Monday, March 23, 2015
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jerry Iger
Samuel Maxwell “Jerry” Iger was born on August 22, 1903. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Bob Andelman’s book, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life (2005) said Iger was born in Idabel, Oklahoma. However, federal census records list New York state as Iger’s birthplace. The 1910 U.S. Federal Census said Iger’s father emigrated in 1902 and his mother in 1903. The Iger family moved to Oklahoma sometime between 1905 and 1910.
The 1905 New York State Census recorded Iger in Manhattan, New York City, at 167 Suffolk Street. (Jack Kirby grew up on this street and, years later, would work at Iger’s studio.) He was the third of four children born to Jacob and Rosie. Andelman said Iger was the youngest child. His father worked in the garment trade. Iger’s parents, older sister, Gussie, and brother, Joseph, were Austrian emigrants. Andelman said Iger’s father was Australian.
According to the 1910 census, the Iger family resided on Main Street in Idabel, Oklahoma, where Iger’s father was a peddler. In Andelman’s book, Iger had polio according to nephew, Arthur Iger.
The family returned to New York City. The 1915 New York state census said the “Eiger” family lived at 106 McKibben Street in Brooklyn. Iger’s father was a department store employee. On September 12, 1918, Iger’s father signed his World War I draft card. His address was 332 Sumner in Brooklyn. He did pressing at Blatt Brothers & Love.
In the 1920 census, Iger family’s address was unchanged. Teenager Iger was a newspaper cartoonist. Information regarding his education and art training has not been found. Joe Brancatelli, in the World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), said New York City native Iger “broke directly into the field as a news cartoonist for the New York American in 1925.”
The New York, New York, Marriage Index at Ancestry.com said Iger married on October 14, 1928, in Brooklyn. I think his wife, Louise Hirsch, was also the cartoonist who produced the strip, Tessie Tish with the panel, Charlie Chirps. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the strip appeared from December 22, 1927 to July 19, 1928. Around the same time, Iger’s strip, The Gang, ran from September 16, 1927 to June 28, 1928. Both strips were distributed by Paramount Newspaper Features and reprinted years later.
Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY) 11/17/1928
In 1936 Iger edited the comics magazine Wow, What a Magazine!. It lasted four issues but one of the contributors was Will Eisner who would become Iger’s partner in an art studio. According to Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999, the Eisner and Iger Studio was also known as Syndicated Features Corporation [but that's been pretty well proven untrue -- Allan]. When the partnership ended in 1939, each of them formed a studio under his own name.
American Newspaper Comics said Iger’s comic strip output included Bobby (1938), Pee Wee (1938 to 1939), and Uncle Otto (1938; written by Iger and drawn by Will Eisner as Carl Heck). Iger may have drawn Little Buddy which ran from March 4 1935 into 1939.
Magazine cartoonist Iger lived alone at 310 East 44th Street, Manhattan, in the 1940 census enumeration. According to WillEisner.com, Iger had been “embroiled in a divorce.” The census said his highest level of education was the eighth grade, and, in 1939, he worked 52 weeks and earned five-thousand dollars. The New York Times, August 13, 1942, said Iger moved to 246 East 46th Street in Manhattan.
Action Play-Books was a publishing imprint owned by Iger. The first book appeared in 1937, then seven years later, twelve books followed.
Treasure Book of Puzzles (1937) by Emery I. Gondor
Indian Legends by Ruth A. Roche, illustrated by David B. Icove
Bobby’s Diary by Ruth A. Roche, illustrated by David B. Icove
Adventures of Peter Pupp by Ruth A. Roche, illustrated by David B. Icove
Pee Wee and the Sneezing Elephant by Ruth A. Roche, illustrated by David B. Icove (the original art is here)
Snowy, the Traveling Snowman by Ruth Burman, illustrated by Elsa Garratt
The Grasshopper Man by Erwin Scharf
Happy-Go-Lucky by Marjorie Romyns
The Big, Big Zoo by Lester Kohs
Joey Jeep by George Arthur Hornby, illustrated by Bertram Goodman
Rumpy by Novo and Stuart, illustrators
The ABC’s in Rhyme by Ruth A. Roche, illustrated by David B. Icove
Chimpsey at Play by Ruth A. Roche, illustrated by Dic Loscalzo
An overview of Iger’s comic book work is here. American Newspaper Comics said the panel, Court Chuckles, was signed with one of Iger’s pseudonym, “S.M. Regi”, and was syndicated by Iger’s Phoenix Features beginning in 1948.
In the Times, May 1, 1954, Iger signed a business lease in the building at 113 West 57th Street.
Iger retired around the late 1950s. He resided in Sunnyside in the borough of Queens, New York City. He was mentioned in the local paper, The Leader-Observer, in its column, “It’s Flying Time”. On December 19, 1974, columnist H.C. Beck wrote:
Had the extreme pleasure Thanksgiving Day to meet world famous cartoonist Jerry Iger, who began his drawing career at age 15, for several large publications. Among Jerry’s originals were “Pet Wee,” “Sheena of the Jungle” and many other popular cartoon strips. By the way, Jerry, how’s about doing “Theodore.” Kindly bear it in mind.The September 4, 1975 column said:
A thank you note at this writing to world-famous cartoonist Jerry Iger for the autographed copy of Lincoln Savings Bank’s beautifully illustrated brochure which was drawn by Jerry, who is the originator of Sheena of the Jungle and also the cartoon strip Pee Wee...About three months later, in the December 11 edition, Beck said:
Had an extremely pleasant Thanksgiving Day as guest of Ruth Mundy, lovely star of Stage, Screen and TV at her home in Elmhurst, N.Y. Other guests included Patricia-Ann Kelly, the inimitable Jerry Iger world-famous cartoonist, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Sadler of Elmhurst. After a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings, Mr. Iger entertained the guests with illustrations and humorous stories reverting to his heyday when he had been the creator of the cartoon strip titled “Sheena of the Jungle” and another cartoon called “Pee Wee.”Will Eisner said he created Sheena.
Iger passed away September 5, 1990, according to the Social Security Death Index, which said his last residence was Sunnyside.
Further reading: Alter Ego, #21, February 2003: “The Iger Comics Kingdom”
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