Jack Kent (illustrator)

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Jack Kent
BornJohn Wellington Kent
(1920-03-10)March 10, 1920
Burlington, Iowa, U.S.
DiedOctober 18, 1985(1985-10-18) (aged 65)
Area(s)Cartoonist, Artist
Notable works
King Aroo
Jack Kent's King Aroo (November 25, 1956)

John Wellington Kent, better known by his signature Jack Kent (March 10, 1920 – October 18, 1985), was an American cartoonist and prolific author-illustrator of 40 children's books. He is perhaps best known as the creator of King Aroo, a comic strip often compared to Walt Kelly's Pogo. In addition to his own books, he also illustrated 22 books by other authors.[1]

Born in Burlington, Iowa, Kent dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and began a career as a freelance commercial artist, working in that field until he joined the U.S. Army in 1941.

King Aroo arrives[edit]

His first nationally recognized work was King Aroo, which was syndicated and distributed internationally from November 1950 to June 1965. The strip did not become a great commercial success, but was reportedly adored by its loyal fanbase, and praised for its imaginative puns and dialogue.[2] The early strips were collected in a 192-page book, King Aroo, published as a trade paperback by Doubleday in 1953. The collection had an introduction by Gilbert Seldes. In 2010 IDW began a complete reprint of King Aroo, with the first volume covering dailies and Sundays from 1950 thru 1952.

He also wrote and drew the seasonal 1968 syndicated Christmas comic strip, Why Christmas Almost Wasn't which was also offered to Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) clients.[3]

Also in 1968, and continuing into 1969, he wrote several articles (and illustrated one of them) for Mad. He made a final contribution to Mad in 1977.[4][5]

He began writing and illustrating children's books in 1968, which he continued doing until his death.

Personal life[edit]

According to Bruce Canwell's biographical essay published in IDW's second volume of King Aroo-reprints, Kent married Juliet Bridgman in September 1952; however, the couple divorced only eight months later. In March 1954, Kent married again, this time to June Kilstofte, a reporter who had interviewed him for a magazine article. They remained married until Kent's death. In July, 1955 their only child John Wellington "Jack" Kent Jr. was born.

Living on the banks of the San Antonio River, Kent and his wife June named their home King Aroo's Castle. He died in 1985 from leukemia.


Jack Kent's book Just Only John received awards from the Chicago Graphics Associates and the Children's Book Clinic. The New York Times named his Mr. Meebles outstanding picture book of the year 1970.


At the University of Minnesota, the collection Jack Kent Papers spans the years 1953 to 1985 and includes 50 pencil sketches, nine photocopies, 182 blue line illustrations, 251 ink illustrations (some with holograph, paste-ups, separations), two paste-ups for table of contents, eight pencil illustrations with holograph, three ink illustrations with color indications and three watercolor illustrations.

Selected works[edit]

Other authors[edit]

Jack Kent illustrations for other authors

Ralph series[edit]

The Ralph series about a parrot named Ralph. Written by Bonnie Bishop:

Ruth Belov Gross[edit]

Jack Kent illustrated books by Ruth Belov Gross


External links[edit]