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VIRGIL PARTCH (VIP)

Virgil Franklin Partch, better known as VIP, has a unique slant to his cartoons and a style that's instantly recognizable. Born in Alaska in 1916, he studied at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the Chouinard Art Institute in California. He says, "I rather prided myself in my anatomical studies while in school. Such academicians as Rico LeBrun smiled on me and patted my hair for my ability at putting the old muscles and bones together." His spaghetti-limbed cartoon characters don't seem to have benefited from that part of his schooling.
Six months into his Chouinard studies he landed a job at the Walt Disney studios in the "extracurricular Art Department", whatever that was. He was there for four years.

He participated in the 1941 Disney studio strike and soon found himself living on unemployment insurance and submitting sample cartoons to the magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, and others. In 1942 he sold one to Collier's and never looked back. I love the first paragraph of Kyle Crichton's introduction to the first collection of his Collier's cartoons. In 1944's It's Hot in Here, he says:

"The trouble with being Virgil Partch is that somebody immediately starts yammering about Dore, Daumier and George Grosz. This doesn't help Partch at all and is probably of very little use to Dore. The chances are that neither would have had either in the house during their respective historical periods. With all his faults, Dore was not crazy."

Not to imply that VIP is crazy, but he has a warped and wicked sense of humor that sometimes requires a second look at his cartoon to spot the sardonic twist to the gag. One of his sillier signature traits is drawing lots of extra fingers on the hands (see right). He claimed, in 1944, that "I draw a stock hand when it is doing something, such as pointing, but when the hand is hanging by some guy's side, those old fingers go in by the dozens." He goes on to say that since he had to draw three fingered types for Disney, he was just making up for that anatomical crime.

World War II provided VIP with ammunition for scads of cartoons. Mankind's other foibles provided fodder for a series of theme books: Bottle Fatigue (1950, man and alcohol), Here We Go Again (1951, man and the aforementioned Army), The Wild, Wild Women (1951, man and you know who), Man the Beast (1953, man and his dreams - see image at left), The Dead Game Sportsman (1954, man and the hunt), and Hanging Way Over (1955, man and the doghouse) - this last being a compilation of his Collier's cartoons.

True magazine was a constant outlet for his brand of sexually charged absurdity. He was seldom actually crude, but he didn't back away from a gag because of an overt or implied amorous situation. "Guess Who" at right (from The Wild, Wild Women) is a good example. Yes, women do have breasts and yes it does make a good sight (no pun intended) gag.

In 1960 he developed a syndicated cartoon panel featuring and titled, Big George. George was the cartoon antecedent of Rodney Dangerfield's character who "gets no respect." The sample at left is from the 1962 compilation, also titled Big George. It's interesting to note that when he got a nationally syndicated gig, he dropped the extra fingers technique -though I did see him sneak a sixth digit in on George in one lonely panel.

I should mention that along with Bottle Fatigue, in 1950 Partch also illustrated a Bar Guide that was published by the editors of True. That cover is one of the few places where I've seen VIP's work in color (the interior images are small and b&w).

He is a very prolific artist and other compilations and creations include:
Water on the Brain (1945)
Crazy Cartoons (1956)
The Executive (1959)
VIP Tosses a Party (1959)
New Faces on the Barroom Floor (1961)
Cartoons Out of My Head (1964)
Relations in Strange Locations (1978)

Partch died in 1984 in an automobile accident.

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Virgil Franklin Partch, better known as 'VIP', was born in Alaska in 1916, and studied at the University of Arizona and the Chouinard Art Institute in California, where he got a job at the Disney Studios. After taking part in the Disney Studio strike in 1941, Partch was fired and started submitting his cartoons to various newspapers. When he sold his first one to Collier's in 1942, it marked the beginning of an illustrious career as one of America's most accomplished cartoonists. Virgil Partch created several theme books, such as 'Bottle Fatigue' (1950), 'Here We Go Again' (1951), 'The Wild, Wild Women' (1951), 'Man the Beast' (1953), 'The Dead Game Sportsman' (1954) and 'Hanging Way Over' (1955). In 1960, Partch created a cartoon panel feature called 'Big George'.

Partch's humor was absurd, on the daring side but never crude, and his art is characterized by the fact that in many of his drawings people are depicted with more than five fingers on each hand - Partch said this was compensation for his years at Disney, where hands had usually just three or four fingers. Partch died in 1984, in a car accident.
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