Tuesday, May 29, 2012

RIP Jim Unger

Jim Unger, the creator of the Herman comics, has passed away. My dad was a huge fan of his comics when I was a kid, and bought all the big treasuries. He'd sit on the couch reading through them and be doubled over with laughter. At first, I didn't get them, but as I got older, I thought they ranked right up there with the Far Side for how they were able to contain sarcasm, ironic commentary, and laugh-out-loud hilarity in a single panel. When the publishing house I work at, ECW Press, began reissuing his best comics in colour several years ago, I was thrilled to be working with the same comics I'd grown up giggling over. Herman was men, women, cats, dogs... anyone you wanted Herman to be. 

Mr. Unger had been ill for some time, but I was still very sad to hear the news just now. Here is the statement from his family. RIP, Herman. 

Jim Unger has died. The creator of the enormously successful and original offbeat cartoon panel HERMAN passed away Monday morning at his home in Victoria, British Columbia. 
HERMAN, which is featured in hundreds of newspapers worldwide by Universal Uclick as well as in dozens of book collections, was inspirational to many creators from Gary Larsen to Scott Adams.

The ground-breaking British-born cartoonist was twice honored by the National Cartoonist Society as Best Syndicated Panel.

“Jim was genuinely funny on and off the comic page,” says David Waisglass, Creator of Farcus and long-time friend. “He loved to share a laugh more than anything.”

After 20 years of cartooning and thousands of original comics to his credit, Unger retired to the Bahamas in 1992. He returned to the comic pages in 1997 with the release of classic and new HERMAN material.

“Jim was a genius by any definition,” says Waisglass. “He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him and his work.”

Waisglass, along with Canadian comic illustrator Roly Wood, assisted Unger in his later years.

“It’s been great working with Jim,” says Waisglass, who calls Unger his mentor. “He was not just a business partner, colleague, and friend. He was truly a hilarious man with a sweet caring soul.”

Unger died quietly in his home at 75 years of age.

Many HERMAN cartoons have been inspired by his beloved sister, Deborah, and her husband Danny Parker along with their three children and many grandchildren, who always lived nearby. His brother, Robert, lived with Unger and joined in writing of many HERMAN cartoons until his death in 2003. Unger is also survived by his sister, Shirley Unger, in Ontario, Canada, and his brother Steve Unger in the U.K.

In lieu of flowers and cards, the family asks that donations be made to the HEART & STROKE FOUNDATION


Graeme said...

Like you, I liked Herman because my Dad did and because God invented Chiropractor's offices for a reason and reading Herman Collections was that reason for me.

Jim Unger had one of the finest explanations for what humour was from one of his Herman Treasuries that has stuck in my head for decades. It goes something like this: comedy is like a summer storm in the brain. Like a hot and cold front colliding and producing rain and sometimes thunder, laughter is a spontaneous reaction when the rational and creative hemispheres of our brain connect: a natural response to the dissonance between the rational and the non-rational, reality and perceived reality, a prison guard saying "try to stay out of trouble, Miller" to a prisoner with an overcoat and 8 pairs of legs...

I learned that from Jim Unger. It's a wonderful lesson demonstrated in all those brilliant cartoons. He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

It has been a while since you wrote this post but I just came across it after seeking out Herman's cartoons on Google.
I really love his cartoons and I have since I was a kid but your description of humor hits it right on the button. I came to the same conclusion a long time ago but never wrote it down.Your description however succinctly captures the essence of humour just the way Unger's cartoons did.

The brain kind of hiccups and capitulates when it is placed between the absurdity of precisely what we expect and precisely what is offered as an alternative reality.The only thing we can do when caught between these equally opposing streams is laugh because that is the only mental alternative to a situation so perfectly balanced the brain can no longer cope with it and seeks to express it's failings by surrendering to complete nonsense as if it were the absolute truth..