Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Comic Strip Ad Artist Tom Scheuer

Some of the best comic strip ads ever to come out of Johnstone & Cushing were done by illustrator Tom Scheuer. Scheuer is one of those really great comic artists who's career is relatively unknown because he spent very little time doing actual comic books or strips, focusing almost entirely on advertising art.

There is a brief biography on Scheuer at

Scheuer, like most other artists at J&C, became a regular contributor to the Boy's Life comic section. The piece below is a rare opportunity to see the artist's signature on a Boy's Life illustration. Most of the strips and spots produced at Johnstone and Cushing for Boys' Life were signed 'Alsten', a pen name created by combining studio AD Al Stenzel's first and last names.

Its thanks mostly to the clue of that one signed piece that I was able to identify some of the other work Tom Scheuer did for the magazine, like this beautiful DPS, probably done in black Prismacolor pencil, which nicely shows Scheuer's versatility with other media.

The Boy's Life account must have been a blessing for J&C at a time when the ad industry was losing interest in doing comic strip ads, a guaranteed monthly financial anchor. But no doubt it was still the advertising accounts that were most lucrative, and Tom Heintjes' article on Johnstone & Cushing tells us that "Scheuer was the office's self-described trouble maker. "I always wanted more money," he said. "I got into an argument with them when they got me an ad for Oxy-dol. It wasn't going to be just a page in the Sunday comics--it was going to be in the Ladies' Home Journal and McCall's and all these magazines. I said, 'Wait a minute, fellas, you're doing this all wrong. The pay should be based on how many people you're going to reach and what the comparable ad rates are for those magazines.' They didn't want to hear it; they'd been doing it the same way for 20 years. I eventually got my money, but it was never enough, as far as I was concerned."

After leaving Johnstone & Cushing in the mid-1960'2, Scheuer focused his energies on doing storyboards. According to Heintjes' article, he quickly became the highest paid storyboard artist in New York.

Thanks to a TI list member, we now also know that Scheuer produced untold amounts of clip art for a 'mat art' studio called "Volk Corporation" in the early 70's.

These images could be cut out and pasted down into newspaper ads, brochures, or any other printed material that needed a quick, professional and generic visual.

In 1977 Scheuer changed his last name to "Sawyer", since many people had always mispronounced it as that over the years. He had been working towards a major career change: Sawyer moved to Hollywood and began working in the television industry, ultimately as the head writer on 'Murder, She Wrote'.

Sawyer is now a full time writer, according to his website, and leaves us with a quote worthy of any artist, whether he is pursuing success in the visual art or otherwise:

"Obviously, I'm hoping someone will discover me. It's the dream of every artist. That people will discover how beautiful and talented you are and carry you off on their shoulders."

My Tom Scheuer Flickr set.


  1. What A Quote!.... "Obviously, I'm hoping someone will discover me. It's the dream of every artist. That people will discover how beautiful and talented you are and carry you off on their shoulders."

    WE ALL WISH THAT! Thanx for Sharing and showing off Scheuer's work!

    mark jaquette @
    ISM &

  2. Anonymous11:07 AM

    Leif....after looking at this stuff,i am now convinced that scheuer was a huge influence on neal adams....possibly even more than stan drake....brian

  3. illustration ism;

    your very welcome - thanks for your enthusiastic comment :-)

    Brian; That does seem to come across, doesn't it? I think Scheuer has been greatly overlooked and hope to learn more about his career in the future - and many thanks to you for all your help and support :-)