Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Cartoons by Eugene Craig

Eugene Craig was born on September 5, 1916, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He graduated from high school at age seventeen and went to work first for a sign painter, then for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He stayed with the Sentinel until 1951 when he took a job with the Brooklyn Eagle. From 1955 to 1981, Craig drew cartoons for the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.

Craig was known mostly for his editorial and political cartoons. From 1950 to 1962 he won six Freedoms Foundation awards for his cartooning. He also created the design for a U.S. postage stamp commemorating the Battle of Brooklyn (below). From 1961 to 1974, he drew a syndicated cartoon feature called Forever Female. Above is a sample from the Columbus Dispatch from December 14, 1969, fifty years ago this month. Eugene Craig deserves one more credit, an unusual one: he helped to introduce a young Gray Morrow (1934-2001) to the world of cartooning and comic art.

Eugene Craig died on March 18, 1984, in Winchester, Ohio.

Text copyright 2019, Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Indiana Cartoon News 2019-Part Two

Mitch Daniels on Political Cartooning (and Political Cartoonist Gary Varvel)

In July of this year, Mitch Daniels, current president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana, wrote about political cartooning in the United States, more specifically on the decline of a once great form of graphic art:

The digital age, for all its beneficial wonders, has left some regrettable casualties in its wake. No loss has been more troublesome for many of us than the decline of print journalism as our principal medium of information. . . .
With that development, we’re losing something I have always appreciated almost as much. The political cartoonist, an influential voice in public debates for centuries, is among our most endangered species. According to "Drawn & Quartered," a history of American political cartoons by Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop, 2,000 editorial cartoonists were employed a century ago; estimates of the number of staff cartoonists working today range from about two dozen to maybe 40.
The Indianapolis Star lost its own political cartoonist earlier this year when Gary Varvel retired after nearly a quarter of a century at his post. President Daniels called Mr. Varvel the cartoonist he will miss the most.

You can read Mitch Daniels' piece, "Political Cartooning Is Becoming a Lost Art," originally published on July 31, 2019, on the website of the Washington Post, but if you don't have access to that site, you can probably find it just about anywhere, for it was widely reprinted in the nation's surviving newspapers.

(Maybe we should note that the onetime dean of American political cartoonists, John T. McCutcheon [1870-1949] of the Chicago Tribune, graduated from Purdue University in 1889. This year, then, is a nice, even anniversary year of the founding of Purdue University [1869], McCutcheon's graduation from that institution, and his death.)

Cartoon Controversy at Indiana University

A cartoon controversy erupted at Indiana University in November when the Center for the Study of the Middle East (CSME) sent out a newsletter and flier in which it reprinted a cartoon by the notoriously antisemitic Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff (b. 1968). There were of course objections to the use of the cartoon, which was distributed on Monday, November 4, 2019. The next day, the director of CSME, Feisal al-Istrabadi, sent out an email message apologizing for the use of the cartoon.

On November 8, the Indiana Daily Student published a letter to the editor entitled "How the Israel lobby at IU suppresses speech for Palestinian rights," accessible by clicking here. A letter in response, entitled "Response to Palestine Solidarity Committee," appeared on November 13. Click here to read that one. In between those two dates, on November 10, the Indiana Daily Student published an article called "Center for the Study of the Middle East apologizes after circulating flier with alleged anti-Semitic image," explaining the affair. That article is by Grace Ybarra, and you can read it by clicking here.

One of the problems with this and similar cartoon controversies might actually be described as a meta-problem: we can't see the offending cartoon for ourselves, even in this Internet Age in which just about anything can fly around the world at light speed. I despise the leftism and antisemitism that animate people like Carlos Latuff, but that doesn't mean we should not be able to see his cartoons. In fact, the whole purpose of freedom of speech and of the press is so that people with whom we might disagree may still express themselves freely. I guess my question is this: are our feelings and sensibilities really so tender and sensitive that we may not look upon the things that might offend us? And when a cartoon becomes news itself, are we not permitted to see it or consider it?

Incidentally, Mr. Latuff has contributed to Mad magazine--the Brazilian version--about which I wrote a few days ago.

Paul Gray Still Cartooning at 89

Turning to a happier topic, I would like to write about Paul Gray of Carlisle, Indiana, who is still cartooning at age eighty-nine. His art career began at age three when his older brother taught him to draw. Mr. Gray continued drawing while serving in the U.S. military in Germany during the 1950s. A high point of his career was his fourteen years of contributing gag cartoons to The Saturday Evening Post, from the 1960s to the 1970s. He also contributed to Pentecostal Evangelthe weekly magazine of the Assemblies of God.

Paul Gray became a pastor in 1961 and spent more than half a century in that position, finally to retire in 2015. Since 2002, he has drawn a weekly religious cartoon, Shades of Gray, for the Sullivan Daily Times in Sullivan, Indiana. You can read more about Paul Gray in the following articles:
  • "89-year-old Carlisle cartoonist, minister still hard at work," dated October 31, 2019, on the website of WIBQ radio, here
  • "Drawing Inspiration" by Eric Tiansay, dated December 6, 2019, on the website of Assemblies of God, here.
  • "'Shades of Gray' brings a hint of sunshine to local papers," date unknown, on the website of the Sullivan, Indiana, Daily Times, here. You will need special access to read it.
I will have two more pieces of news, sad news and yet in some ways a celebration, to end the year.

