Joe King was an American cartoonist, illustrator and newspaper photographer, who worked in comics during the 1920s and 1930s. He was a staff artist with the Newspaper Enterprise Association, and drew their syndicated features 'Radiomania' (late 1920s), 'The Tinymites' (1930-1932) and 'The Clownies' (1931-1933). Later in life he was a book illustrator, using the pen name Joel King.

Early life
Joseph B. King was born in 1904 in Newark, New Jersey. His father Clifford was a hotel waiter. The King family later resided in Los Angeles, California, before settling in Canton, Ohio. During his high school years, King already showed artistic talent, winning a poster contest at McKinley High School in April 1923.


From: The Waco News Tribune (10 March 1926).

Early art career
Upon graduation, King became a photographer with The Canton Repository in the period 1924-1925, before turning to illustrating and cartooning. One of his first jobs was making the illustrations for Barbara Webb Bourjaily's children's book 'Mother Goose Secrets' (Small, Maynard & Company, 1925). It contained popular fairy tales and lullabies as the author told them to her three boys, turning the fear and terror of the original stories into joy. During 1926 and 1927, King illustrated the newspaper column 'What Does Your Child Want to Know?' for the Bell Syndicate. It answered questions sent in by parents and the writers were C.E. Brown and, again, Barbara Bourjaily. By the end of the decade he also sold syndicated daily single-panel cartoons to newspapers.

Newspaper Enterprise Assocation
By 1927 Joe King began an affiliation with the Newspaper Enterprise Assocation (NEA). One of his first jobs was a new cartoon feature which the syndicate could offer the newspaper to print on their radio page. 'Radiotics' (renamed to 'Radiomania' in 1928) replaced the NEA's previous radio strip 'Bugs' (1924-1927), which was drawn in its final days by Don Wootton. Whereas 'Bugs' was a comic strip with a recurring character who builds and tunes radios, 'Radiotics' was a single panel cartoon with a broader outlook on the radio themes. Later on, the feature also had sequential installments. King left in April 1929, and was replaced in succession by Art KrenzDorothy Urfer, Charles Okerbloom and George Scarbo, who continued it until February 1932.


'The Tinymites' (Dayton Daily News, 21 February 1932).

The Tinymites
Joe King's main work for the NEA was illustrating 'The Tinymites', a daily picture story written in rhyme by art director Hal Cochran. King came on board in February 1930, after the previous artist Irving Knickerbocker died in a car accident. 'The Tinymites' was mainly an illustrated text story about a group of kids who engage in all kinds of magical adventures. Their names refer to their respective roles or appearances. Clowny is a clown, Scouty a boy scout, Coppy "plays" a cop, and Dotty wears a dotted dress, etc. Readers were encouraged to read the story and then color the picture. King and writer Cochran also originated a Sunday page with the same characters, which was more richly illustrated and had a sequential narrative. However, it appeared under the title 'The Clownies', starting in 1931. King also added two companion features with funny animal humor, called 'Animal Cracks' (7 July 1932 - April 1933) and 'Comic Zoo' (11 September 1932 - 12 March 1933). By April 1933, George Scarbo took over King's entire workload on these features.


'Gabby' (The Brooklyn Times Union, 21 August 1935)

Final comics work
During the mid-1930s, Joe King's work only appeared in fa handful of other newspaper comics. Between 29 July and 26 October 1935 he drew the dramatic daily adventure strip about high school sports hero 'Gabby' for the Central Press Association. The writer was William Ritt, who was also writing the far more popular sci-fi serial 'Brick Bradford' for Clarence Gray. Between February and April 1936, King also drew a couple of Sunday pages of 'Ted Towers Animal Master' by Frank Buck for King Features Syndicate, briefly replacing the orginal artist Glen Cravath before Ed Stevenson became the new regular artist. These excursions marked the end of Joe King's cartooning career.

Later life and career
Joe King had married fellow cartoonist Dorothy Urfer on 31 August 1935, and the couple lived in Weston, Connecticut and eventually in New York City. King turned to commercial art and illustration, doing work for magazines like Ladies Home Journal, Look Magazine and Women's Home Companion. He later returned to illustrating books, by then using the pen name Joel King. Among the books illustrated by King are 'Nip Ahoy, the Picture Bar Guide' by Richard H. Loeb, Jr. (Wilcox & Follett Co., 1954), 'The Missing Mitt' by Edna Walker Chandler (Ginn & Co, 1955) and 'Leave It to Herbert the Electrical Mouse' by Marie Bloch (TAB Books, 1958).

Joseph King passed away on 24 January 1980 at the age of 75.


Illustration from 'Mother Goose Secrets'. More illustrations from this book at Chris Otto's Papergreat blog.

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Joe King (I) in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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