{Jim Unger} RIP

The Cartoon world lost a great with the passing of Jim Unger.
It's hard to overstate the influence and popularity his single-panel cartoons had at the height of his success.
His work was very distinct and quite different from the standard 'big nose, big feet school' of cartooning.  For one, he had a very loose, spontaneous inking style with some contour brush lines being quite thick.  This was at odds with the very tight, slick, cartooning style common among many cartoonists and this may be attributed to British cartooning, and in particular the work of Giles, where Unger was born. 
The other unique feature about Unger's work was his fondeness for very odd angles: Unger would offer very unconventional poses for cartooning - sometimes we would see the figure from the back in three-quarter angle so the back of the ear and tuft of hair were the only discernible features.  This was considered a cartooning 'no-no' - it was best to offer clear angles with generous display of features for a classic 'give and take'.   Even when he showed a face in full it was uniquely Unger's.  Unger abandoned the conventional approach which offered the reader large eyes  and exaggerated emotions.  Unger's eyes, if they were not hidden by caps, bangs, or glasses, were tiny specks easily lost.  Coupled with his brush work the result was a more stylized/abstract form of comic page cartooning that was unique to North American audiences. 
I never met the man personally. But intimates of mine did.  Two stories at different phases of Unger's career.
My uncle worked with Unger at Mastercraft in the Ottawa area.  He told me of the day Unger informed the staff he had given notice.  They were all saddened to hear he was leaving but sadness turned to shock when he informed them he was not going to another Architect but instead taking the post as cartoonist at the Mississauga Times.  My uncle and his colleagues had no idea he did cartoons.  Unger informed them that it was very much his passion and this was the time and opportunity to realize it.  Of course, the rest is comic history.
When Unger made it big and returned to visit his family [he fled to the Bahamas in order to avoid the taxman] he would pop in and visit my uncle.  My cousin has Herman annuals with his personalized signatures and drawings. 
The other story involves my friend Donald Wong.  As mentioned, Unger became so successful he opted to relocate in the Bahamas.  Unger along with his brother enjoyed the good life on the sunny shores.  The two were now working on the punchlines and gags; the inking and production was farmed out to Don Wong who would then send the completed strips to Universal Press.  Did I mention they enjoyed the good life?  Don was frequently penning cartoons right up to the weekly deadlines.


  1. Do you remember Brandy Anne Dowdall at Laurentian? I'm pretty sure she was in Gr 11 art class with us. Jim Unger was her Uncle, I thought of her right away. Very sad news :(

    1. I was just reading on the web and sorry but no Brandy Anne Dowdall was not related to Jim Unger, he was my brother and we have never heard of her. Deborah Parker

  2. Hey Lydia
    I didn't know that. sad news indeed.


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