Ponytail, 8 November 1964
Ponytail, 8 November 1964

Lee Holley is an American cartoonist, best known for creating the syndicated cartoon panel and Sunday comic about teenage girl 'Ponytail' (1960-1988). He has also assisted Hank Ketcham on 'Dennis the Menace' (1957-1960) and worked on several comics projects with Warner Bros characters.

Gordon Leroy Holley was born in 1932 in Phoenix, Arizona. He sold his first cartoons at age 15, but joined the Navy before his artistic career took off. During the early 1950s he was stationed on an aircraft carrier during the Korean War as a weapons inspector. He spent his free time drawing cartoons and comic strips for the Navy publications Our Navy Magazine and All Hands. Back in civilian life, he enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, after which he was hired by the Warner Bros studios in 1955. There, he worked as an animator/production artist on 'Bugs Bunny', 'Road Runner' and 'Daffy Duck' cartoons in Friz Freleng's unit. In 1958, he became the assistant of Hank Ketcham, for whom he ghosted the 'Dennis the Menace' Sunday comic. He also provided illustrations to related merchandising and a number of book publications, like the "Little Golden Books" 'Dennis the Menace and Ruff' (1959) and 'Dennis the Menace - A Quiet Afternoon' (1960).

Dennis the Menace, by Lee Holley
Dennis the Menace, by Lee Holley

In addition, Holley sold his first 'Ponytail' cartoons to Teen Magazine in August 1960. Holley gave up 'Dennis' when King Features Syndicate picked up his cartoon panel later that year, though Ketcham remained a prominent influence. 'Ponytail' was launched as a daily cartoon panel on 7 November 1960, and a Sunday comic strip was added on 7 January 1962. The strip was firmly rooted in the new teenage culture with its high school life, drive-in cinemas, pop music, dating and generation conflicts, which had come to blossom in the 1950s. Ponytail Johnson is just like any other girl of her age, living in a suburban environment, trying to muddle her way through high school, nagging her old-fashioned father about an allowance raise, chatting away endlessly on the phone with her girlfriends and quarreling with her boyfriend Donald. Holley continued his strip until 16 October 1988.

Ponytail by Lee HolleyPonytail by Lee Holley

Although relatively obscure nowadays, the character also starred in her own comic book series. The first series was published by Dell Comics between 1962 and 1965, and then continued at Charlton Comics between 1969 and 1971. Unlike most of Dell's other licensed properties, Holley oversaw most of the production himself. Additional artists and writers involved were Bob Gustafson, Frank Hill and Dave Berg. Since 2010, old episodes of the comic (both dailies and Sundays) run in Dutch girls' magazine Tina, translated and adapted to modern times by Thom Roep.

Porky Pig by Lee Holley
Porky Pig #57

Holley also worked on other comic books for Western Publishing. During the early 1960s, he drew stories with Hanna-Barbera's 'The Jetsons'. In the 1970s, he contributed to Western's Gold Key line, drawing stories with Warner Bros characters like 'Porky Pig', ''Bugs Bunny' and 'Tweety and Silvester' for the 'Looney Tunes' and 'Porky Pig' comic books. Between 1976 and 1978 he was the artist of the teen comic 'Tom, Dick and Harriet' in the 'Gold Key Spotlight' series, which was heavily inspired by the teen comics line of Archie Comics. The series was written by Mark Evanier, and had no relation to the British 1980s sitcom of the same name.

Tom, Dick and Harriet
Tom, Dick and Harriet

Lee Holley and Frank Hill furthermore succeeded Greg Walker as artist and writer of the 'Bugs Bunny' newspaper comic for the NEA syndicate between 1980 and 1988. Since his retirement, Lee Holley has been occupied with painting, giving comics courses at local schools and attending comics festivals, where he enjoyed making drawings for fans. Holley continued to fly his own airplane until old age. He was tragically killed when it crashed into a field next to the runway on Marina Municipal Airport in California shortly after taking off on 26 March 2018.

Bugs Bunny by Lee Holley
Bugs Bunny Sunday comic of 3 May 1981

Lee Holley on cartoonsnap.blogspot.com

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