Lazarus in 1970 with his creation, Momma
May 3, 1927
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 24, 2016
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Awards||Reuben Award (1981)|
|Children||Marjorie, Susan, Cathy|
Melvin 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.
Lazarus was born in Brooklyn, to Sydney Lazarus, a successful glass-blower, and Frances (née Mushkin) Lazarus, nicknamed Frankie. Lazarus, who dropped out of high school, published his first cartoon at 16, and later enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
During his twenties, he worked for Al Capp and his brother Elliott Caplin at the Capp family-owned Toby Press. In the early 1950s, he created two children's comic strips, Wee Women and Li'l Ones.
His comic strip Momma debuted on October 26, 1970. Although Lazarus based the title character on his own mother, she believed the character was based on his aunt, exclaiming, "You caught Aunt Helen to a tee!"
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 was married twice, first to Eileen Lazarus, which ended in divorce; then to Sally Mitchell, daughter of comic-strip gag writer Ed Mitchell. Lazarus lived in Los Angeles from the 1970s until his death on May 24, 2016. from complications from Alzheimer's. He had three daughters, Marjorie, Susan and Cathy.
- 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. Archived from the original on August 21, 2017.
- "About Mell Lazarus". Creators Syndicate. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
- Roberts, Sam. "Mell Lazarus, Cartoonist of 'Miss Peach' and 'Momma,' Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
- Leovy, Jill (June 2, 2016). "Mell Lazarus dies at 89; Woodland Hills cartoonist behind 'Momma' and 'Miss Peach'". Los Angeles Times. California. Archived from the original on December 23, 2017. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- Markstein, Don. " Momma". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
- Willette, Allen (1964). These Top Cartoonists Tell How They Create America's Favorite Comics. Allied Publications.
- "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.