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Feiffer, Jules (Ralph) 1929-

FEIFFER, Jules (Ralph) 1929-

Personal

Born January 26, 1929, in Bronx, NY; son of David (a dental technician, then salesman) and Rhoda (a fashion designer; maiden name, Davis) Feiffer; married Judith Sheftel (a motion picture executive), September 17, 1961 (divorced 1983); married Jennifer Allen (a journalist), September 11, 1983; children: (first marriage) Kate; (second marriage) Halley. Education: Attended Art Students' League, 1946, and Pratt Institute, 1947-48, 1949-51.


Addresses

Home New York, NY; Martha's Vineyard, MA. Agent Royce Carlton Inc., 866 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. E-mail [email protected]


Career

Playwright, cartoonist, and author/illustrator. Assistant to cartoonist Will Eisner, 1946-51; drew syndicated cartoon series "Clifford," 1949-51; held various art jobs, 1953-56, including making slide films, as writer for Terrytoons, and as designer of booklets for an art film; freelance cartoonist, with work published in Village Voice, New York, NY, 1956-97, in Observer, London, England, 1958-66, 1972-2000, and in Playboy, 1959; cartoons syndicated by Publishers-Hall Syndicate and distributed to more than one hundred newspapers in the United States and abroad, 1956-2000. Member of faculty at Yale University School of Drama, 1972-73, Northwestern University, 1996, and Southampton College, 1999; senior fellow of national arts journalism program, Columbia University, 1997. Exhibitions: Retrospective staged at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2003. Military service: U.S. Army, Signal Corps, 1951-53; worked in cartoon-animation unit.


Member

Authors League of America, Dramatists Guild (member of council), PEN, Writers Guild of America, East.

Awards, Honors

Academy Award for Best Short-Subject Cartoon, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1961, for Munro; Special George Polk Memorial Award, 1961; most promising playwright, New York Drama Critics, 1966-67, Best Foreign Play of the Year, London Theatre Critics, 1967, and Outer Critics Circle Award, and Off-Broadway Award, Village Voice, both 1969, all for Little Murders; Outer Critics Circle Award, 1970, for The White House Murder Case; Pulitzer Prize, 1986, for editorial cartooning; best screenplay honor, Venice Film Festival, 1989, for I Want to Go Home; elected to American Academy of Arts & Letters, 1995; honorary D.H.L., Long Island University, 1999; Red Colver Children's Choice Picture Book Award, 2000, for Bark, George; Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, National Cartoonists Society, 2003; Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing, Writers Guild of America, East, 2004; Harold Washington Literary Award, 2004; Patricia A. Barr Shalom Award, Americans for Peace Now, 2004.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED

(Illustrator) Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth, Random House (New York, NY), 1961, published with an appreciation by Maurice Sendak, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

The Man in the Ceiling, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Meanwhile . . . , HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

I Lost My Bear, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

Bark, George, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

(Illustrator) Florence Parry Heide, Some Things Are Scary, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

I'm Not Bobby!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.

By the Side of the Road, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

The House across the Street, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

The Daddy Mountain, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.


FOR ADULTS; CARTOONS, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

Sick, Sick, Sick: A Guide to Non-confident Living, McGraw (New York, NY), 1958, with introduction by Kenneth Tynan, Collins (London, England), 1959.

Passionella and Other Stories, McGraw (New York, NY), 1959.

(Illustrator) Robert Mines, My Mind Went All to Pieces, Dial (New York, NY), 1959.

The Explainers, McGraw (New York, NY), 1960.

Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, Random House (New York, NY), 1961.

Feiffer's Album, Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

Hold Me!, Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

Harry, the Rat with Women (novel), McGraw (New York, NY), 1963.

(Compiler and annotator) The Great Comic Book Heroes, Dial (New York, NY), 1965, revised edition, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2003.

The Unexpurgated Memories of Bernard Mergendeiler, Random House (New York, NY), 1965.

The Penguin Feiffer, Penguin (London, England), 1966.

Feiffer on Civil Rights, Anti-Defamation League (New York, NY), 1966.

Feiffer's Marriage Manual, Random House (New York, NY), 1967.

Pictures at a Prosecution: Drawings and Text from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Grove (New York, NY), 1971.

Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.

Ackroyd (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1977.

Tantrum: A Novel-in-Cartoons, Knopf (New York, NY), 1979.

Feiffery: Jules Feiffer's America from Eisenhower to Reagan, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.

Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy, and Other Dangerous Views, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1984.

Feiffer's Children: Including Munro, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1986.

Ronald Reagan in Movie America: A Jules Feiffer Production, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1988.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 1, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1989.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 3, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1991.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 4, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1997.


Ghost-scripted comic-book series "The Spirit," 1949-51. Contributor to periodicals, including Ramparts.


Feiffer's books have been translated into German, Swedish, Italian, Dutch, French, and Japanese.

PLAYS

The Explainers (satirical review), first produced in Chicago, IL, 1961.

The World of Jules Feiffer, first produced in New Jersey, 1962.

Crawling Arnold (one-act; first produced in Spoleto, Italy, 1961; produced by WEAV-TV, 1963), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1963.

The Unexpurgated Memoirs of Bernard Mergendeiler (first produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1967; produced with other plays as Collision Course, off-Broadway, 1968), published in Collision Course, edited by Edward Parone, Random House (New York, NY), 1968.

Little Murders (two-act comedy; first produced on Broadway, 1967; produced by Royal Shakespeare Company in London, England, 1967; revived off-Broadway, 1969), Random House (New York, NY), 1968.

God Bless, first produced at Yale School of Drama, New Haven, CT, 1968; produced by Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968.

Dick and Jane: A One-Act Play (also see below; first produced in New York, NY, as part of Oh! Calcutta!, revised by Kenneth Tynan, 1969), published in Oh! Calcutta!, edited by Tynan, Grove (New York, NY), 1969.

The White House Murder Case: A Play in Two Acts [and] Dick and Jane: A One-Act Play (The White House Murder Case first produced in New York, NY, 1970), Grove (New York, NY), 1970.

Feiffer's People: Sketches and Observations Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1969. (first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1968; produced in Los Angeles, CA,)1971.

(With others) The Watergate Classics, first produced at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1973.

Knock-Knock (first produced in New York, NY, 1974), Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1976.

Hold Me! (first produced in New York, NY, 1977), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1977.

Grown-ups (first produced in New York, NY, 1981), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1982.

A Think Piece, first produced in Chicago, IL, 1982.

Feiffer's America, first produced in Evanston, IL, 1988.

Carnal Knowledge, first produced in Houston, TX, 1988.

Elliot Loves (first produced in Chicago, IL, 1988), Grove (New York, NY), 1990.

Anthony Rose, first produced in Philadelphia, PA, 1989.

E-mail (one-act play), first produced as part of Short Talks on the Universe, produced in New York, NY, 2002.

A Bad Friend, first produced in New York, NY, 2003.


SCREENPLAYS

Little Murders, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971.

(With Israel Horovitz) VD Blues (produced by Public Broadcasting Service, 1972), Avon (New York, NY), 1974.

Popeye, Paramount, 1980.

(Adapter) Puss in Boots, Columbia Broadcast System/Fox Video, 1984.

I Want to Go Home, Marvin Karmitz Productions, 1989.

Contributor of sketches to productions of DMZ Cabaret, New York; writer for Steve Allen Show, 1964; author of episode "Kidnapped" for Happy Endings (series), American Broadcasting Company, Inc., 1975.


Adaptations

Munro, an animated cartoon based on Feiffer's story, was produced by Rembrandt Films, 1961; The Apple Tree, a musical by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, contains a playlet based on Feiffer's "Passionella," and was produced in New York, NY, 1966; Harry, the Rat with Women was adapted as a play produced at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1966; Carnal Knowledge was adapted as a motion picture, Avco Embassy, 1971; Grown-Ups was adapted for film and produced by PBS-TV, 1986; Popeye, the Movie Novel, based on Feifer's screenplay, was edited and adapted by Richard J. Anobile, Avon, 1980; Bark, George was adapted as an animated film narrated by John Lithgow, Weston Woods, 2003.


Work in Progress

A full-length animated film for Sony Pictures.


Sidelights

Decades before he published his first self-illustrated children's book in 1993, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer was well known to young readers as the illustrator of Norman Juster's classic 1961 novel The Phantom Tollbooth. During the intervening years, he was known to adult readers as the creator of satiric cartoons published in hundreds of newspapers, while his plays have appeared on numerous stages and several, with the artist/playwright's screenplays, have been adapted for film. In the early 1990s Feiffer came full circle, beginning a new phase of his career as a children's book author, and with books such as By the Side of the Road and The House across the Street, has won new fans through his sketchy pen-and-ink drawings and quirky texts.


Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1929, Feiffer was the son of a Polish mother and a father whose unsuccessful business ventures caused money worries to haunt the Feiffer household. The trials of the Great Depression did not help matters in the Feiffer home, and young Jules reacted by escaping into booksmore specifically comic books such as "Detective Comics"and drawing. When Feiffer was approximately seven years of age, he won a gold medal in an art contest sponsored by a New York department store. Knowing that a good job would help him avoid the financial plight of his parents, he decided to become a cartoonist. As Feiffer recalled in The Great Comic Book Heroes: "I . . . drew sixty-four pages in two days, sometimes one day, stapled the product together, and took it out on the street where kids my age sat behind orange crates selling and trading comic books. Mine went for less because they weren't real."

Feiffer studied the comic strips in the pages of the New York Times and the World-Telegram his father brought home after work, salvaged newspapers from garbage cans, and got friends to bring him the comics sections from the newspapers their parents discarded. "To see 'Terry and the Pirates,'" Feiffer explained, "we'd have to get the Daily News, which my family wouldn't allow in the house." The reason: his parentsboth Jewish and both Democratsbelieved that the publisher of the New York Daily News was anti-Semitic.

At age fifteen Feiffer enrolled at the Art Students' League, then studied at the Pratt Institute for a year, taking night courses. Meanwhile, in 1946, through a stroke of luck, he became an assistant to noted cartoonist Will Eisner. "He said I was worth absolutely nothing, but if I wanted to hang out there, and erase pages or do gofer work, that was fine," Feiffer recalled to Gary Groth in Comics Journal. Eisner eventually assigned Feiffer the writing and layout for the comic strip "The Spirit," and in exchange let his young apprentice cartoonist have the space on the last page of his current strip. Thus, the "Clifford" comic strip was born.

"Clifford" came to a close in 1951, when Feiffer was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. His experiences as part of the military provided Feiffer with the subject he would satirize for most of his remaining career: the workings of the U.S. government. "It was the first time I was truly away from home for a long period of time," Feiffer explained to Groth, "and thrown into a world that was antagonistic to everything I believed in, on every conceivable level. In a war that I was out of sympathy with, and in an army that I despised; [an army that] displayed every rule of illogic and contempt for the individual and mindless exercise of power. [That] became my material."

Released from duty in 1953, Feiffer was at work creating a weekly comic strip for the Village Voice by 1956. "We cut a stiff deal," the cartoonist recalled to a writer for Dramatists Guild Quarterly of his early attempt to get published. "They would publish anything I wrote and drew as long as I didn't ask to be paid." As he planned, Feiffer got a call from an editor at a different publication, who, as the cartoonist recalled, "said, 'oh boy, this guy is good, he's in the Voice, ' and accepted the same stuff his company had turned down when I had come to their offices as an unpublished cartoonist."

With the security of regular cartoon assignments, Feiffer could now refine his style, which was already influenced by the work of illustrator William Steig. By the late 1950s, his cartoons appeared regularly in Playboy, the London Observer, and in newspapers across the United States. Many of these strips have been collected in books such as Feiffer's Album, Feiffer on Nixon, and Feiffer's Children. In 1986 Feiffer was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. He continued to create comic strips on a regular basis for several decades, finally ending his syndicated comic strip in the summer of 2000.

While working as a syndicated cartoonist, Feiffer also began penning plays, and his first drama, Little Murders, was produced on Broadway in 1967. The play was a popular and critical success, winning an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Village Voice Off-Broadway Award, among others. Through the 1980s Feiffer wrote a number of other plays, as well as several screenplays that were produced as major motion pictures. His film Popeye, starring Robin Williams, was released in 1980, and his stage works, which include the autobiographical Grown-ups, The White House Murder Case, and with A Bad Friend, have been produced both in the United States and in Europe.


Feiffer's debut as a children's author came in the early 1990s with The Man in the Ceiling, a story about ten-year-old Jimmy Jibbett and his efforts to win the friendship of the popular Charlie Beemer by expressing a willingness to translate Charlie's stories into cartoons. Cathryn M. Camper noted in Five Owls that The Man in the Ceiling "recognizes that a large part of the formation of an artist takes place in his or her youth. . . . Feiffer conveys . . . this with a sense of humor, combining samples of Jimmy's comics to help tell the tale."

Some of Feiffer's children's books feature their creator's characteristic mature satire even as they entertain younger readers with a humorous tale. His A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears was described by a Publishers Weekly contributor as "a sophisticatedly silly fairy tale that relaxes storytelling conventions." The topic of road rage prompted by long-distance family auto trips is the focus of By the Side of the Road, which finds the parents of an unruly eight year old making good on their threat: "If you don't stop that now you'll end up on the side of the road." Actually deposited on the side of the road and abandoned, the boy makes a new life for himself, is joined by another abandoned child, and grows to adulthood, occasionally visited by his family and becoming the subject of envy by his stay-at-home brother. While noting that By the Side of the Road is "really for parents," New York Times Book Review contributor Cynthia Zarin wrote that Feiffer "is in top form here."

Feiffer turns to more traditional tales for children with Meanwhile . . . , The Daddy Mountain, and Bark, George, the last a reversal of the old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly story. Meanwhile . . . draws on a fantasy tradition of a modern sort, as comic-book fan Raymond, pursued by his angry mother, decides to pull the "Meanwhile. . ." dialogue balloon out of his comic book to see if it will transport him somewhere else in a hurry. "Frantic action and the clever theme make this a great read-aloud," concluded School Library Journal contributor Lisa S. Murphy. In The Daddy Mountain, which narrates a small girl's successful attempt at a daunting ascent up onto her father's shoulders, the author captures what Booklist reviewer Jennifer Mattson described as "daddies' special fondness for roughhousing" in illustrations that "are vintage Feiffer," according to Grace Oliff in School Library Journal. A young dog who goes "meow" instead of "arf" is the focus of Feiffer's award-winning Bark, George, which finds the pup's distressed mother hurrying her son off to the local vet to find the source of the problem: he has swallowed a cat. Praising Bark George as the "pairing of an ageless joke with a crisp contemporary look," a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed Feiffer's simply drawn illustrations "striking" and "studies in minimalism and eloquence." Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin praised Feiffer's "easy to follow" text and added that the author/illustrator's "characters are unforgettable . . . and the pictures burst with the sort of broad physical comedy that a lot of children just love."

I'm Not Bobby finds a young boy determined to be someone else. Refusing to respond to calls for Bobby, he pretends to be a horse, a car, a dinosaur, a giant, and even a space ship in an effort to tune out his mother's calls. Finally, dinner time and fatigue make being Bobby by far the best option, in a book that features "Feiffer's exuberantly drawn signature illustrations," according to a Horn Book contributor.

Dissatisfaction is also the subject of The House across the Street, which finds a young boy wishing he lived in the larger house of a neighborhood friend. While imagining that a wealth of wonderful toys, fabulous dogs, and even a dolphin-filled swimming pool must exist in that amazing house, the boy also conjures up a family in which parents never fight, happy friends come and go, and the house rings with laughter, giving The House across the Street a poignant note while it also captures the whining note of many a "common childhood tune," according to a Kirkus reviewer. Noting that Feiffer captures "a child's anger about . . . adult authority," Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman praised the book for also expressing "a child's loneliness and his soaring imaginative power."


Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Cohen, Sarah Blacher, editor, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Jewish-American Stage and Screen, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1983.

Contemporary Dramatists, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 64, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 7: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, 1981, Volume 44: American Screenwriters, 1986.

DiGaetani, John L., editor, A Search for a Postmodern

Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Feiffer, Jules, The Great Comic Book Heroes, Dial (New York, NY), 1965.


PERIODICALS

American Theatre, May-June, 2003, "Twenty Questions: Jules Feiffer," p. 88.

Back Stage, June 27, 2003, Irene Backalenick, review of A Bad Friend, p. 48.

Booklist, November 15, 1993, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 620; December 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Meanwhile . . . , p. 636; August 19, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Bark, George, p. 2052; June 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of By the Side of the Road, p. 1742; December 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of The House across the Street, p. 673; May 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 1562.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1993, pp. 120-121; February, 1996, p. 189.

Comics Journal, August, 1988, Gary Groth, "Memories of a Pro Bono Cartoonist"; winter, 2004, "A Thirst for Storytelling."

Dramatists Guild Quarterly, winter, 1987, Christopher Duran, "Jules Feiffer, Cartoonist-Playwright."

Editor & Publisher, May 31, 1986, David Astor, "An Unexpected Pulitzer for Jules Feiffer;" May 29, 2000, Dave Astor, "Feiffer Focus No Longer on Syndication," p. 35.

Five Owls, January-February, 1994, Cathryn M. Camper, review of The Man in the Ceiling, pp. 66-67.

Horn Book, September-October, 1997, p. 557; March-April, 1998, Lauren Adams, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 212; January, 2001, review of Some Things Are Scary, p. 83; November-December, 2001, review of I'm Not Bobby!, pp. 735-736; May-June, 2002, Kristi Beavin, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 353; May-June, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Daddy Mountain, pp. 310-311.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1997, p. 1110; March 15, 1998, p. 402; November 1, 2002, review of The House across the Street, p. 1611; April 1, 2004, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 328.

Library Journal, July, 2003, Steve Raiteri, review of The Great Comic Book Heroes, pp. 69-70.

Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1993, Lawrence Christon, "Jules Feiffer Fine-toons His Career," p. E1; June 17, 2000, John J. Goldman, "Swan Song for Feiffer's Dancer," p. D1.

New Leader, July-August, 2003, Stefan Kanfer, "Family Affairs," pp. 41-43.

New York Post, May 26, 2002, "Still Quick on the Draw," p. 62.

New York Times, May 29, 1997, Elisabeth Bumiller, "Jules Feiffer Draws the Line at No Pay from The Voice, " p. B1; January 23, 2000, Josh Schonwald, "Laughs and Learning with Jules Feiffer," p. P2; June 17, 2000, Sarah Boxer, "Jules Feiffer, at Seventy-one, Slows down to a Gallop," p. B1; March 4, 2003, Mel Gussow, "Jules Feiffer, Freed of His Comic Strip Duties, Finds a New Visibility," p. E1; June 10, 2003, Bruce Weber, "Uncle Joe Smiles down on a Family of Old Lefties," p. E1.

