Cartoonist/illustrator Drew Friedman--who is a personal favorite of mine--currently has a wonderful post up on his blog about Pittsburgh-based cartoonist John Johns. Mr. Johns (and woe to any parent who names their children in this fashion...I mean, c'mon, seriously? Are you that devoid of creativity?) was the president of my alma mater, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, back in the 1970s when I was a student there. And yes, I even graduated.
I have very vague memories of Johns. I know he was a local legend and he came to one of Pittsburgh Comicons one year. He did caricatures of every Pittsburgh Comix Club member (somewhere in all my stuff, I think I still have mine) and handed them off to each of us. He was an affable, avuncular type, prone to a lot of smiles, and had a real larger-than-life presence. I remember a penchant for big bowties, but I may be mistaken. And I think they took me to meet him when I did my pre-school interview, before enrolling for the 2-year course in what they then called "Visual Communications," a fancy name for advertising art and design. Because I told them I was interested in becoming a comic book artist, that immediately meant "cartoonist" to them, so they took me to meet Johns and Ted Sallows, who was their cartooning teacher. At that school, cartooning and comic books were synonmous, if not in real life.
At that point in time, the Art Institute was still offering a complete full day of classes to each and every student. I started in March 1974 and graduated in June 1975 and went to class five days a week, from about 8:30am to 3:30pm. Soon after I graduated they had succeeded in attracting so many new students and had such a confined space that they went to a morning and afternoon shift each day. I don't know what they do now.
But I digress...I don't think I was aware while I was in school at what a local treasure John Johns was. Drew Friedman does a much better job of relating this than I could, other than my own foggy memories, and how much I liked the guy, even though my contact with him was minimal at best. He was a great talent and worked under incredibly tight deadlines. But don't go by me...click the link above and read Drew's post and see all the great art from Johns.