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George Mandel – RIP

It is being reported that author and cartoonist George Mandel has passed away.

George Mikali Mandel
February 11, 1920 – February 13, 2021

From the March 18, 2021 Shelf Awareness notice:

George Mikali Mandel, the author and cartoonist who was an early member of the Beat Generation, died last month in New York. He was 101.

Born in New York City in 1920, Mandel worked as a cartoonist prior to World War II. He was wounded in combat in the war and received the Purple Heart Medal. He published his first novel, Flee the Angry Strangers, in 1952.

Over the course of his career he wrote novels with widely varied subjects, such as Scapegoats, about racial tensions in New York City, Crocodile Blood, a multigenerational saga set in Florida, and the war novels Into the Woods of the World and The Wax Boom. He also wrote short stories, and his cartoons were published in two collections: Beatville U.S.A. and Borderline Cases.

Wikipedia notes that he was an early writer of The Beat Generation:

His novels, interviews, novellas, cartoons and short stories have been carried major print magazines and collections. He has also contributed key elements to screenplays for Hollywood films.

As a teenager George began his short comics career training in the art shops of the day that supplied stories for the nascent modern comic book industry. By 1940 he was drawing on his own and contributed to comic books until he went into the service in December 1941.  Among the highlights is his drawing of one of the first female superheroes (in the sense that Batman was a costumed “super” hero).

After the war George returned to comic books for a very short time. As he described it in a 1952 article on the debut of his Flee the Angry Strangers novel:

While succeeding in becoming an author, George didn’t completely give up his other artistic abilities.

In the early 1960s George came up with a couple mass market paperbacks of gag cartoons. 
Mike Lynch is kind enough to give us a look at Beatville U.S.A. from 1961.


George began his comic book career laying out his stories in the staid eight panels per page standard of the time. Fairly quickly he was experimenting with the designs of a comics page and violating border protocols. This lead to a 1942 story (probably done not long before joining the Army) where all the rules were thrown out the window. Below is the eight page Blue Bolt the American: Wanted. Clicking on the images and then clicking again should supersize the pages to reading size, or go to the (hat tip) Digital Comic Museum and read it there.






Community Comments

#1 Steven Rowe
@ 6:36 pm

And he collaborated with Joseph Heller on plays while Heller was writing Catch-22. Heller and Mandel had been friends for most of Heller’s life.

#2 Mike Lynch
@ 8:06 am

Thanks for the shout out. Yes, in 2008, I shared some cartoons from his Beatville USA paperback collection.

George saw it a couple of years later (thanks to Joe Heller’s daughter), and sent me the following email, which I wanted to share for the first time:

“Mike, I grew too old for a brain-damaged Purple Heart veteran of WWII to thank you for the Beatville number Joe Heller’s daughter not too recently sent me. Now reinforced by need and my good old wife’s workout regimen , I thank you very
much. {Thankful she’s a health nut, I once boasted that to a cop and he told me his is just a nut.)

“As you know, everybody holds lawyers in the highest esteem just a notch below politicians, so If you should think of any publisher that “can grok a whole” satirical book of cartoons about them, please let me know before I hit ninety-one and the metal yarmulke beneath my scalp calcifies. (Are you familiar
with Mario Puzo’s “George Mandel Plate-in-the-head Stories” in his Godfather Papers and Other Confessions?”

I sent an email back, but never heard from George again.

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