comic art by Jules Feiffer
Cartoon starring Feiffer's famous dancer.

Jules Feiffer is widely regarded as one of the most famous and influential U.S. satirists of the 20th century. He started his career co-writing episodes of Will Eisner's 'The Spirit' (1940-1952) and creating his own gag comic 'Clifford' (1949-1951) as an extra. Feiffer, however, made his strongest impact as an editorial cartoonist. His comics series 'Feiffer' (1956-1997) broke new ground by addressing taboos other cartoonists didn't dare to touch. His characters openly discussed relationships, sex, depression, family troubles, current events and existential angst. They voiced his strong personal opinions about political-social matters and opened gates for many other alternative cartoonists. Feiffer furthermore created the satirical graphic novel 'Tantrum' (1979) and the 'Kill My Mother' (2014-2018) trilogy, a pastiche of detective noir. He also gained recognition as a writer, playwright and screenwriter. His most enduring children's books are 'Munro' (1959) and 'The Man in the Ceiling' (1993). His play 'Little Murders' (1967) became a classic, while he also wrote the script for the cult movie 'Carnal Knowledge' (1971). Feiffer furthermore published the influential book 'The Great Comic Book Heroes' (1965), one of the first essays on superhero comics. His large body of work won him a large following among adult readers and many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize (1986).

Early life and influences
Jules Feiffer was born in 1929 in The Bronx, New York City, as the son of a salesman who was usually unemployed. Feiffer's cousin was Roy Cohn, who'd later become infamous as an accomplice of senator Joseph McCarthy. Feiffer credited his mother for steering his artistic career. She worked as a fashion designer and sold watercolour drawings door to door. She stimulated hers son to draw a lot and also supported his studies at the Art Students League of New York. Feiffer was also allowed to participate with a John Wanamaker art contest, which won him a medal. But in his autobiography he also criticized her for being a stereotypical Jewish mother. She often complained and was paranoid about expressing controversial opinions in public. He was often guilt-shamed, making him even in his twenties too inhibited to even masturbate. Feiffer suffered from mother complexes for years. It particularly irritated him that he couldn't say what he wanted and was supposed to obey her without any clear reason. The frustrated cartoonist went into therapy for years. Many of his cartoons were driven forward by anger and the determination to discuss taboo topics, including his own personal issues.

From a young age Feiffer enjoyed reading. Among his literary influences were Nathaniel West, I.F. Stone and Murray Kempton. His favorite comics artists were Winsor McCay, Sheldon Mayer, Percy Crosby, Gene Ahern, Crockett Johnson, Raeburn Van Buren, Cliff Sterrett, Walt Kelly, Al Capp, V.T. Hamlin, George Herriman and especially Roy Crane, E.C. Segar, Milton Caniff and Will Eisner. As a child he once wrote a letter to Caniff, who sent him an encouraging reply back. In terms of cartoonists, Feiffer looked up to William Steig, Saul Steinberg, André François, George Grosz, Feliks Topolski and Victor Weisz. Later in his career he also expressed admiration for for Art SpiegelmanTed Rall, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Craig Thompson, Alison Bechdel, David Small, Jeff Danziger, Tony Auth, Pat Oliphant, Tom Toles, Signes Wilkinson and Patrick McDonnell. Feiffer was also mezmerized by Fred Astaire, who influenced the iconic female dancer character in his cartoons.

Education
After high school, Feiffer tried to go to college, but was told that his credits were insufficient. In order to improve them he was advised to go to summer school. Yet the 16-year old couldn't bother to suffer two months longer in that institution. In 1947 he went to the Pratt Institute to improve his drawing style, but still left after a year because there was too much focus on abstract art. A more satisfying experience were the evening classes he attended for three years under Lenny Kusokov, advertising art director for Grey Advertising.


Spirit section of 11 September 1949, featuring Feiffer's breakthrough story 'Ten Minutes' (art by Will Eisner).

