Drawing from the cartoon book 'Red Primer' (1967).

Victor Vashi was a Hungarian painter, animator and comics artist, known in his home country as Viktor Kálmán, or "Vasi". He was a pioneer in Hungarian animation during the 1930s and worked for political satirical magazines like Pesti Posta and Ludas Matyi before moving to Austria and then to the USA. He is best-known for his cartoon books spoofing the Soviets, 'The Sing Along with Khrushchev Coloring Book' (1962) and the 'Red Primer for Children and Diplomats' (1967).

Early life
Viktor Kálmán was born in 1911 in Pécs, a large city in the south of Hungary. He had seven siblings. By the time of his birth, his country was still part of the dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary, which was dissolved after World War I. Viktor Kálmán got his artistic training in Sopron, and then in Budapest, where he attended the Hungarian Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1929 and 1933. One of his teachers was the painter Gyula Rudnay (1878-1957). During these formative years, Kálmán participated in several group exhibitions in Sopron. He also made illustrations for children's magazines.

Animation
Also known as "Vasi", Kálmán was making animated advertisements in cooperation with István Valker and István Balogh during the 1930s and 1940s. The men are considered pioneers of Hungarian animation, especially for their experimental approach. Today, only one of Kalmán's productions has remained: a short film with the title 'Az Okos Kapus' ("The Smart Goalkeeper", 1944) for Orion Hőpalack thermal bottles. A longer cartoon production was planned, but without proper funding, only a script of the planned adaption of the Hungarian folk opera 'Háry János' was made. After World War II, Kálmán briefly returned to animation, joining István Bedő and Félix Kassowitz at István Szegő's Hunnia Film Factory in the Autumn of 1946. The enterprise was however unsuccessful and short-lived.


On the cover of the second issue of Pesti Posta (1 September 1944), Kálmán spoofed fascist leader Ferenc Szálasi, who was at that time not appointed Prime Minister yet. The caption read "Szálasi, who comes as if he were going".

Pesti Posta
By 1938 Kálmán was working as an artist for the Budapest newspaper 8 Órai Újság. He presumably also contributed some of his first comic strips to this paper. During World War II, his art appeared in the theater magazine Színházi Magazin, as well as the Éjféli Riport ("Midnight Report"). Kálmán's most memorable contributions were however to the Pesti Posta, a satirical magazine specifically aimed against fascists and Nazis. Edited by Dr. István Pesthy, nine issues appeared between 20 August and 10 November 1944. Hungary had been under German occupation since March 1944. However, the Hungarian fascists were unable to get full control of the government until the Nazis imposed change, having learned of the plans of the Hungarian government to sign a separate peace with the advancing Soviets. The oppressors kidnapped the son of the Hungarian Regent Miklos Horthy, and threatened to kill him unless Horthy abdicated. The leader of the minority fascist party, Ferenc Szálasi, was appointed Prime Minister on 16 October. It was during these eventful times that Pesti Posta appeared, with graphical contributions by Béla Szepes, Tibor Toncz, István Szigethy, Magda Hauswirth, Róbert Byssz, Sándor Gugl and Viktor Kálmán. The team managed to produce nine issues, until the paper was banned and the Gestapo came to arrest editor István Pesthy, who quickly went into hiding. Viktor Kálmán was however arrested and, according to an article in the Anderson Daily Bulletin from 18 September 1963, sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.. He stayed in a Hungarian prison, where he continued to draw and presumably planned his political comics.


"Kuksi and the high prizes".

Kuksi
After World War II, Viktor Kálmán worked for the humor magazines Ludas Matyi (1945-1947), Igazság (1946) and the Szabad Száj (1946-1948). In Ludas Matyi he was the original artist of the funny animal series about the donkey 'Kuksi', presumably written by editor Ferenc Hídvégi. The comic documented Hungarian post-war social and political life. It is unknown when Kálmán left the series, but after his tenure, around 1948-1949, the series turned to promoting the communist ideology. Kálmán was by then still working for Szabad Száj, which continued to attack the communists.

International work
According to the blurb on Kálmán's US cartoon book 'Red Primer' (1967), Kálmán has not only been imprisoned by the Nazis, but also by the Soviets. He was locked up in solitary confinement in the Gödöllő prison camp near Budapest, but overlooked when the Gulag was emptied and all able-bodied men were sent to Siberia. Kálmán managed to flee to Austria in December 1948. From there, he saw his cartoons published in several European newspapers and magazines, including the Salzburger Nachrichten, the Wiener Kurier and the Emigrans Szabad Szaj ("Emigrant Free Speech"), which was published in Paris, France, as well as Paraat from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He later moved to the United States.


"The Party unselfishly led the way to the top. Once on top, the Party insisted upon assuming the thankless job of ruling, generously waving aside all help. This is what they celebrate nowadays as the Great October Revolution." (From: 'Red Primer')

United States
In the States, he was known under the name Victor Vashi. During the 1960s he was living in Washington D.C., while working at the McCoy Art Studio. In the next decade, Vashi was the chief cartoonist for the Machinist union newspaper at its headquarters on Connecticut Avenue in Washington D.C. He also drew for publications aimed at the Hungarian American population, such as Magyarsag from Pittsburgh, Kepes Magyar Magazin from New York and the publications of the Federation of Hungarian Former Political Prisoners of New York.

Soviet spoof cartoon books
Victor Vashi is however best known for two political cartoon books, full of tongue-in-cheek satire. His first collection was 'The Sing Along with Khrushchev Coloring Book' (1962), written from the perspective of Nikita Khrushchev's granddaughter, writing to her pen pal Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of American President John F. Kennedy. The book was published in 1962 by the Sov-o'Press, a phoney label presumably part of the joke. Vashi's next book was 'Red Primer for Children and Diplomats' (Viewpoint Books, 1967), a humorous cartoon history of communism in the Soviet Union, published on the occasion fo the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution.

Later life
The artist returned to Europe later in life. He passed away in Vienna, Austria, in 1985.


Drawing from the cartoon book 'Red Primer' (1967).

redprimer.com

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