Jack Matsuoka was an American-born Japanese (Nisei) cartoonist, originally from Watsonville. Like many other Japanese living in the States, he and his family were, although innocent, imprisoned shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He spent the rest of the war, and most of his teen life, in the Poston detention camp in Arizona. During this period, he made many drawings about the everyday camp life. The 1974 book collection of these cartoons, 'Camp II, Block 211' gives an intriguing look in this period of American history. A revised edition, called 'Poston Camp II, Block 211', was published in 2003.
Matsuoka later relocated to Ohio, where he briefly attended the Cleveland School of Fine Arts. During his military service, he was an interpreter for the Army's Military Intelligence Service in occupied Japan, where he also continued his studies. He also picked up cartooning again, becoming a sports cartoonist for The Japan Times. He also made political cartoons for The Yomiuri News and illustrations for books about Japan. His first book collection was called 'Rice-Paddy Daddy'.
He eventualy returned to the States. While working in the import-export business during daytime, he spent his spare time making cartoons for the Cal Bears and The Berkeley Gazette. He became a fulltime freelance cartoonist in 1969. He was the longtime editorial cartoonist for The Pacifica Tribune (1974-2000) and also contributed to the San Francisco Examiner, San Mateo Times and San Jose Mercury News.
His cartoons appeared in both the English and the Japanese sections of The Hokubei Mainichi from San Francisco. He also made a comic strip called 'Sensei' for the paper. He remained with the Hokubei until its final issue in October 2009, and then contributed to the NikkeiWest, another paper from Northern California. Matsuoka additionally made on-the-spot cartoons and caricatures during festivals and sports events.
Jack Matsuoka has been honored on several occasions for his cartooning work, and especially for his contributions to the Nisei culture in the USA. He is best remembered however for his drawings of the Japanese American internment experience, that would have never seen print if his mother hadn't picked them up from a trunk many years after they were drawn.
The artist passed away at age 87 in August 2013, after being in poor health since suffering a stroke while attending the opening of the Congressional Gold Medal exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco on 29 June 2013.