Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Nicholas Afonsky

Nicholas Dimitrievitch Afonsky was born in Kovno, Russia, on February 17, 1892. His full name and birth information were recorded on his World War II draft card.

A 1979 issue of Cartoonist Profiles had an article by Bob Dunn about King Features Syndicate. About Ed Wheelan’s Minute Movies, Dunn wrote: “Very early in its existence “Minute Movies” improved almost overnight. The reason was a well-kept secret. Nick Afonsky, a Russian artist from the court of Czar Nicholas, escaped execution and finally made his way to this country after the 1917 revolution.…” According to Lambiek Comiclopdia, Afonsky emigrated to America in 1917. The year is incorrect. A passenger list recorded the departure of Afonsky and his wife, Maria (28), from Constantinople, Turkey, on July 3, 1923. Afonsky and scores of people were helped by the American Red Cross in Constantinople. They arrived in the port of New York on August 2, where further assistance was provided by the Russian Refugee Relief Society of America, Inc. at 350 West 87th Street, in New York City.

The New York Times, June 17, 1943, said:

Afonsky…studied art under Selesneff and Pimonenko. During the first World War he was wounded five times and received eleven decorations. While a soldier he passed the graduation examination at the University of Moscow, and became a criminal lawyer.

When the Russian revolution occurred, he went to Constantinople and worked for Greek, Turkish, Armenian and French newspapers and magazines….
Afonsky has not been found in the 1925 New York census. He may have been in the 1925 New York City directory which listed an “N Afonsky” at 388 3rd Avenue.

Afonsky’s comics career began in 1925. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said he drew the Adventures of Vivian Vanity, under the pseudonym, Meetrich, from September 29, 1925 to January 30, 1926. He was followed by Delevante. N. Brewster Morse was the writer. Wheeler-Nicholson Inc. handled the distribution. Afonsky and Morse also produced the Great Mystery and Adventure Series for Wheeler-Nicholson Inc. Again, Afonsky used his pseudonym, Meetrich, from October 19, 1925 to January 30, 1926. Afonsky used his name from February 1 to October 7, 1926. Ruth Jane Williams assumed the writing from January 25 to October 7, 1926.

The Bottle Imp (7/3/1926), The Gold Bug, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (7/30/1926)
by Williams and Afonsky for Wheeler-Nicholson. Images courtesy of Art Lortie.

Afonsky and Morse’s departure from Wheeler-Nicholson was explained in Variety, January 27, 1926.
Syndicates Battling
Two newspaper syndicates are in legal battle over the artistic output of Nicholas Afonsky and the writings of N. Brewster Morse.

Wheeler-Nicholson. Inc., claim a prior contract with Morse for both his and Afonsky’s output and is suing the McClure Syndicate, alleging it is damaging them through having wrongfully entered into another agreement with Morse to release through the McClure channels. An accounting is asked for to determine the amount of damages.
Afonsky’s next series was In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln which was written by Ida M. Tarbell. It was from the McClure Syndicate in early 1927. Afonsky drew two more McClure series: Famous Love Romances and Conquest of the Air. Both began in 1927.

Afonsky took over the drawing on Ed Wheelan’s Minute Movies some time in 1929 and stopped in 1934. Dunn explained how Afonsky got involved.

Through a letter of introduction from Chaliapin, the great opera star, to Wheelan, Afonsky went to work drawing backgrounds on “Minute Movies”. Wheelan really didn’t draw well. After two days Afonsky took over all the art work, leaving Wheelan to devote all his time to seeing the new motion pictures and writing parodies of the best of them for his feature.
In Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress (2012), Sara Duke wrote, “Upon seeing his [Afonsky’s] work, William Randolph Hearst hired him to work in his ‘bull pen,’ where artists customarily drew panels, finished strips, an cleaned up the work of other artists.”

Beginning February 11, 1934, Afonsky produced the Little Annie Rooney Sunday page which began with Ed “Verd” Verdier in 1927. Afonsky also did the topper, Fablettes, which was followed by the Ming Foo topper on March 17, 1935. Brandon Walsh was the writer of the King Features strip. Afonsky’s Little Annie Rooney and Ming Foo also appeared in comic books.

The 1936 Heroes of American History was by Afonsky. Later, he was the third artist to draw Alex Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9. Afonsky’s stint was from April 11 to November 5, 1938. Both series were for King Features.

According to Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising (2011), Afonsky drew some of the Prince Albert pipe tobacco advertisements featuring Ol’ Judge Robbins.

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census recorded Afonsky at 45 West Avenue in Meadowmere Park, Hempstead, Nassau, New York. The newspaper cartoonist had a three-year-old daughter, Anastasia. Afonsky’s address and occupation were unchanged in the 1940 census. Afonsky also had an address in Rockville Centre, New York. Directories dated 1938, 1940 and 1942 listed 24 Harold Street for the artist.

Afonsky passed away at home June 16, 1943. The following day the Times said Afonsky lived at 557 West 148th Street and became a citizen nine years ago. Afonsky was survived by his daughter Anastasia.

—Alex Jay


I have the full run of Afonsky's CONQUEST OF THE AIR (and a few other science fact strips) at http://totu.wikispaces.com/Science+in+All+the+Wrong+Places
Great stuff
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