Published online: Tuesday, 23 August 2016
This interview is from Endangered Characters of Australia
1907 Campsie Sydney
Cartoonist of the Potts
When I was a kid, I was asked what I would do when I left school. I said, "Cartoonist", and the teacher clipped me over the ear and said, "Don't try to be funny with me, son!", I was about 12.
I began as the office boy at Smiths Weekly at the age of 15. I took over the Potts cartoon in January 1940, 20 years after Stan Cross created them - Mr Potts, Mrs Potts and Whalesteeth. It's now a world record for one artist doing one feature himself - 55 years. Ginger Meggs has had 4 artists. Only 3 or 4 strips in the world have been running longer. 'The Catzen Jammer Kids' is the oldest cartoon strip in the world.
I created Uncle Dick. He came into the strip in about 1951. I did it for 11 years in the Smiths Weekly; then till now as a 'daily'. In 1953 it also turned into a 'Sunday'. It has been syndicated in about a dozen papers around the world; at its peak, in about 40 papers in America. My nephew once saw it in Arabic!
Uncle Dick is the eternal bum in the family... never wants to work. Borrows money... doesn't want to pay it back; boasts to the kids. A real ol' bullshit artist, a WC. Fields type.
During the war I did a comic strip called 'Adolf, Hermann and Muso'. Anyhow, when the war was over the British Office, War Information, in London flew a whole lot of British journalists into Berlin to see the effects of the bombing. The London editor of our paper, Smiths Weekly, was in the party and they were shown inside the building of Goebbels, the propaganda minister. The steel filing cabinets were still intact and the War Office rep said, "Here is a list of the people going to be exterminated after the war"... Hitler's hit list - famous artists like David Lowe were on it... and my name was on it too.
Jim was art director of Smiths Weekly from 1940 to 1950. In 1976 he received an MBE and in 1988 the AM (Order of Austalia Medal). He is now one of the oldest members of the Australian Black and White Artists Club. Jim Russell and Eric Jolliffe are among their most valuable old icons and they're not even getting rusty.
Since the early 1970s, Mick Joffe's passion has been to caricature and record endangered characters of Australia, and the world. As of 2015, the majority of these interviews exist only in manuscript form.