Cartoonists Honor Non-Cartoonist

By: Dave Astor

What do Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Joe D’Angelo have in common? They’re among the few non-artists to receive the National Cartoonists Society’s Silver T-Square for service to the NCS and/or the cartooning profession.

D’Angelo, president of King Features Syndicate from 1973 to 1997, was presented with the award this month after a unanimous vote of the NCS board of directors. “The Silver T-Square is normally given to a cartoonist, so that made it even more special for me,” he said.

At the event, the honoree was praised by people such as Mort Walker, the King-distributed “Beetle Bailey” creator who helped organize the evening. Among the others making remarks were Creators Syndicate President Rick Newcombe and D’Angelo’ s wife, Marcia, who worked the names of various King comics into her speech.

Though he’s not an artist, D’Angelo has had a career intricately connected to the cartoon world. He was president of the Newspaper Features Council in the 1980s and still serves as president of the International Museum of Cartoon Art. He worked in several other King executive posts before and after his presidency of that syndicate, and continues to spend much of his time focused on syndication as a consultant to the Hearst Corp. — King’ s parent company.

D’ Angelo, in an E&P Online interview this week, said his strongest memories of his King years include the mid-1980s acquisitions of Cowles Syndicate and News America Syndicate — which greatly increased King’s stable of cartoonists and other creators. He also recalled negotiating hundreds of contracts with cartoonists, working with Hearst to give ownership rights back to several high-profile King comic creators, losing almost no cartoonists to other syndicates, being at King as advances in technology made the syndication process increasingly digital, and more.

The former president believes King is in good shape today. He said the syndicate, like its competitors, is operating with a leaner staff. And he praised current President T.R. Shepard III, other King executives and employees, and the King sales force — which helped attract three well-known cartoonists to the syndicate effective Jan. 1. They are “Mother Goose & Grimm” creator/editorial cartoonist Mike Peters, “Bizarro” creator Dan Piraro, and “Crankshaft” creator Tom Batiuk.

D’Angelo said he greatly admires the talent cartoonists have to take a blank sheet of paper and create features enjoyed by millions.

As for syndication in general, D’Angelo acknowledged that the current bad economy and newspaper ad slump have made it a difficult environment for selling features. But he thinks business will improve, and concluded: “As long as there are newspapers, there will be syndicates. They’re very, very important to newspapers.”

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