Herbie strip from Khaki: The Army Bulletin of 14 May 1945. This particular copy came from the personal collection of Marten Toonder, so the damage on the left was probably inflicted by the grandmaster of Dutch comics himself!

Bing Coughlin was a Canadian commercial artist, who was active as a cartoonist during World War II. He entertained a great many Canadian soldiers stationed overseas with his comic strip/cartoon panel 'Herbie' (1944-1946), which ran in military papers like Maple Leaf alongside more politically oriented cartoons of Les Callan and Merle "Ting" Tingley.

Early life and career
Born as William Garnet Coughlin in 1905 in Ottawa. His father died young, and when his mother remarried, the family moved to Philadelphia in the USA in 1923. Coughlin attended the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, after which he began a career in advertising art. Coughlin and his wife eventually returned to Canada, where he joined the army. During World War II he was a Sergeant with the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, serving in Sicily during the Italian campaign.

Herbie
His talent for drawing didn't go unnoticed, and by 1944 he was asked by publisher J. Douglas McFarlane to develop a comic strip for the military daily newspaper Maple Leaf. This resulted in 'Herbie', an average Canadian soldier whose everyday adventures behind and at the front could be followed by Canadian soldiers all over the world. Coughlin provided a daily relief of the tensions of war, with his caricaturistic portrayals of bullying officers and inside jokes. In that way Coughlin can compared to Bill Mauldin, whose 'Willie and Joe' cartoons heartened the US soldiers. His popularity was such, that the troops elected Coughlin as "Canadian Man of the Year" in 1944. "Herbie" has furthermore become a nickname for Canadian militaries to this day. Besides Maple Leaf, the 'Herbie' strip also ran in Khaki-The Army Bulletin and in about 30 non-military newspapers. A book collection with 'Herbie' strips was released by Thomas Nelson and Sons in 1946, and reprinted in 1959. Another collection followed decades later, in 2008, through Algrove publishing of Almonte, Ontario.

Recognition
In 1946 Coughlin was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his cartooning work.

Later life and career
Coughlin didn't continue his strip after the war, and returned to commercial art. He was an advertising artist for the Canadian National Exhibition until 1950, and then he returned to Philadelphia, where he worked as a designer of exhibits. William Coughlin died in 1991 at age 85 in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

Herbie cartoons on progress-is-fine.blogspot.com

Series and books by Bing Coughlin in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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