Bunny Matthews – RIP

Iconic New Orleans cartoonist Bunny Matthews has passed away.

Will Bunn (Bunny) Matthews III
February 15, 1951 – June 1, 2021


From The New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Will Bunn “Bunny” Matthews III, a cartoonist and writer whose Vic and Nat’ly cartoons summoned a quintessential bit of New Orleans’ collective character in the form of two brash, 9th Ward bar owners, died Tuesday at Wynhoven Health Care Center in Marrero.

He was 70 and died due to complications from cancer, according to his son Jude.

Starting in the late 1960s, Matthews helped define New Orleans’ self-image. His signature characters, Vic and Nat’ly Broussard, were the embodiment of insular old-time New Orleans values. In the 1980s, when the country was becoming increasingly homogenous, health-conscious and fashion aware, Vic and Nat’ly were more or less the opposite.

Matthews was a throwback to the underground cartoon iconoclasts of the beatnik and hippie era, such as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and R. Crumb. But, according to Michael Tisserand, author of “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White,” the biography of the New Orleans-born cartoonist who created Krazy Kat, Matthews was an original.

“He emerged from the post-Crumb, alternative cartoonist era,” Tisserand said, “but when I look at his cartoons, I don’t see Crumb and other cartoonists with a national audience, I see Matthews.”

He got his start as a cartoonist with The Word alternative newspaper in 1968. His earliest cartoons, which were often illustrations of the profound, or inane, conversations he overheard in daily life, probably helped ensure the authenticity of the Vic and Nat’ly dialogue to come. He penned cartoons for the weekly alternative papers Figaro, Gambit and Wavelength. In 1982, he introduced Vic and Nat’ly as regular characters in cartoons published in The Times-Picayune, the Steppin’ Out public television show and Offbeat Magazine, which he also edited at the turn of the 21st century.

From Offbeat’s memorial:

Matthews’ first cartoon strip was titled F’Sure: Actual Dialogue Heard on the Streets of New Orleans, published from the late-1970s to the early-1980s in the defunct New Orleans weekly paper Figaro for which Matthews also wrote music reviews. A collection of some F’Sure strips was published in book form in 1978.

In 1999, Matthews became editor of OffBeat, a job he held until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Bunny was one of the most talented New Orleanians, ever,” said Jan Ramsey, publisher of OffBeat. “His intellect was formidable, his wit was sharp and evil, and he has an eye for satire second to none.  He was an inspired artist and writer, and an astute observer of the vagaries and quirks of New Orleans culture.”

WWL-TV shares Bunny’s New Orleans life and love:

The cartoons were an instant hit, though there were detractors who criticized Matthews for mocking the city and its people.

“I don’t try to make fun of people. I’m one of these people,” he told WWL-TV. “I know that from all these years going out and signing autographs at bookstores and all that kind of stuff, I’ve never had one person ever complain to me. The people who have really strong accents are the ones who love it the most.”