Tom Batiuk began his cartooning career while teaching Jr. High in Elyria Ohio in 1970 when he created a comic panel for the Elyria Chronical-Telegram. The panel was the precursor to what later became his strip Funky Winkerbean that was launched in 1972. In 1979 Tom created a second comic strip called John Darling, which he wrote and Tom Armstrong drew, with one of the infrequent characters of Funky Winkerbean (think comic strip spin-off). The strip ran until 1991 when the lead character was murdered. In 1987, another spin-off, Crankshaft was created involving Funky character Ed Crankshaft which he team creates with Chuck Ayers.
Since its debut in 1972, Funky Winkerbean has been known to delve into sensitive isues such as alcoholism, teen-dating abuse, suicide and rape. The latest issue, the death of the Lisa Moore character again set off a national debate on the appropriateness of such issues on the “funny pages.” For his work with the Lisa Moore story-line, Tom was honored as a finalist by this year’s Pulitzer Board for “a sequence in his cartoon strip “Funky Winkerbean” that portrays a woman’s poignant battle with breast cancer.”
Here now are the 10 cartoonist whom Tom admires or has influenced his career.
Frank King – Frank King’s gentle magic continually amazes me. His work lives and breathes like real life, reflecting the society in which it was created. I wish I knew his trick of aging his characters right before the reader’s eyes.
Stan Lee – I went to Kent State, but while I was there I was attending the college of Stan Lee. Stan’s school of story telling taught me so much about getting readers to invest in your characters and keeping them engaged with masterful story telling.
Milton Caniff – I don’t know what I could say about Caniff that hasn’t been said a hundred times over. Elegant art over elegant story telling. The thing that sometimes gets overlooked is the humanity of his characters. Very emotionally real treatments.
Chet Gould – Allow me to completely contradict myself. Gould’s art on Tracy in the fifties was almost abstract (check out the way he drew trees). The characters were beyond belief and the plots were insane. Totally worked for me.
Roger Bollen – His work on Animal Crackers always made me laugh. Plus Rog was just a really nice guy. I went to him as a young cartoonist and he told me the secret of how to get syndicated.
Jim Childress – Jim’s strip Conchy was a sadly unheralded masterpiece. It was quite possibly the most brilliant humor strip I’ve ever seen. I’d give five hundred Krazy Kats for one Conchy.
Mac Raboy – From captain Marvel Jr., to The Green Lama, to Flash Gordon. Some of the most gorgeous art that’s ever been laid to bristol board. Thank God we live in the age of great reprint books.
Burne Horgarth – Now some folks swear by Hal Foster’s Tarzen, but, for my money, Horgarth takes the gold medal. The sequence where Tarzan is fighting the giant gorilla on the wing of the twin engined plane as it dives through the air pretty much says it all.
Jim Meddic – One of today’s cartoonist’s who consistently amuses me. It reminds me sometimes of things that I used to do in Funky except that Jim does them better.
Charles Schulz – As Stan Lee was wont to say: ’nuff said.