Monday, September 24, 2018

Willard Mullin, The Sports Cartoonist

Willard Mullin (1902-1978) is considered by many, including me, to be the best-ever American sports cartoonist. He's likely to hold that informal title for a long time because sports cartooning is essentially extinct in these days of shrunken newspapers that still manage to have huge color photos on their front pages and a correspondingly deficit of words. Oh, well ....

Mullins' New York Times obituary is here. But a more interesting link is here: besides many examples of Mullin's cartoons it includes a step-by-step set of photos showing how he worked.

Mullin apparently had little or no formal art instruction. That didn't stop him from gaining a good deal of knowledge about human and animal anatomy -- skeletal and muscular -- to be able to depict subjects both accurately or in hugely exaggerated ways. Many of his cartoons were of the exaggerated kind, but he fairly often would include a realistic portrait of a sports personality. These he usually derived from photographs using a pantograph. But he didn't slavishly trace his reference photos. Instead, as he once put it, he used the pantograph as a sketching tool.

Although he worked in other places on his way to sports fame, Mullin's best-known work was done for the New York World-Telegram evening newspaper, those cartoons usually focusing on New York City teams.

Click on the images below to enlarge.


This shows the characters he created representing pre-1958 New York baseball teams. From left to right are New York Giants (National League), New York Yankees (American League) and Brooklyn Dodgers (National League). The Giant is a bumbling hulk, the Yankee is a coldly efficient athlete, and the Dodger is Mullins' most famous creation, the Brooklyn Bum.

Here the Brooklyn Bum discusses Willard Mullin.

A panel dealing with Yankee shortstop Phil Rizutto that combines a portrait with cartoons.

The New York Yankee infield caricatured.

I'm not sure what this is, given all the whited-over text.  The general subject seems to be baseball Spring Training.  It includes a rare (for Mullin, who usually dealt with men's sports) female.

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