A poignant history of the cartoonists and illustrators from the Connecticut School
For a period of about fifty years, right in the middle of the American Century, many of the the nation’s top comic-strip cartoonists, gag cartoonists, and magazine illustrators lived within a stone’s throw of one another in the southwestern corner of Connecticut—a bit of bohemia in the middle of those men in their gray flannel suits.
Cullen Murphy’s father, John Cullen Murphy, drew the wildly popular comic strips Prince Valiant and Big Ben Bolt, and was the heart of this artistic milieu. Comic strips and gag cartoons read by hundreds of millions were created in this tight-knit group—Superman, Beetle Bailey, Snuffy Smith, Rip Kirby, Hagar the Horrible, Hi and Lois, Nancy, Sam & Silo, Amy, The Wizard of Id, The Heart of Juliet Jones, Family Circus, Joe Palooka, and The Lockhorns, among others. Cartoonists and their art were a pop-cultural force in a way that few today remember. Anarchic and deeply creative, the cartoonists were independent spirits whose artistic talents had mainly been forged during service in World War II.
Illustrated with never-before-seen photographs, cartoons, and drawings, Cartoon County brings the postwar American era alive, told through the relationship of a son to his father, an extraordinarily talented and generous man who had been trained by Norman Rockwell. Cartoon County gives us a glimpse into a very special community—and of an America that used to be.
Vanity Fair editor at large Murphy (God's Jury) captures a slice of American pop culture from the mid-20th century, when a prominent group of comic-strip and gag cartoonists, known as the Connecticut School, resided in the town of Greenwich, Conn. Murphy draws from his own life his father was John Cullen Murphy, known as the illustrator of such strips as Big Ben Bolt and Prince Valiant to paint a sprawling portrait of many of the scene's luminaries, including Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Dik Browne (H gar the Horrible), and dozens of others who were members of this group, examining their family and social lives, their work habits, their art techniques, and more. Having spent a good portion of his life among these people, even taking the writing reins of Prince Valiant after writer Hal Foster retired while his father still drew it, Cullen crafts an immensely evocative look at an art colony many don't know existed. He writes with a personable mix of affection and realism that offers a vivid sense of what it was like to be in that crowd, and to be a working cartoonist in the decades following WWII. Particularly fascinating are the parts of the book on Cullen's father's experiences in the Army and on his father's relationship with his mentor, Norman Rockwell. Color illus.