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Happy birthday Jules Feiffer!

January 26, 2009 |  8:13 am


Today is Jules Feiffer's 80th birthday. He's been winning prizes for his work since, at age 5, he received a gold medal in a children's art contest. In 1986 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning; his 1961 animated short "Munro" won an Oscar. His storytelling skill was evident in his screenplay for the film "Carnal Knowledge," which was nominated, in 1972, for the Writers Guild award for best comedy written for the screen. His  1968 play "Little Murders" won London Theater Critics and Obie Awards. And generations grew up with his illustrations in the 1961 book "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster.

Perhaps the thing about Jules Feiffer's work that's so appealing that while his style is loose and seemingly carefree, it often has a satiric bite. In Feiffer's hands, dark comedy came alive in comics; perhaps that's what prompted the Village Voice to begin running his strip in 1956, where it continued to appear for 41 years.

Jules Feiffer got his start working for comic legend Will Eisner; he left when he was drafted by the Army (conscription, he's joked, meant a slight increase in play). He's taught at Columbia and Yale and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He's written four novels, twice as many children's books and has published several collections of his comics, including, most recently, "Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips 1956-1966." And today is his birthday. Many happy returns.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Illustration: Jules Feiffer