A “Suspended Animation” Extra Column
I was first exposed to artist Al Kilgore’s work because I was a huge fan of movie serials and the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy and his outstanding caricatures of those two subjects appeared in books, magazines and more. He was even one of the founders of the Sons of the Desert, the Laurel and Hardy organization. His work seemed effortless, clever and appealing.
However, I soon realized that he also had a fondness for animation as well and did some inspired artwork of the Jay Ward characters.
With the recent release of a paperback version of The Art of Jay Ward Productions by Darrell Van Citters – and with Jerry Beck talking about animation books that I never knew existed – I started thinking of my “wish list” of animation related books that I really wish would be published.
You probably have some favorite ideas as well of never yet written animation books. However, near the top of my list is the entire run of the Bullwinkle newspaper comic strip written and drawn by Al Kilgore for the Bell-Mclure Syndicate. It debuted July 23th, 1962 and ended September 11th, 1965.
It was not widely distributed and my first introduction to the strip was through the kindness of Mark Kausler who shared a Xerox of some of the strips he had collected.
Kilgore perfectly captured the style and humor of the Jay Ward cartoons. In addition, he would draw the giveaway Bullwinkle’s “How to Have Fun Outdoors Without Getting Clobbered” Coloring Book which came with its own tiny box of crayons.
He also wrote and drew the first issue of Gold Key’s Rocky and His Fiendish Friends comic book released in 1962 and mistakenly gets credit for every other Rocky and Bullwinkle comic book.
The second issue in the series where the characters go to Hollywood was actually drawn by cartoonist Jerry Robinson, assistant to comic book artist Bob Kane and the inspiration for the Robin character in the Batman comic book series. By the way, that’s what the character is called “Robin” as a shout-out to Robinson who was working with Kane at the time. Boris and Natasha (in disguise) set up death traps that Bullwinkle thinks are film scenes.
Western Publishing’s Rocky and His Fiendish Friends issue one features some stories of the other classic Ward characters like Mr. Peabody, Dudley Do-right and Aesop and Son with artwork by Kilgore.
In 1962, Kilgore was also responsible for the Dell one-shot comic book The Bullwinkle Mother Moose Pomes.
Also for Jay Ward, in 1965 Kilgore drew the three Quisp & Quake cereal giveaway mini-comics: Lava Come Back, Plenty of Glutton and Kite Tale. These featured the original “miner” Quake design.
He created the covers and artwork for several hardcover Pink Panther books in the late sixties like His Health, Education and Welfare as well as The Drop, both written by Michael. Landwehr. He also drew some Pink Panther comic book stories as well.
A provocative cover was drawn by Kilgore in 1968 for Leonard Maltin’s outstanding film magazine Film Fan Monthly, depicting Mickey Mouse with a stake through his heart impaled on the cover of Richard Schickel’s controversial Disney biography The Disney Version.
Kilgore in a review entitled “The Disney Assault” – wrote: “Assumption, innuendo, distortion and half-facts are blended together to become the purest example of McCarthyism since the late senator’s demise.”
Kilgore drew the cover (below) for Joe Adamson’s excellent biography of the legendary Warner Bros & MGM cartoon director Tex Avery, Tex Avery King of Cartoons published by Popular Library in 1975.
Born in Newark, New Jersey on December 19th, 1927, Kilgore attended Andrew Jackson High School where he met his future wife Dolores who he married in 1958.
During World War II, he served in the Fifth Air Force. After the war he went back to school, graduating from the Art Career School in 1951. He passed away August 15, 1983 at the age of 55.
He was awarded the National Cartoonist Society Silver T-Square in 1976 for outstanding dedication or service to the Society or the profession and its Special Features Award in 1983 for his Elvis the Paper Doll Book.
He had a varied art career and so many credits in so many different venues that I don’t think anyone has ever compiled a complete list. Of course, I have many other animation related books I would love to see writtena nd published but right now, I am obsessing about a complete collection of Kilgore’s Bullwinkle comic strip… although some material may have to be censored for political correctness like Rocky and Bullwinkle performing a minstrel show. Holy Smokes, Bullwinkle!