Opus 44:

1. Year-End Peeves and Plaudits (1/3)

2. Forthcoming: Reviews of ComicBooks -- Desperate Times II, etc. (1/3)

3. Auld Lang Signs (1/3)

4. Sadly, Ed's Gone (1/3)

1. Year-end Peeves and Plaudits. Newsweek ended the year as it has for some years now--with an expanded "Perspectives" section, consisting, as this section does every issue, of editorial cartoons and pithy quotations from notables. Usually, "Perspectives" is confined to a single page in each issue; but for the year-end extravaganza, the editors run it up to a couple dozen. This year, they hit 27 pages and included 53 cartoons.

While this anyule journalistic milestone may seem to bode well for the social and artistic value of editorial cartooning--and for cartooning in general--in fact, it does the reverse. It does not champion cartooning; it denigrates it.

This yearly exercise is actually the editors’ spiteful act of revenge upon cartoonists.

Editors of magazines like Newsweek (like editors of most text-oriented publications) are creatures of the verbal realm, not the visual. They work with words; they don’t understand pictures. They understand words, and they love words. Words are all-important.

Pictures, on the other hand are not so important. Photographic pictures are seldom as newsworthy in an editor’s eye as a few paragraphs of pregnant prose. And drawings--well, drawings are merely childish scrawls from infantile minds.

Unfortunately for the editors everywhere, readers like pictures. And they particularly like funny drawings, cartoons. Editors know this. And they bitterly resent it. They resent having to devote huge quantities of valuable space in their publications to cartoonists, whose words are not nearly as important as the words of reporters or editors--because cartoonists’ words are always embedded in those puerile doodles.

But the editors of Newsweek have discovered a way to get even with these upstart scribblers--while still catering to their readers’ love of cartoons. The editors get their cake and rub the cartoonists’ noses in it at the same time.

They do it by treating the cartoons as if they were illustrative photographs not hand-wrought works of artistic imagination. First, they excise the signatures of the cartoonists. By suppressing the identity of the creators of these pictures, the editors treat the cartoonists as non-entities. Non-entities can scarcely be "artists," individual craftsmen capable of producing works of expressive art.

In denying cartoonists any artistic identity, the editors also belittle the expression of opinion inherent in an editorial cartoon. If the identity of the cartoonist is irrelevant to the picture, the identity of the opinion monger is equally irrelevant. And an opinion without an opinion-maker is clearly inconsequential.

Genuine opinion-makers--the consequential ones--are the verbal columnists in the magazine, not cartoonists. Their importance is authenticated by their bylines: political columnists, like George F. Will, get bylines in type larger than the body type for their efforts in the magazine.

Editorial cartoonists’ opinions clearly don’t count as much as pundit opinions. Naturally. As I said, since editors of magazines and newspapers are basically wordsmiths, they would perforce value words more than pictures. Pictures are merely decorative ways of breaking up the otherwise comforting oceans of gray typography that flood the publication’s pages.

Cartoonists, like picture-makers of every stripe, are just sort of "mechanics" as far as Newsweek’s editors are concerned. Like shutterbugs (another breed of artist that editors treat like plumbers). And so cartoonists are treated as scornfully as photographers, and editors run their names in "credit lines" at the bottoms of the pages in agate type too small to be read by the unaided human eye.

Moreover, the very selection of editorial cartoons for "Perspectives" reveals the intention of the Newsweek editors to deny cartoonists their rightful place in the editorial firmament. The editors invariably never pick any cartoons bristling with hard-hitting opinion. They pick funny cartoons. They want to appeal to their readers by running the cartoons that readers seem (inexplicably, as far as editors are concerned) to love, but the editors want merely to make their readers laugh not think.

