The SPARKY AWARDS
The Cartoon Art Museum’s Sparky Award is presented on behalf of the Cartoon Art Museum and the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Library. The award takes it name from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz himself, who was nicknamed "Sparky" after the horse Sparkplug featured in the comic strip Barney Google. The Cartoon Art Museum would not exist without benefactors like Sparky and Jeannie Schulz, and the Sparky Award celebrates the significant contributions of cartoon artists who embody the talent, innovation, and humanity of Schulz.
SPARKY AWARD RECIPIENTS
Legendary publisher Ron Turner is the long-time proprietor of Last Gasp, the San Francisco based publisher of comix and books. He began publishing in 1970 with Slow Death Funnies, an ecological underground comic anthology, and immediately followed it with the first all-women underground comic, It Ain’t Me, Babe. He subsequently published Zap, Weirdo, Young Lust, and hundreds more titles over nearly 50 years in business. He’s studied engineering and experimental psychology, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sri Lanka, worked as a railroad brakeman, tutored blind students in statistics, and managed a drive-in theater.
Dr. Michael B. Johnson
During his 25-year tenure at Pixar Animation Studios, Dr. Michael B. Johnson led the Moving Pictures Group, and wrote software tools for all of Pixar's feature films from 1995's Toy Story through 2019's Toy Story 4 (and many of their short films), including storyboarding, pre-viz, layout, animation, modeling, lighting, rendering, and editorial tools. Before Pixar, Dr. Johnson was in the Computer Graphics and Animation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, where he completed his Master’s degree in Visual Studies ("Build-a-Dude", completed in 1991), and Ph.D. ("WavesWorld: A Testbed for Three Dimensional Semi-Autonomous Animated Characters"). Dr. Johnson has served as a Cartoon Art Museum board member since 2002, and has overseen a number of ambitious developments and fundraising efforts on the museum's behalf.
Comic book artist, historian and educator Jerry Robinson (1922-2011) began his career in comics as Bob Kane's assistant on Batman comics in 1939. The prolific artist was uncredited for his work, which included the creation of Batman's sidekick, Robin and his arch-nemesis, the Joker. Among his body of work are multiple syndicated comic strips, a highly regarded history of the comic book industry called The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Book Art, as well as other books, a distinguished career as an illustrator, and launching the Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate/CartoonArts International in 1978. He served as president of multiple cartoonists associations, held faculty positions at the School of Visual Arts, The New School and Parsons School of Design in NYC, and curated multiple exhibitions on comic book art.
Award-winning cartoonist Mort Walker served in the U.S. Army in Italy during World War II, and the comic strip he created about life in the army, Beetle Bailey, has been read daily by 200 million readers in over 1,800 newspapers since its appearance in 1950. Other comic strip creations by Walker include Hi & Lois (with artist Dik Browne) and Boner's Ark. Walker also founded The Cartoon Museum (later The International Museum of Cartoon Art) in 1974, which ultimately merged with the Ohio-based Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in 2008.
The shadowy, film-inspired work of comic book artist Gene Colan (1926-2011) is unmistakable, and his colleagues and editors agree that he is one of the most inimitable creators in comic book history. His career highlights include notable stints on such diverse titles as Daredevil, Iron Man, Howard the Duck, Tomb of Dracula, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Batman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Cartoonist and illustrator Creig Flessel (1912-2008) illustrated some of the earliest American comic books in the 1930s, including the first issues of the long-running Detective Comics. He went on to an award-winning career in illustration in the 1950s, illustrated comic strips and other syndicated features throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and illustrated the popular Playboy feature "Baron von Furstinbed" in the 1980s.
Cartoonist and educator Will Eisner (1917-2005) is best known for his groundbreaking comic book The Spirit, his career as a graphic novelist from the 1970s through the early 2000s, and Comics and Sequential Art and other informational texts for cartoonists. Eisner's seminal work A Contract with God, published in 1978, is generally acknowledged as the forerunner of the modern graphic novel. The Eisner Award, the comic industry's equivalent of the Academy Award, was named in his honor.
Cartoonist Phil Frank (1943-2007) was the creator of the Farley comic strip, which ran for over 20 years in the San Francisco Chronicle. Frank illustrated dozens of guidebooks for the California State Parks System, and was noted for his charity work in the Bay Area and Yosemite.
The political and editorial cartoons of Lou Grant (1920-2001) were featured in the Oakland Tribune for over 30 years, and also appeared frequently in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Time magazine.
Cartoonist and creator of The Far Side single panel cartoon, Larson's fondness for science and offbeat sense of humor have made him a favorite of cartoon fans and scientific professionals alike.
Animator Bill Melendez (1916-2008) began his career as an animator in the 1930s, working for such major studios as Walt Disney and UPA (United Productions of America), and later founded his own studio, Bill Melendez Productions, in 1963. In 1964, he collaborated with Charles Schulz on the Emmy Award-winning special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Melendez and Schulz continued to work together for decades, creating 75 specials and four feature-length movies of the Peanuts characters. Melendez provided the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock as well.
Comic book artist John Severin (1921-2012) is best known for his illustration work for seminal 1950s publisher EC Comics, including Two-Fisted Tales and the earliest issues of Mad magazine. He has illustrated dozens of comic books for Marvel and DC, including The Incredible Hulk, Sgt. Fury, Semper Fi', Rawhide Kid and Bat Lash, and spent many years as the signature artist for Mad's chief rival, Cracked magazine.
Academy Award-winning animator for Walt Disney Studios Ward Kimball (1914-2002) was known as one of one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men," and worked on some of Disney's most beloved feature films, including Fantasia, Bambi and Dumbo.
Writer and co-creator of several of the most popular comic book characters of all time, along with collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Stan Lee (1922–2018) brought to life such enduring characters as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, Dr. Strange, and The Incredible Hulk, among dozens of others published by Marvel Comics, where Lee served as Editor in Chief for decades.
Cartoonist and creator of the Wee Pals comic strip, Morrie Turner (1923-2014) was both the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist and the first to draw a comic strip featuring a racially diverse cast of characters. Turner created Wee Pals in 1965, as a result of encouragement by his close friend, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. Turner also wrote and illustrated children's books and was actively involved in educational programs and charities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cartoonist Sergio Aragones is a prolific and popular cartoonist best known for his 40-plus years as a regular contributor to Mad magazine and as co-creator (with writer Mark Evanier) of the creator-owned barbarian Groo The Wanderer. He has won many of the most prestigious awards in the comic book industry and is a member of the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.
Cartoonist and creator of the Gordo comic strip, Gus Arriola (1917-2008) was highly regarded among comics fans and scholars for his visual inventiveness and deft wordplay. Gordo was the first nationally syndicated strip to feature Hispanic characters as the central cast.
Comic book creator and animator Carl Barks (1901-2000) was the creator of Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck's impossibly rich uncle, and is known to several generations of fans as "The Good Duck Artist" for his memorable tenure as writer and artist of the adventures of Scrooge, Donald Duck, and their nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Barks's work is especially popular in Europe, and reprints of his work are perennial bestsellers overseas.
Cartoonist and creator of Brenda Starr comic strip, Dale Messick (1906-2005) was the first female syndicated comic strip artist in the United States. Her strip Brenda Starr, featuring an intrepid girl reporter, was syndicated in over 250 papers in the 1950s. Brenda Starr remains in syndication today, nearly 70 years since its initial debut.
The creator of the Peanuts comic strip, Charles Schulz (1922-2000) launched Peanuts in October 1950, in a handful of newspapers. Within a decade, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends were among the most recognizable cartoon characters in the entire world. No matter how popular he and his comic became, Schulz remained a humble, altruistic man, known for his generosity toward his fellow artists, fans, and countless charities.
One of the most respected and talented animation directors in history, Chuck Jones (1912-2002) is best known for his work for the Warner Bros. Studios, particularly on Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd (and any combination of the three), and for creating the characters Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin Martian, Pepe le Pew, Michigan J. Frog, among others. His body of work also includes a directorial stint on MGM's Tom & Jerry, MGM's feature film The Phantom Tollbooth, the Academy-Award-winning The Dot and the Line, and the beloved holiday classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a collaboration with children's book author Dr. Seuss. With his own production company, Chuck Jones Enterprises, Jones produced animated TV specials such as A Cricket in Times Square and Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi, Mowgli's Brothers, and The White Seal. Three of his Warner Bros. cartoons, "What's Opera, Doc?", "Duck Amuck," and "One Froggy Evening" are listed in the Smithsonian's National Film Registry as among the most important films of the 20th Century.
Animator and director John Lasseter is one of the pioneers of computer animation. He created a number of influential and groundbreaking short films throughout the 1980s, and first gained global recognition when he directed Toy Story, the first feature-length computer animated film, for the then-fledgling animation studio Pixar.