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I was very sad to learn that Jim passed away. I’ve enjoyed his work for so long now it just seems strange that the world is now without him. I never met him, but through his work – I loved him.
“Everybody knows themselves when they see Herman,” he once said. “We all think we’re so different and we’re not.”
I discovered Herman at some point in the mid-1970’s. I don’t recall the year, but I was in high school. Back in junior high I fell in love with single panel cartoons. Herman was my first real favorite.
I wanted to be a cartoonist. When I was in junior high I did a class project that involved interviewing somebody who is in a field you’d like to pursue. The only cartoonist available happened to be a fellow who cartooned for the city’s newspaper. I remember my mother taking me up there to talk with him. He had gone to art school with Charles Schultz of Peanuts’ fame.
I drew pretty constantly throughout high school and into college. Friends in high school thought some form of art, perhaps cartooning, would be in my future. Others figured it’d have something to do with speaking. Go figure.
At some point in my college years, the dream died. I didn’t personally know any cartoonists and it seemed a very impractical life. I don’t know if I had the talent for it or not, but no matter — I quit. Selling stereo gear produced an income that only my friends dad’s could relate to. I was making more money than any of my buddies, and like many men of my generation, I fell into a career that seemed more to choose me than me it.
I continued to love great cartoons, but didn’t find too many of them funny or entertaining. Jim Unger’s work stood out. I could look at his drawings and laugh…before I ever read the caption. For me, the great cartoons begin and end with the drawing. The caption is just there to make sure we’re all on the same page. Understanding what we’re all laughing or smiling about.
More smiles and laughter have filled my life thanks to the work of Jim Unger. I’m glad he didn’t quit. And while I’m saddened by his death, I can’t help but look at these people who lived in his head and smile. Thankful that he had the talent and tenacity to show them to me.
Sometimes I laugh out loud.
Sometimes ’til I cry.
P.S. Here’s today’s Herman, released earlier this morning. Smile!