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