January 22nd, 2014

Ask A Cartoonist: Childhood Memories

by Countess Tea

I’m writing this from the midst of a pretty raging snowstorm over here in New York City– the kind that makes me want to go home and curl up with some nice cocoa. (I know you know what I’m talking about!)

I think we all have great childhood memories of our favorite comic strips.  For me, I really loved Peanuts, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes.  You know how a lot of kids copy pictures from Disney movies to learn to draw?  I did that with Leroy Lockhorn of The Lockhorns.  And I have very fond memories of my grandparents that revolve around comics: my grandmother on my father’s side had a refrigerator covered with Family Circus comics, and my maternal grandparents used to clip and save Prince Valiant for me, since my own paper didn’t run it.  Every time I went to visit them, I would get a new stack of Prince Valiant to read.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going!  This week, naturally, I asked our cartoonists:

What were some of your favorite comics or cartoonists when you were a child?

Joe Palooka by Ham Fisher. Louie by Harry Hanan. Plastic Man by Jack Cole. — Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

When I was growing up, some of my favorite comics were Beetle Bailey, Family Circus, Blondie, Prince Valiant, Dondi, Brenda Starr, and Gasoline Alley. — Karen Moy, Mary Worth

Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and If… (a political comic strip by Steve Bell, which was at its peak in the Thatcher/Reagan years). Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle

“CHARLIE BROWN, CHARLIE BROWN, AND CHARLIE BROWN.  Peanuts was everything to me back then and still is!  Even today when I am working I always have a “Charlie Brown” coffee mug beside me! — Bill Bettwy, Take it from the Tinkersons

As a little kid I use to always read Henry. Probably since I was too young to read, Henry (a pantomime strip) felt like a strip meant for kids like me. My brother and I would split up the weekend comics pages and I’d always try to get the section with Henry first. — Jonathan Mahood, Bleeker the Rechargeable Dog

As a little kid my older siblings [and their friends] provided me with stacks of comic books in every category.  Fighting Leathernecks was not a favorite for 8 year old me but I read everything! Around the age of 10 I fell in love with Classic Comics. Contrary to what most grown ups believed, Classic Comics actually inspired me to read the books they were based on. I still have a cache of about 30 Classic Comics; some of the artwork is incredible. I would have loved illustrating those wonderful stories!! — Margaret Shulock, Apartment 3-G and Six Chix

As a young child, I grew up in the small town of Covington, Va.  I remember spreading out the pages of the Covington-Virginian newspaper on the floor and reading Snuffy Smith (of course!), Beetle Bailey, Redeye and Blondie.  It was a small paper, so there weren’t many comics, but I looked forward to them every day.  I also remember with fondness walking to the public library from my grandmother’s house and reading the book, How To Draw And Sell Cartoons by Dave Breger.  It influenced me greatly as a young child hoping to be a cartoonist one day.  It was filled with examples of his panel cartoon Mr. Breger (which he drew for King Features) and many other syndicated comic strips, as well.  Many of which I had not seen in the paper.  I read and re-read that book many times! — John Rose, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith

My favorite cartoon was The Little King by Otto Soglow. I loved the pantomime!  I think my appreciation for sight gags began with Soglows great line work.  — Bunny Hoest, The Lockhorns

Growing up the 1960s I was profoundly influenced by Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, which provided a window into the complexities of adulthood in a way a seven-year-old could comprehend.  MAD Magazine followed, as did my interest in the work of Walt Kelly and Mort Walker, but Schulz was the first to open doors in my mind. — Bill Holbrook, On The Fastrack and Safe Havens

When I was a kid I loved the comics. Growing up, my favorite was Walt Kelly’s Pogo. But what impressed me the most was when I first started learning to read. It was Al Capp’s Li’l Abner and it was Sadie Hawkins Day. The women were chasing the men all over the place. It was so comically drawn and such a funny situation. I loved it. I had to be four years old. I remember saying to myself “There’s a man whose job it is to make this. How wonderful if I could do it when I grow up.” Well, I had a few detours along the way, but I finally said to hell with this, and started drawing cartoons. I was 35 years old. I never looked back. — Bud Grace, The Piranha Club

.As a child, I studied many cartoonists work and eagerly looked forward to each new episode. There was a comic book that I’m not sure anyone would even remember that was a favorite of mine. It was Metal Men, superhero robots, or artificial lifeforms, that were based on certain elements. For example, there was Gold, whom I think was the leader. Others included Iron, Lead, Platinum, Tin and Mercury. They could change their shapes to fit anything that was needed at the moment. I thought they were great fun.

For drawing skills alone, I liked Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), Walt Kelly (Pogo), and Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), for their use of black and white within their panels. They were great artis, and their kind has not been seen since.

I also enjoyed Superman, of course, and the Harvey Comic book lines. Russ Myers Broom-Hilda always made me laugh. She was so low and crass that she was hilarious. That strip broke many boundaries and I’m sure Russ received many letters early on. Irwin Hasen’s handling of Dondi was very good.

Morrie Turner was an inspiration for me. His integrated strip, Wee Pals gave me the courage to follow my own art efforts. To this day there are not many African-American characters drawn with curly hair or full lips. I made sure that Curtis would reflect these characteristics. I did not want to use ‘zip-a-tone’ for their skin tones. Instead I wanted to endow the traits of their people into the characters in Curtis.

I also really enjoyed anything by Jules Feiffer. Almost as a guilty pleasure, I enjoyed Robert Crumb’s work. In those days you’d have to go to ‘specialty’ bookstores to find such work. You’d have to be ‘in the know’. I cannot help but mention Buck Brown, who drew a feature called Granny in Playboy Magazine. I thought it was very funny. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I was too young to actually buy the magazine from the stand at the time. But fortunately for me I have an older brother who could and would buy it. We shared a room growing up and he would hide it between his mattress and box-spring. He never knew I knew about them and would look at them (for cartoon-sake 🙂 ), and unless he sees this, he never will.– Ray Billingsley, Curtis

Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite cartoonists.  I loved Where The Sidewalk Ends.  I also loved Sandra Boynton and copied her hippos all the time.  In the 8th grade I wrote a letter to New Yorker cartoonist Sam Gross.  Amazingly, he sent me a typed letter back.  Boy I wish I could find that letter.  I’ve met him since, but he can’t recall the words of advice he gave to a twelve-year-old in 1982. — Hilary Price, Rhymes With Orange

As a kid, I loved Peanuts, B.C., and Bloom County. I also had a Momma collection that I enjoyed, so it was such a thrill to meet Mell Lazarus for the first time. — Terri Libenson, The Pajama Diaries

Again, Peanuts was my very favorite. I was also drawn to the works of Edward Gorey, Charles Adams, Ronald Searle and Walt Kelly. I always, always loved great pen and ink work. – Stephanie Piro, Six Chix




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