Ken Thorne, Composer • 1924-2014

July 10th, 2014

Yesterday word started fluttering about Facebook amongst film music fans that Ken Thorne passed away. Ken’s name may not be well known outside of film score aficionados or die hard film buffs, but his contribution is no less important, and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy.

I only had the opportunity to meet Ken once. He attended the Fans of Film Music event back in 2011 where he sat on a panel of great composers such as Brad Fiedel, David Newman, Brian Tyler, Nicholas Pike, Christopher Young, and Lee Holdridge. At 87, the elder statesman of the group not only charmed the audience with his gentlemanly ways, but he also charmed his fellow panelists.


Ken Thorne

Ken Thorne, taken during the 2011 Fans of Film Music event at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA.


Since you were wondering, Ken’s contribution to film began in 1948 with British fare that later included Help! starring 4 lads from Liverpool which later led to his work on Head, a movie starring the Beatles influenced band The Monkees (a film co-written by Jack Nicholson no less). He could do comedy like Alan Arkin’s Inspector Clouseau, he was a master at adaptation taking John Williams’ themes to build new scores for Christopher Reeve’s Superman II and Superman III, and he could do action with Tom Selleck’s 1980s film Lassiter. Somewhere along the line (1967) he managed to win an Oscar for his work on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

That day I met Ken, I sat in the audience caricaturing each of the panelists. This drawing of Ken was posted back then along with the other panelists (which you can revisit by clicking here), and I thought I’d share it once again here today.

Seek out Ken’s work. You’ll find a treat waiting for you!


Ken Thorne

At 87, Ken Thorne was the eldest of the composers on the panel, and also was the only one with an Oscar which he won in 1967 for his work on the movie "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum."


Dog Days of Summer

July 8th, 2014

…well, dog, cat and mouse days of summer actually. It has been pretty hot here over the past few days – routinely in the 90s, but the other day I looked outside and saw 102 on my thermometer. Made me VERY glad to be inside!

Despite having the cool comfort of air conditioning at my beck and call, the outside heat still makes one feel sluggish which was translated vicariously through my arm to paper with these critters. They can do all my slugging for me.


Hot Pets

Before any of you e-mail me to tell me cats and dogs don't get sweaty brows, just remember this is a drawing. It isn't real life. Mice, however, always fan themselves in real life.



This drawing is for sale! 14×11″ colored pencil on Canson paper. $200 + $10 shipping in the U.S. (Despite them looking thirsty, do not pour water on this paper.)

IMF Birds

July 2nd, 2014

Last night I was watching the classic Mission: Impossible television show when I reached over for my sketchbook and started doodling…..birds. Yeah, I don’t know why either. Cold War dramas don’t usually bring birds out of me, even though the Impossible Mission Force does seem to keep the pecking order in check. Although, now that I look at the sketches the next day, that strong eagle on the right does bear a slight unconscious resemblance to Peter Graves. Hmmm.


Mission: Impossible

Birds of the Cold War. The biggest impossible mission is keeping them from soiling my car.

Violet Monkeys

June 23rd, 2014

Here in Los Angeles, it has become a thing for small art galleries to host group shows of art created to a common theme. Local artists have created art for displays themed to the work of Tim Burton, Hanna Barbera, The Wizard of Oz, How To Train Your Dragon, and even the collected works of J.J. Abrams’ films and television shows. This past Saturday I contributed a piece to the Planet of the Apes themed show hosted by the Creature Features gallery in Burbank, California.


Charlton Heston

Based on the original Charlton Heston movie from 1968, the 16x20" "Violet Monkeys" was created with watercolor and colored pencil.


Perhaps you would like to hear a little behind-the-scenes story about this particular piece? It wasn’t that I just decided to one day create a painting from a forty-six year old movie. There is a little more than that to tell…

When I first moved to California to work for Disney Feature Animation in 1997, it was right as Hercules was being released. Charlton Heston was the opening narrator for that film, and being a fan of his work, I struck up a correspondence friendship with him. I always loved that first Planet of the Apes film, so after a few years of writing back and forth with George Taylor (Heston’s character’s name), I created my first Planet of the Apes painting in his honor for a solo art show to be held at the studio. Mr. Heston was going to attend, but unfortunately didn’t make it.

