Sam and Silo
Detroit-born Gerald Dumas developed a passion for comics and drawing from an early age. However, he went to get his degree in English at Arizona State University instead of studying art. Upon graduation in 1954, he got a job in Mort Walker's studio as text editor and gag man on the newspaper comics 'Beetle Bailey' and 'Hi and Lois'. Well into the 1960s, Walker and Dumas were the only writers on both strips, with both authors writing ten gags apiece a week and then picking out the best ideas for further development. By the late 1950s he was also helping Walker draw and letter the comic strip about lazy soldier 'Beetle Bailey', while Dik Browne drew the family comic 'Hi and Lois'. From 1968, Dumas also cooperated on the writing, drawing and lettering of 'Boner's Ark', a comic strip largely produced by Frank B. Johnson, one of Walker's other assistants.
Both Dumas and Walker had a keen knowledge of comic strip history, and toyed around with the idea of a character who ran his own comic strip as a business. This eventually resulted in the extraordinary offbeat comic strip 'Sam's Strip', which ran in newspapers through King Features Syndicate from 16 October 1961 until 1 June 1963. The comic was full of self-parody and metahumor, and featured guest appearances of characters from other strips. Dumas was the artist and showed an excellent skill in copying other artist's styles, from John Tenniel's illustrations for 'Alice in Wonderland', over George Herriman's 'Krazy Kat' and Frederick Burr Opper's 'Happy Hooligan', to Charles Schulz's 'Peanuts'. Colleagues joined in the laughter and not one lawsuit was filed. Even the Walt Disney Company was a good sport, and Walt Disney even wrote to ask for the original of the strip starring 'Donald Duck'. Copying other artists' styles was a time-consuming acivity though, and the general audience not always picked up the inside jokes. Therefore the satirical 'Sam' strip came to an end after only two years.
During the period he drew 'Sam's Strip', Dumas had also started to make humorous illustrations for magazines like The New Yorker, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. In 1977, Dumas and Walker reprised the 'Sam' character in the more mainstream comic strip 'Sam and Silo', which dealt with the misadventures of a small-town sheriff and his deputy. After 1995, Dumas took sole control of the comic strip. In addition, Dumas has also done scriptwriting for comic strips by other artists, such as 'Rabbits Rafferty' (1977-1981) and 'McCall of the Wild' (1988-1990) by Mel Crawford and 'Benchley' (1984-1986) by Mort Drucker.
Dumas has also written essays and columns for the Atlantic Monthly, the Smithsonian, the Connoisseur and the Greenwich Time, and he chronicled his childhood memories in his 1972 novel 'An Afternoon in Waterloo Park'. Jerry Dumas received the Adamson Award for his work on 'Sam's Strip' and 'Sam and Silo' in 1985. He lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, for most of his life and has additionally been the town's handball champion more than 20 times since 1956. Jerry Dumas passed away on 12 November 2016.