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Most Inspiring Cartoonists: 'The Big Six'

Updated on June 30, 2013
Unger's ultimate sad sack 'HERMAN'
Unger's ultimate sad sack 'HERMAN'
Charles Schultz's 'Charlie Brown'... "Good Grief!"
Charles Schultz's 'Charlie Brown'... "Good Grief!"
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Trudeau's suave and savvy 'Doonesbury.'Larson's iconic life of missteps, as illustrated in The Far Side.Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes: Touching, masterful artwork.The classic stylings of Don Martin
Trudeau's suave and savvy 'Doonesbury.'
Trudeau's suave and savvy 'Doonesbury.'
Larson's iconic life of missteps, as illustrated in The Far Side.
Larson's iconic life of missteps, as illustrated in The Far Side.
Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes: Touching, masterful artwork.
Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes: Touching, masterful artwork.
The classic stylings of Don Martin
The classic stylings of Don Martin

In 2012 Canadian cartoonist JIM UNGER, the syndicated cartoon illustrator, social commentator and humorist carried for 40 years in 600+ newspapers and 25 different countries, died at 75.

What a talented story-teller and one-panel life theorist Jim Unger was. That he touched so many lives and brought such unparalleled witticism to "the mainstream" goes without parallel.

For me, myself a writer and an artist, if really pressed, I would have to cite Jim Unger as my most significant influence, not just in terms of appreciating his pen and ink styling s, but also his view on life and classically subtle witticism.

Unger was so much more than a 'cartoonist', however. As with many contemporaries of his day, Jim Unger viewed the world with an outlook that bordered on an almost other-worldly wisdom and insight. His art initially came off as simplistic in nature but there was nothing simplistic about it. If anything, Unger's was a style of minimalist inference, strongly drawing its artistic inspiration from what was "sensed" in life. Unger had the unique ability to capture in his own minimalistic artistic style, inference and concepts. In short, Unger could 'illustrate' adjectives and adverbs... Not just nouns and verbs.

Beneath the surface of the initial chuckle, however, readers could immediately dive into any number of interpretative studies on everything from study the dynamics the many layers of satire, world affairs, sarcasm, etc., his nebbish 'Herman' came to represent so much more than just pen and ink.

When I think about compelling story-telling through one-panel animation, as well as illustrated story engagement, I think of the "big six" that inspire me: Unger (Herman), Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) , Charles Schultz (Charlie Brown & Peanuts), Gary Larson (The Far Side), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and, of course, the legendary Don Martin (MAD Magazine).

I no longer read 'new' or contemporary cartoons, mainly because animation is mostly evolved into computer generated and, as an illustrator myself, I find that these six core illustrators represent the styles that influence and define my own style. From what I've seen of today's illustrators online, I am consistently impressed but am not able to effectively 'cite' any.

I appreciate what I consider good intrinsic and organic pen/ink and graphite illustration. Computer animation is good too, just does not speak to me and was not a part of any of these noted six.

These were more than cartoonists and illustrators, they were diplomats and social commentators and advocates and best friends.


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