Original text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Indiana Cartoon News 2019-Part One

A roundup of news stories from 2019:

25 Years of Speed Bump

Cartoonist Dave Coverly celebrated a quarter century at the helm of the syndicated single-panel cartoon Speed Bump this year. Born in 1964, Mr. Coverly grew up in Plainwell, Michigan, and received degrees from Eastern Michigan University and Indiana University. He cartooned for the Bloomington, Indiana, Herald-Times, and has also sold cartoons to Esquire, the New York TimesThe Saturday Evening Post, and USA Today.

Speed Bump went into syndication in April 1994 and by 1995 was well enough on its way that Dave Coverly was able to leave the Herald-Times to devote himself to his new creation. In the time since, he has drawn by his estimation about 9,000 cartoons. He has also won four awards from the National Cartoonists Society (NCS), including the society's highest, the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, in 2008.

Dave Coverly lives in Michigan now. On May 26, 2019, Michigan News Live posted a long article, a dozen images, and a three-minute video on the artist. It's called "After 25 years, Speed Bump creator finds cartooning remains a funny business," and you will find it by clicking here.

Congratulations to Dave Coverly.

Gary Varvel Retires

Born in 1957 in Indianapolis, Gary Varvel cartooned for the Indianapolis News and Indianapolis Star for forty-one years, beginning in 1978. His last drawing for the Star came on January 2, 2019, the same day on which he publicly announced his retirement with an article called "Varvel: IndyStar’s cartoonist says thank you and farewell," which you can read by clicking here. Like Dave Coverly, Mr. Varvel has been extremely prolific as an artist. He estimated that in his twenty-four years drawing for the Indianapolis Star, he created nearly 8,000 cartoons. After having reached this major milestone in his career, he continues drawing and, like Dave Coverly, is now with Creators Syndicate.

Known for his teaching and community service, Gary Varvel put on two cartooning workshops at Taylor University, located in Upland, Indiana, in June 2019. The workshops were part of the Summer Clubhouse Program, sponsored by the Foellinger Foundation of Fort Wayne and designed to encourage "positive social, emotional, and academic development" in the youth of Fort Wayne and Allen County. You can read more about Mr. Varvel and the program in an article called "Cartoonist Gary Varvel to Conduct Two Workshops on Taylor Campus Next Week," on the website of the Hartford City News-Times, dated June 19, 2019, here. You can see his own website at this URL: 

Congratulations, too, to Gary Varvel on his retirement.

Jim Davis' Paws, Incorporated, Sells to Nickelodeon

In August, Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, became a third Hoosier cartoonist to reach a milestone during 2019 when it was announced that Viacom, through its subsidiary Nickelodeon, had acquired Mr. Davis' company Paws, Incorporated. This followed several other big changes in his life and in the life of his company. 

Born in 1945 in Marion, Indiana, Jim Davis is one of the most successful cartoonists of all time. He is the creator of the daily and Sunday comic strip Garfield, which first went into syndication in 1978 and eventually became the world's most widely distributed comic feature. Mr. Davis established Paws in 1981 to manage his Garfield property and the publishing and licensing that go with it. There probably isn't a living American who has not seen a Garfield comic strip, book collection, storybook, toy, puzzle, game, figurine, poster, stuffed animal, or other product during the last forty years. Garfield's creator has had a great run. Now that he is nearing the three-quarter century mark himself, I suspect that Mr. Davis is looking towards transition in his life. Beyond that, times, as they say, have changed, and a business model from thirty or forty years ago may not work very well this late into the twenty-first century.

Paws was located on Jim Davis' farm about halfway between Muncie and Albany, Indiana. Its current headquarters, built in 1989, once employed on site forty-five to fifty people. In January 2019, it was announced that Paws would transition to a work-from-home model. This came after the gift shop at Paws closed in late December 2018, and the property itself was acquired, also in December 2018, by Cardinal Properties, Inc., of Muncie, which "accepts and manages real estate, interests in real estate, & tangible & intangible personal property for the benefit of Ball State University Foundation." Jim Davis is an alumnus of that university. Incidentally, there has always seemed to be a secret as to the location of Paws, Incorporated. I'm sure that locals always knew about it. Now I can tell you that the property is located at 5440 East County Road 450 North, Albany, Indiana 47320, or, for surveyors, foresters, and other people engaged in arcane work, on County Road 450 North, just to the east of County Road 320 East, almost exactly in the center of Section 19, Township 21 North, Range 11 East, in Delaware Township, Delaware County. Not that knowing any of that will get you anywhere, for Paws has pretty well stopped being a place and is now mostly, simply, a concept. There must be some sadness in that for past and present employees.

So, the story thus far can be told in a series of articles:

  • "On the prowl: Behind the scenes at Garfield HQ" by Mickey Shuey, dated August 29, 2015, on the website of the Indianapolis Starhere.
  • "Garfield’s Moving; but Muncie Remains Home" by Mary Eber, dated January 29, 2019, at the website of the Ball State Daily News, here.
  • "Garfield Home Studio Paws, Inc. Moving Out Of Albany," dated January 31, 2019, on the website of WFYI, here.
  • "Paws Inc. Closing Indiana Headquarters," dated February 4, 2019, on the website of Licensing International, here.
  • "Viacom Acquires Comic-Strip Cat Garfield" by Brian Steinburg, dated August 6, 2019, on the website of Variety, here.
  • "New 'Garfield' Series Set at Nickelodeon" by Rick Porter, dated August 6, 2019, on the website of The Hollywood Reporter, here.
  • "Viacom Puts Its Paws On 'Garfield' For Nickelodeon Portfolio," dated August 7, 2019, on the website of Forbes, here. (I am not able to access this article, but I'll provide the link anyway.)
  • "Viacom, Hungry for Hits, Gobbles Up Garfield," dated August 12, 2019, at the website of the Wall Street Journal, here. (Again, I'm not able to access this article.)

According to Wikipedia, Jim Davis will continue to draw the Garfield comic strip. I hope that his gang of artists (which has included Scott Nickel, about whom I wrote the other day) are able to go on working for Paws, now that it's owned by Viacom. If not, I hope that they will have success in their next endeavors.

Original text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hoosiers Cartoonists in Mad Magazine

We heard around the middle of this year that after nearly seven decades in print, Mad magazine is ending in a way that things end only in the twenty-first century: it's only kinda, sorta ending. Mad began in 1952 under editor Harvey Kurtzman. After 550 consecutively numbered issues, it began again in June 2018 with issue number one. The renumbering coincided more or less with a move from New York City to Burbank, California. On July 3, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter did its thing, reporting that with issue number 10 (which was released on October 16, 2019), Mad would be available only in comic book shops, and that with number 11 (which evidently has not yet been released), there would be no more original content, except for year-end specials. See what I mean by only kinda, sorta ending? Or as Billy Crystal would say, "There's a big difference between all dead and mostly dead." Maybe Mad is only mostly dead, or maybe not even mostly.

Anyway, I wish I could say that there have been lots of Hoosier cartoonists who have joined the ranks of the usual gang of idiots and contributed to Mad. Instead I have only two. There may be more, but without an Internet Mad Magazine Database (IMMDb), searching for Hoosiers who have contributed to the magazine might take me years, while I have just twenty-five days before my blogging year ends. Anyway again, here they are, Kevin Pope and Scott Nickel.

Kevin Pope was born in 1958 in Carmel, Indiana, and attended Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. While studying art at Indiana University, he did something that nobody of college age does anymore: he got married. After graduating in 1981, he followed his wife Kim to Chicago, where she had found work, in 1983. Mr. Pope drew cartoons for Campus Life, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Outside, and Playboy, among other publications. From October 1985 to January 1988, his single-panel cartoon Inside Out was syndicated in as many as thirty newspapers. After that, he drew designs for greeting cards and calendars and published two collections of cartoons, The Day Gravity Was Turned Off in Topeka (1985) and The Dance of the Seven Veals (1991). His other clients have included Anheuser Busch, Bloomberg News, Coca-Cola, ComputerworldDunkin Donuts, Fortune, Frito Lay, Kellogg’s, KFC, the Los Angeles Times, McDonalds, NBC, the New York Times, Paramount Pictures, Pepsi-Cola, Rolling Stone, Sony, SpinSports Illustrated, and the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Pope has also of course contributed to Mad. His website gives a Smithville, Indiana, address. For those unfamiliar with extremely small, unincorporated places in out-of-the-way Indiana, that's located in Monroe County, in the south-central part of the state.

Born in 1962 in Denver, Colorado, Scott Nickel had Hoosier-ness bestowed upon him by his being employed at Paws, Incorporated, the cartooning factory where Jim DavisGarfield and countless pieces of Garfield-related merchandise were produced. (You will see the rest of that story pretty soon, right here in this space.) After having lived in California, Mr. Nickel moved to Indiana in 1995. Besides working at Paws, Incorporated, he freelances his cartoons, comic strips, jokes, and writing to Boys' Life and Reader's Digest, among other publications. He has written and/or illustrated more than two dozen children's books and graphic novels. On his blog, called A Nickel's Worth, Mr. Nickel wrote in 2012 that he had made his twentieth contribution to Mad Magazine, this one to issue number 515. I suspect that he contributed more before Mad mostly-died (or not) this year.

Here are some websites (click on the words):
You might want to have a look.

Copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 6, 2019

Updates at the End of the Year

My writing has fallen off pretty desperately this year. I will try to cram in some entires during this last month of 2019 and bring the total for the year to the usual twelve. I'll start by letting you know that I have revised and updated several entries:

Stay tuned. There is more to come.

Copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley