Last month marked the 90th birthday of Jules Feiffer. It reminded me of the impact he has had on me and my generation’s intellectual life and funny bone.
A Voice in the Village (And Beyond)
I discovered Jules Feiffer in the pages of the Village Voice, which my older sister brought home to the Bronx from her sojourns to Greenwich Village. (Later, I’d learn that Feiffer was born in the Bronx.) I would look forward each week to his dancer’s celebrations and political and social commentary. Alongside Mad Magazine, Feiffer introduced me to satire and helped me develop an appreciation of for this careful art.
A collection of those strips from the Voice: Sick, Sick, Sick: A Guide to Non-Confident Living, was published in 1957. It was syndicated nationally and internationally in 1959 until it ended in 1997.
Then, in 1965, came his tome The Great Comic Book Heroes, a first ever history of the beginnings of the American comic book industry I didn’t know existed. My world was never quite the same when I discovered that Jules Feiffer was also a participant.
More Than Comics
His novel Harry, The Rat With Women was both funny and a cautionary tale, and his Broadway play later turned into the film Little Murders, directed by fellow New Yorker Alan Arkin, ranks right alongside Mel Brook’s canon for laughs per minute. Never had the underbelly of New York living been so funny.
As if this wasn’t enough, Feiffer created and continues to produce myriad graphic novels, beginning with Tantrum, a “novel-in-pictures” in 1979, children’s books, novels, plays, screenplays and a memoir. His screenplay for the animated short “Munro” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1961.
He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his political cartoons and a was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004. He is a national treasure, and I wish him a happy birthday for this one and for all of this birthdays to come.