Friday, May 31, 2013


Above: a detail of a Wesley Morse-drawn letter to former Ziegfeld Girl Avonne Taylor.

Wesley Morse, a fellow who did illustrations for the Ziegfeld Follies, drew some Tijuana Bibles, but is most famous for creating the iconic Bazooka Joe, is the focus of Kirk Taylor.

Well, Mr. Morse isn't exactly famous. Bazooka Joe is, but Morse is pretty unknown, even though he was a busy cartoonist in the early days of this century.

Kirk Taylor, an Ohio writer, cartoonist and historian, recently visited the Cartoon Library to give them a copy of his new book that he co-authored with Nancy Morse from AbramsArts BAZOOKA JOE AND HIS GANG. He was interviewed about his Morse connection by Caitlin McGurk.

The Morse connection starts with a series of eighty love letters.

My great aunt Avonne Taylor passed away in 1992, and hidden away in her storage locker in California my family discovered a series of 80 illustrated love letters of, and for, her by Wesley Morse. They were on his personal stationary, with his address listed at the Hotel Des Artistes, a noted artists cooperative on 67th street in Manhattan. At the time I discovered these, nothing was published about Morse, so I held on to them for years before I understood the history. In 1996, “Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America’s Forbidden Funnies” came out, with an introduction written by Art Spiegelman. In it, Spiegelman mentions that he could recognize the hand of a cartoonist named Wesley Morse as one of the artists in the old Tijuana Bibles, and that was where I first made the connection with who this man was from my great aunt’s letters. Based on the drawing style in the book, I knew it had to be him.

The entire interview is here.

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