This past February I was going through some boxes and found a letter from Mr. Heston he had sent after seeing a print of that original painting (which is currently on my website). He wrote such a complimentary letter that all these years later it touched me again. Almost immediately after finding that note, I was invited to participate in Creature Features’ Planet of the Apes themed art show. With the renewed encouragement from that old letter, it was time to reinvent that piece created eleven years ago that, quite frankly, could stand to have a make-over.

As the deadline for the show loomed, the realization set in that time was running out to create the new piece. I was about to take off on a lengthy river boat trip through Russia, and suddenly got the idea that a painting could be created during sailing days between ports. The initial drawing was created while at home in the States, then it was packed along with some watercolor paper, paints, brushes and colored pencils for travel to Russia.



Riverboat Stateroom

While it wasn't the best studio in which to work, it was the most adventurous. This was the set-up in my room on board the riverboat that took me across Russia


Setting up a make-shift studio in my riverboat stateroom proved challenging due to the small, tight quarters. It became an adventure. I would open up my curtains, and watch the Russian countryside float by while sitting there working on purple gorillas and an orange Charlton Heston.

One day Julia, one of the ladies who worked the front desk, said to me out of the blue, “I like your violet monkeys.” I scratched my head trying to figure out what she was talking about at first. It turned out that she had come around the day before to deliver magazines about St. Petersburg to all our rooms and had seen the work-in-progress sitting there. She didn’t know what Planet of the Apes was, so she referred to the painting as “violet monkeys”. I liked the reference so much that the painting is now officially named Violet Monkeys.


Violet Monkeys

Meet Julia, the Russian front desk worker who unknowingly named my "Violet Monkeys" painting.


So, there you have it. This is my first major piece to have been created abroad (while aboard no less), and it was done while traveling over 1000 miles across Russia’s rivers, lakes, and canals between Moscow and St. Petersburg! It had to get done, because the art show opening was the day after I returned to the United States!


Grand Circle

This is me in front of the Tikhi Don ship (part of Grand Circle Travel's fleet) docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. This was my home and studio for the past two weeks.


While fighting with jet lag back in beautiful downtown Burbank, CA, I managed to get the framed art to the Creature Features gallery in just enough time for them to hang it for the evening’s opening. And boy, what an opening! Several hundred people were in attendance including fellow contributors Shag, Patrick Owsley, Ben Von Strawn, William Stout, and many others! A few enthusiastic fans even came dressed as characters from the movie. Taylor White and his Creature Features team put on a good show of fantastic art, and even costumes and props used in the classic productions!


Creature Features

One of two gallery rooms at Creature Features in Burbank, CA during the opening of the "Art of the Apes" group show.

Planet of the Apes art

You can see that "Violet Monkeys" is right at home amongst some other spiffy art.

Planet of the Apes fans

Interspecie attendance to the show was welcomed.


If you would like to see all of the art, it will be on display through the month of July. All the art is for sale, and some are even available as prints. Visit Creature Features website for more info!




68th Annual Reuben Awards – Part 5

June 3rd, 2014

Even though the Reuben Awards convention was only three days long, the cartoonists did so much stuff that the photos needed to be spread over five days! This last post for the 2014 gathering is of our farewell gala held on the evening of May 25th on the top deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier/museum! What a great venue for a party! You have the harbor on one side with the setting sun, and you have the city of San Diego basking in the glow of that sunset on the other side all while surrounded by fighter jets, imposing helicopters, and cartoonists!

Unique to this event was that many injured servicemen and women were invited to attend with their families. The National Cartoonists Society members were able to mingle and draw for these brave folks throughout the evening.

Once again, the photos can tell the story…


Top Gun

Bill "Maverick" Morrison with Greg "Goose" Walker.

B.C. comic strip

Patti Hart (of the "B.C." comic strip legacy) on deck.

Onion & Pea

Former head of King Features Syndicate Joe D'Angelo chatting with "Onion & Pea's" David Tomaselli and Josè Villena from Spain.