New York Times Book Review, November 14, 1993, Jonathan Fast, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 57; December 31, 1995, Daniel Pinkwater, review of A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears; March 15, 1998, Constance L. Hays, review of Meanwhile . . . , p. 24; May 17, 1998, Krystyna Poray Goddu, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 22; August 15, 1999, review of Bark, George, p. 24; November 19, 2000, Jeanne P. Binder, "Things That Go Squish in the Night," p. 44; November 18, 2001, Dwight Garner, "'Better Not Call Me Again. I'm a Monster,'" p. 25; September 29, 2002, Cynthia Zarin, "The Boy Who Willed One Thing," p. 27; October 29, 2002, Cynthia Zarin, review of By the Side of the Road; June 8, 2003, Andrea Stevens, "Jules Feiffer's Communist Manifesto," p. 5; June 27, 2004, p. 14.

New York Times Magazine, May 16, 1976, Robin Brantley, "'Knock Knock' 'Who's There?' 'Feiffer'"; June 15, 2003, Deborah Solomon, "Playing with History," p. 13.

Print, May-June, 1998, Steven Heller, interview with Feiffer, pp. 40-41; May-June, 1999, Carol Stevens, "Baby Teeth," p. 50; September, 2000, Steven Heller, "Feiffer's Last Dance," p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1993, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 62; November 27, 1995, review of A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, p. 70; January 26, 1998, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 91; June 21, 1999, review of Bark, George, p. 66; October, 2000, review of Some Things Are Scary, p. 76; August 20, 2001, review of I'm Not Bobby, p. 78; May 13, 2002, review of By the Side of the Road, p. 69; October 14, 2002, review of The House across the Street, p. 82; June 30, 2003, review of The Great Comic Book Heroes, p. 59; April 5, 2004, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 60.

Quill & Quire, November, 1993, p. 40.

School Library Journal, January, 1996, p. 108; September, 1997, Lisa S. Murphy, review of Meanwhile . . . , p. 180; March, 1998, Julie Cummins, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 179; September, 1999, p. 182; January 1, 2001, Maryann H. Owen, review of Some Things Are Scary, p. 101; November, 2001, review of I'm Not Bobby!, pp. 119-120; May, 2002, Wendy Lukehart, review of By the Side of the Road, p. 152; February, 2003, Wendy Lukehart, review of The House across the Street, p. 111; May, 2003, Steve Weiner, "A Found Feiffer," p. 33; June, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 108.

Time, May 21, 2001, Francine Russo, "A Matter of Medium," p. G8.

ONLINE

Jules Feiffer Online, http://www.julesfeiffer.com (February 1, 2005).

Public Broadcasting System Web site, http://www.pbs.org/ (March 15, 1998), "The Art of Jules Feiffer"; (August 10, 2000) "Power of the Pen."*

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Jules Ralph Feiffer

Jules Ralph Feiffer

American artist and writer Jules Ralph Feiffer (born 1929) was best known for his satirical cartoons, but his artistic creations and acclaim also extended to plays, screenplays, and novels.

Jules Feiffer, who was born on January 26, 1929, in Bronx, New York, to David and Rhoda (nee Davis) Feiffer, always had an interest in drawing. By age five he had won a gold medal in a contest sponsored by John Wanamaker's department store in New York for his picture of Tom Mix arresting outlaws. After graduating from high school, Feiffer studied at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute. From 1946 to 1951 he worked as an assistant to legendary cartoonist Will Eisner, creator of the popular comic book "The Spirit." Feiffer so impressed Eisner with his writing ability that he was given responsibility for scripting "The Spirit." During this period Feiffer also created a comic strip of his own called "Clifford," a Sunday cartoon-page feature about the adventures of a little boy and his dog. His budding career was interrupted in 1951 when he was drafted into the Army. Although military service was repugnant to Feiffer, the two-year hitch actually changed the course of his work.

The Satirist

Before the service, Feiffer said his ambition "was no more and no less than to do a daily comic strip and a Sunday page in whatever style I found." His anger at being in the Army and his rage against authority, however, led him to satire and the desire to make pointed social and political comments through his art. Feiffer's first effort in that direction was the creation of "Munro," the story of a four-year-old boy mistakenly drafted into the Army.

After leaving the military, though, Feiffer had difficulty getting started as a satirist. Unable to interest a publisher in his book of cartoons about "Munro," he drifted from one art job to another between periods of unemployment. Then, in 1956, Feiffer took some of his cartoons to the Village Voice, the weekly newspaper in New York's Greenwich Village that was just getting started. Although it could not pay, the Voice provided Feiffer with a platform and complete freedom to express his thoughts. Feiffer's simple drawings, which combined the commentary of editorial cartoons with the multi-panel structure of comic strips, were an instant success. After two years Feiffer's cartoons from the Voice were compiled into a best-selling book called Sick, Sick, Sick. Then Playboy magazine put him on a $500-a-week retainer and his career was firmly launched.

Feiffer's cartoons attracted attention and a devoted following because they differed so markedly from the norm. His work looked like comic strips, but instead of gags and preposterous situations, Feiffer offered biting vignettes of contemporary life in an attempt to expose society's ills and do something about them. Feiffer spoke of "writing" his cartoons because he believed in the supremacy of wording over illustration. Indeed, while drawing the cartoons came easily, he sometimes rewrote his captions fifteen times.

Characters and Themes

The characters in Feiffer's sharp pen drawings, which included introspective adults, precocious children, nonconformists, politicians, and army generals, experienced and explained emotional anxiety and political upheaval. Feiffer was once described as being "at war with complacency, with the cliche mongers who provide society with meaningless slogans to live by, with the pomposity of officialdom, and with the carefully cultivated dullness of our carefully protected daily lives." Summarizing his own work, Feiffer said that it dealt "with going up against authority and conventional wisdom, and how people use language not to communicate, and the use of power in relationships." Feiffer used his signature character, the dancer in the black leotard, to offer a ray of optimism. He said of her: "Whatever the problems and disasters, and however often hope is dashed, she rises up and dances again. She'll never be defeated by the realities."

Beginning in the 1960s, Feiffer, an outspoken liberal, increasingly concentrated on political themes such as race relations, Vietnam, and the presidency. Of the latter he said, "I really go after the presidents and seem to have a good time slapping them around." Explaining why Reagan was a special target, he said, "I rage at his smugness, ignorance and ideological blindness." Feiffer's rage at presidents and the problems he saw in America, even after nearly four decades of cartooning, never moderated. "When I see something that makes me angry, drawing a cartoon about it provides a temporary 'fix'," he said. "When the system is not corrected overnight—or even in twenty-five years—my temper tends to rise again."

Awards and Publications

In addition to appearing in the Village Voice and Playboy, Feiffer's cartoons were syndicated to more than a hundred newspapers in the United States and abroad and were compiled into numerous books. His work earned him a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1986, a special George Polk Memorial Award, a Newspaper Guild Page One Award, an Overseas Press Club Award, and a Capital Press Club Award. In 1995 he was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Besides these honors, Feiffer influenced a generation of cartoonists, including "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau, who always credited Feiffer as his guru.

Although cartooning was his anchor, Feiffer's artistic creations and acclaim were wide-ranging. He also wrote plays, screenplays, novels, and teleplays as well as doing illustrations for several books. He won an Academy Award for his 1961 animated feature, "Munro," and wrote the screenplays for "Carnal Knowledge," "Little Murders," "Popeye," and "I Want To Go Home," which was made and released in France. His plays, which included "Little Murders," "The White House Murder Case," and "Elliott Loves," won him two Outer Circle Critics Awards, an Obie, and the London Theatre Critics Award. Feiffer was also named most promising playwright of the 1966-1967 season by New York drama critics. His novels include Harry, the Rat with Women and Ackroyd. Recently he has focued on writing children's books. In 1993 he published The Man in the Ceiling and A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears was published in 1995. In 1996 Feiffer donated his papers and drawings to the Library of Congress.

Feiffer always tried to be innovative in whatever artistic endeavor he attempted. He once said that as both writer and cartoonist, he enjoyed "understanding, acknowledging, respecting, and then ignoring the limitations of the different mediums I'm working in."

Further Reading

There are numerous books of Feiffer's cartoons, including: Ronald Reagan in Movie America: A Jules Feiffer Production; Feiffer's Children; Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy and Other Dangerous Views.

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Feiffer, Jules

Jules Feiffer (fī´fər), 1929–, American cartoonist and writer, b. New York City. He began publishing a cartoon strip in the Village Voice in 1956, maintaining his association with the paper until 1997; his strip continued until 2000 in several Sunday papers. Satirizing a world dominated by the atomic bomb and psychoanalysis, the comic strips were especially concerned with the breakdown of communication between government and citizen, black and white, and man and woman. Among his cartoon collections are Sick, Sick, Sick (1958), Feiffer's Album (1963), Jules Feiffer's America (1982), and Feiffer's Children (1986). He received an Academy Award for the animated cartoon Munro in 1961 and the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1986. Feiffer's best-known play is the black comedy Little Murders (1967); others include The Explainers (1961), a musical; Grown Ups (1981); and A Bad Friend (2003). He has also written two novels, Harry: The Rat with Women (1963) and Ackroyd (1977); screenplays, including those for Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Popeye (1980); a graphic novel, Kill My Mother (2014); a memoir, Backing into Forward (2010); and a number of children's books, including The Man in the Ceiling (1993), I Lost My Bear (1998), I'm Not Bobby! (2001), and A Room with a Zoo (2005).

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Feiffer, Jules

FEIFFER, JULES

FEIFFER, JULES (1929– ), U.S. cartoonist and writer. Born in the Bronx, New York, Feiffer studied at James Monroe High School and entered the Art Students' League. From 1947 to 1951 he studied at the Pratt Institute while working as an assistant on the comic The Spirit. Growing up, he had always assumed that The Spirit was Jewish. In 1949 he created his first Sunday cartoon page feature, Clifford. He served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953, working with a cartoon animation unit. Upon leaving the army, Feiffer worked in a number of jobs until in 1956, the New York weekly magazine The Village Voice began to publish his cartoons. His comic strip, which was simply called Feiffer, was an immediate success and appeared regularly in The Village Voice and was also internationally syndicated. His satirical cartoons made moral and political statements on a wide range of contemporary issues, both political and personal – from nuclear holocaust, the arms race, and presidential politics to male-female relationships and human fears, and neuroses – and were characterized by the revelation of the private thoughts of his characters. After appearing weekly for 43 years, Feiffer's last syndicated cartoon strip was published on June 18, 2000.

Although known primarily for his cartoons, Feiffer has also achieved success as a playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. His plays of the late 1960s, Little Murders (1967), God Bless (1968), and The White House Murder Case (1969), were all highly political. Little Murders, which depicted the horrors of urban life, was later made into a film. In 1963, he came out against the Vietnam War, subsequently speaking at peace demonstrations in Washington.

His screenplay for the 1971 movie Carnal Knowledge and his play Knock Knock (1976) dealt with more personal issues, the former with middle-age crisis and the latter with social values. His play Grownups (1981) focused on interfamily relationships and conflicts. He also wrote the screenplay for the film comedy I Want to Go Home (1989), directed by Alan Resnais and starring Adolph Green, as well as the script for the 1991 tv series The Nudnik Show.

In 1986 Feiffer received the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning, and in 2004 was honored with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award by the Writers Guild of America.

Among Feiffer's many published works are Sick Sick Sick: A Guide to Non-Confident Living (1958); Great Comic Book Heroes (1965), a critical history of the comic book super-heroes of the late 1930s and early 1940s; Jules Feiffer's America, from Eisenhower to Reagan (1982); Marriage Is an invasion of Privacy, and Other Dangerous Views (1984); Ronald Reagan in Movie America: A Jules Feiffer Production (1988); and President Bill: A Graphic Epic (with W. Brown, 1990). Some of his many books for children include The Man in the Ceiling (1993); A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears (1995); Tantrum (1997); Meanwhile (1997); I Lost My Bear (1998); and Bark, George (1999).

add. bibliography:

K. McAuliffe, The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of the Village Voice (1978); S. Heller (ed.), Man Bites Man: Two Decades of Satiric Art19601980 (1981).

[Susan Strul /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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Feiffer, Jules

Jules Feiffer

Personal

Born January 26, 1929, in Bronx, NY; son of David (a dental technician, then salesman) and Rhoda (a fashion designer; maiden name, Davis) Feiffer; married Judith Sheftel (a motion picture executive), September 17, 1961 (divorced 1983); married Jennifer Allen (a journalist), September 11, 1983; children: (first marriage) Kate; (second marriage) Halley. Education: Attended Art Students' League, 1946, and Pratt Institute, 1947-48, 1949-51.

Addresses

Home—New York, NY; Martha's Vineyard, MA. Agent—Royce Carlton Inc., 866 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Playwright, cartoonist, and satirist. Assistant to cartoonist Will Eisner, 1946-51; drew syndicated cartoon series "Clifford," 1949-51; held various art jobs, 1953-56, including making slide films, as writer for Terrytoons, and as designer of booklets for an art film; freelance cartoonist, with work published in Village Voice, New York, NY, 1956-97, in Observer, London, England, 1958-66, 1972-2000, and in Playboy, 1959—; cartoons syndicated by Publishers-Hall Syndicate and distributed to more than one hundred newspapers in the United States and abroad, 1956-2000. Member of faculty at Yale University School of Drama, 1972-73, Northwestern University, 1996, and Southampton College, 1999—; senior fellow of national arts journalism program, Columbia University, 1997. Military service: U.S. Army, Signal Corps, 1951-53; worked in cartoon-animation unit.

Member

Authors League of America, Dramatists Guild (member of council), PEN, Writers Guild of America, East.

Awards, Honors

Academy Award for Best Short-Subject Cartoon, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1961, for Munro; Special George Polk Memorial Award, 1961; most promising playwright, New York Drama Critics, 1966-67, Best Foreign Play of the Year, London Theatre Critics, 1967, and Outer Critics Circle Award, and Off-Broadway Award, Village Voice, both 1969, all for Little Murders; Outer Critics Circle Award, 1970, for The White House Murder Case; Pulitzer Prize, 1986, for editorial cartooning; best screenplay honor, Venice Film Festival, 1989, for I Want to Go Home; elected to American Academy of Arts & Letters, 1995; honorary D.H.L., Long Island University, 1999; Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, National Cartoonists Society, 2003; Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing, Writers Guild of America, East, 2004; Harold Washington Literary Award, 2004; Patricia A. Barr Shalom Award, Americans for Peace Now, 2004.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

(Illustrator) Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth, Random House (New York, NY), 1961, published with an appreciation by Maurice Sendak, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

The Man in the Ceiling, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Meanwhile …, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

I Lost My Bear, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

Bark, George, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

(Illustrator) Florence Parry Heide, Some Things Are Scary, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

I'm Not Bobby!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.

By the Side of the Road, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

The House across the Street, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

The Daddy Mountain, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

FOR ADULTS; CARTOONS, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

Sick, Sick, Sick: A Guide to Non-confident Living, McGraw (New York, NY), 1958, with introduction by Kenneth Tynan, Collins (London, England), 1959.

Passionella and Other Stories, McGraw (New York, NY), 1959.

(Illustrator) Robert Mines, My Mind Went All to Pieces, Dial (New York, NY), 1959.

The Explainers, McGraw (New York, NY), 1960.

Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, Random House (New York, NY), 1961.

Feiffer's Album, Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

Hold Me!, Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

Harry, the Rat with Women (novel), McGraw (New York, NY), 1963.

(Compiler and annotator) The Great Comic Book Heroes, Dial (New York, NY), 1965, revised edition, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2003.

The Unexpurgated Memories of Bernard Mergendeiler, Random House (New York, NY), 1965.

The Penguin Feiffer, Penguin (London, England), 1966.

Feiffer on Civil Rights, Anti-Defamation League (New York, NY), 1966.

Feiffer's Marriage Manual, Random House (New York, NY), 1967.

Pictures at a Prosecution: Drawings and Text from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Grove (New York, NY), 1971.

Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.

Ackroyd (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1977.

Tantrum: A Novel-in-Cartoons, Knopf (New York, NY), 1979.

Feiffery: Jules Feiffer's America from Eisenhower to Reagan, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.

Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy, and Other Dangerous Views, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1984.

Feiffer's Children: Including Munro, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1986.

Ronald Reagan in Movie America: A Jules Feiffer Production, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1988.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 1, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1989.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 2, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1989.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 3, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1991.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 4, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1997.

Ghost-scripted comic-book series "The Spirit," 1949-51.

PLAYS

The Explainers (satirical review), first produced in Chicago, IL, 1961.

Crawling Arnold (one-act; first produced in Spoleto, Italy, 1961; produced by WEAV-TV, 1963), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1963.

The World of Jules Feiffer, first produced in New Jersey, 1962.

The Unexpurgated Memoirs of Bernard Mergendeiler (first produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1967; produced with other plays as Collision Course, off-Broadway, 1968), published in Collision Course, edited by Edward Parone, Random House (New York, NY), 1968.

Little Murders (two-act comedy; first produced on Broadway, 1967; produced by Royal Shakespeare Company in London, England, 1967; revived off-Broadway, 1969), Random House (New York, NY), 1968.

God Bless, first produced at Yale School of Drama, New Haven, CT, 1968; produced by Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968.

Feiffer's People: Sketches and Observations (first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1968; produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1971), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1969.

Dick and Jane: A One-Act Play (also see below; first produced in New York, NY, as part of Oh! Calcutta!, revised by Kenneth Tynan, 1969), published in Oh! Calcutta!, edited by Tynan, Grove (New York, NY), 1969.

The White House Murder Case: A Play in Two Acts [and] Dick and Jane: A One-Act Play (The White House Murder Case first produced in New York, NY, 1970), Grove (New York, NY), 1970.

(With others) The Watergate Classics, first produced at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1973.

Knock-Knock (first produced in New York, NY, 1974), Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1976.

Hold Me! (first produced in New York, NY, 1977), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1977.

Grown-ups (first produced in New York, NY, 1981), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1982.

A Think Piece, first produced in Chicago, IL, 1982.

Feiffer's America, first produced in Evanston, IL, 1988.

Carnal Knowledge (first produced in Houston, TX, 1988).

Elliot Loves (first produced in Chicago, IL, 1988), Grove (New York, NY), 1990.

Anthony Rose, first produced in Philadelphia, PA, 1989.

E-mail (one-act play; first produced as part of Short Talks on the Universe; produced in New York, NY, at Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 2002.

A Bad Friend, first produced in New York, NY, at Mitzi Newhouse Theater, 2003.

SCREENPLAYS

Little Murders, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971.

(With Israel Horovitz) VD Blues (produced by Public Broadcasting Service, 1972), Avon (New York, NY), 1974.

Popeye, Paramount, 1980.

(Adapter) Puss in Boots, Columbia Broadcast System/Fox Video, 1984.

I Want to Go Home, Marvin Karmitz Productions, 1989.

Contributor of sketches to productions of DMZ Cabaret, New York; writer for Steve Allen Show, 1964; author of episode "Kidnapped" for Happy Endings (series), American Broadcasting Company, Inc., 1975.

OTHER

A Room with a Zoo, Michael Di Capua Books, 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Ramparts.

Feiffer's books have been translated into German, Swedish, Italian, Dutch, French, and Japanese.

Adaptations

Munro, an animated cartoon based on Feiffer's story, was produced by Rembrandt Films, 1961; The Apple Tree, a musical by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, contains a playlet based on Feiffer's "Passionella," and was produced in New York, NY, 1966; Harry, the Rat with Women was adapted as a play produced at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1966; Carnal Knowledge was adapted as a motion picture, Avco Embassy, 1971; Grown-Ups was adapted for film and produced by PBS-TV, 1986; Popeye, the Movie Novel, based on Feifer's screenplay, was edited and adapted by Richard J. Anobile, Avon, 1980.

Work in Progress

A full-length animated film for Sony pictures.

Sidelights

Decades before he published his first self-illustrated children's book in 1993, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer was well known to young readers as the illustrator of Norman Juster's classic 1961 novel The Phantom Tollbooth. For adult readers, however, Feiffer's satiric cartoons have been a familiar sight in hundreds of newspapers both in the United States and internationally, and feature what Daniel Pinkwater described in the New York Times Book Review as "distinctive loose-limbed" characters. In addition, Feiffer's plays have appeared on numerous stages and several, along with the author/illustrator's screenplays, have been adapted for film.

Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1929, Feiffer grew up in a household dominated by his parents' strained relationship. His mother, a Polish immigrant of an independent spirit, was not happy as a homemaker and mother, and his father, an immigrant of a passive disposition, did not have the business instincts required for success in the competitive U.S. marketplace. The trials of the Great Depression did not help matters in the Feiffer home. Reacting to his parents' stress over money and other matters, and sensing that he was different from other children, Feiffer spent a lot of time in his room, reading—Feiffer's childhood coincided with the golden age of comic books, and Detective Comics appeared on the newsstands in 1937—and drawing. Ironically, this artistic emotional outlet paid off for the young boy; when Feiffer was approximately seven years of age, he won a gold medal in an art contest sponsored by a New York department store.

Discontented with his lot as a child, Feiffer knew the only way to change things was to grow up quickly and find a good job doing something at which he could excel. He decided to become a cartoonist. As Feiffer would recall in The Great Comic Book Heroes: "I swiped [ideas] diligently from the swipers, drew sixty-four pages in two days, sometimes one day, stapled the product together, and took it out on the street where kids my age sat behind orange crates selling and trading comic books. Mine went for less because they weren't real." He studied the comic strips in the pages of the New York Times and the World-Telegram, which his father brought home with him after work. He even salvaged newspapers from garbage cans, or got friends to bring him papers after their parents were through with them. "To see 'Terry and the Pirates,'" Feiffer explained, "we'd have to get the Daily News, which my family wouldn't allow in the house." The reason: his parents—both Jewish and both Democrats—believed that the publisher of the New York Daily News was anti-Semitic.

Feiffer did not view his years attending the city's public school as providing any sort of opportunity. "My idea of going to school was to mark time until I got into the comic-strip business," he once explained in the New York Times Magazine. "But I was never rebellious as a kid. It never occurred to me that I could be. I saw who had the guns. I assumed I was outnumbered from the start, so I went underground for the first twenty years of my life. I observed, registered things, but commented as little as possible."

Becoming an Artist

At the age of fifteen Feiffer enrolled at the Art Students' League. "My mother dragged me," the cartoonist recalled to Gary Groth in Comics Journal. "I was a very shy kid, and very nervous, truly nervous about putting this talent that I fantasized a lot about on the line.… [So] when she … took me by the hand … to the Art Students' League, I remember screaming bloody murder, I didn't want to go. But she thought I should study anatomy, and it was wonderful."

Needing a few credits in order to qualify for college, Feiffer then enrolled at the Pratt Institute for a year, but finding the school's preoccupation with European abstract art little to his liking he switched to night courses. Meanwhile, in 1946, through a stroke of luck, Feiffer became an assistant to cartoonist Will Eisner, one of his childhood idols. "He said I was worth absolutely nothing, but if I wanted to hang out there, and erase pages or do gofer work, that was fine," Feiffer recalled to Groth. Eisner soon had Feiffer writing and doing the layout for the comic strip "The Spirit." In lieu of what Feiffer felt should be a well-earned pay raise, Eisner let the apprentice cartoonist have the space on the last page of his current strip, and the "Clifford" comic was born.

"Clifford" came to a close in 1951, when Feiffer was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. His experiences as part of the military helped to focus Feiffer on the subject he would satirize for most of his remaining career: the workings of the U.S. government. "It was the first time I was truly away from home for a long period of time," Feiffer explained to Groth, "and thrown into a world that was antagonistic to everything I believed in, on every conceivable level. In a war that I was out of sympathy with, and in an army that I despised; [an army that] displayed every rule of illogic and contempt for the individual and mindless exercise of power. [That] became my material."

Released from duty in 1953, and having failed to find a publisher for his comic drawings, Feiffer found work in 1956 drawing a weekly comic strip for the Village Voice. "We cut a stiff deal," the cartoonist recalled to a writer for Dramatists Guild Quarterly of his early attempt to get published. "They would publish anything I wrote and drew as long as I didn't ask to be paid." While the agreement might not sound too financially sound, it had the desired result. Soon, Feiffer got a call from an editor at a different publication, who, as Feiffer recalled, "said, 'oh boy, this guy is good, he's in the Voice,' and accepted the same stuff his company had turned down when I had come to their offices as an unpublished cartoonist."

Now that Feiffer had paying cartoon jobs, plus his weekly strip at the Village Voice, he began to work on honing his style. Heavily influenced by the work of illustrator William Steig, he worried about finding a medium that would give him the line quality he desired, but that he could also work with. In dealing with reproduction, he tended to stiffen up; he couldn't handle a brush well, he couldn't handle a pen. He could handle a pencil, but pencil lines don't reproduce well. Finally, after almost six months, he stumbled on a technique of using wooden dowels to create a dry line approximating that of pencil, which he would draw using poster and diluted black ink.

Feiffer accepted a paying job at Terrytoons, where he was to develop an animated morning television series. When that didn't pan out, he went to work for Playboy magazine, doing a monthly cartoon. By the late 1950s, Feiffer's cartoons appeared regularly in newspapers across the United States, and the London Observer began including a weekly Feiffer cartoon in 1958. Many of his strips have also been included in published collections, including Feiffer's Album, Feiffer on Nixon, and Feiffer's Children. In 1986 he was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. Almost "as wonderful as winning the award was the response from friends and strangers," the satirist told David Astor in Editor & Publisher. "It reaffirmed the reason I've been doing the cartoons all these years … and gave me a sense of rejuvenation. One assumes there's an audience out there, but it's not always evident."

Cartoonist, Playwright, and Children's Author

While continuing his work as a syndicated cartoonist, Feiffer became interested in transferring his ideas to the stage, and his first play, Little Murders, was produced on Broadway in 1967. Working in the dramatic form was a natural fit for Feiffer, who had originally begun Little Murders as a novel before switching to all dialogue. Little Murders was a popular and critical success, winning and Outer Critics Circle Award and an Off-Broadway Award, among others. Through the 1980s Feiffer wrote a number of other plays as well as several screenplays that were produced as major motion pictures. His film Popeye, starring Robin Williams, was released in 1980, and his stage works, which include the autobiographical Grown-ups, The White House Murder Case, and God Bless, were produced both in the United States and in Europe.

After taking a break from theatre during the 1990s, in 2003 Feiffer returned with A Bad Friend, a semi-autobiographical drama set in Brooklyn during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. Reviewing A Bad Friend in Variety, Charles Isherwood called the work "an ambitious attempt to illuminate the major absurdities and minor tragedies of the era by exploring the pressures that the country's climate of fear put on a pair of communism-besotted parents and their troubled teenage daughter." The play focuses on Naomi and Shelly Wallach, a middle-aged Jewish couple who are also staunch Marxists, and their teenage daughter Rose, who rebels against her parents' dogmatic politics. Rose finds solace in her friendship with Emil, a painter she meets on the Brooklyn Heights esplanade who hides a mysterious past. The play received generally positive reviews. According to New Republic critic Robert Brustein, Feiffer "needs to make his dialogue less quotable and his characters less defined by their politics if he wants to capture more of the flowing, stammering, unpredictable quality of life. In all other respects, this effort to re-create politically conscious theater is cause for celebration." Though New York Times critic Bruce Weber found A Bad Friend to be predictable at times, he also noted, "In the end the play resonates with painful nostalgia and honestly appraised personal history."

Although his work as illustrator of The Phantom Toll-booth was still in print, Feiffer did nothing else in the children's-book field for almost thirty years. His official debut as a children's author came in the early 1990s with The Man in the Ceiling, a story about ten-year-old Jimmy Jibbett and his efforts to win the friendship of the popular Charlie Beemer by expressing a willingness to translate Charlie's stories into cartoons. Cathryn M. Camper noted in Five Owls that The Man in the Ceiling "recognizes that a large part of the formation of an artist takes place in his or her youth.… Feiffer conveys … this with a sense of humor, combining samples of Jimmy's comics to help tell the tale."

Feiffer followed The Man in the Ceiling with A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, which a Publishers Weekly contributor described as "a sophisticatedly silly fairy tale that relaxes storytelling conventions." Feiffer's next work, Meanwhile …, draws on a fantasy tradition of a more modern sort, as comic-book fan Raymond, pursued by his angry mother, decides to pull the "Meanwhile …" dialogue balloon out of his comic book to see if it will transport him somewhere else in a hurry. "Frantic action and the clever theme make this a great read-aloud," concluded School Library Journal contributor Lisa S. Murphy. Feiffer published I Lost My Bear, amore traditional picture-book effort, in 1998, and Bark, George, a reversal of the old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly story, appeared in 1999.

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

A New Direction

In 2000 Feiffer decided to end his long-running syndicated comic strip; his last cartoon appeared on June 18, 2000. From this point on, the author/illustrator wanted to focus on writing plays and children's books, publishing cartoons in magazines, and teaching. "The big surprise has been how easy it was to give up the weekly strip," Feiffer told New York Times interviewer Mel Gussow, "and how I haven't missed it at all." Feiffer also remarked that his decision was a necessary one. "It seems to me what made me a serious political artist was that I always believed that what I did, along with other cartoonists, could effect change in some way. I no longer have that illusion." He added, "How happy I am that I stumbled into all these other forms."

Continuing his work for children, Feiffer served as illustrator for Florence Parry Heide's Some Things Are Scary, published in 2000. I'm Not Bobby!, "a cathartic book that recalls aspects of Where the Wild Things Are," according to a Publishers Weekly critic, appeared in 2001. In this work, a young boy adopts a series of alter egos after he tires of hearing his name called repeatedly by adults. "What's great about the drawings in I'm Not Bobby!, as in almost all Feiffer's work for children, is that they seem to be culled from Feiffer's bristling imagination rather than directly from the physical world," wrote Dwight Garner in the New York Times Book Review. "He reinvents the universe every time out." In 2002 Feiffer published By the Side of the Road and The House across the Street. In her critique of By the Side of the Road, New York Times Book Review contributor Cynthia Zarin observed that Feiffer's work would appeal not only to children, but also to teenagers and adults. "Feiffer is an artist and a philosopher, and he's in top form here," Zarin stated.

Feiffer told Time interviewer Francine Russo that he feels reenergized by his commitment to theater and children's literature, stating that "it's been wonderful in every possible way." Feiffer added, "I feel as if I've been working in forms that are viscerally as right for me as my cartoons. And it took only thirty or forty years to find it out."

If you enjoy the works of Jules Feiffer

you may also want to check out the following:

A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories, a graphic novel by Will Eisner, 1978.

William Steig: Drawings, featuring the artist's New Yorker cartoons, 1979.

Doonesbury, a popular, groundbreaking comic strip by G. B. Trudeau.

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Cohen, Sarah Blacher, editor, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Jewish-American Stage and Screen, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1983.

Contemporary Dramatists, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 64, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 7: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, 1981, Volume 44: American Screenwriters, 1986.

DiGaetani, John L., editor, A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Feiffer, Jules, The Great Comic Book Heroes, Dial (New York, NY), 1965.

PERIODICALS

American Theatre, May-June, 2003, "Twenty Questions: Jules Feiffer," p. 88.

Back Stage, June 27, 2003, Irene Backalenick, review of A Bad Friend, p. 48.

Booklist, November 15, 1993, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 620; December 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Meanwhile …, p. 636; August 19, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Bark, George, p. 2052; June 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of By the Side of the Road, p. 1742; December 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of The House across the Street, p. 673; May 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 1562.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1993, pp. 120-121; February, 1996, p. 189.

Comics Journal, August, 1988, Gary Groth, "Memories of a Pro Bono Cartoonist"; winter, 2004, "A Thirst for Storytelling;" December, 2003, Gary Groth, interview with Jules Feiffer.

Dramatists Guild Quarterly, winter, 1987, Christopher Duran, "Jules Feiffer, Cartoonist-Playwright."

Editor & Publisher, May 31, 1986, David Astor, "An Unexpected Pulitzer for Jules Feiffer"; May 29, 2000, Dave Astor, "Feiffer Focus No Longer on Syndication," p. 35.

Five Owls, January-February, 1994, Cathryn M. Camper, review of The Man in the Ceiling, pp. 66-67.

Horn Book, September-October, 1997, p. 557; March-April, 1998, Lauren Adams, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 212; January, 2001, review of Some Things Are Scary, p. 83; November-December, 2001, review of I'm Not Bobby!, pp. 735-736; May-June, 2002, Kristi Beavin, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 353; May-June, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Daddy Mountain, pp. 310-311.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1997, p. 1110; March 15, 1998, p. 402; November 1, 2002, review of The House across the Street, p. 1611; April 1, 2004, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 328.

Library Journal, July, 2003, Steve Raiteri, review of The Great Comic Book Heroes, pp. 69-70.

Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1993, Lawrence Christon, "Jules Feiffer Fine-toons His Career," p. E1; June 17, 2000, John J. Goldman, "Swan Song for Feiffer's Dancer," p. D1.

New Leader, July-August, 2003, Stefan Kanfer, "Family Affairs," pp. 41-43.

New York Post, May 26, 2002, "Still Quick on the Draw," p. 62.

New York Times, May 29, 1997, Elisabeth Bumiller, "Jules Feiffer Draws the Line at No Pay from The Voice," p. B1; January 23, 2000, Josh Schonwald, "Laughs and Learning with Jules Feiffer," p. P2; June 17, 2000, Sarah Boxer, "Jules Feiffer, at Seventy-one, Slows down to a Gallop," p. B1; March 4, 2003, Mel Gussow, "Jules Feiffer, Freed of His Comic Strip Duties, Finds a New Visibility," p. E1; June 10, 2003, Bruce Weber, "Uncle Joe Smiles down on a Family of Old Lefties," p. E1.

New York Times Book Review, November 14, 1993, Jonathan Fast, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 57; December 31, 1995, Daniel Pinkwater, review of A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears; March 15, 1998, Constance L. Hays, review of Meanwhile …, p. 24; May 17, 1998, Krystyna Poray Goddu, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 22; August 15, 1999, review of Bark, George, p. 24; November 19, 2000, Jeanne P. Binder, "Things That Go Squish in the Night," p. 44; November 18, 2001, Dwight Garner, "'Better Not Call Me Again. I'm a Monster,'" p. 25; September 29, 2002, Cynthia Zarin, "The Boy Who Willed One Thing," p. 27; October 29, 2002, Cynthia Zarin, review of By the Side of the Road; June 8, 2003, Andrea Stevens, "Jules Feiffer's Communist Manifesto," p. 5; June 27, 2004, p. 14.

New York Times Magazine, May 16, 1976, Robin Brantley, "'Knock Knock' 'Who's There?' 'Feiffer'"; June 15, 2003, Deborah Solomon, "Playing with History," p. 13.

New Republic, July 21, 2003, Robert Brustein, "On Theater," p. 25.

Print, May-June, 1998, Steven Heller, Jules Feiffer, "Cartoonist, Author, and Playwright," pp. 40-41; May-June, 1999, Carol Stevens, "Baby Teeth," p. 50; September, 2000, Steven Heller, "Feiffer's Last Dance," p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1993, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 62; November 27, 1995, review of A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, p. 70; January 26, 1998, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 91; June 21, 1999, review of Bark, George, p. 66; October, 2000, review of Some Things Are Scary, p. 76; August 20, 2001, review of I'm Not Bobby, p. 78; May 13, 2002, review of By the Side of the Road, p. 69; October 14, 2002, review of The House across the Street, p. 82; June 30, 2003, review of The Great Comic Book Heroes, p. 59; April 5, 2004, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 60.

Quill & Quire, November, 1993, p. 40.

Riverbank Review, spring, 1999, p. 22.

School Library Journal, January, 1996, p. 108; September, 1997, Lisa S. Murphy, review of Meanwhile …, p. 180; March, 1998, Julie Cummins, review of I Lost My Bear, p. 179; September, 1999, p. 182; January 1, 2001, Maryann H. Owen, review of Some Things Are Scary, p. 101; November, 2001, review of I'm Not Bobby!, pp. 119-120; May, 2002, Wendy Lukehart, review of By the Side of the Road, p. 152; February, 2003, Wendy Lukehart, review of The House across the Street, p. 111; May, 2003, Steve Weiner, "A Found Feiffer," p. 33; June, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of The Daddy Mountain, p. 108.

Time, May 21, 2001, Francine Russo, "A Matter of Medium," p. G8.

Variety, June 16, 2003, Charles Isherwood, review of A Bad Friend, p. 35.

Washington Post, October 26, 2004, Jane Horwitz, "Jules Feiffer, Reexamining His Red Period," p. C5.

ONLINE

Jean Albano Gallery, http://www.jeanalbanoartgallery.com/ (November 5, 2004), "Jules Feiffer."

Jules Feiffer Online,http://www.julesfeiffer.com/ (November 5, 2004).

Public Broadcasting System,http://www.pbs.org/ (March 15, 1998), "The Art of Jules Feiffer"; (August 10, 2000) "Power of the Pen."*

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Feiffer, Jules

FEIFFER, Jules

FEIFFER, Jules. American, b. 1929. Genres: Novels, Novellas/Short stories, Plays/Screenplays, Humor/Satire. Career: Village Voice, NYC, cartoonist, 1956-97; freelance cartoonist, 1951-; syndicated cartoonist, 1959-. Yale University Drama School, New Haven, CT, faculty member, 1973-74; Northwestern University, adjunct professor of writing, 1997; Southhampton College, adjunct professor of writing, 1999-. Member, Dramatist Guild Council; member, American Academy of Arts & Letters. Recipient: Academy Award for animated cartoon, Munro, 1962; Special George Polk Memorial Award, 1963; Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, 1986. Publications: Sick, Sick, Sick, 1958; Passionella and Other Stories, 1959; The Explainers, 1960, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, 1961; Munro (animated cartoon), 1961; Hold Me!, 1963; Feiffer's Album, 1963; Harry, the Rat with Women (novel), 1963; The Unexpurgated Memoirs of Bernard Mergendeiler, 1965; The Great Comic Book Heroes, 1965; The Penguin Feiffer, 1966; Feiffer on Civil Rights, 1966; Little Murders, 1968; Feiffer's Marriage Manual, 1967; The White House Murder Case (play), 1970; Carnal Knowledge: A Screenplay, 1971; Pictures at a Prosecution: Drawings and Text from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, 1971; Feiffer on Nixon, 1974; Knock, Knock (play), 1977; Hold Me (play), 1977; Ackroyd (novel), 1977; Tantrum (cartoon novel), 1979; Popeye (screenplay), 1980; Grown Ups (play); Jules Feiffer's America from Eisenhower to Reagan, 1982; Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy and Other Dangerous Views, 1984; Feiffer's Children, 1986; Ronald Reagan in Movie America, 1988; Elliot Loves, 1989, (play), 1990; I Want to Go Home (screenplay), 1989; Anthony Rose (play), 1989; The Collected Works, vols. 1-4, 1989-92; Selected from Contemporary American Plays: An Anthology, 1990. FOR CHILDREN: Man in the Ceiling, 1993; A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, 1995; Meanwhile…, 1999; I Lost My Bear, 1998; Bark George, 1999; I'm not Bobby!, 2000; Somethings Are Scary, 2000; By the Side of the Road, 2001; The House across the Street, 2002. Address: c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4900 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64112, U.S.A. Online address: www.julesfeiffer.com

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Feiffer, Jules (Ralph) 1929-

FEIFFER, Jules (Ralph) 1929-

PERSONAL: Born January 26, 1929, in Bronx, New York; son of David (held a variety of positions, including dental technician and sales representative) and Rhoda (a fashion designer; maiden name, Davis) Feiffer; married Judith Sheftel (a film production executive), September 17, 1961 (divorced); married Jennifer Allen (a journalist); children: (first marriage) Kate; (second marriage) Halley, Julie. Education: Attended Art Students League, New York, NY, 1946, and Pratt Institute, 1947-48 and 1949-51.

ADDRESSES: Home—325 West End Ave., New York, NY 10023. Office—c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4900 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64112.

CAREER: Assistant to cartoonist Will Eisner, 1946-51, and ghostwriter for Eisner's comic book The Spirit, 1949-51; author of syndicated cartoon strip, Clifford, 1949-51; held a variety of positions in the art field, 1953-56, including producer of slide films, writer for Columbia Broadcasting System's Terry Toons, and designer of booklets for an art firm; author of cartoon strip (originally titled Sick, Sick, Sick, later changed to Feiffer), published in Village Voice, 1956-97, published weekly in London Observer, 1958-66, and 1972-82, and regularly in Playboy, beginning 1959, New Yorker, beginning 1993, and New Statesman & Society, beginning 1994; syndicated cartoonist, beginning 1959, including syndication by Universal Press Syndicate, Kansas City, MO. Yale University, faculty member at Yale Drama School, 1973-74. Columbia University, senior fellow in National Arts Journalism Program, 1997-98. Military service: U.S. Army, Signal Corps, 1951-53; worked in cartoon animation unit.

MEMBER: PEN, American Academy of Arts and Letters (member of board of directors), Authors League of America, Authors Guild (life member), Dramatists Guild (member of council), Writers Guild of America East.

AWARDS, HONORS: Special George Polk Memorial Award, Department of Journalism, Long Island University, 1962; named most promising playwright of 1966-67 season by New York drama critics; London Theater Critics Award, 1967, and Obie Award from Village Voice, 1969, both for Little Murders; Outer Circle Critics Award, 1969, for Little Murders, and 1970, for The White House Murder Case; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best play, 1976, for Knock Knock; Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, 1986.

WRITINGS:

cartoon collections

Sick, Sick, Sick, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1958, published with introduction by Kenneth Tynan, Collins (New York, NY), 1959.

Passionella, and Other Stories (also see below), McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1959.

Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, Random House (New York, NY), 1961.

Feiffer's Album, Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

The Penguin Feiffer, Penguin (New York, NY), 1966.

Feiffer's Marriage Manual, Random House (New York, NY), 1967.

Feiffer on Civil Rights, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (New York, NY), 1967.

Pictures at a Prosecution: Drawings and Text from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1971.

Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.

(With Israel Horovitz) VD Blues, Avon (New York, NY), 1974.

Tantrum: A Novel in Cartoons, Knopf (New York, NY), 1979.

Popeye: The Movie Novel (based on the screenplay by Feiffer), edited by Richard J. Anobile, Avon (New York, NY), 1980.

Jules Feiffer's America: From Eisenhower to Reagan, edited by Steve Heller, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.

(Coauthor) Outer Space Spirit, 1952, Kitchen Sink Press (Princeton, WI), 1983.

Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy and Other Dangerous Views, Andrews & McMeel (Fairway, KS), 1984.

Feiffer's Children, Andrews & McMeel (Fairway, KS), 1986.

Ronald Reagan in Movie America: A Jules Feiffer Production, Andrews & McMeel (Fairway, KS), 1988.

The Complete Color Terry and the Pirates, Remco, 1990.

published plays

The Explainers (satirical review; produced in Chicago, IL, at Playwright's Cabaret Theater, 1961), McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1960.

Crawling Arnold (one act; first produced in Spoleto, Italy, at Festival of Two Worlds, 1961; first produced in United States in Cambridge, MA, at Poets' Theater, 1961), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1963.

Hold Me! (first produced off-Broadway at American Place Theater, 1977), Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

The Unexpurgated Memoirs of Bernard Mergendeiler (one-act; first produced in Los Angeles, CA, at Mark Taper Forum, 1967), Random House (New York, NY), 1965.

Little Murders (two-act comedy; first produced on Broadway at Broadhurst Theater, 1967; first American play produced on the West End, London, England, by Royal Shakespeare Company at Aldwych Theater, 1967; also see below), Random House (New York, NY), 1968, reprinted, Penguin (New York, NY), 1983.

(With others) Dick and Jane (one act; produced in New York, NY, at Eden Theater as part of Oh! Calcutta!, devised by Kenneth Tynan, 1969; also see below), published in Oh! Calcutta!, edited by Kenneth Tynan, Grove (New York, NY), 1969.

Feiffer's People: Sketches and Observations (produced as Feiffer's People in Edinburgh, Scotland, at International Festival of Music and Drama, 1968), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1969.

The White House Murder Case: A Play in Two Acts [and] Dick and Jane: A One-Act Play (The White House Murder Case first produced off-Broadway at Circle in the Square Downtown, 1970), Grove (New York, NY), 1970.

Knock Knock (first produced in New York, NY, at Circle Repertory Theater, 1976), Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1976.

Elliot Loves (first produced on Broadway, 1989), Grove (New York, NY), 1989.

Anthony Rose, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1990.

unpublished plays

The World of Jules Feiffer, produced in New Jersey at Hunterdon Hills Playhouse, 1962.

God Bless, first produced in New Haven, CT, at Yale University, 1968; produced on the West End by Royal Shakespeare Company at Aldwych Theater, 1968.

Munro (adapted by Feiffer from story in Passionella, and Other Stories), first produced in Brooklyn, NY, at Prospect Park, 1971.

(With others) Watergate Classics, first produced in New Haven, CT, at Yale University, 1973.

Grownups, first produced in Cambridge, MA, at Loeb Drama Center, 1981; produced on Broadway at Lyceum Theater, December, 1981.

A Think Piece, first produced in New York, NY, at Circle Repertory Theater, 1982.

Carnal Knowledge (revised version of play of same title originally written c. 1970; also see below), first produced in Houston, TX, at Stages Repertory Theater, 1988.

Also author of Interview and You Should Have Caught Me at the White House, both c. 1962.

screenplays

Munro (animated cartoon; adapted by Feiffer from story in Passionella, and Other Stories), Rembrandt Films, 1961.

Carnal Knowledge (adapted from Feiffer's unpublished, unproduced play of same title written c. 1970), Avco Embassy, 1971.

Little Murders (adapted by author from play of same title), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971.

Popeye, Paramount/Walt Disney Productions, 1980.

Also author of the unproduced screenplays, Little Brucie, Bernard and Huey, and I Want to Go Home.

for children

The Man in the Ceiling, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Meanwhile, Harpercrest (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Daniel M. Pinkwater) Five Novels: The Boy from Mars, Slaves of Spiegel, The Snarkout Boys, The Avocado of Death, The Last Gur, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1997.

I Lost My Bear, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

Bark: George, HarperCollins Juvenile Books (New York, NY), 1999.

other

(Illustrator) Robert Mines, My Mind Went All to Pieces, Dial (New York, NY), 1959.

(Illustrator) Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth, Random House (New York, NY), 1961.

Harry, the Rat with Women (novel), McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1963.

(Editor and annotator) The Great Comic Book Heroes, Dial (New York, NY), 1965, published with new illustrations and without original comic-book stories), Fantagraphics (Stamford, CT), 2003.

Silverlips (television play), Public Broadcasting Service, 1972.

(With Herb Gardner, Peter Stone, and Neil Simon) Happy Endings (television play), American Broadcasting Companies, 1975.

Akroyd (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1977.

(Author of introduction) Rick Marshall, editor, The Complete E. C. Segar Popeye, Fantagraphics (Stamford, CT), 1984.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 1: Clifford, Fantagraphics (Stamford, CT), 1989.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 2: Munro, Fantagraphics (Stamford, CT), 1989.

Feiffer: The Collected Works, Volume 3: Sick, Sick, Sick, Fantagraphics (Stamford, CT), 1991.

Feiffer: The Collected Works: Passionella, Fantagraphics (Stamford, CT), 1993.

(With Ted Rall) Revenge of the Latchkey Kids: An Illustrated Guide to Surviving the '90s and Beyond, Workman Publishing Company, 1998 (New York, NY).

(Illustrator) Florence Parry Heide, Some Things Are Scary, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

ADAPTATIONS: The Feiffer Film, based on Feiffer's cartoons, was released in 1965; Harry, the Rat with Women was made into a play and produced in Detroit, MI, at Detroit Institute of Arts, 1966; Passionella, and Other Stories was adapted by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick into "Passionella," a one-act musical produced on Broadway as part of The Apple Tree, 1967; Jules Feiffer's America: From Eisenhower to Reagan was adapted by Russell Vandenbroucke into a play titled Feiffer's America; What Are We Saying?, a parody on Feiffer's cartoons, was produced in Rome, Italy.

SIDELIGHTS: On learning that Hudson Review contributor John Simon described Jules Feiffer's play Little Murders as "bloody-minded," and made reference to its "grotesque horror" and "hideous reality," those who only know Feiffer as a cartoonist and not as a playwright might be more than a little surprised. Such brutal words are unexpected when used to characterize the work of a cartoonist—whom we might imagine would only want to make us laugh.

Feiffer revealed the origins of his somewhat black humor in a Washington Post interview with Henry Allen: "Back then [in the 1950s], comedy was still working in a tradition that came out of World War I…. Comedy was mired in insults and gags. It was Bob Hope and Bing Cosby, Burns and Allen, Ozzie and Harriet. There was no such thing as comedy about relationships, nothing about the newly urban and collegiate Americans. What I was interested in was using humor as a reflection of one's own confusion, ambivalence and dilemma, dealing with sexual life as one knew it to be." His cartoons presented a mixture of social commentary and political satire previously reserved for the editorial page of the newspaper.

From the beginning of his career Feiffer avoided the silliness expected of a nonpolitical cartoonist. His characters include people who are odd enough to be humorous but who at the same time can elicit a painful, empathetic response from his readers: Passionella, who achieves movie stardom because she has the world's largest breasts; Bernard Mergeneiler, known for his romantic failures; and an inventor who creates a "Lonely Machine" that makes light conversation and delivers sympathetic remarks whenever necessary.

Feiffer's concerns as a cartoonist have followed him to the stage, but some critics have faulted Feiffer's plays for being too dependent on his cartoons for inspiration. In the Village Voice Carll Tucker, for example, commented: "Feiffer's genius as a cartoonist is for dramatic moments—establishing and comically concluding a situation in eight still frames. His characters have personality only for the purpose of making a point: They do not have, as breathing dramatic characters must, the freedom to develop, to grow away from their status as idea-bearers."

Other critics voiced their approval for what they have seen as the influence of Feiffer's cartoons in his work for the theater. In Alan Rich's New York magazine review of Feiffer's play, Knock Knock, for example, the critic noted: "What gives [the play] its humor—and a great deal of it is screamingly funny—is the incredible accuracy of [Feiffer's] language, and his use of it to paint the urban neurosis in exact colors. This we know from his cartoons, and we learn it anew from this endearing, congenial theater piece." Other commentators on New York's theatrical scene, such as Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Thomas Edward Ruddick, have been able to separate Feiffer's dramatic work from his other creative efforts. "Feiffer's plays show considerable complexity of plot, character, and idea, and command attention," Ruddick noted, "not dependent upon Feiffer's other achievements. His plays, independently, constitute a noteworthy body of work."

Those who enjoyed Feiffer for his adults-only satire may have been surprised to see the cartoonist venture into the children's book market in the 1990s. For his part, Feiffer is the father to essentially three generations of girls; in 1993, when The Man in the Ceiling was published, he had thirty-one-year-old Kate, eleven-year-old Halley (to whom that book is dedicated) and fifteen-month-old Julie. "I'm glad they're girls," the author told Publishers Weekly writer John F. Baker. "Boys are terribly active and geared toward just the sort of sports I was never any good at."

Feiffer's attraction to the youth market arose "from a combination of his fond recollections of reading to Halley as a small child … and an illustrator friend's interest in doing a book," according to Baker. In The Man in the Ceiling, Feiffer writes and illustrates the tale of Jimmy, a little boy who dreams of being a cartoonist. His aptitude for drawing underscores the fact that the boy is "not much good at anything else, including such boyish but un Feiffer-like pastimes as sports," Baker continued.

"Yes, I did cartoons as a kid, just like Jimmy," Feiffer admitted in the Publishers Weekly piece. "And I rediscovered some of them while I was working on [the book]. But those drawings of Jimmy's were the toughest part; I had to get the tone just right—they mustn't be too satirical—and it terrified me for a long time. I left them right to the end."

Feiffer's caution was rewarded by the favorable reviews that greeted The Man in the Ceiling. Jonathan Fast, in fact, singled out Jimmy's artwork, noting in his New York Times Book Review piece, "the adventures of Mini-Man, Bullet head and The Man in the Ceiling, Jimmy's magnum opus, are reprinted in glorious pencil and run as long as six pages." Evidently Feiffer's efforts also reached a younger audience: Nine-year-old reviewer Erin Smith told the San Francisco Review of Books that the work "has great pictures. The story is just as funny. The best pictures are the comics that Jimmy drew."

In 1995 Feiffer released his second children's book, A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears. The volume is comprised of fairy tales with a slightly acerbic air meant to appeal to children and parents alike. Featuring King Whatchamacallit, who speaks in spoonerisms: "My son, when you're around, no till gets soiled—er, no soil gets tilled; no noo gets shailed—that is, no shoe gets nailed." Another urbane character, J. Wellington Wizard, amused children's author Daniel M. Pinkwater. "Written with conviction, not to say innocence, Mr. Feiffer's ebullient story renders the reader capable of maximum suspension of disbelief—and what would be corny is touching instead," Pinkwater declared in the New York Times Book Review.

As Feiffer revealed to Baker, the best part of being a children's author is the honest response from his young readers: "It's much more direct even than in the theater, so much more heartening. You create something out of love and devotion, and when you get it back, you can't believe it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

books

Anobile, Richard J., Popeye: The Movie Novel, Avon (New York, NY), 1980.

Cohen, Sarah Blacher, editor, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Jewish-American Stage and Screen, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1983.

Contemporary Dramatists, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1988.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2, 1974, Volume 8, 1978, Volume 64, 1991.

Corliss, Richard, Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 1974.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 7: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, 1981, Volume 44: American Screenwriters, Second Series, 1986.

periodicals

American Cinematographer, January, 1971, p. 37.

American Film, December, 1980; July-August, 1987, p. 36.

Chicago, April, 1988, p. 32.

Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1979; November 2, 1982.

Commonweal, December 1, 1989, p. 676; August 10, 1990, p. 455.

Harper's, September, 1961, pp. 58-62.

Hudson Review, summer, 1967, John Simon, review of Little Murders.

Library Journal, July, 2003, pp. 69-70.

Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1988.

Newsweek, June 18, 1990, p. 58.

New York, February 2, 1976, Alan Rich, review of Knock Knock; May 16, 1976; December 21, 1981, pp. 81-82; May 25, 1987, p. 108; November 26, 1990, p. 33; December 3, 1990, p. 148.

New Yorker, May 18, 1987, p. 87; November 2, 1992, p. 55.

New York Times, January 21, 1977; December 15, 1981; May 7, 1987.

New York Times Book Review, December 19, 1982, p. 8; November 14, 1993, Jonathan Fast, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 57; December 31, 1995, Daniel M. Pinkwater, review of A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1993, John F. Baker, review of The Man in the Ceiling, p. 62; November 20, 1995.

San Francisco Review of Books, April-May, 1994, Erin Smith, review of The Man in the Ceiling.

School Library Journal, February, 1994, p. 102.

Time, June 18, 1990, p. 85.

Village Voice, February 2, 1976, article by Carll Tucker.

Washington Post, August 17, 1979, interview by Henry Allen.*

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