Lazarus, Mel

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LAZARUS, MEL (1927– ), U.S. cartoonist. Born in Brooklyn, n.y., Lazarus took up cartooning almost immediately after graduation from high school in 1945. He developed two comic strips, Wee Women and Li'l One, which formed a base of young, saucy characters that would later become his trademark style. Al *Capp, one of the owners of Toby Press, enlisted Lazarus's drawing skills to copy his Li'l Abner characters for cards, games, comic books, and other products. Lazarus became art director/comics editor at Toby, staying from 1949 to 1954. He had enough experiences there to write his first book, The Boss Is Crazy, Too (1964). Inspired by a contest held by United Features to find new comic strips, Lazarus produced Miss Peach, a strip with characters with bizarre huge heads and sharp-witted personalities. It made its debut in 1957 in The New York Herald Tribune. Lazarus used the space normally filled by four-panel strips as one large space, sharing his comic views of politics and societal ironies of the day through the mouths of his sophisticated young stars and their teacher, Miss Peach. The strip was set in the Kelly School, named after the creator of Pogo, Walt Kelly. In 1969 Lazarus developed Momma, a comic strip centered on an overbearing, nagging, and controlling mother. She has no success manipulating her children's lives but is pleased to keep them feeling guilty. Both Momma and Miss Peach retained a long popularity, with newspapers numbering in the 300s for Miss Peach and 400 for Momma. Lazarus, who signed his strips Mell, wrote television scripts and plays. His second novel, The Neighborhood Watch, appeared in 1986.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]