Jeff Keane

Cartoonists (and my dad) enjoying a buffet dinner with a San Diego skyline backdrop.

Tom Heintjes

Tom Heintjes ("Hogan's Alley" magazine) chatting with Ohio State University's Jenny Robb.

military aircraft insignia

Wayno (contributor to "Bizarro") taking a photo of a helicopter's cartoony insignia.

USS Midway deck

My pop with a USS Midway docent who is showing Dad that the planes would go thataway.

Keelan Parham

Keelan Parham doing his best "blue steel" pose and Kenny Durkin ("Duck Dynasty" merchandising artist) modeling coffee.


Editorial cartoonist Tom Stiglich (in the middle) and Brad Anderson ("Marmaduke") spending some time with the soldier in red on the left who revealed to them that he has cancer that will likely take him within six months. Some of the stories of the servicemen in attendance were sobering to those of us who are used to making people laugh.

Bruce Higdon

Bruce Higdon continuing to make little kids smile with his drawings.

cartoonists drinking coffee

Greg Evans ("Luann"), military cartoonist Jeff Bacon, and editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez ("Investor's Business Daily").

cartoonists chatting

My blurry mother Barbara, John Reiner ("The Lockhorns") and Marcia & Joe D'Angelo (King Features).

John Hambrock

John Hambrock ("The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee") in his best GQ moment.

Murray Olderman

Sports cartoonist Murray Olderman having a relaxing interlude with Tom Heintjes.

Red and Rover

"No really, I have a metal falcon from Malta." - Brian Basset ("Red & Rover") on the right with R.C. Harvey

Beetle Bailey

Greg Walker ("Beetle Bailey") on the right chatting with his sister Margi Hauer and her friend Trey Reynolds in the shadow of helicopters.

When the sun drops down, the ship lights up!

Michael Ramirez

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez led his band in entertaining the crowd during the evening.

Tom Richmond MAD

Tom & Anna Richmond giving away five IDW Best of MAD oversized books as door prizes, though technically there were no doors there.


Despite the shindig on the USS Midway being a rousing success, cartoonists just can’t call it a night quite yet. Many went back to the hotel where an after party was underway! Here are a few parting party pics…


Bizarro writer

Dan McConnell (contributor to "Bizarro") who signed over an oversized MAD book he won on board the Midway to illustrator Rich Powell.

Charles Kochman

Book editor Charlie Kochman with his wife Rachel.

Stephanie Gladden

I was able to introduce Kassandra Heller and Stephanie Gladden who both work on the same Cartoon Network property but on different coasts!

Nick Meglin

Holding court at the after party was Linda Maloof and Nick Meglin ("MAD").

Sinatra look-alike

Editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich channeling ol' Blue Eyes.

Ray Alma & Chad Frye

Ray Alma being very impolite by pointing at me. Some people. Sheesh.

And with that, we conclude this 2014 Reuben Awards report! Thanks for having a look at what we do when we get together! To learn more about the National Cartoonists Society, visit!

68th Annual Reuben Awards – Part 4

June 2nd, 2014

Well, now comes the time for you to see cartoonists actually cartooning. On Sunday, May 25th, a good number of NCS members travelled to a military hospital to draw for injured soldiers. Then coming in waves of two shifts, the cartoonists descended upon San Diego’s Navy museum, the USS Midway aircraft carrier. My folks and I walked down to the ship to tour it and to see what my colleagues were doing…


USS Midway

My parents Barbara and David (a former Merchant Marine) just before boarding the USS Midway aircraft carrier.

the kiss

Now that is one giant kiss! (seen next to the USS Midway in San Diego)

comic strip artists

Bill Morrison ("The Simpsons" comics), comic book artist Stephanie Gladden, someone I can't identify, Brian Basset ("Red & Rover"), Greg Evans ("Luann") and Jerry Van Amerongen ("Ballard Street") all pretending to be busy.

Bruce Higdon

Bruce Higdon, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, drew incessantly for the kids all afternoon and again in the evening at the farewell party.

Family Circus artist

Jeff Keane ("The Family Circus") showing some kids how to draw and lick the tip of their noses at the same time.

