We lost a great one with the death over the weekend of Martin Landau, whether it was Mission Impossible, Space 1999, the guy who falls off Mt. Rushmore or his Oscar winning turn as Bela Lugozi in Ed Wood. But he started his career as an artist, attending Pratt Institute, cartooning for The Daily News and acting as an assistant for Gus Edson on The comic strip The Gumps while only a teenager. The late Bhob Stewart has a post about Landau’s cartooning career written in 2010, but notes that he couldn’t find any clear examples of Landau’s art.
Landau’s job at the Daily News led to work as an assistant to cartoonist Gus Edson on The Gumps. Edson also went to Pratt, so perhaps that was their connection. Interviewed by Mark Evanier, Landau recalled, “I started working at the News in New York doing illustrations in ’47… or maybe it was ’46. I was working for them while I was still in high school. Gus had a fellow working with him before me named Sam Hale. He was an old United Features cartoonist and he left. So after I’d been at the News for a few years, I became Gus’ assistant. I started off lettering and doing backgrounds, and in just a few months, I was drawing whole strips by myself, usually the Sunday page. Gus had a continuity on Monday through Saturday but the Sunday page was an entity unto itself, and he eased me into doing it. At first, he’d write it and maybe rough it out, but pretty soon, I was doing the whole thing. I did it for about a year, maybe a little longer.”
The Gumps was no slump, so Landau must have been pretty talented to get this gig…although the comics industry’s continuing penchant for teen labor is still an eyebrow raiser.
The above photo of young Landau at the drawing board has been circulating since he died, so I’m guessing Stewart didn’t have access to it. It seems to have been found in the Daily News archives, as seen in this story.
Mike Lynch has some more background here.
But still no actual Landau art aside from what’s seen on the drawing board! As an aside, Landau’s outfit in the above photo would be right in style for a current cartoonist at SPX or elsewhere, so had to taken the other path in his life he would have fit right in.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.