Yeh, Phil 1954-

views updated

Yeh, Phil 1954-

PERSONAL:

Born October 7, 1954, in Chicago, IL; son of Te Fung (an engineer) and Ruth Yeh; married Janet Valentine, July 7, 1977 (divorced, 1983); married Philamer Tambio (a social worker and gallery manager), September 8, 1984; children: (first marriage) Robyn Alexis, Jesse Vincent, (second marriage) Gabriel David. Education: Attended California State University, Long Beach, 1972-77.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Cartoonists Across America, P.O. Box 670, Lompoc, CA 93438. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER:

Freelance cartoonist, illustrator, and writer, 1970—; Fragments West, owner and publisher, 1970—; Uncle Jam (newspaper), Long Beach, CA, founder, beginning 1973; Cartoonists Across America & the World (program dedicated to promoting literacy and creativity through school visits and community mural paintings), founder, 1985—.

MEMBER:

Comic Arts Professional Society, Publishers Association of Southern California, Licensing Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Honored by First Lady Barbara Bush at Library of Congress, 1989, for work with Cartoonists Across America & the World; Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, San Diego Comic-Con, 1989; "Theo the Dinosaur" appeared on a postage stamp in Hungary during the United Nations' Year of Literacy; Alphie Award, Los Angeles County Library Foundation, 1999, for work promoting literacy.

WRITINGS:

COLLECTIONS

Cazco, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1976.

(With Don DeContreras and Roberta Gregory) Jam, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1977.

Even Cazco Gets the Blues, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1977.

Ajaneh, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1978.

Godiva, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1979.

Cazco in China, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1980.

The Adventures of a Modern Day Unicorn, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1981.

The Magic Gumball Machine and Company, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1982.

Frank on the Farm, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1982.

Mr. Frank the Unicorn Goes to Washington, DC, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1984.

(With Dennis Niedbala) Frank the Unicorn and Syd Ha Sitbird on the Brooklyn Bridge, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1985.

Frank in England, Fragments West (Long Beach, CA), 1987.

The Legend of the Winged Tiger, Cartoonists Across America (Lompoc, CA), 1993, Eastwind Studios, 2006.

The Winged Tiger's World Peace Party Puzzle Book, Hawaya (Kailua, HI), 1995.

(With Lieve Jerger) The Winged Tiger and the Lace Princess, Hawaya (Kailua, HI), 1998.

(With Jon Murakami) The Winged Tiger and the Dragons of Hawaii, Eastwind Studios, 2004.

Author of comic book series published in print and on compact disc, including Theo the Dinosaur and The Winged Tiger Comics & Stories. Contributor of illustrations to books and comics by other authors.

SIDELIGHTS:

Phil Yeh, considered "the godfather of the graphic novel," founded his own publishing house at the age of sixteen and has since become a world-renowned comic book creator, mural artist, and popular spokesman for literacy and creativity. As with many comic book writers, Yeh uses his characters—Frank the unicorn, Theo the dinosaur, Patrick Rabbit, and the Winged Tiger, among others—to engage young readers in a world of political, social, and emotional issues. No stranger to the political arena himself, Yeh is perhaps best known as the founder of Cartoonists Across America & the World, an association of artists who work together to paint community murals and to speak on behalf of literacy issues. The group is active not only in the United States but also in countries as varied as China, Mexico, Hungary, Canada, Taiwan, and Singapore. Cartoonists Across America & the World has helped to paint more than a thousand murals, including one in the Library of Congress for which Yeh was honored by First Lady Barbara Bush.

In 1973, while a college student at California State University, Long Beach, Yeh started a free newspaper called Uncle Jam, principally so that he would have a vehicle in which to run his own controversial comics. It was in the pages of Uncle Jam that Yeh's first creations, Cazco and Frank the Unicorn, initially saw print. Later the artist collected his strips into collections published by his own company, Fragments West. Theo the dinosaur is meant to appeal to a younger audience and has found a home both in comic books and on compact disc. More recently, Yeh developed Patrick Rabbit and the Winged Tiger in his "Winged Tiger Comics & Stories" series of comic books, and these characters "provide fun, multicultural reading material that fosters creativity for all," wrote a Reading Today contributor.

A reviewer for Gline online reviewed the wordless The Legend of the Winged Tiger, commenting that "Yeh has found the perfect way to sum up a story about how art can be redemptive—or divisive. It catapults the whole thing out of merely being a nifty novelty and into the realm of real art." The reviewer noted that this and many other Yeh books are out of print and can only be found used and added: "I find it heartbreaking that something this stellar and unique would be languishing in limbo. If you enjoy comics at all, you owe it to yourself to track this gem down."

Yeh has written and illustrated more than eighty comics and graphic novels, no mean feat for a man who spends part of every year traveling on behalf of Cartoonists Across America & the World. Convinced that creativity is a vital force in human lives, he encourages people of all ages to express themselves in whatever art form best suits their personal talents and tastes. He told Reading Today: "There are a million ways to express … feelings via the arts."

At the age of fifteen Yeh met Jack Kirby and Ray Bradbury at the first San Diego Comic-Con convention. Bradbury was a supporter of Uncle Jam, which featured the work of such masters as MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman and Jean (Moebius) Giraud. Yeh has since collaborated with such artists as George Lucas (Star Wars) and Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), as well as encouraging new artists through school visits, workshops, and conventions.

On the Cartoonists Across America Web site is an explanation of Yeh's relationship with the creators of Superman. In an interview with Jerry Siegel in 1975, Siegel told Yeh how he and Joe Shuster were cheated out of their rights. Yeh published an article relating this history, which rallied supporters on their behalf. The experience of Siegel and Shuster reinforced Yeh's commitment to remaining independent.

Yeh told CA: "I was always a reader and an artist from my earliest days. I started writing my own books in elementary school. It was a great way to entertain my friends. I have been influenced by many of the great writers and artists that I admire from my youth but my biggest [inspiration] comes from my own life experiences and world travels. I grew up in a tough part of Los Angeles and formed a real desire to try and make this a better world through my art and stories.

"One of my very favorites is The Winged Tiger and the Lace Princess, which was done in partnership with my longtime art director, colorist, and partner, Lieve Jerger. Her magical copper lacework is featured in this book along with my watercolors, and we plan to issue an expanded version in the next year. It is a book about an evil prince who takes away all the arts [in] society.

"[It surprises me] how very difficult it is to get attention for good work in a country that is basically indifferent to art and comics. The saddest part of being in the United States in the twenty-first century is our basic lack of awareness of visual artists. This, unfortunately, is due to [the] general lack of art and music history in our culture, and thus I have spent the last few decades promoting the arts in my country. [I] hope that [my books] will inspire people of all ages and cultures to consider having the arts in their lives and to [realize] that each of us has something to offer this planet."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Graphic Artists, Volume 1, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987.

PERIODICALS

Reading Today, April-May, 2002, "Latest Issue of Creativity-Oriented Comic Book Now Available," p. 34.

ONLINE

Cartoonists Across America & the World Home Page,http://www.ideaship.com (January 13, 2007).

Gline,http://www.thegline.com/ (February 26, 2002), review of The Legend of the Winged Tiger.

Sequential Tart,http://www.sequentialtart.com/ (January 13, 2007), Barb Lien, interview.

About this article

Yeh, Phil 1954-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article