Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cartoonist of the Month-June 2011

Frank O'Neal (1921-1986)

If there were a category here for "Just Barely a Hoosier," Frank O'Neal, creator of the widely admired comic strip Short Ribs, would qualify. Born in Springfield, Missouri, on May 9, 1921, O'Neal moved around a lot as a child, living in Arkansas, Tennessee, Indiana, Louisiana, California, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. After serving in World War II, he studied cartooning with Jefferson Machamer for three years and started selling gag cartoons to The Saturday Evening Post in 1950. After six years as a freelancer, O'Neal got a job drawing storyboards for television. That lasted a year and a half. By the late 'fifties, he was ready for a shot at syndication. His spare but clever gag strip, Short Ribs, made its debut as a daily strip on November 17, 1958. A Sunday version showed up a few months later, on June 14, 1959. Short Ribs included a revolving cast of characters, including a king and his knights, a witch, cowboys and Indians, baseball players, ancient Egyptians, and even a pair of Russians living under communism. When O'Neal left the strip in 1973, his assistant, Frank Hill, took over with hardly a break in style or appeal. Frank O'Neal continued working in advertising and commercial art. Married with children, O'Neal enjoyed cars and sailing. He died on October 10, 1986, in Pacific Groves, California. I don't know if Tom K. Ryan (another Hoosier cartoonist) knew O'Neal personally, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Tumbleweeds was influenced by Short Ribs. If that's the case, maybe the influence has survived in the work of Mr. Ryan's assistant, Jim Davis of Garfield fame.

A gag cartoon by Indiana cartoonist Frank O'Neal (1921-1986), probably from the 1950s.
And the cover of a paperback collection with an altogether appropriate and informative title: The Name of This Book Is Short Ribs (1961).
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Howard Ashman

Stage and Screen Lyricist Howard Ashman Featured

Lyricist Howard Ashman who (with composer Alan Menken) wrote the songs for the Disney films The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Aladdin (1992), was recently featured on the website of Northwestern University's North by Northwestern magazine (May 4, 2011). Ashman, who was born in Baltimore, studied at Boston University and Goddard College before receiving his master's degree from Indiana University. He broke into musical theater in New York City with an adaption of Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, his first collaboration with Alan Menken. The two went on to win two Grammy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Academy Awards.  Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to Howard Ashman, who died in 1991 at age forty.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Deerspace Toons

New Animation Studio Launches, a company dedicated to information and education on hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities, recently announced the formation of a studio for producing animated cartoons. Called Deerspace Toons, the studio is busy producing "Hunter Ed Adventures," a series of public service announcements for television and the Internet. Each episode features the characters Hunter Ed and Buddy Buck as they demonstrate an important principle of outdoor safety. You can read a press release (dated May 9, 2011) at the website PRLog, here. You can of course also view the parent website of Deerspace Toons at Finally, you can view "Hunter Ed Adventures" on YouTube., founded by John Jackson, is based in Waterloo, Indiana.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Bob Englehart

Bob Englehart's Cartoons on Display

In the category of "better-late-than-never-news," Bob Englehart, editorial cartoonist for the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, recently (May 10, 2011) commented on art education on the occasion of graduation season. A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mr. Englehart worked for an advertising agency and a Chicago newspaper, drew cartoons for his hometown paper, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, and cartooned for the Dayton Journal-Herald before signing on with the Courant in 1980. Despite receiving what he called "an excellent commercial art education" at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Mr. Englehart offers this advice to new graduates: "Remember, we all have to overcome our education," adding, "Colonel Sanders [another Hoosier, by the way] didn't cook his first chicken until he was 65." The veteran cartoonist concluded his comments with a plug for an exhibit of his work, entitled "Drawing Fire: Bob Englehart's 30 Years at the Courant," which took place at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, during May 2011. You can read the entire article at the Courant's website, here. Mr. Englehart's page on the Hartford Courant website is here.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the News-Arturo Rodriguez

Cartoon-Inspired Art by Arturo Rodriguez on Display

The work of graphic artist Arturo Rodriguez, associate professor at the University of Toledo, is the subject of an exhibit at the Madhouse Gallery in Toledo, Ohio, June 15-30, 2011. Born in Cuba, Mr. Rodriguez moved to Miami at age seven and began watching animated cartoons dating from the 1930s onward. He later studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and received his masters degree from Indiana University. Images from the cartoons he watched as a child have now found their way into his lithographs and serigraphs. Read the full story at the Toledo Blade, here.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Cartoons and Violence

Study Finds Violence in Cartoons Does Not Make Them More Appealing to Children

Researchers at Indiana University, Purdue University, and two out-of-state institutions have found in a study of children's viewing habits that cartoon violence does not make a program more enjoyable or appealing. Andrew J. Weaver, assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, and his co-authors suggest that action--often associated with or conflated with violence--is more likely what appeals to children when they're watching cartoons. You can read a more complete discussion and summary in the journal Media Psychology and in a number of articles on the Internet, at the IU Newsroom, TG Daily, and Irish Health among them.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In the News-Herb and Dee Sweet

Herb and Dee Sweet in Traces

Herb and Dee Sweet, originators of the first day camp in the United States, are the subject of a nice article in the current issue of Traces, the magazine of the Indiana Historical Society. The article is called "Little Acorns: Herb and Dee Sweet and the First Day Camp in America." The authors are Nancy Niblack Baxter and Becky Bowles.

Herb Sweet (1908-2000) and his wife Dee Morris Sweet (1913-2006) attended Butler University in Indianapolis during the 1930s. In 1933, the couple opened the Boycraft Day Camp on the north side of the city, intended for boys too young for the Boy Scouts. Over the years, the camp changed names and locations and soon admitted girls as well. Herb and Dee (married in 1935) became deeply involved in camping, crafts, and outdoor education. They authored Try It, a children's feature for the comics page, while Dee Sweet hosted her own television shows, Sweet Time and Sweet Talk, during the early 1950s.

You can read more about Herb and Dee Sweet in Traces for Spring 2011. See the website of the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) at In the same issue, you'll find "Billowing Clouds, Towering Timbers," an article by Thomas E. Rugh on the life and art of Indiana illustrator Franklin Booth. You can also see some artwork by Booth on my blog, Indiana Illustrators.

Text copyright 2011 Terence Hanley

In the News-Fred Neher

Fred Neher Featured in the Boulder Daily Camera

In 1951, Fred Neher packed up his family, his furniture, and a growing mound of cartoon originals and set off for Boulder, Colorado, sight unseen. At the suggestion of his brother, Neher decided it was time for a change in scenery, from crowded New York and Connecticut to a mesa looking out on the Rocky Mountains. He and his family built a house on what became 1 Neher Lane, then outside, now inside city limits, and that's where he stayed for the rest of his long life, drawing his long-running comic panel, Life's Like That, and teaching cartooning at the University of Colorado. By the time he had retired in 1977, Neher had amassed more than 23,000 drawings in his more than forty years as a cartoonist. Surviving into his nineties, Neher later claimed that if he had known he would live so long, he wouldn't have retired so soon. One of several cartoonists who hailed from Nappanee, Indiana, Fred Neher died on September 22, 2001, just one week short of his ninety-eighth birthday.

Neher is featured this week in an article posted on the website of the Boulder Daily Camera. The article is by Carol Taylor, the Camera History Columnist, and is dated June 21, 2011. You'll find the article here. In case you don't recognize his name or art, just look at the background of this blog (and below). What you'll see is a copy of the original art from a Sunday page of Fred Neher's Life's Like That.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, June 17, 2011

In the News-Cartoon Music in Kokomo

The Kokomo Park Band put on a concert of cartoon music on Wednesday evening, June 15, 2011, at Highland Park in Kokomo, Indiana. Park Band Music Director Steve Rhodes arranged a suite called "A Tribute to Carl Stalling" for the concert, sponsored by Solidarity Federal Credit Union. Mr. Rhodes' tribute included the opening and closing themes to Warner Brothers' cartoons, "Merrily We Roll Along" and "The Merry Go Round Broke Down," as well as classical and popular themes adapted by longtime composer Carl Stalling to animation classics from long ago. Also on the program were selections from Walt Disney's Fantasia, also arranged by Mr. Rhodes. You can read more about the concert and the people involved in it at the website Kokomo Perspective.

Also mentioned in the article about the concert: Don Barrett, a 1989 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville, Indiana, who has worked in Hollywood for the last several years on musical scores for a number of animated and live-action television shows, including Family Guy. Finally, there is a drawing by local cartoonist Joe Soots on the same website.