Tank McNamara

Bill Hinds ("Tank McNamara") drawing for a very tall kid with wrinkly elbows.

Silver Drawing Academy

Stephen Silver ("Kim Possible" character designer) working with a model.

Sam Viviano

"MAD's" Sam Viviano drawing caricatures of the kids whether they wanted one or not.

cartoonists cartooning

"Adventure Time" comic cover artist Chris Houghton, Hilary Price ("Rhymes With Orange"), Jerry Scott & Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues") drawing on the aircraft carrier.

Rick Kirkman

Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues") laughing at something funny that we can't see. How rude.

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker ("Dustin" comic strip) really trying to sell his services. Several overweight plumbers took him up on the deal much to his chagrin.

two cartoonists

Keith Robinson ("Making It") and Jim Horwitz ("Watson") scribbling for the kiddies.

Matt Diffee

Matt Diffee ("The New Yorker") drawing pictures of kids' grandparents.

Gag cartoonist Don Orehek handing a drawing to a delighted child as Don's wife, Suzy, looks on. Don might actually be more delighted than the kid!

Lynn Johnston

Lynn Johnston ("For Better Or For Worse") passionately explaining the benefits of bottled water.

Ray Alma

Ray Alma cheated by wearing camouflage with his name stitched onto it. (We all could still see him by the way.)

Brian Crane

Brian Crane ("Pickles") and Greg Walker ("Beetle Bailey").

Jeff Bacon

Jeff Bacon who put this whole drawing event together, and does so regularly for the USO.


One more day of photos from the 68th annual Reuben Awards are yet to come – pictures from the farewell gala on deck of the USS Midway!!

68th Annual Reuben Awards – Part 3

June 1st, 2014

Do you care to see what a cleaned up cartoonist looks like? I have PLENTY of photos to share with you from the black tie Reuben Awards banquet held last Saturday night on May 24. We COULD give these awards out wearing T-shirts and jeans, and maybe someday we will when we have enough categories to give one to everybody (cough-Grammys-cough), but for now there is something very classy about a tuxedo and gown (so long as they are not worn by one person at the same time).


San Diego Convention Center

Dad & Mom getting ready to attend their first Reuben Awards banquet.

Stephanie Gladden

Wonderful comic book artist Stephanie Gladden and her husband John Miller all ready for the evening's festivities.

Bill Morrison

Yours truly (I waited to be in the pictures once I was all fancy) and Simpsons artist Bill Morrison who was about to run all the technical elements to the awards show.

King Features

There were plenty of places where cartoonists could get some refreshing Arrowhead water such as this scene with Karen O'Connell, Brian Walker ("Hi & Lois"), and King Features' Brendan Burford.

cartoony coat

I don't know who this cartoonist is, but I like the cut of his jib.

cartoonist cocktails

Animation guy Gary Goldstein and his wife Jayme enjoying the cocktail hour.

Tom Gammill & Cathy Guisewite

Tom Gammill with his compact Cathy Guisewite accessory.

Non Sequitur comic

Here I am with Wiley Miller ("Non Sequitur") who was kneeling to get into the frame with me.

After the cocktail hour, it was time to enter the Omni's ballroom for dinner.

Tom Richmond

After an opening film, NCS President Tom Richmond had some welcoming remarks for the audience.

Tom Gammill

Master of Ceremonies Tom Gammill (writer for "The Simpsons") opened with an enthusiastic, and rather long song about how the show was not going to go long.

MAD's Nick Meglin

Having been dormant for a number of years, the NCS presented the A.C.E. (Amateur Cartoonist Extraordinaire) Award once again to a celebrity who had wanted to be a cartoonist. Former "MAD" editor Nick Meglin made the presentation to…

Weird Al Yankovic

…Weird Al Yankovic who gave a heartfelt, and semi-sincere speech in a suit that was surprisingly NOT made of Hawaiian shirt patterns. (Wiley Miller must have bought the only one.)

The Lockhorns

The next acceptance speech came from John Reiner & Bunny Hoest ("The Lockhorns") who were bestowed the Gold Key Award which inducted them into the NCS Hall of Fame.

