By: Dave Astor
King Features Syndicate Editor in Chief Jay Kennedy died yesterday in a drowning accident while vacationing in Costa Rica, according to King. He was 50.
Kennedy — whose wife, magazine editor Sarah Jewler, predeceased him in 2005 — was King’s editor in chief since 1997. Prior to that, he had been the syndicate’s comics editor since 1989 — a year after he joined King as deputy comics editor. The former Esquire magazine cartoon editor was also a comics historian and artist who studied sculpting and conceptual art at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Kennedy also earned a sociology degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
“Jay Kennedy was a great friend to the cartooning community,” National Cartoonists Society President Rick Stromoski said in an e-mail to E&P. “He loved the art form. His instincts and advice were always spot on. He was loved and respected by everyone and he will be sorely missed.”
Stromoski does the “Soup to Nutz” comic for United Media.
King President T.R. “Rocky” Shepard III said in a statement that Kennedy “strengthened King’s roster of talented commentators and writers and articulated his vision for the future of the art. Everyone is deeply saddened. We will miss Jay’s talent and friendship.?
The Hearst Corp. owns King. Bruce L. Paisner, executive vice president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, said in a statement that Kennedy “had a profound impact” on King and added: ?He was an extremely creative talent himself and we are indebted to him for all he did.?
According to a Hearst obituary released this afternoon, “Kennedy once explained that he chose a life in cartooning because ‘in the fine arts, artists generally comment on the world only obliquely. … By contrast, cartoons are an art form accessible to all people. …'”
The New York-headquartered King is one of the largest syndicates in the world. Its features include columns such as “Hints From Heloise” and comics such as “Baby Blues,” “Beetle Bailey,” “Bizarro,” “Blondie,” “Curtis,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Hagar the Horrible,” “Mother Goose and Grimm,” “Mutts,” “Rhymes With Orange,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Family Circus,” “Zippy the Pinhead,” and “Zits.”