Gags to commentary, cartoons as art
Wilton Library’s next art exhibition will be decidedly different from those in the past as the work of Connecticut cartoonists is featured exclusively for the first time.
A free reception on Friday, Oct. 14, from 6 to 7:30, will open the show of work by members of the National Cartoonists Society Connecticut Chapter. There will be original cartoons created for newspapers, greeting cards, licensing, children’s books, magazines and other popular media.
Cartoonists include Chance Browne of Wilton, the family dynasty of Mort, Greg, and Brian Walker, Mary Anne Case of New Canaan, Jerry Dumas of Greenwich, Bob Englehart of Middletown, the late Dick Hodgins of Wilton, Bill Janocha of Stamford, Sean Kelly of Southport, Maria Scrivan of Stamford, and Rick Stromoski of Suffield.
“We’re always looking for fresh ideas for our monthly art exhibitions,” said Ed MacEwen, the library’s volunteer art chairman. “We’ve never had a full exhibition of cartoonists, so this is a first and we’re happy to have the opportunity to show this genre of work by such an extremely talented group.”
The strip Beetle Bailey, created by Mort Walker, has involved many of the artists in the show. It debuted inauspiciously in 12 newspapers on Sept. 4, 1950, and after six months had only signed on 25 clients, causing King Features to consider dropping it. With America involved in the Korean War, Walker decided to have Beetle enlist in the army and quickly picked up 100 newspapers. Beetle has been in the army ever since.
By 1968, the circulation of Beetle Bailey grew from 200 to 1,100 newspapers. It was the second feature in comics history, after Blondie, to appear in more than 1,000 newspapers when it passed that milestone in 1965.
Brian Walker of Wilton, Mort’s son, has contributed to Beetle Bailey and the comic strip Hi and Lois since the early 1980s. In addition, he was one of the founders of the Museum of Cartoon Art and has served as the curator for 70 cartoon exhibitions. He teaches cartoon history at the School of Visual Arts and has written and edited 40 cartoon-related books.
Mort Walker and the late Dik Browne started Hi and Lois in 1954, as an offshoot of Beetle Bailey — Lois is Beetle’s sister. Browne later launched Hagar the Horrible in 1973.
His son Chance Browne, already distinguished as an illustrator, art director and musician, then stepped in to help with Hi and Lois and has been the primary artist on the strip since the mid-1980s. He also serves as the editor for Hagar the Horrible, which is drawn by his brother, Chris.
Another Walker son, Greg, whose work is also in the show, currently does the inking and lettering on Beetle Bailey. He has also written comic books, including such well-known titles as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Barney and Betty Rubble, Underdog, and Sarge Snorkel.
Jerry Dumas of Greenwich has written Beetle Bailey gags for 47 years, but he has also written and drawn Sam and Silo for 26 years as well as creating cartoons, spreads and spots for The New Yorker for 20 years.
The exhibition includes much more. Mary Anne Case has been a digital cartoonist for more than 20 years. Her work has included daily panels, weekly editorial cartoons for Hartford Business Journal and humor cards for American Greetings. Bob Englehart was the finalist for the 1980 Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning, the first full-time editorial cartoonist for The Hartford Courant, from 1980 to 2015. Today, he is a freelance editorial cartoonist and writer syndicated worldwide by Caglecartoons.com.
Dick Hodgins, Jr. drew Half Hitch, created by Hank Ketcham of Dennis the Menace fame and later King Features’ Henry. He also created editorial cartoons for the New York Daily News. Among many projects, Bill Janocha created some SPY vs SPY gags for MAD Magazine, Slingo e-greetings cards, book illustration and editorial cartoons.
Sean Kelly’s editorial cartoons have appeared in The New York Times and he has illustrated for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Businessweek, Rolling Stone and The Atlantic. Maria Scrivan is a syndicated cartoonist and creator of panel comic Half Full. Rick Stromoski’s syndicated feature Soup to Nutz appears in more than 150 newspapers nationally.
The exhibition runs through Nov. 11. Information: wiltonlibrary.org or 203-762-6334.