"Maturity is only a short break in adolescence." -- Jules Feiffer
Jules Ralph Feiffer (b. January 26, 1929) is an American syndicated cartoonist, most notable for his long-run comic strip titled Feiffer. He has created more than 35 books, plays and screenplays. In 1986, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorial cartooning in The Village Voice.
"Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue. Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid.""Getting out of bed in the morning is an act of false confidence.""I grew up to have my father's looks, my father's speech patterns, my father's posture, my father's opinions, and my mother's contempt for my father.""Jesus died to forgive our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?"
Raised in The Bronx, New York City, New York, where he graduated from James Monroe High School in 1947, Jules Feiffer won a John Wanamaker Art Content medal for a crayon drawing of the radio Western hero Tom Mix. Interested in an early age at cartooning, he wrote in 1965 about his childhood:
He read comic strips in the New York World-Telegram newspaper that his father brought home, including Our Boarding House, Alley Oop "and my favorite at the time, Wash Tubbs, with the "soldier of fortune" hero, Captain Easy". When his father switched to the evening edition of the New York Post, Feiffer absorbed other strips, including Dixie Dugan, The Bungle Family, Nancy (then titled Fritzi Ritz), "and that masterpiece of sentimental naturalism, Abbie an' Slats. I studied that strip ... it's [Preston] Sturges-like characters, its [William] Saroyanesque plots, its uniquely cadenced dialogue. No strip other than Will Eisner's Spirit rivaled its structure. No strip, except [Milton] Caniff's Terry [and the Pirates], rivaled it in atmosphere."
At age 16, Feiffer began as an assistant to writer-artist Eisner, whose comic strip The Spirit appeared in a seven-page insert in Sunday newspaper comics sections. As Eisner recalled in 1978:
Before this, in 1947, when Feiffer asked for a raise, Eisner instead gave him his own page in The Spirit section, where the 18-year-old Feiffer wrote and drew his first comic strip, Clifford (1949—51), published in six newspapers.
Feiffer's strips ran for 42 years in The Village Voice, first under the title Sick Sick Sick, briefly as Feiffer's Fables and finally as simply Feiffer. Initially influenced by UPA and William Steig, the strip debuted October 24, 1956, and 14 months later, Feiffer had a bestseller when McGraw-Hill collected the Village Voice strips as Sick Sick Sick: A Guide to Non-Confident Living (published January 1, 1958). Beginning April 1959, Feiffer was distributed nationally by the Hall Syndicate, initially in The Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Newark Star-Ledger and Long Island Press.
His strips, cartoons and illustrations have also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy and The Nation. He was commissioned in 1997 by The New York Times to create its first op-ed page comic strip which ran monthly until 2000. He was married twice and has three children. His daughter, Halley Feiffer, is an actress and playwright.
Following Sick, Sick, Sick: A Guide to Non-Confident Living, Feiffer published More Sick, Sick, Sick and other strip collections, including The Explainers, Boy Girl, Boy Girl, Hold Me!, Feiffer's Album, The Unexpurgated Memoirs of Bernard Mergendeiler, Feiffer on Nixon, Jules Feiffer's America: From Eisenhower to Reagan, Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy and Feiffer's Children. Passionella (1957) is a graphic narrative initially anthologized in Passionella and Other Stories, a variation on the story of Cinderella. The protagonist is Ella, a chimney sweep who is transformed into a Hollywood movie star. Passionella was used in a musical, The Apple Tree.His cartoons, strips and illustrations have been reprinted by Fantagraphics as Feiffer: The Collected Works. Explainers (2008) reprints all of his strips from 1956 to 1966. David Kamp reviewed the book in The New York Times:
Feiffer has written two novels (1963's Harry the Rat with Women, 1977's Ackroyd) and several children's books, including Henry, The Dog with No Tail, A Room with a Zoo, The Daddy Mountain, and A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears. He partnered with The Walt Disney Company and writer Andrew Lippa to adapt his book The Man in the Ceiling into a musical. He illustrated the children's books The Phantom Tollbooth and The Odious Ogre. His non-fiction includes the 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes.
His autobiography, Backing into Forward: A Memoir (Doubleday, 2010), received positive reviews from The New York Times and Publishers Weekly, which wrote:
Feiffer's plays include Little Murders (1967), The White House Murder Case, and Grown Ups. After Mike Nichols adapted Feiffer's unproduced play Carnal Knowledge as a 1971 film, Feiffer scripted Robert Altman's Popeye, Alain Resnais' I Want to Go Home, and the film adaptation of Little Murders.
The original production of Hold Me! was directed by Caymichael Patten and opened at The American Place Theatre, Subplot Cafe, as part of its American Humorist Series on January 13, 1977. The production ran on the Showtime cable network in 1981.
Feiffer is an adjunct professor at Stony Brook Southampton. Previously he taught at the Yale School of Drama and Northwestern University. He has been a Senior Fellow at the Columbia University National Arts Journalism Program. He was in residence at the Arizona State University Barrett Honors College from November 27 to December 2, 2006. In June—August 2009, Feiffer was in residence as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College, where he taught an undergraduate course on graphic humor in the 20th century.
In 1961, he was the recipient of a George Polk Awards for his cartoons, and he won a 1961 Academy Award for his animated short Munro. In 1969 and 1970, his plays Little Murders and The White House Murder Case each won Obie and Outer Circle Critics Awards. The Pulitzer Prize for political cartoons went to Feiffer in 1986. He was elected in 1995 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2004, he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame and that same year he received the National Cartoonists Society's Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. He received the Creativity Foundation's Laureate in 2006. He also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America.
He has had retrospectives at the New York Historical Society, the Library of Congress and The School of Visual Arts. His artwork is exhibited at and represented by Chicago's Jean Albano Gallery. In 1996, Feiffer donated his papers and several hundred original cartoons and book illustrations to the Library of Congress.