The Spirit
In 1946 Feiffer looked up Will Eisner's name in the phone book and applied for a job as cartoonist in his studio. As a huge admirer he and his idol got along well. The maestro was amazed how much Feiffer knew about his work. Not only that: he was just as passionate about comics. Most other employees in his studio just did their job as something that paid the bills. As much as Eisner liked the young protegé Feiffer's artwork was just too amateuristic. In the end he took him in as a clean-up artist, just to give him something to do. Their bond was so strong that Feiffer was allowed to voice criticism. Once he confronted his idol with the declining quality of his signature comic 'The Spirit'. Eisner challenged him to write a story of his own. Feiffer wrote 'Ten Minutes', which follows a robber, Freddy, and his failed attempt to rob a store. At the start readers are informed that the story about the final 10 minutes of Freddy's life will actually take "ten minutes to read". All throughout the story a clock on top of the page counts down the remaining minutes. It's a remarkable experiment in pacing and timing, something Feiffer had learned from Abe Kanegson. When Eisner read 'Ten Minutes', he was so impressed that the story was actually published in Eisner's Sunday newspaper supplement The Spirit Section on 11 September 1949. He was particularly in awe of his ability to write naturalistic dialogue and thus allowed him to write nearly all other episodes. Feiffer would do so until 'The Spirit' came to a close on 5 October 1952. 'Ten Minutes' was adapted into the live action short film 'Will Eisner's the Spirit: Ten Minutes' (1989) by Edgewood Studios, directed by David Giancola.

Clifford
Once Feiffer asked Eisner for a raise, but he offered his young acolyte the chance to create a comic strip. 'Clifford' (1949-1951), a charming gag series  about a little boy and his naïve view of the world, debuted in Eisner's one-shot comic book 'Kewpies' (Spring 1949). Feiffer tried to imitate Walt Kelly's drawing style, but wanted more than anything else to make a comic strip about how children really behave, not how adults want to see them. Between 10 July 1949 and 4 March 1951 'Clifford' appeared in The Spirit Section as a weekly back cover feature. Although not very popular at the time, it was still historically notable for debuting a whole year before Charles M. Schulz created 'Peanuts' (1950-2000), with whom it shares some similarities in terms of setting and style. It is not known whether Schulz ever read 'Clifford', though in an interview by John Benson for Panels, Eisner did feel that 'Clifford' was "a great feature that deserves to be recognized as the forerunner of 'Peanuts'." For Feiffer himself 'Clifford' was his first attempt to drawing comics about real-life people and their worries, though not yet as sharp as he would become later. Later episodes were drawn by Gene Bilbrew


'Munro'.

Munro
Between January 1951 and 1953 Feiffer was drafted in the U.S. Army, where he continued to write new episodes of 'The Spirit', which were then sent back to its regular illustrator Wallace Wood. He served at the Signal Corps in New Jersey, but never saw combat. Nevertheless he hated his military service, because once again he was expected to blindly obey orders. He felt so treated like a child that he wrote a satirical children's story, 'Munro', in his spare hours. 'Munro' follows a four-year-old boy who is accidentally drafted in the army. Nobody believes him when he tries to argue that he is just a kid. The metaphor was clear, but the most amazing fact about this subversive story was that Feiffer actually created it at the Civilian Corps Publication Center in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, with full support of his supervisor Perc Couse and another G.I., Harvey Dinnerstein! Nevertheless 'Munro' (1959) only saw print seven years later, after Feiffer had become famous. In 1962 it was adapted into an animated short by Gene Deitch, with Feiffer voicing a sergeant. The picture won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. Deitch later directed two other animated shorts scripted by Feiffer, 'Bark, George' (2003), narrated by John Lithgow, and 'I Lost My Bear' (2005), in which Feiffer's daughter Halley provides narration.

