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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

'Riffs in Review: Remembering 10 cartooning greats who died in 2010

By Michael Cavna

From such authentic street bards as Harvey Pekar and John Callahan to Pulitzer-winning political firebrands like Paul Conrad, some cartooning greats died in 2010. Here is what Comic Riffs and others said about 10 of these talents:

TV animator ALEX ANDERSON (1920-2010):

Comic Riffs: "The adventures of Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose became an achievement in wit that appealed -- often on separate planes -- both to children and adult viewers. ... We salute not only [Mr. Anderson's] creations, but also all the talent that came together to pun and wink and elbow-rib, to crack self-aware jokes and routinely shatter that fourth wall."

Syndicated cartoonist JOHN CALLAHAN (1951-2010):

Comic Riffs: "Callahan ... not only drew lines, which he did with no small physical strain. He also drew the lines that almost no other cartoonist would cross. At least not anyone since the underground comix movement of a coupla decades earlier. But no one else did it so crisply or succinctly or nakedly as Callahan. There was no high, crosshatched artistry to elevate the point. With a mere few squiggly lines, the scarlet-haired Callahan was a scatalogical Zorro."

Political cartoonist PAUL CONRAD (1924-2010):

Comic Riffs: "Conrad's cartoons, to the contrary of his own quote, will be remembered and celebrated. Whether concerning a president or governor, war or Wall Street, so many of Conrad's cartoons still have the undeniable power to incite strong reaction. ... RIP, Paul Conrad. We will long remember not only your generous self, but also your brilliant, lasting work."

The New Yorker cartoonist LEO CULLUM (1942-2010):

New Yorker colleague Matthew Diffee: "Leo Cullum carried himself with such grace and ease that it made me think sometimes that he might not know how tall he stood among his peers. As a younger cartoonist, I thought I might feel intimidated to work with him, but instead, I always felt more confident and better about myself when I had that privilege and that is all because of Leo's generous spirit. He had the ability to make others immediately comfortable. He was, like his drawings, precise and sophisticated, but always welcoming and full of joy."

Marvel & Archie Comics artist JOHN "JON" D'AGOSTINO (1929-2010):

Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater: "He was a delight -- warm, funny and a terrific father. I had the pleasure of meeting his sons at New York Comic Con and they couldn't have been more proud of their dad -- a great family. ... Jon was supremely talented and a valuable and important member of the Archie team and family. We will miss him and remember him always."

Fantasy illustrator FRANK FRAZETTA (1928-2010):

Comic Riffs: "Among modern fantasy illustrators, could anyone render flesh quite like Frank Frazetta? Amid all his artwork's massive swords and towering cliffscapes and thundering skies of menace, Frazetta could flat-out make the viewers' eye feel the 'meat' of the thing. Coiled pythons. Poised big cats. Rippling torsos posed just so. Frazetta's artwork pulled you into worlds that put you at immediate peril -- and it all started with the sinew. Glorious, striving, all-too-mortal muscle. ... Frazetta's worlds of heavily muscled, barely clad, hypersexual men and women fending off creatures became so iconic, his name became synonymous with a genre. But his talent with oils, especially, was beyond genre."

Comics legend DICK GIORDANO (1932-2010):

Mike DeCarlo: "Dick seemed to really care about you as a human being and went out of his way to help you further your career in any way he could. Even though I was a raw, untrained 22-year-old when I started working with him, he never made me feel inadequate and showed great patience with me no matter how I screwed up or didn't progress as quickly as I could have. He taught me how to work hard, make no excuses, and act professionally. I'll miss his friendship greatly."

"Futurama" producer ALEX JOHNS (1966-2010):

"The Simpsons" and "Futurama" creator Matt Groening: "It's one thing for a producer to slog through the late hours of TV production, but Alex did it all with a smile -- a world-class, radiant smile at that. No matter how difficult the work was, you could count on Alex to not only get the job done, but to do it quickly and cheerfully. I'm so shocked and sorry to hear the sad news."

Animator and filmmaker SATOSHI KON (1963-2010):

Comic Riffs: "With his talent for blending realistic and fantastical elements in his eerie and disorienting and gorgeous anime, Kon -- even as relatively short as his career was -- should be remembered as one of Japan's most gifted modern artists."

"American Splendor" creator HARVEY PEKAR (1939-2010):

Pekar collaborator Dean Haspiel: "He was a curmudgeon with a heart of gold. ... He taught us there are many versions of the truth. I was sadden and shocked [to hear of his death], but his entire life is in comic book form. ... I heard while at a Jewish funeral that the kindest thing you can do is to pick up the shovel and spread the dirt across the grave to put them to sleep. Well, you'll hear more stories and people will talk about Harvey Pekar. That's a way to help 'spread the dirt.' This normal guy found the extraordinary in the ordinary and [in doing so] showed how extraordinary he truly was."

By Michael Cavna  | January 3, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  General  | Tags:  Alex Anderson, Alex Johns, Frank Frazetta, Harvey Pekar, John Callahan, Leo Cullum, Paul Conrad, Satoshi Kon  
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Next: 'RIFFS IN REVIEW: The Top Comics Quotes of 2010


As most people won't recognize the names of the departed, it might have been useful to indicate in the above paragraphs something about what they did, the cartoons or comics they drew, etc., instead of expecting people to jump to the links.

Posted by: Dungarees | January 3, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

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