NCS president Rick Stomoski has informed me that King Feature Syndicate Editor-in-Chief Jay Kennedy has passed away yesterday in a drowning accident while vacationing in Costa Rica. Not many details have emerged, but I will be watching for updates and post them here as the become available.
I wish to express my condolences to the King Features family in this sad event.
UPDATE: Here is the press release in its entirety from King Features:
JAY KENNEDY, EDITOR IN CHIEF OF
KING FEATURES SYNDICATE,
DEAD AT 50
NEW YORK, March 16, 2007 — Jay Kennedy, editor in chief of King Features Syndicate, a unit of Hearst Corporation, died March 15, 2007, while on vacation in Costa Rica. He was 50 years old and lived in New York City and Orient Point, Long Island.
“Jay had a profound impact on the transformation of King Features as a home for the best new and talented comic strip creators in the country,” said Bruce L. Paisner, executive vice president, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication. “He was an extremely creative talent himself and we are indebted to him for all he did.”
King Features President T.R. (“Rocky”) Shepard III added: “Jay and I worked closely together to build this company into the dynamic and creative enterprise that it is today. He had a great impact on our industry throughout his career. He strengthened King’s roster of talented commentators and writers and articulated his vision for the future of the art. Everyone is deeply saddened. We will miss Jay’s talent and friendship.”
Kennedy joined King Features in 1988 as deputy comics editor and became comics editor one year later. He was named editor in chief in 1997.
From 1983 to 1988, Kennedy served as cartoon editor of Esquire magazine, also owned by Hearst Corporation. At the same time, he served as a humor book agent as well as a cartoon consultant and editor for magazines and publishers, including People and Whittle Communications. In addition, he was guest editor in 1985 for the “European Humor” issue released by the National Lampoon.
Kennedy wrote articles about the history of cartooning, and profiled cartoonists and contemporary comics for magazines including New Age Journal, Heavy Metal, New York, The IGA Journal, and Escape, an English bi-monthly. He was also the author of “The Underground Comix Guide” (1982). Kennedy’s interest in comics was worldwide and lifelong.
Before graduating with a sociology degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Kennedy studied sculpting and conceptual art at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Kennedy once explained that he chose a life in cartooning because “in the fine arts, artists generally comment on the world only obliquely; and sadly, only those people who have the leisure to study art history can fully appreciate their comments. By contrast, cartoons are an art form accessible to all people. They can simply laugh at the jokes or look beyond them to see the artist’s view of the world. Cartoons are multi-leveled art accessible to everyone at whatever level they choose to enjoy.”
He is survived by his mother, Jean M. Kennedy of Wilmington, Del., brothers Bruce C. Kennedy of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Mark W. Kennedy of Allentown, Pa., and sister Janet J. Kennedy of Centennial, Colo. He is predeceased by his wife Sarah Jewler.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.