Animation scriptwriting
Meanwhile 'The Spirit' had come to an end, so when Feiffer returned to civilian life, he performed a variety of jobs before becoming an animation scriptwriter at UPA ('Gerald McBoing Boing', 'Mr. Magoo') and Terrytoons ('Mighty Mouse', 'Heckle & Jeckle'). At Terrytoons he met Gene Deitch, for whom he scripted his 'Tom Terrific' animated shorts and developed a never-produced TV series, 'Easy Winners'. Up to then Feiffer felt very insecure about his graphic skills, but the simple, effective artwork of UPA made him realize you didn't necessarily need great art to tell great stories. It gave him more self confidence to try and sell his cartoons to various magazines.


First Feiffer cartoon published in The Village Voice on 24 October 1956.

Cartoons
Feiffer's cartoons were nevertheless rejected everywhere because they were quite unusual in graphic style and content. They used a comic strip format, but didn't revolve around humorous adventure stories or formulaic gags about wacky characters. Most episodes featured realistic people talking about recognizable everyday issues. Many editors turned them down, because they didn't know how to market them? However, Eisner noticed that most editors had a copy of The Village Voice on their desk. He figured if he could be accepted by that particular magazine more publishers would know who he was and be more willing to accept him. In 1956 he went to the Village Voice and offered to work for free. This was an offer they couldn't refuse and on 24 October 1956 Feiffer's comic strip debuted in The Village Voice, where it would remain a mainstay for over 40 years. Originally titled 'Sick, Sick, Sick' with the subtitle 'A Guide to Non-Confident Living', it later changed to 'Feiffer's Fables' and eventually simply to 'Feiffer'.


Feiffer cartoon published in the Detroit Free Press on 23 November 1959.

While most people wouldn't like to work without payment, Feiffer didn't mind. As an employee for Eisner his pay had been low too and he still received income as an animation scriptwriter. The biggest advantage, however, was that he didn't have to worry about losing income. As such he could draw and say whatever he wanted. In the 1950s and early 1960s most mainstream media, especially in the USA, still had many unspoken taboos. People tried to keep up a facade of happy, carefree lives. Especially newspaper comics and cartoons dealt with simple, family friendly gags and stories. Feiffer surprised many readers by drawing everyday people in a realistic setting. They talked about real emotions like love, lust, fear, doubt, anger, sadness and despair. His characters often discuss these feelings or think them through in monologues. Many cartoons deal with relationships, particularly people trying to live together as partners, family members or colleagues. They often worry or are frustrated with their lives. Feiffer, as a man who frequently visited psychiatrists could relate. He felt it was frustrating that most comics in newspapers and magazines didn't talk about such matters. In a September 2010 interview conducted by Jesse Rhodes for Smithsonian Magazine, Feiffer explained: "Particularly as an American, we are taught - as other cultures do not teach - that failure is a bad thing. It's looked down upon. Don't be a loser. We have all sorts of negative notions about failure and so the hidden message is: 'Don't risk anything. Don't take chances. Be a good boy. Stay within the limits. Stay within the proper boundaries and that way you won't get into trouble and you won't fail.' But of course in the arts and virtually anything else that leads a satisfactory life, failure is implicit. You try things, you fall on your face, you figure out what went wrong, you go back and try them. And what I was hoping to do for the readers of my book - particularly young readers - was tell them that a lot of the good advice they got should simply be ignored."


Feiffer cartoon from 4 September 1978.

Together with Paul Conrad in the L.A. Times, Feiffer was one of the earliest U.S. cartoonists to address the African-American civil rights movement, Vietnam War and the sexual revolution. While Feiffer criticized conservatism, U.S. Republicans, racism, J. Edgar Hoover, the Cold War and pro-war politics, he was equally critical of left-wing complacency, U.S. Democrats and sexual liberation. He often surprised people by rallying for issues most people wouldn't be bothered about. Between 1961 and 1964 he testified at the trials against comedian Lenny Bruce for obscenity, defending Bruce's freedom of speech. At the height of the Watergate affair, Feiffer designed a cover for the Village Voice criticizing his administration's illegal bombing of Cambodia, which he felt was more tragic than breaking in the Democratic Party Headquarters.

