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Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder

Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Jay Kennedy

Those of you in the cartooning community who read this blog will know the name Jay Kennedy, comics editor at King Features Syndicate. Jay was the editor for my editorial cartoons throughout most of the years that my work was syndicated by King and continued as the editor for Zits.

You've heard by now that Jay drowned last week while on vacation in Costa Rica at age 50. Those words still stun me, though I've grappled with them through a long weekend.

By the time my editorial cartoons reached Jay's eyes they had already passed under the eyes of my Enquirer editor, so Jay played no active role in that capacity. Truth be told, his participation in "editing" Zits was pretty much confined to challenging Jerry Scott and me on matters of taste from time to time and then framing his defense of the strip for the flurry of editors who might complain. (Jay owned one of the world's greatest collections of underground comics, so his role as prude was pure academic exercise.)

The greater role Jay Kennedy served in my life was as a bridge. His presence at King was like having a fellow cartoonist embedded in the syndicate world, able to translate the business concerns of a newspaper syndicate to me, and translate the sensibilities of us cartoonists to the world of suits. The marvel is that he did this without changing voices, speaking in an authentic way that could be understood in both vastly different worlds.

Over the years, without quite knowing it, Jay and I became good friends. We cried together when each of us lost our wife and we danced at each other's wedding. We walked with each other through life's darkest nights. He was the only executive I've ever known who made more time to talk than I could afford. He listened. He was always available for a conversation. He loved taking an idea and examining it from every angle.

My late wife Lynn loved to sit with Jay at cartooning functions. At the end of the evening we'd compare notes on our conversations. I would have invariably spent the evening talking mundane cartoon matters with the cartoonists around me.

"Let's see," Lynn would say. "Jay and I talked about origami, Impressionism, Catcher in the Rye, post-traumatic stress syndrome, the war in Iraq and the the "69 Mets."

Jay told an interviewer once that he loved comics because they allowed an artist to talk directly about life instead of obliquely, like so much of the rest of the art world. Jay knew my children, their ages, what was going on in all of our lives and never failed to ask about the next chapter in any ongoing life stories we'd shared. This from behind stacks and stacks of comic strip submissions that were piled on his desk each day.

Jay Kennedy was a gentle, curious and creative soul and I will miss his voice on the other end of the line. "Jim, it's Jay. Do you have time to talk?"


at 3/19/07, 1:09 PM Blogger JUSTIN said...

jim... thanks for this blog. i am saddened by Kennedy's untimely death and the loss to the underground comix community. i often surmised that he might never produce another guide, now almost 25yrs removed from his seminal "official guide to underground and newave comix price guide." but i never thought about this. i always hoped i might bump into him while searching through a longbox of UGs at San Diego (or something), ask him about his collection, hear a story or two (i recently served to help edit a new underground comix price guide). my mother often shares "zits" with me as she finds it captures our relationship growing up. anways, it's the little connections like these that one thinks of when someone passes before their time. kindest, justin

at 3/19/07, 9:01 PM Anonymous impeach, indict, and imprison said...


sorry for your loss.

best wishes.

at 3/21/07, 6:22 PM Blogger who said...

Jim, Sorry for your losses. God and peace be with you.


at 3/23/07, 6:01 PM Anonymous Joseph said...

Jim. Thanks for writing this blog. It has saddened me to learn of Jay Kennedy's untimely death.

His name is synonymous with the Underground Comix scene, and his Underground Guide continues to excite a new generation of collectors and readers of underground comix.

I had kept in contact with Jay via email, and had the great pleasure of meeting him in 2004 at the San Diego Comicon. It was, as most collectors might by too shy to admit, a real treat to "talk shop" with Jay while going through a long box of underground comix.

You should know as a friend of Jay's that his body of work has inspired a new generation of collectors - myself included - to continue on with the work he was so passionate about. And even though I did not know him outside of our casual conversations, nor was I anyone important to him in his life. But he has always struck me as someone how was willing to listen to what I had to say.

I am saddened by the loss, and want so express my sympathy to his family and friends.

He will be missed.

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