The first, Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World, was published in September by Simon & Schuster. It features biographies of 16 groundbreaking comics artists (or comics-art supporters), appropriately enough done graphically, in comics style, by some of today’s most accomplished writers and inkers, in a form of tribute to their predecessors.
Here’s a passage from Beauchamp’s intro:
This book began with a question: Who were the original comic artists that left an indelible mark upon the world, paving the way for those who followed?
The story of cartoons—the multibillion-dollar industry that has affected all corners of our culture, from high to low—is ultimately the story of the artists who pioneered the form, and the story of the enduring characters they created: Mickey Mouse, Superman, and The Cat in the Hat, to name a few.
I began the work of this book by piecing together a list of cartoon genres . . . and identified the creators who most influenced or revolutionized each category. That’s how the story of the book began to unfold.
OK, so on to the fun facts gleaned from the graphic biographies of these guys (yes, all guys; that’s how things were back in the day). And admittedly, not all the facts are “fun.”
1. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (art by Ryan Heshka, words by Monte Beauchamp) Siegel and Shuster, boyhood friends in Cleveland, created one of the most popular and enduring characters in comics: Superman. But, due to bad luck and/or bad contracts, they hardly made any money from their work.
2. Jack Kirby (art and words by Mark Alan Stamaty) Kirby was the cocreator of Captain America. Captain America beat up Hitler in the comics pages as the actual war was spreading across Europe.
3. Charles Addams (art and words by Marc Rosenthal) Of The Addams Family fame. Tall, snappy dresser, likes medieval weaponry and Italian shoes, loves fast cars, afraid of tight spaces and snakes.
4. Winsor McCay (art and words by Nicolas Debon) Pioneering cartoonist and animator “ran off to Chicago to study art” but couldn’t afford the tuition.
5. Charles M. Schulz (art and words by Sergio Ruzzier) Nicknamed Sparky. Detested the name the comics syndicate gave his strip, Peanuts.
6. Herge (art and words by Nora Krug) While living in Belgium, the creator of Tintin declined an offer to work as an informer for the Nazis.
7. Harvey Kurtzman (art and words by Peter Kuper) The creator of Mad magazine hired an “attractive go-getter named Gloria Steinem” as an editorial assistant.
8. Robert Crumb (art and words by Drew Friedman) Crumb did an illustrated Book of Genesis in which the Three Stooges made an appearance.
9. Al Hirschfeld (art and words by Arnold Roth) The famed caricaturist drew seated in an old barber chair.
10. Walt Disney (art by Larry Day, words by Monte Beauchamp) Disney was a chain-smoker; he died of lung cancer in 1966.
11. Lynd Kendall Ward (art by Owen Smith, words by Monte Beauchamp) The “father of the graphic novel” illustrated more than 100 books; committed to the plight of the underprivileged and determined to keep his work affordable, he rarely numbered his prints.
12. Rodolphe Topfler (art and words by Frank Stack) The creator of the first comic strips. Goethe loved his work.
13. Edward Gorey (art and words by Greg Clarke) As a boy, “Ted” excelled academically, skipping two grades at Chicago’s Francis W. Parker School; he studied French literature at Harvard.
14. Hugh Hefner (art by Gary Dumm, words by Monte Beauchamp) The founder of Playboy was a failed cartoonist (he enrolled in a figure-drawing course at the Art Institute of Chicago); he was honored by the National Cartoonists Society in 1963 with the Ace Award, “given to a celebrity or notable who at one time aspired to be a cartoonist but whose path led them to an entirely different career.”
15. Osamu Tezuka (art and words by Dan Zettwoch) The “father of anime and manga” created between 150,000 and 170,000 pages of work.
16. Dr. Seuss (art and words by Denis Kitchen) The correct pronunciation is “soice.”
Now on to skulls: Beauchamp’s latest book is Popular Skullture: The Skull Motif in Pulps, Paperbacks, and Comics, published by the estimable Dark Horse publishing house and released November 5. It’s a gorgeously prepared book, full of glossy reproductions of skull-motif covers of the titled pulps, paperbacks, and comics. As former New Yorker art director Steven Heller notes in the intro: “when serving up mystery, murder, horror, and the mortal coil, a good old skull is hard to beat.”
Beauchamp signs Popular Skullture on Sat 11/22, 4-10 PM, at Xippo Bar and Grill, 3759 N. Damen.
Here’s a sampling: