Gasoline Alley, by Jim Scancarelli
'Gasoline Alley' (9 October 2016)

Jim Scancarelli is an American comics artist, best known as the third main artist who, since 1986, has continued Frank King's classic newspaper comic 'Gasoline Alley', both the dailies and the Sundays. He also assisted George Breisacher on 'Mutt & Jeff' (originally created by Bud Fisher). Consequently, by working on both 'Gasoline Alley' and 'Mutt & Jeff' at certain moments in time Scancarelli became the first and only cartoonist to work on two major syndicated comic strips when they both, though not in the same year, celebrated their 75th birthdays.

Early life and career
Jim Scancarelli was born in 1941 in New York City. His father was an archivist for the Italian embassy. As a child the family moved to North Carolina and Washington D.C. The boy was frequently bullied, but found escapism by listening to radio comedians like 'Amos 'n' Andy', Jack Benny and Fred Allen and reading comics. Among his graphic influences were Frank King's 'Gasoline Alley', Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant', Al Capp's 'Li'l' Abner', Roy Crane's 'Wash Tubbs', Bill Holman's 'Smokey Stover', EC Comics' Weird Science and Weird Fantasy stories and Mad Magazine, particularly the work of Wallace Wood, Jack Davis and Will Elder. Scancarelli drew some of his earliest comics for his high school paper, The Signal, at Arlington Wakefield High School. It featured a character named 'Gus Todian' (a pun on "custodian"), who works a school janitor. Scancarelli would later re-use the character in 'Gasoline Alley'.

Scancarelli served in the U.S. Navy, after which he became an art designer (scenery, cue cards, images on weather maps) for 'The Johnny Cash Show' and WBTV shows. He was a voice actor on the radio show 'The Yellowjacket' for a while too. As a freelance illustrator he created imagery for magazines and slide transparency. By the late 1970s most of these jobs were taken over by computers and Scancarelli looked for other opportunities. It was at that precise moment that he was asked to assist on 'Gasoline Alley'.

Gasoline Alley by Jim Scancarelli
'Gasoline Alley' (18 July 2001)

Gasoline Alley
Around 1978 Scancarelli became an assistant of 'Gasoline Alley' artist Dick Moores. Moores had worked with another assistant, Bob Zschiesche, since 1976, but was unsatisfied with his work because he often missed his deadlines. Moores liked Scancarelli a lot better because he was a faster and more efficient worker. Apart from that he was also more familiar with the comic strip's large cast of characters. Originally Scancarelli received the fully pencilled drawings where only the heads had been inked, so he could ink the rest. Soon enough he became Moores' official assistant, as Zschiesche was fired in 1979.


Phyllis dies, on 26 April 2004

Scancarelli took over 'Gasoline Alley' completely when Moores died in 1986. In 1988 Scancarelli created an updated family tree of the Wallets. He offered a copy to any reader who mailed in a self-addressed and stamped envelope. To his surprise more than 100.000 readers sent him requests, which he all fulfilled and printed at his own expense. Over the years he'd give this tree a lot of new branches. On 26 November 1986 Adam, Corky's son, married Teeka Tok, with whom he'd have a daughter, Ada, born on 8 August 1988. In 1991 Skeezix gave the Gasoline Alley Garage to his daughter Clovia. Chipper found a woman through Internet dating. But he wasn't afraid to let some long-running cast members pass away either. In the 1990s Doc and Avery, longtime friends of Walt, both passed away on screen. More shocking was the death of Walt's beloved wife Phyllis on 26 April 2004, which still moved longtime fans enough to send in letters of mourning. It also created new storylines following Walt's life as a widower. Walt's great-grandchildren kept growing. Rover and Gretchen, the adopted children of Walt's daughter Clovia and her husband Slim, bore their own son, Boog Skinner, on 8 September 2004. On 10 September 2016 they'd have a daughter, Aubee Rose, too. Scancarelli also introduced new characters like Rufus' brother Magnus, Amanda Lynn's grandfather Joe Pye and preacher Pastor Present.

Gasoline Alley by Jim Scancarelli
'Gasoline Alley' (16 March 2013)

Personal touch
The artist enjoys adding autobiographical elements to the series. A 2012 storyline of 'Gasoline Alley' featured Boog, great-great-great grandson of Walt Wallet, being bullied, just like Scancarelli personally experienced. The comic was reprinted in its entirety by the North Michigan Christian Voice in a special edition and distributed for free to various elementary schools in that era. Scancarelli's interest for World War II led to several episodes where he brought the World War II Memorial in Washington and National Museum of the U.S. Army to attention. As a sign of respect the latter museum dedicated one of its walls to an exhibition about 'Sgt. Walt Wallet'. Other episodes of 'Gasoline Alley' have paid tribute to heroes from Scancarelli's own childhood, such as Charles M. Schulz, Mad Magazine chief editor William M. Gaines and bluegrass artist Pete Pedersen. The 3 May 2009 episode brought homage to comics collector Mark J. Cohen, who often gave the artist ideas and poems for Sunday episodes.


'Gasoline Alley' (28 May 1995)

But Scancarelli also enjoys poking fun at the comic strip's longevity which, after all, is a challenge no other comics artist with a such a long print run and aging characters has ever experienced. In a storyline running between October and November 2015 Walt visited an old folks' home for comics characters which gave him the opportunity to feature cameos of classic out-of-print characters like Bill Holman 's 'Smokey Stover', Bud Fisher's 'Mutt and Jeff' and Richard F. Outcault's 'The Yellow Kid'. In other narrative Walt is investigated for social security fraud, since the government can't believe he is over 100 years old!

Scancarelli is a traditionalist. He keeps using pen, brush and ink, rather than a computer. He continues to draw the strip for Tribune Media Services to great acclaim, and reintroduced the gimmick of letting the characters age, like the original creator Frank King had been doing in the 1920s. Moores had dropped this device in the 1970s and 1980s, but Scancarelli reinstated it in full glory. Scancarelli's run also marked the return of the Sunday pages in which the collective panels for form one big picture, like the ones Frank King regularly made. He also often ventures into nostalgic flights of fancy, like when Walt visits a retirement home for classic comic strip characters. This happened in 1995 with the 100th anniversary of American newspaper comics, and also in the November-December strips of 2018, when 'Gasoline Alley' celebrated its own 100th anniversary.

Mutt and Jeff
In 1980 George Breisacher took over the long-running gag-a-day comic 'Mutt and Jeff' from Al Smith. Breisacher, however, had trouble adapting the style to his own and therefore asked Scancarelli to help him out with the artwork. They continued the series until its eventual cancellation in 1982.


'Gasoline Alley' (6 September 2014)

Hobbies and other activities
Jim Scancarelli is also active as a bluegrass fiddler and banjo player. He played in two bands: the Kilocycle Cowboys and The Mole Hill Highlanders. Some recordings are archived in the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress. During the late 1960s and 1970s he recorded the Union Grove band contests for the Van Hoy family, since his own band performed at the same event. The veteran artist is also a fond builder of train models, complete with railroads. He inherited the passion from his father and has made a mini-version of the North Carolina Railroad of the 1930s-1940s. He worked more than four years on creating the imaginary town “Cliffside”, fabricating the buildings, train components and terrain objects from parts of hobby kits. Human figures were created from an amalgam of body parts from tiny dolls and toy soldiers.

In 1988 Scancarelli won the Story Comic Strip Award, handed out by the National Cartoonists Society. In 2017 he was also inducted in the Hall of Fame of his former high school Wakefield High School. Jim Scancarelli was also responsible for introducing Marcus Hamilton to his personal friend Hank Ketcham, which led to Hamilton becoming Ketcham's assistant and eventual successor.


'Gasoline Alley' (1 December 2018), featuring a cameo from Bud Fisher's 'Mutt & Jeff'. 

www.gocomics.com/gasolinealley

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