Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Jay Irving

Jay Irving was born in New York, New York, on October 3, 1900, according to the New York City Births, 1891-1902 record at His birth name, Irving Joel Rafsky, was published in Life magazine, February 11, 1972.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded him in the Bronx, New York at 858 Kelly Street. He was the oldest of three children born to Abraham and Sarah. His father was a lieutenant in the police department. The U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958, at, said he enlisted November 26, 1917; his name was recorded as “Irv J. Rafsky.” He was in Company “I”, and stationed at the Marine Barracks, Paris Island, South Carolina. In March 1918, he was assigned to the 135th Company, 11th Regiment, U.S. Marines, and stationed at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia. The following two months he was with the Anti-Aircraft Battalion.

The 1920 census said he lived, with his parents and siblings, in Manhattan, New York City at 450 West 149th Street. His occupation was animation cartoonist. Maybe he worked at the Bray Studios. His father was an insurance agent. In the World Encyclopedia of Comics, Maurice Horn wrote: “…After studies at Columbia University, Jay Irving shifted from one newspaper job to another, then became police reporter for the New York Globe, and later a sports cartoonist. After a stint with the Universal wire service, Irving created a sports strip for King Features Syndicate, Bozo Blimp (1930), which sank with hardly a trace.” Another source said Bozo Blimp was created in 1923. An advertisement, above, for the strip appeared in the June 1921 issue of Circulation. [Allan's note: I have not been able to find this feature running in any newspaper - does anyone have proof that it ever actually appeared?]

“Irv Jay Rafsky” was the name recorded in the 1930 census. He lived in Manhattan, at 214 West 91st Street. He married Dorothy when he was 23. He was a manager at an advertising agency. Rob Stolzer, in his profile of Irving, said: “…Irving was also married. He and Dorothy Prago, the daughter of restaurateur Willie Prago, were secretly engaged; then secretly married. Their son Clifford was born to them in November 1930….” Stolzer also said he drew a week of George Herriman’s Embarrassing Moments panel, and some panels of Billy DeBeck’s Bughouse Fables. A New York City Directory 1931 listed him at 160 Riverside Drive. Horn said he joined Collier's Weekly, in 1932, and stayed for 13 years. He did a weekly panel, Collier's Cops, and a few covers. Time magazine, February 21, 1972, said Irving, “…changed the family name from Rafsky in the mid-’30s…”

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Illinois) 12/17/1938

A passenger list recorded Irving and his family departing from Los Angeles, February 16, 1940, and arriving in Honolulu, Hawaii on the 21st. They left on March 15 and arrived on the mainland on the 20th. They returned to New York City in time to be counted in the 1940 census. They lived at 498 West End Avenue and Irving was a salesman, who had four years of high school. The Manhattan Directory 1942 had this listing: “Irving Jay 650 W End Av EN dicot 2-4433.” Ron Goulart, in The Funnies (1995), said: “…Jay Irving had a lifelong fascination with the police. His Willie Doodle, introduced in 1946, was one of the features he drew about an amiable but dumb beat cop….” In Clifford Irving: What Really Happened (1972), Irving's son wrote: “In the mid-1940s, as an art student at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, I had helped my father with the lettering on his comic strips, 'Willie Doodle' and ‘Pottsy….’ ”

4/20/1967; courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Later, he was a regular on the short-lived 1949 TV show, Draw Me a Laugh, which aired from January 15 to February 5. The show was conceived by Irving and Mel CassonTheir first guest cartoonist was Bela “Bill” Zaboly, according to the New York Times, January 14, 1949. The January 22 guest was Gus Edson; Stolzer’s profile has copy of the newspaper advertisement. The Brooklyn Eagle listed Bill Holman as the January 29 guest, and Hilda Terry and Gregory D’Alessio as the February 5 guests. Billboard, February 12, 1949, reviewed the January 29 show:

Draw Me a Laugh runs about 10 minutes too long, a common failing among cartoon teleshows, and impresses, if properly trimmed, as being a salable property. It has a multiplicity of gimmicks, many of which show considerable inventiveness, and it has certainly come up with something new in the use of a quick-rhyming balladeer to cue in some of the other gimmicks, including the prizes awarded to viewer-contestants. The folk-singer, Oscar Brand, does a capital job, adding considerably to the show’s enjoyment.

The basic gimmick is a contest wherein viewers submit gag lines and cartoon ideas to match. These are quick-sketched by Mel Casson, with a guest cartoonist competing. The latter is given only the gag line and has to come up with his own sketch, a panel of four of the studio audience picking the cartoon they think the better of the two. Other gimmicks include a blindfold cartoon bit by Jay Irving, with Casson a regular on the show; impressions drawn by Casson and guester Bill Holman of a man described to them by Irving, but whom they are unable to see, and a doodle drawing bit by Casson. It’s just this excess of bits which detracts from the show’s total impact. Anyhow, it’s about time that the formal 15-minute and half-hour pattern adapted from radio be given the heave-ho; here is a perfect instance where that credo is hurting a show that's too good to waste.

Brooklyn Eagle 1/29/1949

Brooklyn Eagle 2/5/1949

According to Stolzer, Irving and Casson produced another show, You Be the Judge, for ABC, which ran for 13 weeks.

His next and final strip was Pottsy which began in May 1955. Stolzer explained the title of the strip: 

The title character’s name was derived from New York City police history. From 1889 until 1898, New York City police officers wore square badges that resembled the metal playing pieces of a popular Brooklyn variety of hopscotch called Potsy. The potsy was a piece of metal cut from a tin can, which was folded, then flattened with the heel. It was folded and flattened again until square in shape. The potsy would be tossed into the playing area, where it would be kicked from one square to the next. Because of the resemblance to the police badges, police of that era were nicknamed Potsies, a term they thought disparaging.…

A 1980 issue of Cartoonist Profiles had this anecdote:

Jay Irving, who specialized in cop gags, drew covers for Collier’s, was a top magazine gag artist and drew a Sunday page, “Potsy” [sic], for the N.Y. Sunday News. Jay was the father of Clifford Irving, the writer who put over the hoax biog of Howard Hughes.

But what the members of the Nat’l. Cartoonists Society remember Jay for was his overwork of the phrase “the body politic.” He liked to speak at meetings…“If it please the body politic”; “I appeal to the body politic.”

It was Otto Soglow who rose to rebut Jay.

“Kiss the body politic’s ass,” said Otto. (And the motion was seconded unanimously.)

On June 17, 1959, he was interviewed on the Jack Paar Show, according to the Oregonian of the same date. Stolzer said that in 1962 “…Irving was approached to write a 70-page chapter on the history of American comic strips….” for the Italian publisher, Aldo Garzanti Editore, whose book was titled, International History of the Comic Strips. The book was never published and Irving’s manuscript disappeared. He continued producing Pottsy.

Irving passed away June 3, 1970 according to the New York Times. The World Encyclopedia of Comics said he died June 5, while Wikipedia and other sources have the date June 4. The Times obituary was published Friday, June 5, and the first sentence said: “Jay Irving, originator of the comic strip ‘Pottsy,’ died Wednesday, apparently of a heart attack, in his home at 650 West End Avenue.”

Stolzer’s in-depth profile is at Hogan’s Alley.


I have just been looking at about a lot of pages from the early forties that had Irving's chaming cop strip... and found only two worth scanning.
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