Sergio Aragonès & Russ Heath

Sergio Aragonès presented the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award to the legendary Russ Heath, who was having trouble keeping his rented tuxedo pants up due to suspenders being errantly absent from his rental package.

Russ Heath

I was next to Russ for dinner, and we snagged a nice shot together with his award at the beginning of the intermission.

Tony Baxter

Disney Imagineering Legend Tony Baxter was in attendance along with Karen Evans who helps her father, Greg Evans, with the writing of his "Luann" comic strip.

Bunny Hoest

During intermission, Bunny Hoest put her hands in the air like she just didn't care.

Pajama Diaries

Terri Libenson ("The Pajama Diaries") engaging in some calisthenics.

Ballard Street

Jerry Van Amerongen ("Ballard Street") wearing some inconspicuous vision correction lenses.

Dave Whamond

When the awards were once again underway, Dave Whamond won the Silver Reuben for Magazine Illustration.

Rick Kirkman & Brian Crane

Last year's co-Reuben Award winners Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues") and Brian Crane ("Pickles") presented the Silver Reuben for Greeting Cards to...

Mark Parisi

…Mark Parisi who also draws the "Off the Mark" comic strip.

Rich Powell illustrator

The Advertising Illustration Silver Reuben went to the very giddy and very talented Rich Powell.

Patrick McDonnell

Patrick McDonnell ("Mutts") presented the Silver Reuben for Book Illustration to William Joyce who was not on hand to accept. The plaque will look very nice next to Joyce's Oscar.

Brian Walker

Brian Walker entertained the crowd with his rendition of "My Way", after which he handed the Silver Reuben for Magazine Gag Cartoon to...

Matt Diffee

…Matt Diffee who draws for "The New Yorker." Interestingly, Matt contemplated out loud how it was odd for him to be winning the award when his parents had never subscribed to the magazine while he was growing up "because they were not Communists."

Mark Evanier

Have you ever seen Mark Evanier in a tuxedo? We all did when he presented the Silver Reuben for best Comic Book.

Sergio Aragonès Funnies

Sergio Aragonès was only happy to accept the Comic Book award from his old pal and frequent collaborator for his work on "Sergio Aragonès Funnies".

Jerry Scott

Jerry Scott ("Zits" & "Baby Blues" writer) made it to the stage in time to mug for the camera with a cut-out of Ernie Bushmiller, creator of the "Nancy" comic strip that Jerry had a turn at drawing back in the 1980s.

Ryan Pagelow

Ryan Pagelow seemed stunned to win for On-Line Comics - Short Form for "Buni". Either that or he was contemplating becoming a dad for the first time as his pregnant wife Nicky looked on.

Jason Chatfield

The many faces of Australian native Jason Chatfield. Can you believe they gave this guy a Green Card?

Dave Coverly

They also let Chatfield present the Newspaper Panel Cartoon Silver Reuben to Dave Coverly ("Speed Bump").

Michael Ramirez

Michael Ramirez ("Investor's Business Daily") won the Silver Reuben for Editorial Cartoons giving his speech next to presenter and fellow editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich ("The Atlanta Journal Constitution").

Lynn Johnston

In the shadow of Tom Gammill's Dean Doozie, Lynn Johnston ("For Better Or For Worse") presented the award for Newspaper Comic Strip.

Six Chix

Isabella Bannerman happily accepted the Newspaper Comic Strip Silver Reuben for her work on "Six Chix".

Wiley Miller Reuben Winner

Then the moment all were waiting for. With four nominees this year, the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year was presented by Mell Lazarus ("Momma") to Wiley Miller for his work on "Non Sequitur".

Stephen Silver

And thus was the end of a long, but shorter than last year, show. (Stephen & Heidi Silver)

To see a list of all the winners in this year’s Reuben Awards, CLICK HERE to go to the NCS website!

There are more photos yet to come from the Reuben Awards weekend’s last day!

68th Annual Reuben Awards – Part 2

May 31st, 2014

These photos were taken one week ago today during the National Cartoonists Society’s (NCS) Reuben Awards weekend in San Diego, California. Many of the NCS members are not usually in front of the camera since most of us have a face for cartooning. WARNING: Cartoonists may not be as funny looking as you would expect them to be.