To convey his messages, Feiffer deliberately kept his artwork and lay-outs simple. A typical cartoon counts six to eight borderless panels, which can vary in size and shape. All backgrounds are minimal. Text doesn't appear in speech balloons, but just floats above the characters' heads. In a 28 July 2008 interview with Sam Adams for AV Club, he said that he looked at artists like Saul Steinberg, William Steig, André François and George Grosz. During the first decade he drew with pointed wooden dowels, after which he changed to pen and ink, again to stand out among the competition. In his quest for spontaneity he drew straight on the paper without any pencilling. Through photocopy machines he could reduce them, cut them out and put them in a lay-out. Even though the process took longer, it did give him more vital drawings, with little redrawing. In the aforementioned interview with the AV Club he added: "I discovered over and over again that once you lose control, you have a chance of getting good at it. And once you're controlling the work, it's not going to be very good, or it won't be as good as it should be."

His cartoons didn't have many recurring characters. The most recognizable duo are the brainless womanizer Huey and his timid sidekick Bernard who often discuss sex and relationships. The most iconic individual character is 'The Dancer', an unnamed female ballerina in a leotard. Feiffer always enjoyed Fred Astaire movies and frequently attended stage performances by modern dance companies. It struck him that the dancers expressed all their emotions in movement, which was far more fun to draw than characters just standing around. The Dancer often holds a monologue in combination with an interpretative dance, usually to welcome a new season.

Feiffer's cartoons quickly caught on. In an era when most U.S. citizens had an unshaken faith in their government, institutions and the American way of life, Feiffer dared to tackle complex issues and express strong progressive opinions. Mrs. Taylor, who runs the Lyndon B. Johnson's library once asked Feiffer for the original of one of the most vicious anti-Johnson cartoons he'd made, but he refused it with the reply: "All he has to do is get out of Vietnam. He can have my entire library." He perfectly fitted the free-spirited and revolutionary 1960s and 1970s and struck a chord with many young readers. Feiffer's cartoons reached a wide audience, especially among people who normally didn't associate comics with this kind of depth. He voiced what many people often felt and thought, but were too scared to say out loud. Yet he was modest about it: "At the time liberals didn't understand that they had First Amendment rights." Precisely because Feiffer's work didn't look like regular comics he was taken far more seriously as a satirist and opinion maker. His cartoons were more comparable to an illustrated editorial column. A book compilation, 'Sick Sick Sick: A Guide to Non-Confident Living' (1958), became a best-seller. Soon Feiffer was syndicated nationally by the Robert Hall Syndicate and later Universal Press to the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Newark Star-Ledger and Long Island Press. His cartoons appeared in The Nation, Playboy, Esquire, Mademoiselle, Holiday, Life, Commentary, Saturday Evening Post, Ramparts, The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker. In the United Kingdom they could be read in the London Observer. In the Netherlands in Vrij Nederland. 

Like Feiffer anticipated, once his cartoons became in higher demand, he had a better position to ask for decent payment. In 1962 Hugh Hefner, chief editor of Playboy, became the first to pay for his work, which prompted the Village Voice to do the same. Playboy ran his 'Bernard and Huey' cartoons under the title 'Bernard Mergendeiler'. He always preferred these two magazines, because they gave him the biggest creative freedom. Hefner did occasionally suggest changes to his cartoons, but only to make Feiffer's arguments stronger by strengthening the weaker aspects.

comic art by Jules Feiffer

Media adaptations
Stanley Kubrick once considered adapting Feiffer's cartoons into a film and even asked him to write a screenplay, as well the script for 'Dr. Strangelove'. Feiffer liked Kubrick's work but was aware that the perfectionist would merely dictate him what to do, rather than collaborate. As such he declined both offers. 'Dr. Strangelove' would later be written by Terry Southern, author of 'Candy' and 'The Magic Christian'. Decades later Judy Dennis directed the short 'The Dancer Films: Nine Minutes' (2011) in which Andrea Weber played Feiffer's dancer. Seven years later Dan Mirvish made 'Bernard and Huey' (2018), also based on Feiffer's cartoons. The picture won various awards, including the Grand Jury Prize (2017) at the Guam International Film Festival, "Best Screenplay" (2017) at the Manchester Film Festival and "Best Film from the American Continent" (2017) at the Jaipur International Film Festival.

Illustration
Earlier in his career Feiffer considered becoming a children's book illustrator, but after reading Maurice Sendak he felt so intimidated that he dropped the idea. In 1961 Feiffer did illustrate a children's book after all, mostly because he was room mates with the author, Norton Juster. Both men shared an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, but had no prior experience. Juster merely started writing for fun, while Feiffer created images, imitating John Tenniel, Edward Ardizzone and Gustave Doré to give it a more elaborate style than his cartoons. The book, 'The Phantom Tollbooth' (1961), follows a young boy who travels to the Kingdom of Wisdom through a magic tollbooth. There he tries to restore the shattered country through adventures which help him appreciate learning things. A clever story, full of amusing puns, 'The Phantom Tollbooth' is also a metaphor for the value of wonder and education to appreciate life. The book became an unexpected bestseller and was translated in many languages. In 1969 it was adapted into an animated feature film by Chuck Jones. Years later Feiffer illustrated another children's book by Juster: 'The Odious Ogre' (2010). The book revolves around a giant ogre who terrorizes the country, until he meets a friendly young lady who helps him out in an unpredictable way.


'Tantrum'.

Graphic novels
In 1979 Feiffer drew his first graphic novel 'Tantrum' (Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), only a year after Will Eisner's 'A Contract with God' popularized the genre. It originally ran in the Village Voice for four weeks, after which Feiffer decided to make his story a full-fledged comic book. 'Tantrum' features a 42-year old man who suffers from a midlife crisis. In an emotional moment he forces himself to become a two-year old boy again. This gives him the freedom to do whatever he wants, without shame or repercussions. Yet while he enjoys life much more than before, he also discovers the disadvantages of acting like an infant... The clever satirical metaphor was praised by many critics, including Will Eisner and Neil Gaiman, who named it one of the finest graphic novels ever published. Though, in all honesty, 'Tantrum' is still more in line with Feiffer's cartoons and book illustrations than an actual graphic novel. He drew everything without preliminary sketching and most panels are just one drawing spread over an entire page.

It would take 35 years before Feiffer found the courage and self-confidence to make an actual comic book in every meaning of the word. He wanted to make a more ambitious and realistic story, paying homage to the detective pulp he enjoyed in his youth. However, since this required elaborate graphic skills, detailed backgrounds as well as historical research, he just felt he couldn't pull it off. At first, he took a female assistant to draw it for him, but she backed out. In the end Feiffer decided to just draw it himself. He often watched old films on Turner Classic Movies, recorded them and freeze-framed certain scenes to sketch them down on paper. Especially buildings, cars, clothing and airplanes were difficult, making each page a challenge. Feiffer used inventive lay-outs to make his narrative more engaging. The end result, 'Kill My Mother' (2014), is a hard-boiled mystery romance about a detective and his girlfriend, combined with a subplot about teenagers trying to get by during the Great Depression. The work reads like a pastiche of detective noir, but is also enjoyable and intrigueing as a solid, complex thriller. 'Kill My Mother' won the Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Album and was praised by comics legends like Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware and Stan Lee. Two sequels followed, 'Cousin Joseph' (2016) and 'The Ghost Script' (2018), continuing the storyline throughout the McCarthy era in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
'Kill My Mother'.

