King Features

Jay Kennedy 1956-2007

Jay Kennedy and Jim Keefe – circa early 1990s

Jay Kennedy was the Comics Editor up at King Features from 1988 up until his untimely death in 2007 at the age of 50.

I first met Jay back in 1989. I was fresh out of the Joe Kubert School and he was interviewing applicants for a colorist position that had just opened up at King Features. Suffice it to say Jay saw some potential and ended up hiring me.

Jay was in his early 30’s when he started at King and signaled a changing of the guard in the Comics Art department. He seemed to have a very clear vision in what he wanted to accomplish at King. A fan of the medium, and underground comics in particular, he wanted to bring that sensibility to the comics page. For a field so entrenched in the mainstream it was quite the juggling act. I never fully appreciated his skill at this until after the fact. Over the years I saw him help bring a number of strips on board to King, among them such hits as Baby Blues, Mutts and Zits. And in a field that was dominated by men, he also championed women cartoonists, including Hilary B. Price’s Rhymes with Orange, Sandra Bell-Lundy’s Between Friends, Rina Piccolo’s Tina’s Groove, as well as Six Chix, which had a rotating series of strips all created by women.

Back around 1995 when they were shopping around for a new artist for Flash Gordon I started drawing up samples – and Jay promptly rejected those initial pages of mine. I tried my hand at it again months later and to my surprise Jay not only hired me as the artist but as the writer as well!

Suffice it to say it was an amazing opportunity for a cartoonist still learning the ropes. That first year I did the strip Jay was very hands on. He’d make me do changes to everything from the artwork to word balloon placement. Jay could be rather blunt giving a critique, but it was never mean-spirited. It all had to do with telling a better story. After that first year I was on my own.

I worked with Jay on staff for close to ten years. Too many memorable moments to pick just one… so I’ll end it with saying his legacy is the great strips he brought on board while at King. He also gave me my first big break into this field – and for that I owe him a lot!

-Jim Keefe, Flash Gordon and Sally Forth

In memory of Jay Kennedy King Features established the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Fund which is awarded yearly and “designed to acknowledge excellence among college-aged aspiring cartoonists”. The award is presented at the annual NCS Reuben Awards dinner.

Jay Kennedy was also the author of The Official Underground and Newave Comix Price Guide (Boatner Norton Press, 1982). It was the first price guide for the underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s. Much of the information in the book was based on Kennedy’s personal collection of more than 9,500 comix.

Kennedy’s underground comix collection was donated and currently resides at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

King Features

Christmas Greetings – King Features 1939

The following are holiday greetings from a 1939 King Features Syndicate Christmas card set.

The artist is listed in the caption if known. If you think I’m mistaken regarding the artist, please drop me a line in the comments section below. Thanks!

Popeye – probably drawn by Tom Sims or Bela Zaboly.

Seein’ Stars by Fred (“Feg”) Murray.

The Phantom by Ray Moore, written by Lee Falk.

Mandrake the Magician by Phil Davis, written by Lee Falk.

The Little King by Otto Soglow.

Just Kids by August Daniel Carter.

The Katzenjammer Kids by Harold Knerr.

 Santa Claus by Louis Biedermann 

Krazy Kat by George Herriman.

Tim Tyler’s Luck by Lymann Young.

Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson.

The Lone Ranger by Charles Flanders.

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith by Billy DeBeck.

Art by Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon).

Prince Valiant by Hal Foster.
King Features

Evelyn Smith Retiring from King Features

Wishing King Features Senior Comics Editor Evelyn Smith a happy retirement!

As her social media presence is purposefully nil, here’s a pic of her swiped from John Kovaleski’s blog holding the press kit for the launch of his new strip Daddy Daze.

The Daily Cartoonist states that Evelyn spent the 1980s and 1990s as a Managing Editor for Tribune Media Services, then the 2000s and 2010s as a King Features Syndicate editor.

I worked with her during her King Features’ stint – first as a colorist – and more recently as the artist on Sally Forth. She’s one of those people who worked behind the scenes and in the trenches in this business, making sure deadlines were met and that the trains ran on time. She always had my back when needed during a deadline crunch and was a pleasure to work with.

