TCJ 300: Journal Datebook

Posted by on December 31st, 2009 at 3:26 AM


This Draper Hill caricature drawn by George Fisher; ©2009 George Fisher.

Draper Hill, 1935-2009

May 13: Draper Hill was unique. A historian and scholar of the arts of editorial cartooning as well as an adroit practitioner in the arena of the day’s news — professionally as well as personally, he was like no other. Dead at 73, he leaves a hole in the world of editorial cartooning — a keyhole unattended.

Born July 1, 1935 in Boston, he grew up in Wellesley Hills, Mass., but spoke without a trace of the regional accent. He attended Harvard and drew cartoons for the college’s famed humor magazine, the Harvard Lampoon, where, during Hill’s freshman year, a fellow cartoonist was John Updike, then a senior, who also wrote for the publication and was its president (Lampoonese for “editor”). After he graduated in 1954, no one ever heard again of Updike the cartoonist, but Hill persisted: He became art editor of the Lampoon his senior year and then staff editorial cartoonist at a succession of daily newspapers. But first, upon graduating magna cum laude in 1957, he rewarded himself with a summer tour of Europe, during which he initiated a friendship with England’s legendary political cartoonist, David Low. Back in the U.S. in the fall, he was hired by the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., as reporter and odd-job illustrator (which included the occasional editorial cartoon).

In 1960, he left on a Fullbright scholarship to continue his artistic and scholarly pursuits in London at the Slade School of Fine Arts. When he returned to the States in 1964, he became editorial cartoonist for the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram until 1971, when he went to Memphis and the Commercial Appeal, where he stayed until joining the Detroit News in 1976 for the next 23 years.

In many of his cartoons, Hill did what most of his cartooning brethren wouldn’t dare do: he made visual and verbal allusions to literature, history, the Bible and famous works of art. Most editoonists have learned that such maneuvers are over the heads of their readers, many of whom are steeped only in popular culture, not historic or artistic.

In Detroit, Hill created his most celebrated cartoon character in his caricature of five-term mayor Coleman Young, the city’s first African American mayor. Young was a canny and picturesque politician. His 20-year administration was controversial, dogged by rumors and accusations of corruption and incompetence, but he was re-elected four times by substantial majorities. His style was confrontational: he was always blunt and frequently profane. Some of his more pyrotechnical utterances include: “I’m smilin’ all the time. That doesn’t mean a goddamn thing except I think people who go around solemn-faced and quoting the Bible are full of shit.” And: “We don’t need no goddamn Greenpeace!” Without Hill, Young was a cartoon character; with Hill to mock or applaud, Young achieved an apotheosis of political personality. And Young was mayor of Detroit for almost the entire time of Hill’s tenure on the Detroit News: they were a symbiotic pair.

In 1990, a year into Young’s last term, Hill journeyed to Landau, Germany, where he received the Thomas Nast Prize for editorial cartooning excellence. Hill was president of Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in 1975-76.

— R.C. Harvey


Sam Henderson gag from the December 1997 issue of Nickelodeon Magazine, ©1997 Sam Henderson.

Viacom Shuts Down Nickelodeon Magazine

June 3: Viacom announced Nickelodeon Magazine will be ceasing publication in December 2009 and 30 staffers will be laid off, according to the Los Angeles Times. The magazine, which was a National Magazine Award finalist, was launched in 1993 and had a circulation of close to 1 million and an audience of more than 6 million. It was, at one point, an important marketing tool for the children’s cable network, even though it covered topics outside the programming on the network. Each issue of the magazine included a section called “The Comic Book” that featured comic strips from alternative cartoonists like Sam Henderson, Richard Sala, James Kochalka, Craig Thompson, Johnny Ryan and Drew Weing. It also contained comics from the cable channel’s cartoon programs like The Fairly OddParents, CatDog and Rugrats. The sister publication Nick Jr. Magazine will also be discontinued in December.


Judge Dredd Artist Cleared of Child Rape Charge

June 12: British comic artist Ronald Smith has been cleared of raping and sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl. The alleged victim, who is now 39, claimed the abuse took place over three years in the 1980s. Smith maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and said he never touched the woman “at any time or in any way,” suggesting she fabricated the allegations out of spite due to past events. Smith worked for the weekly British comic 2000 A.D. in the 1970s and 1980s. He drew Judge Dredd in the 1980s and is credited with creating the character Otto Sump. Smith also drew a weekly Judge Dredd comic strip for the Daily Star newspaper.


SCAD Professor, Webcomic Artist Jeremy Mullins Dies

June 13: Web-comics creator and professor at Savannah College of Art and Design Jeremy Mullins, 32, died after slipping and falling 60 feet while hiking in the Catskills of New York. Mullins held a Masters of Fine Art from the sequential art department of SCAD. He won an outstanding thesis award in 2005 for his “Digital Delivery and the Empowerment of the Sequential Artist.” Mullins created a Web-comic called Sweetwater Is an Asshole, ran the Seqa Lab podcast for SCAD, and had previously worked for the Savannah Morning News.


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