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Comic strip icon turns 93

Happy 93rd birthday to cartoonist, novelist, and playwright Jules Feiffer who was born in the Bronx today in 1929.

As reported in The Writer's Almanac, Feiffer has said of his childhood, "The only thing I wanted to be was grown up. Because I was a terrible flop as a child. You cannot be a successful boy in America if you cannot throw or catch a ball." He decided early on that he wanted to be a comic-strip artist and, when he was a teenager, he showed his work to the cartoonist Will Eisner and Eisner gave him a job. Feiffer said, "[It was] ten dollars a week part-time — erasing pages, filling in blanks, and dreaming great dreams."

But he was drafted in 1951 and he did not take well to the Army. He said, "I was treated with open contempt by one form of authority or the other in the Army on a 24-hour basis." The experience inspired him to write a bitterly cynical cartoon strip about a four-year-old boy who is drafted by mistake. He tried to sell the strip to a variety of major newspapers, but nobody would buy it. So he finally turned to a new weekly newspaper in his neighborhood called the Village Voice. Over the next decade the Village Voice became nationally prominent and Feiffer's cartoons became nationally syndicated.

Feiffer's strip in the Village Voice was one of the first cartoon strips to deal with adult themes such as sex, politics, and psychiatry. For most of his career he has drawn and written all of his work in Central Park, which he considers his office. His cartoons are collected in books such as Feiffer's Marriage Manual (1967) and Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency (1974).
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