Joe Pett, editorial cartoonist at the Lexington Herald Leader and last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, summed it up this way in recent exchanges of e-mail among members of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (of which he was recently president): "[Newsweek editors] aren’t interested in what is thoughtful, or interesting, or original, or outrageous, or important, or any of the criteria we use when we sit down to work. Clearly, what they think is funny is a one-panel jab about something that just happened to someone famous, political or not."

Every editorial cartoonist produces his or her share of merely amusing comments on the passing scene. But most also aim more often than not at making a succinct statement of outrage or a clarion call to action in their cartoons. Cartoons of this sort are almost never seen in Newsweek.

Moreover, most of the annual selection this time consists of verbal humor rather than the kind that springs from the visual metaphors we associate with editorial cartooning. Only 17 of the 47 editorial cartoons make use of visual metaphors; and only one of those is in any sense provocative.

The rest are all verbal witticisms--like the Mike Peters cartoon in which George W. Bush is depicted saying "Our nature’s chitlins can’t weed" instead of correctly interpreting the cue card on which is lettered "Our nation’s children can’t read." Clever and double-edged (the best of the verbal crop, actually), but not much in the way of visual metaphor, the kind of image that you can take away and carry around in the back of your head where it will subtly influence the way you think about a particular issue.

And none of the modestly effective metaphorical cartoons comes close to the visual impact of Ann Telnaes’ cartoon in the Washington Post National Weekly on the ideologically divided Congress. She shows the retiring 106th Congress as a duck in a wheelchair, his leg in a cast. ("Lame duck," get it?) But facing this duck is another. It (or "they") is depicted as a duck with two heads, four legs and wings, but only one body--or, if you will, a Siamese twin duck, joined at the rear end. This fanciful creature, labeled "107th Congress," is saying to the wheelchair duck: "You think you’ve got problems."

Potty training with this fowl fella will be a challenge of unprecedented complexity. It may, in fact, be impossible.

Finally, rubbing salt in the insult, Newsweek includes in this year’s round-up a half-dozen New Yorker cartoons, known more for a kind of languid verbal sophistication than for assault-force political clout.

And the selection of editorial cartoonists is likewise skewed. The work of two cartoonists represents almost half of the entire menu: Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Constitution and Mike Peters of the Dayton Daily News with 8 and 11 cartoons respectively. (Peters enjoys yet another distinction: through some oversight or criminal negligence, one of his cartoons still carries his signature. Horrors!)

As Pett observes, many of the nation’s heavy hitters are altogether missing from "Perspectives"--Pat Oliphant, Paul Conrad, Signe Wilkinson, Tom Toles, Tony Auth, Herblock, and on and on. Newsweek’s "Perspectives" ought to be called "Myopia."

As a departing (pun intentional) slap in the face of editorial cartooning, the section of the magazine devoted to reviewing our losses of the past year ("The Dear Departed") gives us "a gallery of faces to remember" that is headlined, "They helped shape the 20th century--and caught a glimpse of the 21st."

Judging from the faces of the deceased that are displayed, entertainers shaped the 20th century more than political or spiritual leaders. Only six of the thirty-one faces are politicians or world-shakers (like Canada’s Pierre Trudeau or New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor). But we have Frank Wills (the security guard who discovered the Watergate break-in that lead to Richard Nixon’s downfall), Loretta Young, Hedy Lamarr, and Edward Walker (who invented the lava lamp).

Fascinating stuff no doubt but a strange "perspective" indeed.

Three cartoonists are noted--Charles Schulz (of course) but also Edward Gorey and (surprisingly) Gil Kane. But no Jeff MacNelly, a giant of an opinion-shaper.

The slap in the face? That’s Willie B., a gorilla resident of the Atlanta Zoo. Wille B.’s here but not MacNelly.

Still, Newsweek’s editors, while giving vent to their disdain for editorial cartooning, nonetheless surrender to the superior taste of their readers in publishing, however begrudgingly, any kind of a collection of cartoons at all. The editors may be egocentric verbal gymnasts, but they at least have the sense to know what their readers value. We must take comfort in such small things.

