Saturday, January 01, 2022

Today in Comics History, January 1: One guy fooling around with the moon

Born on this day in 1935: cartoonist B. Kliban, whose style will be instantly recognizable to most of you through his pop culture and commercial product depictions of the humble Cat. You couldn't go very far in the 1980s without stumbling across a product or poster that starred one of Kliban's plump, fuzzy, enigmatic creatures. I myself had B. Kliban Cat bedsheets and pillowcases (and I miss them so) and I remember giving my mom the "Momcat" mug one year for Mother's Day. Why there isn't a B. Kliban Cat Extended Cinematic Universe series of movies today I'll never understand, starting with the adventures of all-patrotic hero Cat-tain Americat and that noble son of Pawsgardian mythology, the Mighty Furr.

Here's just a few of my favorites from the many original Kliban Cat cartoons:

from Cat by B. Kliban (Workman Press, 1975)

Naturally, being the catfan I am, I love these, but even more, Kliban had a deft hand in drawing Nature's most perfect animal, the noble cow. At least, when he was in the mooooood to do so.

from B. Kliban's books Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head (Workman, 1976), Whack Your Porcupine (Workman, 1977), Tiny Footprints (Workman, 1978), Two Guys Fooling Around with the Moon (Workman, 1982), and The Biggest Tongue in Tunisia (Penguin, 1986)

He could expertly portray many other adorable farm animals, too!

Of course, considering his panel gag comics were frequently featured in Playboy, not all of his cartoons were cute and cuddly. They can range from the hilarious...

...through just plain weird satire...

...puns that'll make you groan aloud...

...and what's great comedy without being sacrilegious once in a while?

Let's face it: B. Kliban was such a genius he convinced his publisher to put one color page in a collection of otherwise black-and-white cartoons in order to make this joke richer:

But! (And this is a vital point.) BUT, B. Kliban didn't appear in many comic books himself, which is the usual direction one of my birthday celebrations of comics creators go. So, failing that, please look first at this collection of Kliban's HARDW cartoon refereces:

So, in lieu of showing you depictions of B. Kliban popping up within the pages of comics, may I please present to you the first-ever collection of B. KLIBAN'S HARDW STORES appearing in comic books!

from "The Gangsters and the Giant!" in Tales to Astonish #63 (Marvel, January 1965), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Carl Burgos, inks by Chic Stone, letters by Sam Rosen

from JLA #102 (DC, September 2004), script by Chuck Austen, pencils and inks by Ron Garney, colors by David Baron, letters by Pat Brosseau

from Action Comics #591 (DC, August 1987); script, pencils, and figure inks by John Byrne; background inks by Keith Williams; colors by Tom Ziuko; letters by John Costanza

from Josephine (Slave Labor Graphics, October 2017), by Kevin Sacco

from "Death Sentence" in Marvel Preview (1975 series) #2 [The Punisher] (Marvel, June 1975), script by Gerry Conway, pencils and inks by Tony DeZuniga, letters by Marcos Pelayo (?)

from "Find Fury or Die!" in Strange Tales (1951 series) #136 (Marvel, September 1965), co-plot and script by Stan Lee, co-plot and layouts by Jack Kirby, finishes by John Severin, colors by Stan Goldberg (?), letters by Artie Simek

from "A Rogue by Any Other Name, Chapter 6: Rally Round the Rogues!" in Secret Origins (1986 series) #41 (DC, June 1989); script by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn; [pencils, inks, and letters by Don Simpson (!); colors by Helen Vesik

So there you go: my salute to B. Kliban. And oh, wait! Turns out there is a self-depiction of himself in his work. Well, a self-image at least, anyway. And indeed, for every cartoonist! Happy birthday, B. Kliban!

1 comment:

Smurfswacker said...

A thousand years ago B. Kliban was a guest at the San Diego Comic Con. At his panel appearance someone in the audience asked, "Mr Kliban, what was the strangest response you got from an editor about one of your cartoons?" Not missing a beat, the artist replied, "This is great, Kliban! Here's your check!"