Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Virgil Partch (VIP) On the Art of Screwball Cartooning

Mixed Nuts Wednesday 
Visit this blog every Wednesday for a special NEW screwball comics discovery!

Here's a fascinating lesson in screwball cartooning by  screwball master Virgil Partch (who signed his cartoons VIP).

Virgil Partch (1916-1984) hardly needs an exhaustive introduction or background article on this blog. His work is all over the Web, and there's an excellent Wikipedia article on his life and work here

Working within the critical and historical framework I'm developing for the genre of Screwball Comics, I'd place Partch at the start of the Modern Screwball category. Partch's cartoons began appearing in magazines in the early 1940s. From the start, he had both a distinctive visual style, and a screwball sensibility, pushing the gags several notches further in absurdity than most cartoonists of the time. Often, the extremism of his cartoons was the gag, as we see in this 1945 Collier's Weekly cartoon:

Collier's Weekly - February 17, 1945

Partch also delighted in literally illustrating idioms and popular sayings such as "if looks could kill," or "don't count your chickens before they hatch." Here's a couple of examples:

Collier's Weekly - March 10, 1945

Collier's Weekly - May 13, 1955

Partch was one of those cartoonists who make it look easy, but as his lesson below, from the 1950s Famous Artist Course shows, he put a lot of thought and care into these refined, simple screwball cartoons. 

Partch's work continues to find an audience today. Because most of his work is not topical, and relies, in the best screwball tradition, on visual puns and a carefully cultivated silliness, a 21st century reader can connect as immediately and completely with his cartoons as readers did fifty years ago.

Keeping My Head On Straight (imagine the cartoon VIP could have done for that one!),
Paul Tumey


  1. I have only seen through lesson 18 of the famous cartoon course. Do you know how many other lessons there are and where to find them online?

  2. David: I harvested scans from The Famous Artists Course from a website somewhere about a year ago. Dunno where or what that was, and a Google search doesn't quickly show anything. I remember I hadda dig around a lot.