Joel Pett’s Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoons, by the way, are scattered throughout his latest collection: Thinking Inside the Box (ISBN 0-9624001-6-5; 175 5x8" paperback pages for $9.95 plus $5 p&h from the Lexington Herald Leader, 100 Midland Avenue, Lexington, KY 40508; or via e-mail, www. kentuckyconnect.com / promotion / jpett / index.html). Pett reviewed the last four years’ worth of his cartoons in selecting the ones published herein ("a humbling experience," he calls it).

Pett’s drawing style is stark simplicity. And his point of view is acerbic and often sarcastic. He frequently deploys sequential panels in comic strip fashion.

Here’s his comment on last year’s rumored presidential candidacy of Warren Beatty: "Whoever would vote for ... an obsessively private ... liberal ... Hollywood actor ... rich boy ... ladies’ man ... like Warren Beatty?" Each of these traits is illustrated by Pett’s caricature of a past president--Nixon is paired with "obsessively private"; then, in order, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

His oeuvre brims with bitter jabs at those who ignore the threat of AIDS in Africa, the damage done to environment by mindless "bidness" exploitation, political inconsistency as revealed in public policy on poverty, the conscience-less exporting of tobacco products to the rest of the world. In short, he overlooks no opportunity to ridicule mercilessly the hypocritical and contradictory behavior of our so-called leaders. And those leaders, ever accommodating, persist in providing him with a seemingly endless supply of material.

Sometimes, of course, his pictures serve only to identify the speakers of idiotic sentiments--as in a drawing showing two state legislators, one of whom is saying, "I’m against abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the fetus might turn out to be gay..." Pett labels this cartoon "Pro-life moderates."

Pett reports with considerable (and justifiable) pride that many of the cartoons he submitted to the Pulitzer committee were on local issues. That he would win with any such cartoons is unusual: Pulitzer judges can scarcely be expected to know enough about local issues to evaluate the effectiveness of such cartoons. But they apparently did in this case--"a welcome change," Pett says.

"Many of my cartooning peers were excited about this, since local work is generally undervalued and often goes unrecognized," he writes in the book’s introduction. "This is puzzling, given the old adage about all politics being local."

Not only that, but editorial cartoons on local issues almost invariably have greater impact than cartoons on national matters.

The cartoons of Ann Telnaes, on the other hand, have not yet been collected. She’s one of a few editorial cartoonists working without a home-base paper. But you can see more of her cartoons (and read about her career) in the current (December 2000) issue of Cartoonist PROfiles, wherein I profile this deliciously angry young woman: $10/copy, P.O. Box 325, Fairfield, CT 06430.

Finally, to close with loud applause, for at least the second year running, Ray Billingsley has relegated the African-American inner-city cast of his comic strip Curtis to the sidelines for a week or so between Christmas and New Year’s in order to celebrate Kwanzaa by rehearsing an "original tale" of African lore. Aaron McGruder is also attending to this African-American cultural celebration in The Boondocks, but Billingsley’s treatment is a stunning exercise in visual stylistics.

The tale, "The Leopard and the Black Swans," is rendered in a manner evocative of African art. The marvelously decorative opus therefore reminds us of African culture not only in the substance of the narrative but in the very appearance of the storytelling mode. Ingenious conception and well-executed, too.

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2. Forthcoming Comics and Other News. By the time your read this, Chris Eliopoulos’s second try at a comic book version of his Desperate Times ought to be on the stands. Like his early attempt with Image, the book features a cover to which Erik Larsen has contributed a babe drawing, but the interior is all Eliopoulos. Starring misfit roommates Marty and Toad, the strip regales us with their usually bumbling attempts at picking up chicks and, generally, trying to survive. They are impeded in these enterprises by Marty’s sister Linda, Linda’s ex-boyfriend Doofus who appears always in his theme-park costume as a dog named Doofus, and a three-toed sloth named Kennedy, who drinks beer excessively and chases wimmin. Eliopoulos displays a thorough understanding of the quirks and works of the medium: he uses visual exaggeration expertly and springs his gags with an exquisite sense of timing. He draws with similarly adroit mastery, using a bold line and spotting blacks for effect.

