Monday, May 02, 2016

The Great Illustrator

Wednesday Advertising Day.

It is pretty well known that before he did Juliet Jones (and Blondie) Stan Drake was a commerical artist who worked at Johnstone and Cushing until 1950 and for his own company in the years after that up until he was hired by King Features to do Juliet Jones. If you want to read the highlights version of this story you can find it on the Stan Drake page of the Cartoonist Society website (

For many of us the name Stan Drake is synonymous with beautifully rendered ink line drawings of gorgeous gals and handsome men, as featured in Drake’s seminal romance comic strip, “The Heart of Juliet Jones”. Surprisingly, in an interview in issue #72 of CARTOONIST PROfiles magazine, Drake spoke candidly of what might be called his true cartooning style: “I really am a cartoonist,” said Drake. “I had to work hard at drawing straight, illustrative type stuff. I started out with Johnstone & Cushing (the advertising cartoon firm) right after the war and my bent was really towards the semi-funny stuff. When I got into advertising, an art director told me, “If you want to make out in this business, you must learn how to draw pretty girls and handsome men.” So I recall that I bought copies of ‘Vogue’, ‘Harpers Bazaar’ and ‘Mademoiselle’, and when I got home, I’d place some vellum over the heads of the pretty girls in the magazines, and I must have traced seven or eight hundred heads in this way.” 

What this doesn't show is the fact that in the late forties Drake did a lot of very realistic pulp covers, which are gathered on this magnificent website:

 Around 1950 Stan Drake left Johnstone & Cushing to form his own art studio, Drake-Kittelsen, with a lettering man named Harry Kittelsen. During this period Stan Drake continued drawing advertising spots and strips – and even did story illustrations for what was at that time a popular men’s adventure magazine called Blue Book. “I was working all the time up to the point where I had a nervous breakdown. Bob Lubbers, my old friend from art school, called me up one day, he was doing TARZAN at the time, and he said, “Listen, why don’t you get smart? Don’t commute to New York from Long Island anymore. Don’t go through that rat race. You’re killing yourself already, at age thirty!” And he said, “Why don’t you take some of those samples up to King Features? It’s the biggest syndicate in the world. Get a comic strip. You could do a comic strip, and you could work at home, and you could relax. So I took his advice.” The result, of course, was Stan Drake’s masterful The Heart of Juliet Jones, which he co-created with writer Elliot Caplan.

Again, a shortcut is taken here. As I have shown in an earlier post, Drake's first work for King Features was a fairly long run as the illustrator for the Jan and Bill soap opera serial in their Pictorial Review section. Coming years before Juliet Jones it must have been a factor in his being chosen for that. But since Drake never mentioned it himself it seems to have been left out of every history of his career.

What hasn't been left out is the fatc that he drew ad for Ipana tooth paste at Johnsone and Cushing. The Sundays are obviously his, but there were also daily ads that were published once a week. I do not see Drake's lovely ink line, but he may still have been developing that. I have shown a couple before, but maybe a longer run will make it easier to see if he actually did these as well.

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