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King Features

Coloring the Sunday Comics

From 1989-98 I was on staff at King as the head (and only) colorist for the King Features Comic Art Department. From 1999 on I did coloring for them freelance.

Jim Keefe - Portrait of a young colorist.
Jim Keefe – Portrait of a young colorist.

Pic from where do i buy disulfiram Funny Papers – Behind the Scenes of the Comics.


For my entire run coloring for King I worked “old school.”
Here’s the process…

King Features down in Florida does the color separations, so my job was to provide them with a color guide.

Here’s the color palette I used.

Using watercolor, I colored the black and white art and then put in the color indications using the numbers from the color palette. The actual watercolors didn’t have to be exact, that’s what the numbering was for.

Color guide for Blondie 7/1/2012.

And here’s what the finished version looked like.

Blondie 7/1/2012

It’s a very conscious decision to keep the coloring simple and not over render so the color is not competing with the clean line of the artwork. Here’s some more examples of my work…

Beetle 6/10/2012
Popeye 7/22/2012
Hagar 7/1/2012

And as of November of 2021, a little over 30 years total, I’m calling it a day. It’s been a good run, but time commitments with my current work schedule just made it impossible to continue.

Wrapping up with a pic the great Dick Hodgins Jr. (1931-2016) sent me awhile back. Something I’ll always treasure.

Categories
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 glossarially 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.

Categories
King Features New York Ramblings & Reviews

The Palm Restaurant’s Wall of Cartoons – Gone.

The Palm Restaurant’s famous walls, drawn on by cartoonists since the early days of the comic strip, are no more.

The Palm with it's legendary wall of cartoons.
The Palm with its legendary wall of cartoons.
White walls where the drawings once were.
White walls where the drawings once were.

From New York’s Pix 11 on the closing of this historical steak house….

“The owners of the original Palm restaurant decided to permanently close the space after renovating it proved to be too costly. The Palm had been a fixture at 837 2nd Avenue in Manhattan since 1926. The restaurant is known for it’s caricature-covered walls.

Artists hand-sketched the cartoons in exchange for meals throughout the years. Many worked at nearby King Features Syndicate, a comic company. The famed walls were restored in 1995.

Today, Palm restaurants worldwide are run by direct descendants of the founding owners. It was impossible, they said in a statement, to take the original artwork with them.”


When I worked at King Features back in the late 80s, King Features was at 216 East 45th Street. At the end of the block where 45th met 2nd Avenue was the Palm.

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Along with restaurants like the now defunct Pen and Pencil (another steakhouse where cartoonists hung out), The Palm was part of New York’s legendary Steak Row.

Here’s a little fun fact, steakhouses were in abundance in the area because in the early part of the 20th century the slaughterhouses were located just down the street along the East River where the UN now stands. But I digress…

The first time I ever went to the Palm was when I was working on staff up at King Features as their colorist. My boss at the time, Frank Chillino, told me that Joe D’Angelo (King Feature’s president at the time) just had lunch recently with some cartoonists at the Palm and they had added some new cartoons to the walls. My job was to go over there, bring some paint, and add some color to them. I got there before the restaurant was open for business and carefully added color between the lines of permanent marker the cartoonist had drawn – and for the life of me I can’t remember which characters they were.

What I do remember was looking at those beautiful walls filled with cartoons…


The following are pics from an old New York Magazine spread.

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Some vintage shots.

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A few more from Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.

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I got to have lunch there once, and on King Features’ dime, with fellow Comic Art Department staff member Jerry Craft. Not being a steak connoisseur (hotdog anyone?) I was completely out of my league in the restaurant but soaked up the atmosphere as it was one of those New York and cartooning institutions.

That little piece of comic history is gone now. Glad I was at least a part of it in some small way.

Update October 2021:
Jump ahead 6 years and I’m at JFK in New York City. At the Palm Restaurant in the terminal I notice drawings strangely reminiscent to the old illustrations that were destroyed from the Palm in midtown NYC.

Palm Restaurant in the JFK Terminal – October 2021
Old Palm Restaurant in midtown NYC (Pic shown upthread).

Looks like they had someone reproduce them in some manner, but looking up close I’m not exactly sure of the method. Curiouser and curiouser…