'Smoke Spirit' (Horrific #6, 1952).

Kenneth Landau was an American comic artist and animator, who enjoyed a long and versatile career. In animation, he has worked for such studios as Disney, DePatie-Freleng, Hanna-Barbera and Cambria. His newspaper cartooning work included writing and drawing the obscure gag comic 'Lucky' (1945-1946) and being ghost artist on the 1952-1955 newspaper comic adaptation of the radio and TV show 'Dragnet'. Between 1951 and 1964, he also worked in comic books, drawing stories for horror and romance titles by Lev Gleason and the American Comics Group, as well as stories with Hanna-Barbera characters for Dell Comics. Ken Landau additionally made erotic cartoons for Hustler magazine.

Early life and career
Kenneth Vernon Landau was born in 1926 in New York City as the son of violinist Otto Landau. Father Landau played string violin in the official orchestra of the Walt Disney Studios, providing soundtracks for Disney's animated shorts and features. However, young Kenneth's interests went more to drawing than music. He loved reading comics and had a strong admiration for 'Flash Gordon' creator Alex Raymond. In 1941, at age 15, Landau dropped out of high school. He later took his art studies at the Art Students League and the Pratt Institute, both located in New York City.

Try-out newspaper cartoons
One of Ken Landau's first attempts at a comic strip was 'Gismo', a gag cartoon about a teenager with blond hair hanging in front of his eyes. Most episodes are one-panel cartoons, but some also use a comic strip format. Applying for a job at Columbia Pictures, 'Gismo' was greenlighted for publication, yet for unclear reasons never saw print. In the following years, Landau attempted several other gag comics, like 'Cats 'n' Dogs', 'Cuthbert' and 'Aunt Tique', the latter written by an author named Kimbrell. He also tried out realistically drawn drama comics, such as 'Blytheville', 'Dear Dolly', 'Doctor Destiny' and 'The Thoroughbreds'. On the official Ken Landau website, maintained by his daughter, it is mentioned that it is unknown how many of these comics were actually used for job applications or merely try-outs for series Ken Landau never further developed. The one that Landau definitely tried to get launched was a drama series, 'Rock Beaumont'. He made over 100 episodes, constantly redrawing earlier artwork over the years, because of his improved skills. Originally, a friend wrote the narratives, but the publishers told him that the story was rather weak compared with the drawings. Landau tried to rewrite the story on his own, but still couldn't interest a publisher or syndicate.


Through his father, the 15-year old Landau managed to get a job as in-betweener at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. Between 1941 and 1943, Landau worked on several animated shorts starring either Donald Duck or Goofy. He also made important contributions to the studio's adaptation of Felix Salten's novel 'Bambi', released as a feature film in 1942. The story about a young deer growing up in harsh nature was adapted for screenplay by Perce Pearce and Larry Morey. In one scene, a nightly storm breaks out, accompanied by the song 'Little April Shower', written by Larry Morey & Edward H. Plumb and composed by Frank Churchill. Essentially a mood piece, the scene features heavy rainfall, thunder and lightning effects. Admired for his skill in depicting drops of water, Landau was largely in charge for the 'Little April Shower' segment, widely regarded as one of the highlights of the movie.

On 7 December 1941, the United States entered World War II. In 1944, Ken Landau was drafted and trained at Camp Howze, Texas. According to the website maintained by his daughter, Landau was well liked among his fellow recruits. They regarded him as a famous artist, because he had worked for Disney. Some of his drawings were on display in the soldiers' gym hall. During his military service, he drew a semi-autobiographical gag comic titled 'Lucky' (1945-1946), of which Landau modelled the title hero after himself. After initial publication in the Sheppard Field Army newspaper, the feature also ran for a month in the Herald Examiner in Los Angeles, California.

'Dragnet' strip, presumably ghosted by Ken Landau.

Post-war cartooning career
After the war, Landau tried to make a living as a comic artist. After trying his luck in Los Angeles, he moved from New York City, where most of the major comic book companies were based. In 1948, he sent a letter to Alex Raymond and received an encouraging reply back. Still, Landau's attempts at launching his own newspaper comic went nowhere. He was far more in demand as a ghost artist for already established comic series. Around 1954-1955, Landau was a ghost artist for Mel Keefer on the newspaper comic 'Dragnet' (1952-1955) for the L.A. Mirror Syndicate, which tied in with the TV crime drama of the same name. Later in his career, during the 1980s, Landau also made pornographic cartoons for the erotic magazine Hustler.

Some sources mistakenly claim that Ken Landau worked as an assistant-artist on Gus Edson's family comic 'The Gumps', but in reality this artist was Martin Landau. Many sources have confused Ken and Martin Landau with each other, mostly since they were active around the same time. The artists weren't related either.

Cartoon art for Hustler magazine.

Comic books
Not that successful with newspaper strips, Ken Landau found more lucrative jobs drawing comic books. In 1952 and 1953, he worked for Lev Gleason Publications, darwing romance stories for the Lover's Lane title, and also some crime tales for Crime Does Not Pay and Crime and Punishment. He also did a story for Charles Biro and Norman Maurer's science fiction feature 'Rocky X of the Rocketeers', printed in Boy Comics. During this period, Landau also worked occasional jobs for Timely Comics (stories for Adventures into Terror, Spy Cases), Pines (Exciting War), St. John Publishing (Authentic Police Cases) and Harwell Publications (Dear Lonely Hearts, All True Romance, Horrific, Weird Terror), before becoming a regular artist with the American Comics Group (ACG).

'All I Want Is You' (Lover's Lane #29, October 1952).

Between 1953 and 1960, Landau penciled and inked stories for ACG's horror and mystery series, including Adventures Into the Unknown, The Clutching Hand, Forbidden Worlds and Out of the Night. Landau also illustrated a couple of stories for their romance series Lovelorn and My Romantic Adventures, as well as stories for the military title Commander Battle and the Atomic Sub. Besides these realistically drawn comic books, Ken Landau also drew funny animal stories for Dell Comics, mostly starring Hanna-Barbera characters such as 'Quick Draw McGraw', 'Snooper and Blabber', 'Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks', 'Ruff and Reddy' and 'Tom & Jerry', but also Walter Lantz's 'Woody Woodpecker' and Warner Bros' (Friz Freleng) Speedy Gonzales'. Later in his career, Ken Landau used a pseudonym for creating three X-rated comic books, which sold pretty well.

'Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks' strip for Four Color Comics #1264.

Later animation career
In the early 1960s, Landau abandoned the comic industry and returned to animation. He was an animator for the Cambria Studios, working on the 'Captain Fathom' series. He also briefly worked for DePatie-Freleng, a studio founded by David DePatie and former Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng, best known for the 'Pink Panther' series. In 1964, Landau joined Hanna-Barbera. Over the course of the next decades, he provided lay-out art for a great many series, including 'Jonny Quest', 'Super Friends', 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo', 'The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show', 'Yogi's Treasure Hunt' and 'The Smurfs', the latter based on Peyo's European comic strip of the same name. Some of his work is credited under the name "Kean Landau".

Final years and death
Ken Landau retired in 1988, and died in 2012, at the age of 86. His daughter Maranee Landau has kept his memory alive by hosting a website dedicated to her father's life and work. She also announced to be working on a biographical book about her father.

Self-portrait for a planned book project.


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