(Note: I would like to have posted something about the concert before it took place, but didn't receive an alert until the day after the performance. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hoosier Cartoonists Today

Jon Carter

Jon Carter has been cartooning for as long as he can remember and got his first cartooning job at 18. His cartoons have appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet. Some Indiana papers to print his work include the Rensselaer Republican, Richmond Palladium-Item, Winchester News-Gazette, Indianapolis Weekender, and Jon's hometown Hagerstown Exponent. Jon started drawing Funny Files, a panel cartoon, in 1989 and continues drawing it today under a new title, Cartertoons. In addition to drawing cartoons, Jon draws comic books, greeting cards, corporate logos, and package designs.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hoosier Cartoonists Today

Stacy Curtis

Though born in Kentucky, Stacy Curtis drew editorial cartoons for the Munster Times and the Times of Northwest Indiana for many years. He has also drawn syndicated comics, filling in for Wiley Miller on Non Sequitur in 1999, his own Christmas comic strip, Once Upon a Bedtime, in 2003, and the comic panel "Barkford" for Dog Fancy magazine. Stacy stays busy with illustrations for children's books and has more than fifteen titles to his credit. He also does school visits. Stacy now lives in the Chicago area. You'll find his website here.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Almost a Hoosier

James Thurber (1894-1961)

In his book, The Thurber Album (1952), author, essayist, humorist, and cartoonist James Thurber recounted the lives of his family, friends, teachers, and colleagues in a series of essays brimming with "nostalgia about the good old days in the Middle West," as the jacket reads. Although Thurber was born in Ohio, his father was a Hoosier. In a chapter called "Gentleman from Indiana," Thurber recalled his father's life:
Charles L. Thurber [James Thurber wrote]. . . was born in Indiana, a state known principally today, I suppose, as the birthplace of Cole Porter and the late Wendell Wilkie. To my father, looking fondly westward from Columbus, Ohio, where he spent most of his life, it was the romantic land of the moonlit Wabash, the new-mown hay and the sycamores, the house of the thousand candles, and the Lockerbie Street of James Whitcomb Riley.
Charles Thurber grew up in Indianapolis and was acquainted with Riley, "The Hoosier Poet," who lived on Lockerbie Street. "He is our Hoosier Burns," Thurber wrote to a friend.

Charles Thurber went to work early to support his widowed mother. As a young man, he was appointed to the staff of Indiana's governor and worked with Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Ohio-born and later a judge and the first Commissioner of Baseball. That started Thurber's career in politics. After marrying a Columbus girl named Mary Agnes Fisher, Thurber left Indianapolis for Columbus in 1892, which was, by coincidence, the four-hundreth anniversary of the first voyage of the city's namesake. The couple's son, James Grover Thurber, was born on December 8, 1894, in Columbus, where he grew up and attended Ohio State University. James Thurber became a reporter on the Columbus Dispatch and later worked on the staff of The New Yorker, making his fame as a minimalist cartoonist and the creator of Walter Mitty and other characters remembered from his youth. And that's how James Thurber missed being a Hoosier by one generation.

(Incidentally, Thurber also wrote an essay about his friend, Billy Ireland, in The Thurber Album. Ireland, another Ohioan, cartooned for the Columbus Dispatch for almost forty years and was the creator of "The Passing Show," a brilliant Sunday page published between 1908 and 1935. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University is named in his honor. A large part of the library's holdings are from collection amassed by Hoosier Bill Blackbeard.)

James Thurber's book, The Thurber Album (1952), in which he recounted stories and people from his youth.
Hoosier Charles L. Thurber, James Thurber's father.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, June 3, 2011

In the News-Gary Varvel

Gary Varvel Wins Reuben Award

Gary Varvel won the 2011 Reuben Award for his editorial cartoons, presented by the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) at its 65th annual banquet in Boston last weekend. Varvel, who has been the editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star since 1994, was one of fourteen cartoonists recognized at the banquet, held at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel on Saturday, May 28, 2011. Varvel joins a list of other Hoosier cartoonists who have won Reuben Awards, including Dick Moores (Gasoline Alley), Bill Crawford (editorial cartoons), Frank O'Neal (Short Ribs), Jim Davis (Garfield), and Dale Messick (Brenda Starr). You can find photos and other information about the event at Gary Varvel's blog.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley