Friday, January 1, 2010

Reprint This! Jack Ziegler

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected several titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

I discovered Jack Ziegler when I was in high school. The Campbell High library really was a pretty good one, with some nifty collections of old comics, and it was there that I discovered Hamburger Madness, which I believe was the first of several books which reprint Ziegler's work from the pages of The New Yorker and other magazines. I flipped through the pages, hit a gag about the amenities available at the "Apex Motel" and collapsed into a fit of librarian-infuriating guffaws the likes of which that library had never seen before, or since. I closed the book, checked it out and didn't dare open the covers again until I got to the lunchroom.

Ziegler joined the regulars of the New Yorker in 1975, but he had a few exciting years of work under his belt before then. He was one of the first regulars for National Lampoon in 1969 or so, and also spent some time submitting to Esquire. Ziegler credits the great Harvey Kurtzman, then working as Esquire's cartoon editor, as being very important to his development and growth as a cartoonist.

Over the course of the seventies, Ziegler became the poet laureate of surreal observations of suburbia. I believe that he inherited Charles Addams' old crown as the New Yorker's best cartoonist, and proved an obvious inspiration to The Far Side's Gary Larson. Ziegler's is a world of puns and silly wordplay and skewed technology, where toasters and backyard grills become subversively fetishized. From his looks at intown barflies to dial-a-joke lines, Ziegler is rarely mean-spirited, but skewers his targets with a loving, twinkling wit that nobody else in comics manages quite as well. He's absolutely a treasure, and it's long past time he found broader recognition and praise.

Many of Ziegler's cartoons have been collected over the years in a variety of books, some of which are out of print. Apart from Hamburger Madness, you can find many of his cartoons in the collections Marital Blitz, Olive or Twist?, How's the Squid? and the aptly-named The Essential Jack Ziegler. This was one of a Lee Lorenz-edited series that was released in 2000 and features a very informative interview along with several dozen cartoons.

Thanks to the wonderful Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker collection, with its accompanying DVD, I do have copies of plenty of Ziegler cartoons which have not appeared in book form. However, I sure would like a nice, oversized hardcover putting lots of material together in one place. I think such a book is long overdue; Ziegler's so long been underrated by our hobby that a really nice package would go a long way towards getting him the notice and the praise that he's certainly due outside of New Yorker afficionados. So how about it, somebody?


  1. Nice piece, and I totally agree! We need a huge book of his work. When I started out in cartooning, I studied Ziegler's book, Hamburger Madness, trying to find clues to how he does it. He is unique, and your description of his humor is great. BTW, he is also a really kind person.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Liza! I figured his work is so good-natured and silly that he couldn't possibly be too much of a curmudgeon, but it's nice to have it confirmed.

  3. I did more than a dozen Google searches for talking toaster comic before I finally found the one I was looking for on your page. Thanks for posting it! It's a meme in my family and my friends are always confused. Now I can show them where it all comes from. THANKS!

  4. Everyone who enjoys offbeat cartoons and single panel cartoons in general should own The Essential Jack Ziegler. Thanks for the article!