The Evening World, 13 January 1912

Art Bowen was an American painter who made the newspaper comics 'The Spotty Twins' (1905-1906) and 'Spotlight Steve in Vaudeville' (1911-1912). During the 1910s he had a vaudeville show which combined his gift for drawing with musical entertainment. He is also referred to as "Art L. Bowen" or "Arthur L. Bowen". 


The Spotty Twins

Comics career
Arthur Laurence "Art" Bowen was born in 1881 in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. His father was a newspaper publisher. Bowen studied at the Chicago Art Institute and in the early 1900s became a comics artist in the Chicago Daily News, where he replaced C.F. Batchelder's one-panel cartoon column. In the same paper Bowen created his first comic strip, 'The Spotty Twins' (1905-1906), which took off on 18 January 1905. The Spotty Twins was a combination of a balloon comic and a text comic. While the characters used speech balloons in the panels there was additional narration and dialogue written underneath each image. The main characters were two tall and thin twin brothers who both were bald and had a beard. They were tramps trying to find money or food and usually failing spectacularly. The influence of Frederick Burr Opper's 'Happy Hooligan' - the most famous comic strip about a hobo - is obvious.  Bowen's next comics series was 'Spotlight Steve in Vaudeville', which ran in Joseph Pulitzer's New York Evening World from 3 August 1911 until 6 July 1912. It stars a vaudeville artist often hit by bad luck. In 1912-1913 Bowen drew the short-lived comics 'Always Take Mother's Advice', 'Bub - He's Always to Blame' and 'What Happens to the Herrings?', which were distributed by the McClure Syndicate. 


The Dayton Herald, 24 June 1912

Vaudeville shows
Much like his signature character Spotlight Steve, he also enjoyed being in the spotlight. Bowen performed with a vaudeville act at schools and was succesful enough to tour elsewhere in the United States. He usually drew cartoons on the blackboard while singing in a baritone voice. His drawings illustrated his lyrics. Thanks to his baritone voice he earned the nickname "The Singing Cartoonist". 

Suicide
Unfortunately Bowen suffered from depression. On 24 November 1916 he attempted suicide by drinking bichloride of mercury. People found him unconscious on the floor and rushed him to a hospital. He managed to survive two weeks longer, but eventually passed away on 7 December of that year in Penns Grove, New Jersey. He was 35 years old. His relatives later buried him in his birth town. 

Bowen might have been the artist who made the newspaper comic 'The Beelzebub Boys and Uncle Tom' (June-August 1902) under the pseudonym "Bow Bow".


The Buffalo Times, 13 July 1902

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Art Bowen in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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