Newspaper artist Will B. Johstone was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Both an artist and athlete, Johnstone studied at the Chicago Art Institute and upon his graduation, he became an artist with the Chicago Interocean. He illustrated the daily news events, and Johnstone was the first person to diagram football games showing every play for eacht team. He eventually moved to New York City, where he began doing illustrations for the Hearst Newspaper. Later on, he moved to The World, which was later renamed to The New York World-Telegram. He did a comic strip based on the news of the day and over the years he developed the famous character of an impoverished taxpayer wearing a barrel.
Before being replaced by Dick Dorgan, Will was the original artist on comic strip 'You Know Me Al', which ran between 1922 and 1925 and was based on author Ring Lardner's series of letters from fictional baseball player Jack Keefe to his hometown pal Al. Around this time, Johnstone also started to write plays, often in collaboration with his two brothers. Eventually, he became one of the writers behind the Marx Brothers. Although his focus now lay on writing, Johnstone made several war cartoons during World War II.