 Here’s wishing her a well deserved rest from the daily grind of comic deadlines!

Flash Gordon King Features

Laid Off from King Features

Fun fact: The Flash Gordon comic strip for June 3, 2018 was originally released December 20, 1998 when the entire Comic Art Department of King Features in New York (myself included) was being laid off.

The “ancient dialect” I had the evil sorcerer Choong-li speaking is English backwards. Notice the difference between the text in the 2018 strip compared to the one from 1998?

And for those interested, here’s the full strip.

And that’s…

King Features

King Features – Frank Chillino

When I was hired to work on staff in the Comic Art bullpen at King Features back in 1989 my immediate boss was Production Supervisor Frank Chillino (1920-2007).

Frank Chillino

Frank worked under a number of Comic Art department heads. Among them…

Sylvan Byck (1904-1982)
Head of the Comic Art department from the 1950s until 1978.
Bill Yates (1921-2001)
Head of the Comic Art department from 1978 until 1988.
Jay Kennedy (1956-2007)
Head of the Comic Art department from 1988 until 2007.

Frank Chillino was the guy at King Features who made sure the trains ran on time. He also devised and implemented the standardized system to format strips for newspapers that’s still used today – a template where a strip drawn in a half page format could be reformatted to a third or quarter page quickly and efficiently. It helped streamline the process saving countless hours of production time (and money) for King.

He was there with the pioneers of the industry – Chic Young, George McManus, Harold Foster, Alex Raymond, Jimmy Hatlo, Roy Crane, Milton Caniff, Fred Lasswell and Bela Zaboly just to name a few.

In a feature piece in Cartoonist Profile he recalled, “When I joined the bullpen in January 1944, I was twenty four years old. Brad Kelly, who was the comics editor, hired me and placed me at a drawing table next to Bud Saggendorf who was then handling production. For my first assignment, Bud sent me to the supply room for a bucket of benday dots which were used on daily strips for grey tones. Being young and naive I did what he requested. Irving Winters who handled supplies said, “Hey kid, he’s pulling your leg! There’s no such thing as benday dots, only a benday acetate sheet with dots printed on it.” Was my face red! When I brought back the sheets and an empty bucket we all had a good laugh. This was the beginning of a lasting friendship between Saggendorf and myself… About a year later Sag was assigned to draw the Popeye comic books. With his suggestion to Brad Kelly I was appointed comic art production supervisor.”

Some other of Frank’s recollections…

“King had a room set aside for visiting cartoonists then, which offered us the opportunity to watch them at work. These guys could ink their strips without penciling. Roy Crane worked on craft tint paper and when he brought the tones up with his brush on backgrounds, the strips would virtually explode with action.”

“Jose Luis Salinas was brought up in 1950 to pen The Cisco Kid which I lettered for 18 years. He was one of our finest illustrators. Alex Raymond, also a great illustrator, idolized Salinas work. Whenever Alex came to KFS he would sit and watch Salinas pencil and brush through his Cisco strips for hours at a time. Jose worked in our bullpen for about six months before he returned to Argentina.”

“There was an aura about them (the cartoonists) when they visited the bullpen. They were fun guys always playing jokes on one another.”

Frank once wrote of his job at King, “I always believed that maintaining a rapport with our (King Features) cartoonists was of utmost importance. Letting them know we cared, and knew that they were out there doing their thing for us – drawing cartoons.”

When he retired in 1990 he had 45 years at the Syndicate under his belt.

Frank Chillino – Truly one of King Features’ greats!

1993 King Features Christmas party in New York City Left to right - Jim Keefe, Frank Chillino and Jerry Craft.
1993 King Features Christmas party in New York City
Left to right – Jim Keefe, Frank Chillino and Jerry Craft.

-Jim Keefe

The following piece ran in Cartoonist Profiles #88, December 1990 (cited above) and pretty much encapsulates the history of the syndicated newspaper strip.