Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Ink-Slinger Profiles: Jack Kent
His comic strip, King Aroo, debuted November 1950; it was distributed by the McClure Syndicate. Newsweek, July 14, 1952, explained how Kent’s war-time service figured in King Aroo.
The King’s Tagalog
Comic-strip addicts, probably as a survival technique, quickly get used to the strange words of their favorite characters. So, when Wanda Witch, one of the weird figures who inhabit a batty land called Myopia in the McClure Syndicate’s strip King Aroo, began mouthing strange incantations, most readers just went on to the next balloon.
To the editors of The Philippine-American Advocate, a new monthly tabloid in San Francisco, however. Wanda’s incantation conjured up something quite meaningful. Last week, in its first issue, The Advocate explained that the chant, “halika, multo, madali, madly,” is purest Tagalog for “come here, ghost, quickly, quickly.” It was not the first time nor the last time that King Aroo characters would chatter in the native language. Jack Kent, the Texan who draws the strip, had studied the language while overseas in the Philippines with the Army. Moreover, for the witch talk, he had even checked the Tagalog with authorities at the National Language Institute of the Philippines.
In 1952 Doubleday published a collection of King Aroo strips with an introduction by Gilbert Seldes who wrote: “Jack Kent brings to the small company of fantasists the primary faculty of being able to create a compact universe that adheres strictly to a logic of its own.”
In the Springfield Union (Massachusetts), June 25, 1951, columnist Walter Winchell noted Kent’s pursuit of Leigh Allen, who was in the Broadway production South Pacific: “…Sends her a red rose daily, neatly boxed, which arrives just before curtaintime backstage…” His marriage to Juliet Bridgman, on September 27, was reported in the Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1952. Who’s Who said he remarried to June Kilstrofte, June 9, 1954. In the Mobile Press and Register, Kent said, “…In 1954 a gal reporter from the San Antonio Express came to interview me and we got married and lived happily ever after….” Their son, John Jr., was born in July 1955. Kent’s father passed away February 4, 1959, according to the Texas Death Index at Ancestry.com.
Who’s Who said his address, in the mid-1960s, was 103 West Johnson Street, San Antonio. When King Aroo ended in June 1965, American National Biography, Volume 12 (1999) said: “…Kent returned to the uncertain career of a freelancer, selling greeting-card designs to Hallmark Cards and advertising art and cartoons to a wide variety of publications, from Humpty Dumpty, the Saturday Evening Post, and Collier’s to Playboy, and at times supplementing his meager earnings by driving trucks….”
Kent passed away October 10, 1985, in San Antonio. A profile by his son is here. Another profile is here. In 2010, the Library of American Comics published King Aroo Volume 1: 1950–1952, and it has Bruce Canwell’s biography of Kent, from his birth to 1952; volume two is forthcoming. King Aroo original art can be viewed here.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles