'Dirinda' (Sweet Sixteen #13)

Vic Herman was an American illustrator, designer, cartoonist, puppeteer, TV producer, painter and comics artist. He is best known for creating and redesigning several advertising characters which are still in use to this day, among them Elsie the Cow (Borden Milk Company), Sad Shad (Johnson & Johnson), 7-Up Sam (7-Up) and Reddy Kilowatt (electric generation industry). Several of these characters were also featured in advertising comics, which Herman drew personally. Outside his advertising career he created 'Winnie the WAC' (1942), a one-panel cartoon about a female military recruit, and he wrote and drew several back-up features for comic book publishers like Harvey Comics, Parents' Magazine Press and Toby Press. Besides several of his own creations, Herman was the graphical creator of Harvey's 'Little Dot' (1949).


'Winnie the WAC' cartoon published in Hello Buddies (March 1944)

Early life
Vic Herman was born in 1919 in Fall River, Massachusetts. His father was a violinist in Paul Whiteman's big band jazz orchestra. In 1921 the family moved to L.A., where father Herman worked in an orchestra which provided live soundtracks for silent movies. As a child Vic Herman had contact with many Mexican children, which led to him easily learning Spanish and garnering a lifelong interest in Mexican culture. Through his father he was often invited to the film sets in Hollywood, which gave him creative insight in film production. His mother provided 11-year old Vic with an apprenticeship at the Yale Puppeteers. This marionette team often performed shows at the Teatro del Toro in L.A.'s Mexican neighborhood. Herman made his own puppets and eventually staged his own shows too. He was considered enough of an expert to lecture at Columbia University before a class of students and professors of puppetry. 

Graphic career
Vic Herman published his first cartoons at Bayonne High School, as editor of the school paper The Beacon. After graduation he took evening courses at the Art Students League and the Commercial Illustrators School. His first job was assistant art director for Warner Brothers in New York City. He designed film posters, title cards and other promotional material. Among them the 'Merrie Melodies' title cards for Warner Brothers' animation department and background characters on the poster of 'Casablanca' (1942). Herman was also active for other Hollywood productions, designing the posters for 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' (1938) and 'The Sea Hawk' (1940). He was furthermore designer for advertising agency Denker, Johnson and Fleck. 

At Young and Rubicam's advertising agency Herman he was asked to redesign Elsie the Cow, the mascot of Borden's dairy products. The company had used a photograph of a real cow for years, but now they wanted a more appealing look. Together with other freelance cartoonists she was anthropomorphized into a cartoony cow who walked upright. To hide her udders they gave her an apron. Herman created cartoons, comics and colouring books around Elsie to further popularize her. On the side he worked as a freelance cartoonist for magazines like Judge, Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Liberty and Esquire. 


'Winnie the WAC'

Winnie the WAC
During World War II he was an artist/field correspondent for Yank Magazine and Stars and Stripes. He designed the 'My Censored Is Moist - Raise Toilet Seats!' poster, which was hung in thousands of military toilets across the world. In his free time he drew a cartoon feature named 'Winnie the WAC' (1942), which appeared in the army base paper The Flaming Bomb. Winnie is a young female army recruit, serving in the W.A.C. (Women's Army Corps). Herman created several one-panel gag cartoons about her. He was even allowed to visit the women's barracks "for inspiration". The cartoons were popular both among male as well as female soldiers. The Army Camp Newspaper Service distributed them to more than 1.200 other base papers. They  went so far to sponsor a Winnie lookalike contest, which was won by Althea Semanchik. She and Herman went on tour throughout the USA to recruit women for the WAC. In 1945 a 'Winnie the WAC' book was published, with a foreword of Hollywood actress Carole Landis. Even decades after World War II 'Winnie the WAC' cartoons are still reprinted in U.S. military magazines. Herman took the effort of updating them a little. 

Vic Herman Productions
After returning to civilian life, Herman worked as a staff illustrator and correspondent for Hearst Features. William Randolph Hearst asked him to illustrate Bob Considine's newspaper column. Mell Lazarus once worked in Herman's studio for six months. After he left he found a job as art director at Toby Press, where he hired Herman as a contributing comics artist. By 1948 Herman had enough assignments to establish his own art advertising company, Vic Herman Productions. Over the decades he worked for many companies, creating advertising characters like 'Johnny' for Philip Morris, '7-Up Sam' for 7-Up,  'Reddy Kilowatt' for the Electrical Industry, and 'Sad Shad' for Johnson & Johnson. Most of these characters were also used in advertising comics, often drawn by Herman personally. 


'Winnie the Waitress'

Harvey Comics
He also worked as a comics artist for Harvey Comics (1948-1960), Parents' Magazine Press (1947-1949) and Toby Press (1949-1955). 'Winnie the WAC' cartoons had already appeared in Harvey's "gals and gags" title 'Hello Buddies' (1944-1945), which aimed at servicemen. By the end of the decade he moved on to drawing filler comic stories in several other Harvey comic books. Most of them were about 'Winnie the Waitress' (1948), who appeared in Fun Parade, First Love Illustrated, Black Cat and other titles. The character was basically 'Winnie the WAC' again, but in a civilian setting. Herman was also the original artist of one of Harvey's more enduring characters, 'Little Dot'. Although he only drew her first appearances as a back-up feature in 'Little Max Comics' (#1, October 1949). The character eventually became part of Harvey's kids' characters universe, receiving her own comic book series, but also taking the role as a side character in stories starring 'Richie Rich' and 'Little Lotta' until 1976. Many of her storylines evolved around her obsessions with dots, spots and otherwise dot-shaped objects. These two characters aside, Herman's work for Harvey mainly consisted of one-shot comics pages, text story illustrations or cartoons.


'Twinkle'

Parents' Magazine Press
In the second half of the 1940s, Vic Herman was present in the boys' and girls' comic books of Parents' Magazine Press, again mainly as a provider of humorous back-up features. The clumsy 'Hector' (1947-1949) appeared in both Calling All Boys and Tex Granger. Hector was followed by 'Twinkle The Star That Came Down from Heaven' (1947-1948) and 'Pop and Junior' (1947-1949) in Calling All Kids, 'Billy Fairfield's Cartoons of His Own Misadventures' in Jack Armstrong (1947-1949) and the charming girls 'Tizzie' (1947-1949) and 'Polly Pigtails' (1947) in Polly Pigtails, as well as the nerdy 'Dirinda' (1947-1948) in Sweet Sixteen.

Kid Science, by Vic Herman

Toby Press
At Toby Press, his main feature was 'Kid Science' (1949-1952), who mainly starred in the comic book devoted to Al Capp's 'Li'l Abner'. Herman was also largely responsible for the comic book 'Li'l Abner Joins the Navy!' (1951), which was issued as a giveaway for the United States Navy. In the story, Herman also caricatured himself. Herman's other Toby creations are yet another sweet girls. 'Tookie' (1950-1953) was featured in several boys' comic books, while 'Gwendolyn' (1952) was a Korean War-era servicegirl who appeared in Toby's military oriented publications.


'Gwendolyn'

Other activities
Herman wrote over 52 books and had cartoons published in many national magazines. He was teacher for the Boards of Education in Los Angeles and San Diego. Herman was a productive painter too. In 1960 he took up an assignment to paint people and locations in Mexico. He turned it into a one-man travelling exhibition, 'The Many Faces Of Mexico', which could be seen both in the U.S. as well as Mexico. By 1968 the artist moved to L.A., to be closer to the Mexican border. In 1976 he illustrated the children's book 'Juanito's Railroad in the Sky' (Golden Press, 1976). Vic Herman passed away in 1999 in Del Mar, Caifornia. His ashes were scattered out at sea on the historic ship, 'Star of India', berthed in San Diego. 

Series and books by Vic Herman in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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