Jay Lynch self-portrait for The Comics Journal #114 (February 1987)
January 7, 1945 |
Orange, New Jersey
Phoebe and the Pigeon People
Jay Lynch (born January 7, 1945) is an American cartoonist who played a key role in the underground comix movement with his Bijou Funnies and other titles. His work is sometimes signed Jayzey Lynch. He has contributed to Mad, and in 2008, he expanded into the children's book field.
Early life and career
In 1963, at age 17, Lynch had moved to Chicago from Florida, where he grew up. Working a string of odd jobs to support himself, he wound up manning the service bar at Second City one summer. This was between the theater's skinny-tie Alan Arkin days and the Belushi hippie years. "At that time it seemed like Second City was over," Lynch says. "They had been on Jack Paar, and all the Hyde Park Compass Players were gone... The Realist would come out, and you'd see them taking their improvs from there." Lynch moved into Del Close's old apartment on Hudson. Close had left it in such a mess that the landlord let him live there for free on the condition that he fix the place up. He drew cartoons for Roosevelt University's humor magazine, the Aardvark, which got tossed off campus by college administrators after the first issue. Then in 1967 Lynch with help from Skip Williamson put out The Chicago Mirror which lasted three issues and would become Chicago's answer to Robert Crumb's Zap Comix: Bijou Funnies, with early work by Lynch, Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton and Skip Williamson.
Comix and trading cards
Lynch's best known comic book stories involve the human-cat duo, Nard n' Pat, the featured characters in Bijou Funnies. The weekly comic strip Phoebe and the Pigeon People by Lynch and Gary Whitney ran in the Chicago Reader for 17 years in the late 1970s and 1980s; Lynch has scans of more than 500 of those strips ready for any publisher who sees the potential of a Phoebe and the Pigeon People book.
Beginning in 1968, Lynch became a major contributor to Topps' Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids, plus other Topps humor products. In 2002, he recalled his creative working methods and procedures with Len Brown and others at the Topps' Product Development Department:
I would get a phone call from Len Brown or Art Spiegelman telling me it was time for me to do some roughs for a new series of Wacky Packages. I would usually submit a dozen roughs at a time. Len would tell me, usually on the phone, which food conglomerates I could not parody, based on cease and desist letters from prior series. I had a master list of taboo companies – and this would be added to, by phone, until a new master list would be compiled and sent to me. In those days I had a pretty good working knowledge of who made what, though. So I would give Len a verbal list of maybe 20 or so products, of which he would pick a dozen. Sometimes he would suggest products, sometimes he would come up with the gag title on the phone, and I would add to it on the rough. Sometimes Spiegelman, or Bhob Stewart, or Woody Gelman would phone the assignment to me. In the 80s, Mark Newgarden would phone the assignment to me. In the 90s Ira Friedman would phone the assignment to me. But mostly it would be Len. I think in the 60s I got $8 a rough. By the 70s it had gone up to $20 a rough. By the 80s it was $125 a rough, and so on. What I got for a rough always remained the same amount in actual buying power. It has gone up with inflation, though. One rough pays about the same as a week's worth of groceries. Always has — and always will. Anyway — after I had some idea of the initial dozen products that I would parody, I would go to the supermarket and buy these products. Sometimes I would get ideas for additional products as well – and Topps would reimburse me for this cost of the actual products when I would send them the receipt along with my bill, which I would enclose with each batch of roughs. These roughs were done in India ink and colored with Magic Markers. I would just send them in by regular mail, and I didn't bother to retain Xerox copies of them until the mid-1970s when the drugstore down the block from my house installed a pay Xerox machine. I was living in Chicago then. I would only go to Brooklyn to meet with the Topps guys once every six months or so. Usually this was to work on a vast variety of other Topps and Bazooka projects. Wacky Packages was just one of the countless series in development then, only one in ten of which would ever see the light of day.
Mad and books
Bijou Funnies was collected in the 1980s in the book, The Best of Bijou Funnies.
His children's book, Otto's Orange Day (Toon Books, 2008), a collaboration with Syracuse political cartoonist Frank Cammuso, is described by the publisher: "When Otto the cat meets a magical genie, he knows just what to wish for: he makes the whole world orange! At first, this new, bright world seems like a lot of fun, but when his mom serves orange spinach for lunch, Otto realizes that his favorite color isn’t the best color for everything. Fixing this mixed-up world won’t be easy though because Otto already used up his only wish."
Greg McElhatton (Read About Comics) reviewed:
Lynch's story is aimed at readers in the 5 to 8 range, and I have to say that if I had a child that old I know what they'd be reading. I really appreciated that Lynch never talked down to his audience; while everything is spelled out for the reader carefully, it doesn't come across as condescending or patronizing. The story itself is fun and cute; Otto's song about all things orange made me laugh, and I absolutely love the scene when everything has become orange and Otto goes outside to see his creation. Each burst of excitement as he spies something newly orange, be it a duck or a clown, is pretty contagious. Lynch has a good handle on just how to write for kids, as well as any adults that might be looking over the kid's shoulder. What also impressed me, though, is how Lynch handled the ending. It's a combination of smart thinking on both Aunt Sally and Otto's parts, and it teaches something to kids without being cloying or over the top. For a book that's just 40 pages, I was impressed at how full this story felt.
Another collaboration, Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever by Lynch with Dean Haspiel, was published by Toon Books in fall 2008. Toon describes this superhero satire: "Mona and Joey can't stop fighting! When the Mighty Mojo decides to give his powerful costume to them, these argumentative twins fight so much they rip it in half. Now each one is only half as strong! Can Mo and Jo find a way to combine their powers, fight the evil Saw-Jaw and save their town?"
Lynch was the cover story of The Comics Journal #114 (February 1987) which featured an extensive interview, "Jay Lynch and the Free Exploration of Ideas: An Interview," covering his life and career in detail. Lynch created a caricatured self-portrait for the cover illustration.
- Bijou Funnies
- Turned On Cuties
- Roxy Funnies (1972)
- Pro Junior
- Purple Cat
- Nard n' Pat
- Fucked Up Funnies
- Gothic Blimp Works
- Radical America
- Otto's Orange Day (2008)
- Mo and Jo (2009)
- Phoebe and the Pigeon People with Gary Whitney (17-year run in Chicago Reader)
- Miller, John Jackson (June 10, 2005). "Comics Industry Birthdays". Comics Buyer's Guide. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- Schwartz, Ben. "Culture Jamming," Chicago Reader, June 25, 2004.
- Bijou Funnies
- Lynch, Jay. "How a Wacky Package series was put together (from my point of view at least)," August, 2002.
- Topps Production Codes
- The Topps Vault
- Gene Weingarten (November 20, 2012). "Chewish humor". Washington Post Magazine. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
- Otto's Orange Day. Toon Books.
- McElhatton, Greg, Read About Comics, March 28, 2008.
- Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever. Toon Books.
- Fantagraphics Books: The Comics Journal, February 1987.
- "Congratulations to All of the Nominees" Harveyawards.org., Summer, 2009.
- Jay Lynch 30-minute interview on The Nick Digilio Show, June 27, 2004.
- NPR interview, "Gagging on Products": Jay Lynch (June 10, 2008)
- Official website
- Jay Lynch on Ning
- Mineshaft: Jay Lynch
- Wacky Packages (Harry N. Abrams, 2008)
- Greg Grant's Wacky Packages site