Friday, February 22, 2013

Vahan Shirvanian 1925-2013

Prolific cartoonist Vahan Shirvanian died January 30, 2013.

Mr. Shirvanian began his career during the "golden age" of gag cartooning, the 1940s ... and he never stopped. He has a cartoon in the latest issue of Playboy -- a full color four panel cartoon -- that was just published this week.

He was born in Hackensack, NJ in 1925, the son of Vahan Shirvanian, Sr. and his wife Gladys.

He served 2 years in the Army Air Force during World War II, where he was first a bombardier, and then an artillery instructor.

Mr. Shirvanian attended Seton Hall University where he majored in English Lit and was art editor of the campus newspaper, where he, of course, put his cartoons. He graduated in 1950.

Vahan had already broken through to the major markets. His first cartoon was sold to the Saturday Evening Post in 1946. The New Yorker, Reader's Digest, Harvard Business Review, Playboy and all of the other major markets followed. By 1959, he had won Best Gag Cartoonist of the Year Division Award from his colleagues at the National Cartoonists Society. He would be named "Best Cartoonist of the Year" ten times between the NCS and Highlights for Children.

It was during the 1950s, he married Monica Williams and they moved to Mountain Lakes, NJ, raising two kids. He worked in his studio at home. He was also a member of the "Jay Vets," a group of New Jersey friends who grew up and served in the War together. They met for 65 years.

King Features syndicated his "No Comment" comic strip, a wordless gag-a-day strip from 1979 to 1981. He's currently syndicated by the New York Times' "Wit of the World" News Service.

Mr. Shirvanian continued creating and sending out his cartoons. Like all great cartoonists, he never retired, despite a spinal injury last year.

Although I never met him, I knew his distinctive ink line and sense of humor well. More than once I laughed out loud at a Shirvanian cartoon.

The Star Ledger published his obituary on February 17, 2013.

Vahan also never missed a chance to share his artistic skills, whether teaching children in a classroom or creating designs and invitations for friends' events. In his spare time, he found enjoyment playing tennis, completing The New York Times crossword puzzle, devouring mystery novels, hiking in the great outdoors, and rooting for his beloved Yankees. Vahan is survived by his wife and constant companion of 57 years, Monica Shirvanian; daughter, Nancy Shirvanian Reynaud of Washington, D.C.; son, Thomas Vahan Shirvanian of Boonton Township, N.J.; brother, Robert M. Shirvanian of Monmouth Beach, N.J., and his only grandchild, Emily Reynaud of Washington, D.C. His family will always love and miss him dearly, remembering his capacity for wisdom, his genius in finding laughter everywhere, and the way in which he beautifully touched so many lives, in so many ways.


Dan Reynolds said...

He was certainly a great one. God rest his soul.

BK said...

placed alot of cartoons in Canadian mags in the 50s-60s. always wondered about him. R.I.P.

JRzMom said...

I met Vahan when I worked as a window clerk at the Boonton Post Office. We all looked forward to his visits and the wit and genuine warmth he offered to everyone around him. He and Monica attended our farewell party in 1990 when we left NJ for our new home in Upstate New York. I regret losing touch with them both. In reading his obit, almost three years after his death, I learned he was a bombardier in the Army Air Force. This is something I never knew about him. He was a forward thinker...never looking back but finding humor in life as it is. I am hoping his family, and especially Monica, find this post and know how he touched so many lives.