So, on Saturday, May 24, the convention festivities continued. There was a lovely buffet breakfast, followed by a business meeting, then four great seminars after lunch before the black tie Reuben Awards banquet in the evening! Read on to see what cartoonists do when they get together…

cartoonists eating food

Despite a late night of socializing the previous day, bleary-eyed cartoonists wandered out of their rooms into a nice buffet breakfast. Seen here from front to back are Ralph Smith, comic book legend Russ Heath and his daughter, and "Hogan's Alley" editor Tom Heintjes.

Mort Gerberg & Sergio Aragonès

"New Yorker" cartoonist Mort Gerberg and his wife Judith chatting at breakfast with Sergio & Charlene Aragonès.

Tom Richmond

Despite the name tag, this is actually NCS President Tom Richmond ("MAD Magazine") presiding over the super secret club business meeting. None of us can ever remember the secret handshake, though, so it took awhile before the meeting could start.

cartoonists working

Jeff Bacon (who organizes NCS trips with the USO to draw for the troops), Todd Clark ("Lola" comic strip), and illustrator Jerry Dowling.

Beetle Bailey

Bill Janocha, assistant to "Beetle Bailey's" Mort Walker, is presenting a citation to Marine CPL McKelzey for the Marines' involvement in the No Greater Love organization's "Ring the Bells for Freedom" campaign this year.

Lynn Johnston

Lynn Johnston ("For Better Or For Worse") caught in a bemused moment across the room.

Matt Diffee

Matt Diffee (cartoonist for "The New Yorker") contemplating the cartooning business at hand.

Helene Parsons

Gag writer Helene Parsons backed by Suzy Spafford and Sergio Aragonès.

Rube Goldberg art book

The first seminar of the day was all about Rube Goldberg, the namesake of the Reuben Awards. On hand for the talk was Rube's granddaughter Jennifer George, and Charles Kochman, editor of the recent Rube Goldberg art book published by Abrams.

cartoonists listening

John McMeel (Andrews McMeel Publishing), Bill Hinds ("Tank McNamara") and Dave Blazek ("Loose Parts") riveted by the Q&A.

Family Circus

"The Family Circus'" Jeff Keane just being Jeffy.

Between Friends comic strip

David Folkman ("Hogan's Alley" art director) with our second speaker of the afternoon, Sandra Bell-Lundy ("Between Friends" comic strip).

Grey Blackwell

Separated at birth, cartoonists Grey Blackwell and Jack Pittman.

Mutts cartoonist

Patrick McDonnell ("Mutts") with his wife Karen O'Connell.

Rhymes With Orange

"Rhymes With Orange's" Hilary Price.

The Lockhorns

How many cartoonists does it take to make Powerpoint work? In this case, three: John Reiner ("The Lockhorns"), illustrator Adrian Sinnott, and John Lotshaw.

The Lockhorns

The third speakers of the day were Bunny Hoest (seen here) and John Reiner of "The Lockhorns".

John Reiner

John Reiner followed Bunny by sharing with the audience examples of his skills at caricature.

Stephen Silver & Sam Viviano

Animation character designer Stephen Silver with "MAD Magazine's" Sam Viviano.

Bill Holbrook

Bill Holbrook in a rare state of rest after often laboring over three comic strips.

Cathy Guisewite

Aaack! It's Cathy Guisewite!

Russ Heath & Mark Evanier

The final speakers of the afternoon were moderator Mark Evanier who interviewed comic book legend Russ Heath.

Sergio Aragonès

Sergio Aragonès and his famous mustache taking in the work of Russ Heath.

Tom Stemmle

Marie and Tom Stemmle from New Jersey.

Stan Goldberg

The great Stan Goldberg attended after he and his wife, Pauline, recovered over the winter from a terrible car accident. Stan commented after Russ Heath's talk that as the colorist for Timely Comics back in the day, he hated obscuring Russ' beautiful line work with colors.


Up next, photos from the black tie Reuben Awards gala!