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Steig, William


STEIG, WILLIAM (1907–2003), U.S. cartoonist and author. Born in Brooklyn, n.y., to immigrant parents, Steig was reared in the Bronx. He graduated from high school at 15, studied for two years at the City College of New York, three years at the National Academy of Design, and five days at the Yale School of Fine Arts. When his father could not find a job during the Depression, Steig began selling his drawings. In his first year, he earned $4,500, which was enough to support the entire family. For more than six decades Steig created many of the New Yorker magazine's best covers and cartoons and also wrote some of the most beloved of children's books, including Shrek! and the award-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. In all, Steig created more than 100 New Yorker covers, starting with the one that appeared on May 7, 1932, depicting a father glaring at his son's report card as the child timidly glances up at him. Steig had a cartoon gallery of street-tough kids, satyrs, damsels, dogs, and drunks; and he wrote more than 25 children's books about brave pigs, donkeys, and other creatures. Shrek! was made into a movie in 2001 and won an Academy Award as the best animated feature film. A sequel followed in 2004. From his first New Yorker cartoon in 1930, a picture of a prison inmate telling another, "My son's incorrigible, I can't do a thing with him," Steig produced more than 1,600 drawings for the magazine and 117 covers, many of which were later published in books of collected drawings. In 1936 Steig ended his career as a traditional gag cartoonist, and he married Elizabeth Mead, the sister of the anthropologist Margaret Mead. Soon after he began whittling figures out of stacking wood. Three years later he had his first one-man show, an exhibition of his carvings. Also in 1936 Steig started making his "symbolic drawings" of people enduring shame, embarrassment, and other emotional problems. He published these in About People (1939), The Lonely Ones (1942), and All Embarrassed (1944). In the 1940s Steig discovered Wilhelm Reich, who became a psychological mentor. Steig saw Reich for therapy 40 times and credited him with saving his life as well as his mother's. He also bought an orgone box, a booth made of cardboard, steel wire, and metal that is supposed to collect the world's orgone, or orgasmic energy. Steig sat in his energy accumulator every day. What Steig got from Reich was a confirmation of his belief that people should be emancipated from the inhibitions that society and government impose on children and adults. It was in 1968 that Stein began writing for children, and his cdb!, a book that uses letters to stand for words, became a minor classic. cdb, in other words, is See the Bee! Steig also helped changed the nature of the greeting-card industry. His symbolic drawings were licensed to appear on cocktail napkins, glasses, and cards. In addition to the classic Shrek!, the story of an ogre who marries a princess, Steig's books in the 1990s included Grown-Ups Get to Do All the Driving, The Toy Brother, Zeke Pippin, Doctor De Soto Goes to Africa, and Spinky Sulks.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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