Mell Lazarus' Miss Peach (May 29, 1960)
May 3, 1927|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 24, 2016
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Notable work||Miss Peach
|Awards||Reuben Award (1981)|
Mell Lazarus (May 3, 1927 – May 24, 2016) was an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of two comic strips, Miss Peach (1957–2002) and Momma (1970–2016). Additionally, he wrote two novels. For his comic strip Pauline McPeril (a 1966-69 collaboration with Jack Rickard), he used the pseudonym Fulton, which is also the name of a character in his first novel, The Boss Is Crazy, Too.
A native of Brooklyn, Lazarus began as a professional cartoonist when he was a teenager. During his twenties, he worked for Al Capp and his brother Elliott Caplin at the Capp family-owned Toby Press, which published Al Capp's Shmoo Comics, among other titles.
In 1964, Lazarus talked about his background and working methods:
- I never actually graduated high school. My art teacher flunked me. I have since, however, attended many classes of one kind or another. I frequently lecture at colleges and to other groups around the country. I sold my first cartoon when I was 16. I did commercial art and edited children’s magazines prior to February 4, 1957 when my comic, Miss Peach, was launched. The characters in Miss Peach are not actually modeled on real persons, with the possible exception of Lester, the skinny kid in the strip. Possibly the most loved character is Arthur, the dopey little kid. I make notes all week based on thoughts, conversational fragments, etc. I sift through all these notes on Monday mornings and select several to develop. I then write gags for them. I do six daily strips and a Sunday page.
In 1992, Lazarus made a cameo appearance in the Murder, She Wrote episode "The Dead File".
His novel The Boss Is Crazy, Too (Dial, 1963) concerns Carson Hemple, art director of a comic-book and confession-magazine publishing company, who is told by the owner to help force the company into bankruptcy, and who responds with inventive embezzlement schemes. The book was inspired by his time at Toby Press.
The Neighborhood Watch (Doubleday, 1986) is about an impoverished Brooklyn writer who steals from his wealthy neighbors. Its protagonist, widowed father Loring Neiman, having turned to burglary when his book is rejected, discovers he has a knack for it. He prepares to give up the criminal life after becoming romantically involved with a married woman, but a criminally inclined neighbor coerces him into one purportedly final robbery. It was optioned for a movie.
On January 23, 2016, Lazarus became the second recipient of the National Cartoonists Society Medal of Honor, established the year before.
Lazarus lived in Los Angeles from the 1970s until his death on May 24, 2016. He had three daughters, Marjorie, Susan and Cathy, and was married to Sally Mitchell, daughter of comic-strip gag writer Ed Mitchell.
- Miller, John Jackson (June 10, 2005). "Comics Industry Birthdays". Comics Buyer's Guide (1485). Archived from the original on October 30, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- "Mell Lazarus 1927-2016". National Cartoonists Society. May 24, 2016.
- "Mell Lazarus". Creators Syndicate. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
- Willette, Allen. These Top Cartoonists Tell How They Create America’s Favorite Comics. Allied Publications, 1964.
- "The Boss Is Crazy, Too". (review) Kirkus Reviews. June 3, 1963. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
- "The Neighborhood Watch". (review) Publishers Weekly. March 14, 1986. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
- "NCS Awards". National Cartoonists Society. Archived from the original on March 25, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
- "Mell Lazarus Given the NCS Medal of Honor". National Cartoonists Society. February 4, 2016. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
Tribute to Mell Lazarus, excerpted from the documentary film by Sari Armington, The Folks Behind the Funnies