Recalling the Cartoonists of Carmel

On the East Coast they have Cartoon County.
On the West Coast there is the city of Carmel.

They used to congregate at a Carmel coffee shop on the same afternoon each week, having come into town to share stories, reminisce, poke fun. These were the masters of satire, legendary cartoonists who, after creating characters for Walt Disney Studios, Hanna-Barbera, Jay Ward Productions, MGM, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Colliers, The New Yorker, and Playboy, had retired to the Monterey Peninsula. Yet they had no intentions of retiring their characters.


Gustavo “Gus” Arriola’s father was born on a hacienda in Sonora, Mexico, but Arriola, who was born in Florence, Arizona, did not visit Mexico until he was in his 40s, some 20 years after the advent of his widely syndicated cartoon strip, “Gordo.”



[Hank] Ketcham was about to turn 6 himself when he found magic in pencil sketches by an artist friend of the family. Once he got hold of that pencil, the magic was his. Cartooning his way through school, he explored one year of architectural studies at the University of Washington before drawing “Andy Panda” for Walter Lantz Studio, followed by what he considered his “graduate school,” a dream job at Walt Disney Studios.


Rocky and Bullwinkle entered their artist’s imagination completely unannounced. Cartoonist Alex Anderson was developing characters for Frostbite Falls Review, an early pilot for Television Arts Productions, which he and childhood friend, animator Jay Ward, had formed in 1947. Suddenly he awoke from a strange dream.

“I dreamt that I went to a poker party, and this moronic moose who followed me was doing card tricks. I was so embarrassed that this jerk had come with me. Then I woke up and knew I’d met a new character.”

The moose became the French-Canadian Bullwinkle.


Sitting in the sunlight of his Carmel home, Eldon Dedini was simultaneously working on two big projects. The legendary cartoonist for Playboy and The New Yorker was preparing a retrospective exhibit of his art for a Salinas gallery, while also cataloging the last of his life’s work that would be shipped off to Ohio State University, the country’s pre-eminent repository for historic and contemporary cartoons.


From 1971 to 1998, McClatchy Newspapers political cartoonist Dennis Renault drew five cartoons a week for The Sacramento Bee, which also were printed in the Fresno and Modesto Bees. Whether or not his work was considered politically correct in that era or simply not considered in that context, much of the content of his gag cartoons ?? typically a single panel with a caption below ?? would be scrutinized today.


The first time Bill Bates experienced this storied town, he had boarded the Old Del Monte train in San Francisco, bound for a 1963 national cartoonists convention. Sequestered in the club car, he encountered legendary cartoonists Gus Arriola, Eldon Dedini and their wives, bound for the same event. Bates remembered wishing his work were syndicated like theirs and that, in his wildest dreams, he lived in a place like Carmel.


Will Bullas can draw.

The artist, who sees the double meaning in seemingly contradictory terms such as “rakish chick,” “duck tape,” or “hare style,” has made a career out of finessing the fine art of fun with nary a brush stroke.

Bullas definitely uses a brush, although sometimes it’s a toothbrush, yet it leaves no trace except color. What stands out is the image. What you get is the joke, the play-on-words, illustrated within and printed below the painting.

Over the years, the Monterey Herald has had the pleasure of sharing the stories of each of these classic cartoonists. In celebration of our centennial and their lasting contributions to culture, comedy, and camaraderie, let’s pour a cup of coffee and join in on the conversation one more time.

Lisa Crawford Watson collects the profiles of a half dozen Carmel cartoonists.

images © their respective copyright owners