Monday, March 22, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: You Know How It Is

The great J. Norman Lynd is on my short-list for "Most Underappreciated Cartoonist of All Time". Just look at the wonderful expressions, the body language, the design on these cartoons ... oh, and they're pretty darn funny, too! Lynd is best known for his incredible work on Vignettes of Life/Family Portraits series, but those were done in his comparative dotage. His earlier stuff shows even more vigor, and fully the level of technical mastery he later achieved in wide syndication.

In 1919 when this series began Lynd had already been working at the New York Herald for years as their jack of all trades -- he did sports cartoons, politicals, news illustrations, you name it. You Know How It Is seems to have been produced in between other assignments and appears to have been issued at the rate of maybe two or three per week. I haven't indexed his work in the Herald directly (the paper rarely ran anything much in their weekday papers), but there seems to have been a minor push in 1919 to sell syndicated daily-style features. This was not something the Herald was known for, though their evening paper, the Telegram, had done well with weekday syndication earlier in the teens.

The longest run of You Know How It Is that I've found was in the Santa Fe New Mexican, where the feature appeared semi-regularly from October 17 1919 to January 26 1920. Appearances in other papers generally started a week or so later than that start date, and petered out in December. Just another example of why the indexing work is never done...

Thanks to Mark Johnson who sent in the samples of this delightful, and unfortunately short-lived, feature.


These are great. Really, really well drawn!

I'd love to see more of Lynd's work!
I'd love to see more too. This guy's definitely up there.
Beautiful stuff, indeed! Great post!
Wow! That Dec 3 panel is fantastic! What an artist!
It's difficult for some people, from this historical distance, to 'get' the humor in Lynd's work. But even if the humor seems faint or obscure, there's no getting around his tremendous skill with a pen, and insight into human psychology via body language and facial expression. Not to mention his inadvertent accuracy in portraying a place and time by means of his observation of such things as clothing, women's fashion, car styles, furniture, interiors... His work is irreplaceable.
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