Novels and children's books
Feiffer has also written both fiction as well as non-fiction books. His first novel was 'Harry the Rat with Women' (1963), about a narcisstic man who is too in love with himself to have any attention for other partners. He was spoiled in his youth and thus has no real worries either. Despite all this, many people admire him, which inspires him to start a political movement... His second and final novel, 'Ackroyd' (1977), starts as a parody of detective fiction. A private investigator delves deep into the life of a writer, until he starts to take over his personality, bringing up questions about the detective's own identity. Feiffer's attempt to write a children's book, 'The Man in the Ceiling' (1993), had more impact. The story revolves around a young boy who wants to become a comics writer, but is discouraged by his father and own feelings of self doubt. A more popular boy helps him out, until an unexpected obstacle reaches their path... 'The Man in the Ceiling' received good reviews and in 2017 Andrew Lippa and Feiffer adapted it into a musical. In 1999 Feiffer released his children's picture book 'Bark George', about a puppy who does not sound like a puppy should, despite the efforts of his mother. Feiffer also wrote the chapter about E.C. Segar in John Carlin, Paul Karasik and Brian Walker's 'Masters of American Comics' (Yale University Press, 2005), a catalogue book to an exhibition in the Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

The Great Comic Book Heroes
As a non-fiction author, Feiffer is most revered in comics circles for his standard 'The Great Comic Book Heroes' (Bonanza Books, Dial Press, 1965), which he wrote in commission of E.L. Doctorow. The work was one of the first academic studies of comics, more specifically superhero comics. Feiffer provides a personal history of the medium, starting off in 1937 until the early 1950s. He discusses various series and explains their appeal to him. The book was innovative because it offers historical context and artistic analysis. Feiffer discussed comics in the same way a critic would analyze the work of a novelist or a graphic artist. The author also addresses common criticisms heard about comics, particularly in the light of the 1950s witch hunts by Fredric Wertham. In the famous closing chapter he argues whether comics are "junk" or not? He points out that even junk can be good, because comics do deliver escapist entertainment, which is why people read them in the first place, much like any light-weight novel. As such, dixit Feiffer: "Comics are junk, but that junk is good, even necessary."

'The Great Comic Book Heroes' was an instant bestseller. People who previously dismissed the genre as low-brow pulp now looked at it with different eyes. Many series and cartoonists from the past were rediscovered, including Will Eisner's 'The Spirit', which enjoyed a veritable revival. 'The Great Comic Book Heroes' was reprinted by Fantagraphics. Film director Quentin Tarantino based a whole monologue about Superman, given by David Carradine in 'Kill Bill, Vol. 2' (2004) on theories from Feiffer's book.

Script-, play- and screenwriting
In 1959 Feiffer designed the poster for the short-lived play 'The Nervous Set'. Later in his career he himself became an accomplished author of satirical plays, movie screenplays and TV scripts. Most were written for the money, as he was confident that the majority would never see production anyway. However, some did. 'Little Murders' (1967) is an odd play about a woman, Patsy, who falls in love with Alfred, an asocial and passive man. He is in fact so passive that he is indifferent towards pain. Alfred isn't alone, as most people in their city feel apathic about other people's suffering. But Patsy's family turns out to be even more eccentric.... Feiffer wrote 'Little Murders' after president Kennedy was murdered, because it shocked him that the U.S. he grew up in was snuffed out of existence within one week. The play flopped at Broadway, but was a surprise hit at the Aldwych Theatre in London. A 1969 off-Broadway revival won an Obie Award. In 1971 'Little Murders' was adapted into a film by Alan Arkin, starring Elliott Gould and Marcia Rodd in the title roles. The black comedy was well received by critics. Comic artist Dave Sim later based the Judge in his comics series 'Cerebus the Aardvark' on Judge Stern in this picture.

