Syndicates represent the artists and facilitate the publication of comic strips in daily and Sunday newspapers across the country. Cartoonists were known to work against tight deadlines, often hand-delivering the original artwork to the production departments of such syndicates as King Features and the Newspaper Enterprise Association.
(left) Frank Bolle, Encyclopedia Brown (1979) pen and ink on paper
Gag cartoonists, who made single-panel cartoons with a caption, usually made weekly rounds to sell their work to such magazines as The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Playboy, Argosy, Colliers, and True. They would take an early train into Manhattan for “look day,” usually a Wednesday, visiting the highest-paying publishers first!
At these meetings, the cartoon editor would flip through the portfolio of penciled roughs, maybe selecting one or two of the artist’s ideas to consider publishing.
After Chic's death, the strip passed to his son, Dean Young. Popular comic strips were often passed to new artists—rather than discontinued—when the originator retired or died. Dean continues to write the script, collaborating with artists including Westport-based Stan Drake, who drew the strip from 1984-1997.
Stanley Albert Drake and Dean Young, Blondie (1965), pen and ink on paper.
In 1979—after the success of the Broadway musical Annie—another Westport-based cartoonist, Leonard Starr (1925-2015), revived the Annie strip, and continued drawing it through 2000.
(background image) Leonard Starr, Annie (1984), pen and ink on paper
Original "Annie" comics and a selection of other cartoons were exhibited at Long Lots Elementary School for the student production of the musical Annie Jr.
"Mary Perkins, On Stage"
Leonard Starr's comic strip "Mary Perkins, On Stage" followed the career and adventures of a Broadway actress. It ran from 1957 through 1979, and won numerous awards from the National Cartoonists Society. Starr moved to Westport in 1970, and worked alongside Stan Drake in a second-floor studio a few doors down from Max's Art Supply. Another renowned cartoonist, John Prentice ("Rip Kirby"), worked across the hall.
"The Heart of Juliet Jones"
Stan Drake created "Juliet Jones" in 1953 and continued working on the strip through 1989. He moved to Westport in 1960 joining a thriving community of cartoonists and illustrators. Among his friends in town was Curt Swan (1920-1996), artist of the "Superman" comics for three decades.
Bud Sagendorf (1915-1994) started his cartooning career as a teenage assistant to "Popeye" creator E.C. Segar. Sagendorf eventually took over the "Popeye" comic books and strips, and settled in Westport in the 1940's. Cartoon artists were often commissioned to draw humorous advertisements for local charity drives, such as the Red Cross or United Way.
"Amy" and "Henry"
Jack Tippit (1923-1994), known for drawing the syndicated comic strips, "Amy" and "Henry," also lived in Westport and served as the editorial cartoonist for the Westport News. He helped Mort Walker (1923-2018, creator of "Beetle Bailey") found the Museum of Cartoon Art in 1974. "Henry" was later drawn by another renowned local cartoon artist, Dick Hodgins (1931-2016).
Gill Fox (1915-2004), is described as a "jack-of-all-trades" for his work across the many genres of cartooning, including syndicated strips, comic books, gag panels, advertising, illustration, animation, political cartooning, caricature and sports. His "Side Glances" was the longest-running single-panel newspaper cartoon, which he drew from 1962-1982. Fox drew political cartoons for the Fairfield Citizen, and lived nearby in Redding CT.
"Dear Fellow Globetrotter...."
Alice Harvey Ramsey (1895-1983) was one of the first cartoonists for The New Yorker, starting her work for the magazine in 1925. She created three covers for The New Yorker, and was among a number of women making cartoons and illustrations for the publication during its early days. After living in New York and Bridgeport, she moved to Westport with her family in 1929.
For aspiring cartoonists, the Westport-based Famous Artists School began offering a correspondence course in 1956. Students received three large binders of lessons, created by luminaries of the art form such as Whitney Darrow Jr., Rube Goldberg, Al Capp and others. Completed assignments were mailed in to the school for feedback.
The proud tradition of creating comics and cartoons continues today among Westport Public School students, including in the formal art curriculum, in extracurricular clubs, and as individual pursuits.
At the middle-school level, the Bedford Comic Book Club meets weekly, and produces an annual comics magazine of student work.
"Our Bedford Students have used their comic creations as vehicles for self discovery to safely travel the uncharted waters of life in, as they find out more about themselves and the ever changing world around them." —Club director and BMS art teacher, Mark DeRosa
All photos are from Westport Public Art Collections, except: Grace Kennedy cartoons courtesy of the artist; BMS student work courtesy of Mark DeRosa; Annie photo courtesy of Dianna Betit; Stan Drake photo via Wikimedia Commons; Mel Casson photo King Features via https://westportnow.com/index.php?/v2/comments/20384/