The book also includes an installment of "Alienz," the misadventures of a refugee from another universe.

"The biggest problems we have in comics today is getting new readers," Eliopoulos said recently via e-mail. "People have to seek out comic books, but if they’re not accessible, they may never know the wonderful stories being told out there."

In an effort to increase accessibility, Desperate Times takes print form in this comic book published by After Hours Press and Jam Books--and, simultaneously, in an "e-book" on the Net. Fans can choose which they want. Downloading the e-book will cost only $1.

"Hopefully," said Eliopoulos, "with a humor book that reads like a comic strip, it will appeal to folks who would never dream of picking up a comic book." Desperate Times sequences will also be published in Cracked. All this outreach is worth watching because of what it may suggest about the future distribution of cartoon products.

Meanwhile, the expert penciling of Phil Hester and the stunning inking of Ande Parks will be on superlative display as DC returns to Green Arrow, No. 1 out in February. I first ran into this spectacular team in Mike Manley’s Action Planet Comics where they did "Uncle Slam and Fire Dog," a tongue-in-cheek treatment of a superheroicism. Much of this series has now been collected in Uncle Slam & Fire Dog: The Collection (100 6x10" paperback pages from Ande’s Books, 1209 Summit Street, Baldwin City, KS 66006; $12). Here, you can learn just what made Uncle Slam a retarded superhero with an eye that’s "all funny" and how his guardian, the sentient robot Fire Dog, keeps him out of trouble. It’s a hoot and a treat for the eyes and I can’t wait to see what they do to Kevin Smith’s treatment of ol’ GA.

And over at Sirius, we have a brace of goodies on the horizon. First is Mark Crilley’s 32 Pages in which the creator of Akiko displays the miscellaneous sketches and comics he created while hanging out in coffee shops and shopping malls. A genuine treat, a cartoonist’s visual playground--an absolutely unqualified delight. Each page is a separate enterprise--a goofy drawing, a tiny comic strip, an adventure into morphing shapes and narratives, a visual pun. These are the creations of a cartoonist’s mind as it idles, verbal and visual wit and nonsense galore. Not since the very first giddy galoot productions of R. Crumb have I seen such playful comedic inventiveness (except in the annual self-published sketchbooks of Jim Engel).

The second treat from Sirius is Poison Elves: Lusiphur & Lirilith, a four-issue mini-series written by Drew Hayes and drawn by Jason Alexander. The first issue is an exercise is adolescent angst and misfiring communication. A perfectly engaging story, but it’s Alexander’s wispy drawing style that gives flight to this otherwise mundane slice-of-life tale.

And it’s nice to see Randy Reynaldo back on the stands with Rob Hanes Adventures. Reynaldo’s black-and-white rendition of his soldier-of-fortune hero’s escapes has been one of the industry’s quietest treasures. Reynaldo’s use of solid blacks and copious shadowing is reminiscent of Milton Caniff in the early Terry and the Pirates but with a somewhat bolder line and a deft deployment of Zip-a-tone grays. The stories heap up names and incidents a little too fast sometimes, but watching the way Reynaldo pictures the action is ample reward for the time spent. The entire oeuvre of Rob Hanes is available from WCG Comics, 3765 Motor Avenue, Suite 1121 (PMB), Los Angeles, CA 90034-6493--four issues of Adventure Strip Digest at $2.50 each and a 144-page Rob Hanes Archives trade paperback for $13.95 (p&h is $1.50 if the order is under $8, $3 otherwise). I just sent for them all.

Sadly. Ed Nofziger, who cartooned animals better than just about anyone, died October 16 in Ojai, California, of injuries sustained in a fall. He was 87. Starting in 1938 in the Saturday Evening Post, his talking animals appeared in gag cartoons published by the The New Yorker, Saturday Review, Parade, and others. Nofziger was a conscientious objector during World War II, putting in his time working for the National Forest Service planting trees and making drawings. He went into animation after the war, working for UPA (drawing Mister Magoo and creating Mother Magoo) and Hanna-Barbera (Ruff and Ready strips and stories). Fellow cartoonist Roger Armstrong, who knew Nofziger well, held his loose, whimsical drawing style in high regard and said he was one of "the finest cartoonists of animals in the last half-century." I agree: all Nofziger’s animals looked wonderfully goofy, but they also looked exactly like the animals they were supposed to be.

Elsewhere. Wally Wood Sketchbook from Vanguard Productions (112 6x10" paperback pages, $14.95; ISBN 1-887591-08-7) is a tidy attractively designed package that includes Wood’s doodles of Kellyesque characters, toothsome wimmin, spandex-clad superheroes, bug-eyed monsters, model sheets for Marvel’s Daredevil cast, rough page layouts, cover designs, youthful drawings, sketches for Topps cards, and text by Bruce Timm and Jim Steranko (who produces a pretty good biography) as well as interviews with Joe Orlando (perhaps Wood’s closest professional associate and personal friend), Len Brown (of Topps), Al Williamson, and Wood himself. The latter begins with Wood’s answer to the question of when he decided to draw comics for a living: "I think the first time I saw a comic strip," he says, "I had a dream when I was about six that I found a magic pencil. It could draw just like Alex Raymond. You know, I’ve been looking for that pencil ever since."

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3. Auld Lang Signs. At last, we have a collection of the Reg’lar Fellers comic strip by Gene Byrnes. Byrnes produced in 1950 the book A Complete Guide to Professional Cartooning, which became, for me, holy writ. The book included "how to" chapters by such luminaries as Al Capp and Milton Caniff and Jefferson Machamer and Russell Patterson as well as numerous sample drawings and strips by the same and many others. It also offered some drawings of Byrnes’ characters from Reg’lar Fellers and one strip, which showed the progressive steps in roughing out, penciling, lettering, and inking a comic strip. I was fascinated by Byrnes’ lively depictions of energetic kids: they seemed constantly in motion, running or leap-frogging as they talked, never at rest. But by the time I laid my hands on Byrnes’ Guide, the strip was no longer in active circulation, so I rarely came across any examples of it. Now Tony Raiola’s Pacific Comics Club has brought out a reprint of a 1929 collection, one daily strip to each of the 36 6x8" pages ($9.50 in paperback from Bud Plant or Raiola, P.O. Box 14361, Long Beach, CA 90803).

Most of the gang is here--Jimmie Dugan, the ostensible star of the feature, and his pals pudgy Puddinhead Duffy and his little brother, Pinhead; and Baggy Scanlon (but not Jimmie’s girl, Aggie Riley, or his dog, also named Jimmie). And they discuss all the mysteries of life and relations, school subjects, and favorite foods while playing word games and and marbles and cavorting in an unrelenting display of all-American youthful energy.

Byrnes, who gave up a promising career in sports when he broke his leg wrestling, learned to cartoon while his leg mended and launched a one-panel Reg’lar Fellers in 1917. When it proved popular, the feature was expanded to a Sunday strip and then a daily strip, attaining great popularity in the thirties and forties. Byrne was assisted for much of the strip’s run by Tack Knight and George Carlson, and they successfully kept their cast in a sort of rustic suburban community populated entirely, it seemed, by adults who knew them by name and to whom the kids could turn for advice and help whenever necessary. Not so different from the environs in which I grew up, actually. Reg’lar Fellers was one of the first kid strips to depict the young as they actually are (fun-loving and hyperactive) rather than as licentious pranksters (the Katzenjammers) or moral-spouting do-gooders (Buster Brown) or as child laborers (Jerry on the Job, Smitty). But the strip was not, as is sometimes claimed, the inspiration for Hal Roach’s "Our Gang" comedies; that distinction, Ron Goulart tells us, belongs to Us Boys, concocted by Tom McNamara, who actually assisted Roach in the production of the films, beginning in 1922.

Tics & Tropes. Michael T. Gilbert’s treatment of the Man of Steel in Mann and Superman is a Capra-esque tale riddled throughout with Gilbert’s energetic and imaginative renderings and delightfully colored by Gilbert, too, with a liberal deployment of white highlights that accent the color in a lively fashion ... And here’s Anime Companion by Gilles Poitras for Stonebridge Press (ISBN 1-880656-32-9; $16.95) which purports to explain to American audiences the meaning and significance of the "strange yet significant" Japanese cultural details that "define anime’s rich visual style."

DC’s Millennium Editions continue to shed light on the early history of the medium by providing us with visual evidence of what it was like back then. Detective Comics No. 1 (March 1937) displays a range of drawing abilities and styles, attempts at illustrative realism as well as big foot cartoony. Some of it surprisingly good. Included are some early examples of Creig Flessel’s inking, and two efforts from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The second of these, a 13-page tale introducing us to Slam Bradley and his diminutive sidekick, Shorty Morgan, clearly reveals the influence of Roy Crane on Shuster. In profile, Slam’s broken nose makes him look like Captain Easy; and Shorty, in function but not appearance, is Wash Tubbs: Shorty gets the duo into trouble, and Slam gets them out--just like the relationship of Wash and Easy. Shuster’s rendition is a good deal more energetic more of the time than Crane’s. But, as Murphy Anderson has said, Clark Kent/Superman would be just another mutation of Easy/Slam Bradley.

My collection of Beetle Bailey figurines from Dark Horse is almost complete. I have Beetle, Sarge, General Halftrack, and Miss Buxley. That leaves Cookie and Sarg’s dog, Otto. They look much better in the, er, "flesh" than they do in photographs in catalogues. Well, Beetle, Sarge and Halftrack do: they can be (and are) handily rendered in three dimensions, preserving the bulbous noses and other visual quirks. Miss Buxley, alas, is another matter. Although her pose is a standing pose, she can’t actually stand upright. She falls over; she is too, er, top heavy. (Yeah, I know: it’s a trite sexist remark, but it’s true, too.) For only $10.95 each (an astonishingly economical price), you can celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mort Walker’s strip in three-dimensional style; each figurine comes with a 64-page 5x8" booklet of strips featuring that character, introduced by Walker.

Eisner’s Knight Life. Will Eisner’s second literary classic adaptation from NBM is The Last Knight (32 pages in full color, $15.95). Dubbed "An Introduction to Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes," this hardcover effort brings us Eisner’s interpretation of Cervantes’ celebrated delusional hero, a narrative often called the first novel. Here we meet the old man, Alanzo Quixano of La Mancha, who, reading only antique tomes about chivalry and knighthood, comes to believe he can live the glorious life of a knight errant and dons old rusty armor to pursue this dream.

The book briefly (as befits an "introduction") rehearses several of Don Quixote’s adventures—his famous tilt with a windmill believing it to be a dragon, his attack on a herd of sheep believing them to be armies at war. Each time, like Happy Hooligan a few centuries later, Don Quixote is defeated (often beaten) by those he intends to help. But through it all, his dream persists.

"Great deeds come from great dreams," he intones early on. And later, "deeds are the bricks of life."

As in the Cervantes original, Don Q eventually is disillusioned—but, simultaneously, his plodding and practical "squire," Sancho, starts believing in the dream. Such dreams, after all, elevate the human spirit and make us more than we are.

Eisner’s "introduction" is an elegant endeavor—both as storytelling and as book publication. It is also a vivid display of something we’ve seen far too little of—Eisner’s skill with watercolor, which he displays with elan here and in the previous effort, The Princess and the Frog, also available from NBM.

The full color treatment does not lend itself quite as well to the page format Eisner adopted for graphic novels (background colors are not as malleable as background "white"), but Eisner strokes in the color with breathtaking highlights, demonstrating a mastery of color we have not seen displayed except briefly on covers.

Next up at NBM, Eisner’s Moby Dick, which was actually the first book he produced in this series, all for the overseas market. And now, NBM has them. For more NBM information, phone tollfree 1-800-886-1223 or click www.nbmpublishing.com.

Meanwhile, for Dark Horse, Eisner has produced a collection of tales of soldier life in Vietnam and elsewhere entitled Last Day in Vietnam ($10.95; 76 8x11-inch pages). This is one of those classy paperback productions with dust-jacket-like flaps, and the insides live up to the package: drawn on textured paper and printed in brown ink on manila-colored stock, Eisner’s sketches expertly convey their reportorial nature. These tales are based upon actual events in Eisner’s life. While producing for the army the maintenance magazine, P.S. (which pioneered comics as an instructional device), Eisner was required to make occasional forays into the field to observe how soldiers in action actually used (or misused) the equipment the magazine was about. Some of what he heard about or experienced is recorded in the stories here. He treats of terror under fire, heroism of ordinary life, and the sometimes bittersweet ironies of military life.

For more about Eisner’s remarkable career in comics, consult a book of mine called The Art of the Comic Book, which includes a full chapter on Eisner. To read more about the book, click here.

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4. Sadly. Ed Nofziger, who cartooned animals better than just about anyone, died October 16 in Ojai, California, of injuries sustained in a fall. He was 87. He sold his first New Yorker cartoon in 1936: polar bear cub to parents, "I don’t care what you say--I’m cold." Shortly thereafter, his talking animals appeared in gag cartoons published by the Saturday Evening Post, Saturday Review, Parade, and others (as well as The New Yorker). Nofziger was a conscientious objector during World War II, putting in his time working for the National Forest Service planting trees and making drawings. He went into animation after the war, working for UPA (drawing Mister Magoo and creating Mother Magoo) and Hanna-Barbera (Ruff and Ready strips and stories). Fellow cartoonist Roger Armstrong, who knew Nofziger well, held his loose, whimsical drawing style in high regard and said he was one of "the finest cartoonists of animals in the last half-century." I agree: all Nofziger’s animals looked wonderfully goofy, but they also looked exactly like the animals they were supposed to be.

"He was the most self-effacing cartoon genius I ever knew," Armstrong wrote me. "He was very sick the last two or three years of his life but cheerful through it all. The way he died--Seems he and Peg came in from shopping, and she went on into the house carrying a sack of groceries, Ed right behind her with another bag. As he started through the door, he lost his balance, fell over backwards down three small entry steps, hit his head on the driveway pavement, knocked himself out and never recovered consciousness. What a great way to go: it wasn’t his cancer or his heart condition--just a whack on the head and good-bye. Good for you, Ed. I’ll miss him."

We should all depart this vale of tears with as little ceremony and discomfort.

Nofziger had a panel cartoon syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate in the late 1960s, and a batch of them were collected in 1970 by Scholastic Book Services in a little paperback, AnimaLogic (which I just found a copy of, by the way--via Internet book search). But if you want to see his unfettered agile pencil at work, find a copy of the current Walter T. Foster book, How to Draw Animal Cartoons. Here, Nofziger’s genius is wonderfully displayed.

I never knew Nofziger personally as Roger did. But I loved his cartoons, and I’ve been missing them for years. Every time I find one in an old copy of Saturday Evening Post or True, I photocopy it and slip the copy into the Foster book so that whenever I’m in need of a Nofziger-fix, I can find lots of them between two covers.

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