'Feiffer's People' (1969) is a play consisting of 32 humorous vignettes, based on characters and situations from his cartoons. Most are people trying to find their place in life, only to find out the world doesn't care. 'Knock Knock' (1976) takes places in a log cabin, where a realistic former stockbroker, Abe, and romantic unemployed musician, Cohn, have lived together for ages. Their viewpoints are put into discussion when Joan of Arc visits them and tries to help them reconsider their lives before going to Heaven. 'Grown Ups' (1981) was written after Feiffer's mother passed away, which is reflected in the plot. Jake, a succesful reporter, is commissioned to interview Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State. While his Jewish parents are extatic about the idea, Jake suddenly has conflicted feelings about having lived his entire life up to the expectations of his family. A similar kind of angst is found in 'Elliot Loves' (1989), where two lovers have found the ideal partner in each other, but are terrified and uncertain what this will bring them? When he introduces her to his friends they are confronted with themselves.

Out of all Feiffer's film scripts, 'Carnal Knowledge' (1971) is the best known. The film was directed by Mike Nichols, whom Feiffer knew from his comedy sketches with Elaine May. He always felt they captured the spirit of his cartoons perfectly and thus was glad when Nichols adapted his work. 'Carnal Knowledge' revolves around a callous womanizer (Jack Nicholson), his more well-behaved roommate (Art Garfunkel) and their equally opionated girlfriend (Candice Bergen). The film follows the changing dynamic in their relationship from their college years until their 40s. 'Carnal Knowledge' received good reviews and is nowadays considered a cult classic. Feiffer furthermore wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman's 'Popeye' (1980), because Richard Sylbert, who was also the production designer on 'Carnal Knowledge', felt Feiffer was "the only one who could make these characters real." Yet Feiffer only agreed to do it if they took E.C. Segar's original comics as reference point, not the animated cartoons. The film was shot on Malta, with Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall givng very convincing portrayals of Popeye and Olive Oil. Nevertheless the film didn't do well at the box office. Stan Hart and Mort Drucker ridiculed it in comic strip version as 'Flopeye', published in issue # 225 (September 1981) of Mad Magazine. Only later did the 1980 'Popeye' film pick up a cult following.

Feiffer furthermore wrote the script for Alain Resnais' 'I Want to Go Home' (1989), about the life of a hasbeen cartoonist in Paris. Despite the fact that Resnais spoke little English and Feiffer little French the film still got made and received good reviews. The productive scriptwriter furthermore wrote the animated short 'Boomtown' (1985) by Bill Plympton, which satirized the Cold War. Feiffer scripted two 1984 episodes of the TV series 'Comedy Zone', the 1985 episode 'Puss in Boots' of 'Faerie Tale Theatre' and a 1991 episode of 'The Nudnik Show', based on Kim Deitch's eponymous cartoon character. Feiffer finally made the drawings for the episode 'Three Is Enough' (2008) of 'The Naked Brothers Band'.


Feiffer cartoon from 1998.

Media appearances
In 1972 Feiffer appeared in Benoît Lamy's documentary 'Cartoon Circus', a Belgian documentary about cartoons and comics, in which he was interviewed alongside Siné, Picha, Roland Topor, Cabu, Jean-Marc Reiser, François Cavanna, Professeur Choron, Gal, Georges Wolinski, Willem and Joke. He was interviewed in Robert Heath's Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time (1992), Susan Warms Dryfoos' 'The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story' (1996) about Al Hirschfeld, Michael Letcher 'God's Will' (2000) about preacher Will D. Campbell, Andrew D. Cooke's documentary, 'Will Eisner. Portrait of a Sequential Artist' (2007), Brad Bernstein's documentary 'Far Out Isn't Far Enough' (2012) about Tomi Ungerer, Josh Melrod and Tara Wray's 'Cartoon College' (2012) about The Center for Cartoon Studies and their annual education of amateur cartoonists, and Michael Stevens' 'Herblock: The Black & the White' (2013) about Herblock. The artist furthermore appeared in the documentary series 'The First Amendment Project: No Joking' (2004), 'Funny Already: A History of Jewish Comedy' (2004), 'The Jewish Americans' (2008), 'A Broadway Lullaby' (2012) and 'Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle' (2013), Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack's documentary 'Maya Angelou and Still I Rise' (2016). He also appeared as the cartoonist in a 2006 episode of the TV series 'Horizon'.

