collection of Hubert cartoons, published in London in 1944. Those first cartoons were drawn with a pencil on textured paper. Later, Wingert switched to ink and Benday patterns, also called film screens (below). 
Here's a cartoon from Wingert's second collection, called Hubert After "D" Day, issued by the same publisher in 1945 with a practically identical cover. Anyone who has served in the military, having learned the very important skill of sleeping "any damn place," can identify with Hubert.
Wingert also illustrated the "Think and Grin" page of Boys' Life magazine. Those pages were collected in book form in 1967 in The Cub Book.
Here's a page from The Cub Book. It's not the best page, but being a forester, I couldn't pass it up.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley