Thursday, 12 September 2013

Is this the earliest example of Jack Chick's career in comics ?

This might be the strangest, odd-ball find I've seen in a while - and I've seen my share. While poring through a collection of old Maclean's magazines that he recently acquired, cartoonist Seth came across this gag cartoon from the May 15, 1949 issue that looks to be done by none other than Jack Chick! Yes, that Jack Chick - now better known as Jack T. Chick, he of the notorious fire-and-brimstone Baptist comics.

Check it out.

That's definitely his name in the lower left-hand corner:

Sure, it's a pretty pedestrian gag , but if it's actually from the pen of Chick it casts some overdue light on his mysterious career: primarily that he was a published (secular) cartoonist 64 years ago. From what we know, Chick drew as a child and underwent his pivotal religious conversion after the Second World War thanks to his new bride, a Canadian-immigrant he met in Pasadena, California named Lola Lynn Priddle. Apparently she was very religious and during a visit to her family's home introduced him to a popular evangelical radio show from Charles E. Fuller that was responsible for flipping the God switch in his head.

The couple settled in El Monte, California where he got a job as a technical illustrator for an aerospace company. According to Wikipedia, he was too shy to evangelize to people directly so turned to comics in the 1950s after learning that the Communist Party of China had used comic tracts to gain influence among Chinese workers and labourers. He self-published his first tract in 1960, and established Chick Publications in 1970. The story since then involves a steady, relentless stream of freaky, reactionary (yet highly influential) tracts, comics and assorted material. But I've never read anything about his comics career prior to his religious conversion -- i guess until now.

Chick married Priddle in 1948: a year before this cartoon was published in Maclean's, one of two marquee venues for cartoonists of the day. Is it possible that Chick, then an illustrator/nascent cartoonist, was pointed in the direction of Maclean's by his new Canadian wife? Who knows. If anybody else has insight into this cartoon, and this period of Chick's comics career, I'd love to hear about it.

Jack T. Chick

Many thanks to Seth for alerting me to this.

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