Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe

Cullen Murphy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-29855-5
Vanity Fair editor at large Murphy (God’s Jury) captures a slice of American pop culture from the mid-20th century, when a prominent group of comic-strip and gag cartoonists, known as the Connecticut School, resided in the town of Greenwich, Conn. Murphy draws from his own life—his father was John Cullen Murphy, known as the illustrator of such strips as Big Ben Bolt and Prince Valiant—to paint a sprawling portrait of many of the scene’s luminaries, including Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Dik Browne (Hägar the Horrible), and dozens of others who were members of this group, examining their family and social lives, their work habits, their art techniques, and more. Having spent a good portion of his life among these people, even taking the writing reins of Prince Valiant after writer Hal Foster retired while his father still drew it, Cullen crafts an immensely evocative look at an art colony many don’t know existed. He writes with a personable mix of affection and realism that offers a vivid sense of what it was like to be in that crowd, and to be a working cartoonist in the decades following WWII. Particularly fascinating are the parts of the book on Cullen’s father’s experiences in the Army and on his father’s relationship with his mentor, Norman Rockwell. Color illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/24/2017
Release date: 11/21/2017
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