Janocha on Jurden: A cartoonist remembers a mentor
The frog I refer to is the happy heckler that graced virtually every Jack Jurden editorial cartoon published in this and, later, syndicated newspapers for nearly half a century. It was sad to learn of Jack’s passing, as he proved to be a great influence to me.
Moving from West Chester to Newark in 1967, I instantly took to the powerfully drawn cartoons by Jack in what was then The Evening Journal.
Many a time I ventured into our garage to sift through the stacked papers to clip a favorite cartoon, yet the best memory came during my freshman year in high school. My dear father arranged to take me to visit Jack in his office in March 1974, and Jack became the very first cartoonist I ever met.
Instantly generous and encouraging, he urged me to take the then-popular Famous Artists correspondence course, which taught me all about creating art up until I studied illustration at Syracuse University.
Jack gave me his copy of the latest Cartoonist Profiles’ magazine and totally unprompted, gave me a fantastic framed color drawing of his beloved frog reading The Evening Journal, which became my first original cartoon. After college I freelanced, working at Walt Disney, in TV and feature animation, Mad magazine and drew editorials cartoons, hoping someday to maybe follow Jack’s footsteps at The News Journal.
Since 1987 I have assisted Mort Walker on his “Beetle Bailey” comic strip in Stamford, Conn., served on the board of The National Cartoonists Society and am completing a children’s book.
But it all really started for me with Jack Jurden, and I wonder how many other young people his work inspired. Jack’s early work jumped off the printed page, commanding attention with strong graphics that clearly and instantly conveyed his powerful message.
He was fortunate enough to thrive as “the house cartoonist” for decades at this paper, seldom possible today due to the industry’s diminished prospects. This practice provided regular commentary and insight about local issues, so benefiting the informed reader.
Wisely, The News Journal published “Jack Jurden Draws Delaware” in 2002, so a permanent retrospective collection of his work exists for future reference. A past president of The American Association of Editorial Cartoonists and member of The National Cartoonists Society, I made sure the NCS will pay tribute to him in our next newsletter and during our annual awards weekend in Washington, D.C., in May.
Thank you Jack, for inspiring me during my youth and being a talented voice for your readers and fellow cartoonists.
Bill Janocha now livs in Stamford, Conn.