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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

R.O. Blechman's Talking Lines

R.O. Blechman has enjoyed an almost "Zelig" like career for much of the past 60 years and reading his bio makes you wonder how all of this could possibly have fit into one lifetime.

This is the short version:

His first book, The Juggler of Our Lady, was published in 1953 to widespread acclaim and it was later made into an animated film (with narration by Boris Karloff). When Harvey Kurtzman launched Humbug in 1957, Blechman was on board for every issue of the seminal magazine. Blechman's career then veered into advertising and he went on to create some of the most successful television commercials of the 1960s (including this one with a Gene Wilder voice-over).

When Buckminster Fuller's United States Pavilion opened at Expo 67, there was Blechman, with several large murals on display. Sesame Street launched in 1969 and changed children's entertainment forever - Blechman was on board for that too (of course), with a number of animated shorts. I recently came across old issues of National Lampoon from its heydey in the early 1970s and I was reminded again how funny they were - well, Blechman was in there too.

It should probably go without saying that he's had his share of New Yorker covers (14) and New York Times pieces (too many to count), but has any other artist had the distinction of illustrating every single cover of a magazine? I would wager that that singular achievement belongs to Blechman, whose artwork graced each cover of Story magazine from 1989 to 2000. Did I mention that throughout this time, Blechman was also operating his own animation studio, The Ink Tank? It was a successful company for nearly 30 years (he won an Emmy Award in 1984 for one of his films) and his work for The Ink Tank was honored with a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 2003.

A single book couldn't possibly cover all of Blechman's achievements, so we chose to focus on only one important facet of his half-century career. Talking Lines collects his comics from his first Humbug pieces in 1957 to a New York Times Op-Ed piece from just a few months ago - it debuts this weekend at The Brooklyn Book Festival, where Mr. Blechman will be signing at the D+Q booth.


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