Recognition
Feiffer won a George Polk Award (1961), Pulitzer Prize (1986), the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), Creativity Foundation's Laureate (2006) and Writers Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). The animated short 'Munro', based on his work, received the 1961 Academy Award for Best Animated Short. His play 'Little Murders' won an Obie Award (1969), while 'The White House Murder Case' won an Outer Circle Critics Award (1970). His 'Kill My Mother' won an Eisner Award for "Best New Graphic Album". In 1996 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996) and eight years later the Eisner Award Comic Book Hall of Fame (2004).

Recent years
Feiffer was active as a professor at Yale School of Drama, Northwestern University, Dartmouth College and Stony Brook Southampton. In 1997 Feiffer quit The Village Voice over a salary dispute. His chief editor proposed to discontinue his 75.000 dollar a year fee, but to keep his syndicated column running, paying Universal Press Syndicate some 200 dollar a week. Feiffer rejected the offer, as well as a counter proposal, with a salary of 20.000 dollar and benefits. He went to the New York Times where he continued a similar monthly comic strip until 18 June 2000. He started to grow tired of coming up with new material every week and the final four episodes had him talk with to his iconic dancer about the loss of her venue. In April 2008 The Village Voice approached him with the question what it would take to get him back in the paper? Feiffer asked a large sum and a full colour page. He got his wishes.

Since the 1980s Feiffer's complete comics work has been reprinted by Fantagraphics under the title 'Feiffer: The Collected Works'. In 1996 he donated his papers and artwork to the Library of Congress. In 2008 he wrote a furious letter of complaint to the New York Review of Books, after they criticized a new book by cartoonist David Levine, who then suffered from macular degeneration and would later pass away from this disease.

His oldest daughter Kate Feiffer is a children's book author herself. Her book 'Which Puppy?' (2009) was illustrated by her father. His middle daughter Halley Feiffer later became a well known actress and playwright.

Legacy and influence
Stanley Kubrick admired Feiffer's "scenic structure (...) and the eminently speakable and funny dialogue" of his comics, which are "close to my heart." Frank Zappa cited Jules Feiffer in the liner notes of his album 'Freak Out!' (1966) as one the people "who made our music what it is". He was the only cartoonist on that list. Woody Allen's type of Jewish comedy borrowed much mustard from Feiffer's cartoons, even to the point that the cartoonist himself noticed. Feiffer: "It's hard to believe that Woody Allen could have gotten that early character of his without having read about Bernard Mergendeiler. Now we know it's not Woody at all - he didn't draw it from his own character, he drew it from mine." Allen once mentioned that, as a teenager, he was attracted to a type of women (long hair, black leotards) "almost what you'd call a Jules Feiffer type of girl." 

Jules Feiffer had a strong impact on alternative cartoonists, especially in tackling taboo subject matter. He influenced artists like CopiGeorges Wolinski, Garry TrudeauBlutchGuido CrepaxMatt Groening, Tom Tomorrow, Chris Ware, Tom Toles, Art Spiegelman and Claire Bretécher.

Books about Jules Feiffer
For those interested in Feiffer's life and career, his autobiography, 'Backing into Forward: A Memoir' (2010), is a must-read. An insightful addition is Martha Fay's 'Out of Line. The Art of Jules Feiffer' (2015), which has a foreword by film director Mike Nichols.


Self-portrait.

www.julesfeiffer.com

Series and books by Jules Feiffer in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.