Roy Doty was an American comic artist who worked a freelance and independent cartoonist throughout his entire life. He hosted his own drawing instruction TV show, 'The Roy Doty Show' (1953) and was best known for his long-running educational/instructional comic strip 'Wordless Workshop' (1954-2004), which appeared in the monthly do-it-yourself magazines Popular Mechanics and Family Handyman. Doty also drew a newspaper comic based on the TV sketch show 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In', which ran between 1968 and 1972. The cartoonist was furthermore a master in drawing amazingly detailed crowd scenes. 

Early life and career
Roy Edward Doty was born in 1922 in Chicago. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design, where he graduated in 1942. During World War II he was drafted. Doty drew a comic strip, 'Corporal Qwerty', for the military newspaper at Robbins Field, Georgia, which army officials liked so much that he was reassigned from being a radar specialist to become an army cartoonist. 'Corporal Qwerty' now appeared in magazines like Stars and Stripes, Yank, Overseas Woman and Army Talks. It left him with a more comfortable and safer job during wartime, but he still travelled along with the troops to Europe. In The London Daily Mail he drew a weekly comic strip, 'A Yank in Paris', as well as a puzzle page named 'Aha! Puzzle', and made illustrations for the debut issue of the women's magazine Elle. Inspired by English and French cartoonists, Doty abandoned brush work and started using a Gillott pen instead. His linework became more delicate and elegant too. 

Wordless Workshop by Roy Doty

Graphic career
After the war he became a freelance cartoonist in New York, trying and eventually succeeding in making a living from just drawing cartoons. Throughout the next 69 years of his life he never even had an agent. He made illustrated advertisements for companies like Buick, Black & Decker, Coca-Cola, Ford, Macy's, Minute Maid, Mobil Oil, Ovaltine, Perrier and Texas Instruments. His cartoons appeared in Business Week, Elle, Field & Stream, Fortune, the London Daily Mail, Newsweek, The New York Times, Pic, Seventeen, etc... Doty also made propaganda comics to support politicians Henry Wallace in 1948, and Adlai Stevenson twice: in 1952 and 1956. He illustrated more than 170 children's books, mostly by Judy Blume, but also wrote and illustrated 27 titles by his own hand. Between 10 May and 4 October 1953 he hosted his own children's TV show, 'The Roy Doty Show' (1953) on the DuMont Television Network, which was entirely devoted to reading illustrated stories and making chalk drawings and cartoons. This would make him one of the earliest comic artists to host a drawing show on television, along with Jack Hamm. As with many early TV shows, no footage has survived. Later in his career Doty illustrated the children's newsletter for the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Wordless Workshop
Doty's signature comics series was 'Wordless Workshop' (1954-2004), which ran in the monthly Popular Mechanics until 1989, after which Family Handyman took it over, publishing it in colour. This pantomime family comic depicted a pipe-smoking father trying to make or repare something for his family, while the mother and her kids stood by and watched. In later decades they would get more involved, subverting gender roles. 'Wordless Workshop' was an instruction manual in comics format. Every episode presented a challenge or an idea, which the family built or fixed in step-by-step drawings. The final page showed the finished result, all told in a formulaic narrative without any dialogue. In that regard 'Wordless Workshop' wasn't a gag comic, more a serious visualized how-to-do-it article. Readers even sent in letters with personal suggestions for projects, which Doty then visualized. 

Roy Doty was also the artist behind the newspaper comic 'Laugh-In' (1968-1972), based on the popular TV sketch show 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' (1967-1973). The first episode of 'Laugh-In' appeared in print on 23 September 1968, to coincide with the show's second season. Since the show was so popular many newspapers distributed the comic strip adaptation, but like most celebrity comics it wasn't quite as beloved. Doty didn't caricature the cast members, but just used nameless characters of his own, presumably to avoid them asking for a fee. It therefore lost a lot of its recognizabilty among the target audience. Doty didn't even have contact with the show's hosts, actors, writers or producers. During the first three months he thought up all gags himself until he got stuck with writer's block. He therefore employed the help of gag writers. 'Laugh-In' ran for five years, until March 1972, while the final season of the TV show lasted only a year longer. Allan Holtz of the website Stripper's Guide suggested another reason why the comic strip didn't catch on: "Laugh-In was a show that revelled in groaningly bad jokes, funny because of the way the cast members delivered the gags. If you were to read a script for a Laugh-In show you wouldn't crack a smile, but once the great cast got hold of the material it turned to gold on the air. Without that great cast delivering the material, the comic strip was doomed." 

A Day at the Metrics
Doty furthermore drew the monthly comics series, 'A Day at the Metrics' (1989-1991) for the Marlin Company, which starred a family - the Metrics - trying to deal with the change of the United States to the metric system under U.S. President George Bush Sr.

Crowd drawings
An article about Roy Doty wouldn't be complete without addressing his amazing skill in drawing huge crowd scenes for his children's book illustrations and magazine articles. Doty regularly made huge panels - often spread over two pages - of hundreds of people together in one spot. Despite the fact that these drawings were often shrunk to size, Doty still put in tremendous effort to make every miniature human or animal in these crowds as intricate and distinctly unique as possible! 

Roy Doty won several Reuben Awards throughout his career, among them the Advertising and Illustration Award (1967, 1970, 1978, 1989, 1996, 2005), Commercial Award (1989), Greeting Card Award (1994) and Illustrator of the Year Award (2006). He is one of a select few people inducted into the National Cartoonist Society's Hall of Fame. 

Final years
Doty remained active as an illustrator well into his nineties. He never considered retirement, because in his opinion he never had the feeling of having a job. All he did was draw for fun and getting paid for it. Nevertheless his health eventually started to fail and he was admitted to an assisted living facility near his home in Dublin, Ohio. In late 2014 he suffered a stroke. Roy Doty passed away in March 2015, at age 93. Colleagues like Dan Collins and Terry Libenson paid tribute to him. His collection of artwork and cartoons has been donated to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Hop State, University. 

comic art by Roy Doty

Series and books by Roy Doty in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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