BAXTER'S BREAKDOWNS
June 28, 2017 posted by

MOONLIGHTING ANIMATORS IN COMICS: Harvey Eisenberg

This week’s animator in comics is Harvey Eisenberg, who drew comics with Disney, MGM and Hanna-Barbera characters!

Born in 1912 in New York, Harvey Eisenberg’s start in cartooning began as a teenager with a sign and lettering company, according to the late Jerry Bails website. Later, Eisenberg became friends with young cartoonist Joe Barbera in Brooklyn. Bails website also claims Eisenberg went into animation as an inker at Max Fleischer’s studio in the early 1930s, and then moved into the Van Beuren Corporation across the street from Fleischers in Manhattan where he was promoted to an assistant animator. Presumably, when Van Beuren closed in 1936, he moved to Paul Terry’s studio, where he worked with Barbera. A year later, Eisenberg, Barbera and other animators flocked to the West Coast to work in MGMs animation department.

On the early Tom and Jerry cartoons, Barbera served as his own layout artist. When Hanna and Barbera dedicated more time to stories, Eisenberg took over layout duties, from Barbera’s rough sketches, on both characters and backgrounds. Eisenberg took an interest in comics sometime in the early 40s. According to Pete Alvarado, he wanted to leave the studio to draw the syndicated Barney Google strip possibly after creator Billy DeBeck passed away in 1942. Alvarado was hired to replace Eisenberg, but he chose to stay anyway.

He eventually left the studio around 1946 to work on comics full-time. He occassionaly drew stories for Timely Publications (which later evolved into Marvel), but spent much of his carrer at Western Publishing. Eisenberg also partnered with Barbera in the comic book business, establishing a studio called Dearfield Publishing while they were both under contracts to Western and MGM, respectively. As they worked together in a small shed, Barbera provided scripts and Eisenberg drew the stories for their Foxy Fagan and Red Rabbit comics.

Eisenberg drew, inked and lettered his comics, where he brought his elaborate layout sense into the stories. In them, posing and expressions reminiscent of the Tom and Jerry cartoons permeated the drawing. For Western, he handled the Disney characters, along with a series of comics with Charlie McCarthy. (Don Christensen wrote some of the McCarthy stories.) By 1948, Eisenberg became the regular artist for the featured Tom and Jerry comic stories, and also illustrated Golden Books, as well as activity books with the popular duo. Eisenberg drew comics with other MGM characters, including Droopy and the father/son bulldogs Spike and Tyke.

By the late 1950s, Eisenberg went back into animation at Hanna-Barbera as a jack- of-all trades, providing character designs, layouts, storyboards and publicity art. Naturally, Eisenberg handled many comic book stories, Golden Books and coloring books with the Hanna-Barbera stable of characters published by Western. He also drew a syndicated Yogi Bear Sunday comic strip, supervised by Gene Hazelton. (Many of these strips can be seen here.) Eisenberg also gave his son, Jerry, a job at Hanna-Barbera as a layout artist.

Eisenberg had an interest in television animation before he went to Hanna-Barbera; he proposed an animated television show with a prehistoric family, but the business partnership contract for the project fell through. Charles McKimson, an art editor for Western, offered another contract to Eisenberg; McKimson wanted to sign him as an employee rather than a partner, so Eisenberg turned it down. When Eisenberg saw proposal drawings of an animated version of The Honeymooners from Joe Barbera and writer/producer Alan Dinehart which were rejected, he suggested a Stone Age setting, with the characters wearing animal skins for clothing.

Eisenberg continued to work on comics in the 1960s for Western Publishing. Following a series of heart attacks, he passed away in 1965 at the age of 54. His large body of work for Western, especially the later part of his career, merited him praise as the Carl Barks of Hanna-Barbera comics.

To read an interview with his son, Jerry Eisenberg, click here. The Dearfield Publishing comics are in the public domain, and can be read here, though the Junie Prom stories don’t appear to utilize Eisenberg or Barbera’s contributions.

An early Super Rabbit page (click to enlarge)

READ THE COMICS

Here, on Cartoon Research, is an all-star selection of Eisenberg’s work for Western Publishing, spanning between the mid-40s and the mid-60s.

The Submarine Pirates (Mickey Mouse) Four Color #141 (March 1947)

Porky Pigs Magic Show Four Color #191 (June 1948)

Tom and Jerry #71 Tom & Jerry (June 1950)

Tom and Jerry #80 (March 1951) Tom & Jerry

A Pack of Lies (Lil Bad Wolf) Four Color #473 (June 1953)

Defective Detectives (Chip n Dale) Chip n Dale #11 (September-November 1957)written by Nick George.

Sahara Desert (Quick Draw McGraw) Dell Giant #44 (July 1961)

The Pirates of Skull Island The Flintstones #28 (August 1965)

(Thanks to Yowp, Michael Barrier and Frank Young for their help.)

5 Comments

  • Eisenberg is mos’ def on the same level as Carl Barks. Great layouts, great character style.

  • Jerry asked for my opinion on the Yogi Bear daily panel original at the top of the page. It looks like Harvey Eisenberg’s art to me, but not necessarily his INKING, panel two looks a little inconsistent in line quality. The lettering under the first panel looks like Harvey’s. It’s interesting that Harvey started working for a sign company in his teens, you can really see it in his lettering, it’s “showcard” all the way. For me, it’s only half the experience if Harvey just does the drawings on a page, and not the lettering! I’m not sure if Harvey ever really became an animator, if he did, it wasn’t for very long. His strong suit was layout and character posing, he really strengthened Joe Barbera’s ruffs and nailed the bodily attitudes that defined Tom and Jerry in the 1940s. I love the Red Rabbit and Foxy Fagin comics too, I wish I could have met Harvey. Thanks for the post, Devon and Jerry.

  • Thanks for this post! Eisenberg is one heckuva cartoonist.

  • The Ruff and Reddy book was recently profiled by Don M.Yowp (aka Jim Bennie on his Yowp site). Neat!

  • I also have lot’s of his comics here: http://allthingsger.blogspot.nl/search/label/Harvey%20Eisenberg. This includes almost all of his run on the daily Yogi panel. Togethr with my blog reluars we also solved the riddle of the later Yogi panel that were used in comic books and were not drawn by Eisenberg or related to his sadly shortlived run. If you are on my blog, you may also like to explore the many Flintstone comcis, I have along with these.

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