Saving Ms. Banks

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It’s not often that my previous subjects intersect like this, but the arts always find a way sneak itself into our daily lives more often than we give it credit.

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Brenda Banks was an animator whose resume included The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and several Ralph Bakshi films. While she holds the title of third Female African American animator ever in the industry, there is a much more pressing reason to share her story:

Brenda Banks is missing.

No one knows where she is. She has not been accounted for online, by family or by any of her former colleagues. Other than an article on Cartoon Research, there is not much on her missing person’s case. A Brenda Banks does show up on The Doe Network, a database which collects information on missing and unidentified persons:

http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/3343dfla.html

While the person on file fits the animator’s descriptions, it can’t be confirmed if this is the same Brenda Banks. The biggest is disqualifier her last known appearance in 1986 while the animator’s last credit was in 2005. Either way, The Doe Network is one of many databases to search, so it’s a start.

For someone who paved the way for African-American female animators, Brenda’s situation deserves more attention. If she is taking the reclusive life, it would be great if a friend or relative just let us know that she’s alive and well. I hope any forensic reconstructive artists out there can create an age progression of Ms. Banks, just in case. Paging JudeMaris .

If you do know have any information about Brenda’s whereabouts, or know anyone who worked with Ms. Banks as recent as 2005, please contact Jerry Beck at Cartoon Research: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/contact/

More info on Brenda Banks and other female animators from The Mary Sue:
https://www.themarysue.com/history-women-in-animation/

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Will The Real Royals Please Stand Up?

Royal portrait artists were the photoshop of their day: erasing any and all flaws of their subject. Take King George IV and Queen Caroline for instance:

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On the other end, cartoonists of the day exaggerated the flaws for comedic or commentary purpose, as seen with our lovely royal couple below.

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If not for these opposing factions, we would never get the truth somewhere in the middle.

Danse Macabre

Back in 2005 or 2006 I drew a cartoon for my College Newspaper making humorous light of the Columbine School Shootings. At the time, I didn’t give it to my editor, feeling it was in bad taste and still too soon for a society that was still recovering from an unusual tragedy. Fast forward almost 10 years (and a quickie cartoon) later, and I find my cartoon still relevant. I decided to redraw it, due to my artistic evolution, and to reflect the new circumstances. However the “joke” needed no changes. Ten years later. My cartoon probably reflects reality more now than it did back then.

 

Cartooning in Columbus (Ohio)

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courtesy of Watch Tom Draw

Last week my friend Tom of Watch Tom Draw had a chance to visit the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum during his trip to Columbus. Named for the city’s most famous newspaper cartoonist, it houses one of many cartoon archives in the US and housed right on the campus of Ohio State University. Among the original works archived includes panels by R.F. Outcault (Buster Brown) Windsor McKay (Little Nemo in Slumberland) and Will Eisner (The Spirit) among many other gems.

If you ever find yourself near the Ohio State area and looking for something to see, I wouldn’t overlook it.

Link:
http://cartoons.osu.edu/

Giving Props to Vintage Strips

I recall the day I was gifted a book of stamps commemorating classic comic strips, I became fascinated with vintage comic strips, specifically those pre-dating 1930:

Popeye, Krazy Kat, Little Orphan Annie, Toonerville Trolley, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Buster Brown, Katzenjammer Kids.

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Yep, these were the stamps.

Like spiritual descendants Peanuts and Garfield, most of these series were available at the time in printed anthologies. Others I found scattered online.  I loved seeing how much the comics reflected the values of the times then as they do now. Of course, many of these strips show their age by the second page (hey, that rhymed!), Thankfully, required notes in the back of the books explain the jokes that get lost to a modern reader.

These being American comics, I anticipated that racial/ethnic jokes would rear their awkward head, but I accepted that. I couldn’t be angry at jokes made 70 to 100 years ago. (I prefer to reserve that energy for Family Guy episodes and lazy comedians). Aside from that, there were moments in the strips that reminded you to be thankful your great grandparents survived those times.

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We all had that friend with smallpox. Right?……..Right?

Once I get passed the values dissonance, I saw what great imagination these artists used when they essentially had very little foundation to work with. They didn’t limit themselves (only the paper editors did). Once you look across time and see the human experience, you began to enjoy them. These strips are important historical pieces as they are good entertainment.

A Month of African-American Cartoonists

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For February, I bring you a selection of black cartoonists. No, not Aaron McGruder, but the ones who paved the way for him.

During the Jim Crow Era, African Americans created their own version of whatever was not available to them among the larger society, and cartoons were no exceptions. As did so many American publications,  Ebony, Jet and The Afro-American hired cartoonists who provided a window into the black perspective on everyday life and social or political situations during both the Jim Crow era and throughout the Civil Rights movement.

After integration opened more opportunities, the world of mainstream cartoon syndication was not immune from the obstacles of on-the-job discrimination. Many Black cartoonists began submitting to mainstream syndicates, many found that they would be rejected on the grounds that another black cartoonist was already on the payroll (Ebony, Nov 1966 ). Absurd excuses didn’t stop them, though, and the persistence to find fair work paid off. From their hard work we got great artists like:

Zelda “Jackie” Ormes of Torchy Brown, and Patty Jo and Ginger
Robb Armstrong of JumpStart
Stephen Bently of Herb & Jamal
Ray Billingsley of Curtis
Barbara Brandon of Where I’m Comin From
Morrie Turner of Wee Pals (whom, as of this post is still working the young age of 89)
Buck Brown, who illustrated for Playboy, Jet and Ebony.
Bumsic Brandon Jr., who creator of Luther

Check out the links below and learn more about these African American men and women didn’t let the barriers of prejudice or discouragement keep them from to pursuing their passion:

The work of Jackie Ormes

http://www.jackieormes.com/

Spotlight on African American Cartoonists, from 1993 issue of Ebony:

https://books.google.com/books?id=EtQDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=Black+Cartoonist+ebony+magazine&source=bl&ots=EwW9QzzSbR&sig=rv1ylAYM3lV8o1AunJpdHDlIbDg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Wya9VKO1FsyzggTT74OwCw&ved=0CB8Q6AEwBg

Morrie Turner, who’s still working at age 89 (at the time of this article).
http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/12/30/at-89-first-nationally-syndicated-black-cartoonist-still-drawing-and-giving-back/

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I’m Going as a Cartoonist (They Look Like Everybody Else)

Hello Everyone! It’s about 5 days until Halloween. The candy on the shelves strengthens my dietary discipline and the horror movies challenge my work focus. There’s only one thing a cartoonist can do when this time begs for our attention: Lazy costumes, trick-or treaters who shouldn’t, and pranks that bring a tear to your eye either from pride or the ripe scent of rotting pumpkins. Welcome to a cartoonist’s Halloween.

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