Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Report from the Reubens: Michael Berry

Any time I visit a new town I am determined to ferret out a few of its used book stores in search of buried treasure. Luckily for me, my darling wife, Wendy, is willing to allow me to indulge in this distraction - as long as I don't overdo it. Last weekend, while wandering the narrow streets of the French Quarter, I came across a couple of really wonderful old shops, shelves filled to overflowing with yellowing old books, the scent of mouldering paper thick in the air.

Beckham's Bookshop, located across the street from The House of Blues on Decatur St. yielded an intriguing volume from the late 40's...

Merry-Go-Round, a 1948 hardcover collection of humorous art and stories that originally appeared in Pictorial Review magazine, contains some terrific artwork by several really great cartoonists and illustrators.

* As an aside, Merry-Go-Round's copyright notice indicates that the material therein came from the King Features Syndicate. By coincidence, I met a very nice fellow the next morning at breakfast in the hotel named Brendan Burford, the comics editor at King Feature Syndicate (making me think once again that there are too many coincidences in this world to be coincidental). Brendan's also a very talented cartoonist himself. He is the creator of the wonderful Synchopated Comics which you should go take a look at.

Sprinkled throughout Merry-Go-Round are several early gag panels in colour by cartoonist Michael Berry. I'm not sure why I find this kind of stuff so delightful... but I do. The scenarios are so not politically correct today. I find them charming and innoffensive in spite of the rampant use of obvious (classic) stereotypes.

If you've ever seen Berry's later efforts in Esquire or Playboy you'll recognize that the artist was still perfecting his abilities at this stage in his career. Things are a little wonky in terms of idealized faces and bodies. But somehow those imperfections and the unsophisticated colour and printing make these pieces even more attractive to my eye.

Berry is one of the cartoonists featured in Gene Byrnes' 1950 book, The Complete Guide to Cartooning. Over at The Animation Archives, they have posted the pages from the book which show Berry's photo and an interesting 'step-by-step' of his working process. Well worth taking a look.

I took a look around the internet for biographical info on Michael Berry but came up empty-handed. Perhaps we'll learn more about this talented cartoonist at some future date.

My Michael Berry Flickr set.


  1. Hi Leif,

    I can't recall if I've posted here before, but I just wanted to say that I really appreciate all the trouble and effort you go to in bringing us these scans. You've got great taste in this stuff, and it's really nice to have somebody like you scouring the planet and sharing it!

  2. Thank you pumml - it makes my day, hearing my efforts are appreciated! I hope you'll comment again any time the mood strikes you :-)

  3. Anonymous5:59 PM

    Hello there Leif.I have a few water color art works by Michael Berry all with his signatures given to me as a gift from a long lost friend in new york 3 decades ago.i thought you might be interested, thanks

  4. I have a Michael Berry original. During the 2nd WW he was stationed at Miami Bch - he did a cartoon of my father, who was the adjutant of the Technical Training Command there - Michael must have liked him.

    Regards, Dick Watt