Virgil Franklin Partch (October 17, 1916 - August 10, 1984) was one of the most prominent and prolific American magazine gag cartoonists of the 1940s and 1950s. His unusual style, surreal humor and familiar abbreviated signature (VIP) made his cartoons distinctive and eye-catching.
Partch's cartoons expressed a dry, sardonic wit, and his characters were instantly recognizable by their lipless mouths, large triangular noses, thin ankles and thin wrists, and sometimes well-combed bangs. He was a gagwriter for The New Yorker magazine, but his own cartoons were rarely published there because, according to VIP biographer Bhob Stewart, "New Yorker editor Harold Ross couldn't stomach VIP's drawing style."
Born on Saint Paul Island, Alaska, Partch attended high school in Tucson, Arizona and studied at the University of Arizona. In 1937, Partch enrolled at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, where he attended Rico LeBrun's classes before dropping out after six months. He later began a four-year stint working for Disney studios — his departure was connected to the Disney animators' strike of 1941. Soon he began selling gag cartoons to large-circulation magazines, including Collier's and True. After he left Disney, he worked briefly for Walter Lantz on Woody Woodpecker cartoons.
Partch was drafted into the US Army in 1944, and by the end of his two-year stint had been transferred from the infantry to become art director and cartoonist of the Army's weekly newspaper, the Fort Ord Panorama.
Out of the Army, Partch freelanced for ERA Productions with great success. He published a number of books of single-panel cartoons, some previously published, others done specifically for the books. His 1950 bestseller, Bottle Fatigue, focused on alcohol-themed humor, selling nearly 95,000 hardcover copies by the decade's end. Many of VIP's cartoons depicted a suave, urban sophisticate or trendy suburbanite, revealing him to be a dipsomaniac obsessed with sex, power, prestige and money. In VIP Throws a Party, one of his cartoons shows a depressed man sitting over his drink in a dark corner table, all alone, saying, "Sometimes I get so tired of me, I make myself sick." On the cover of Cartoon Fun a surfer holds the loose bikini-top straps of a woman who says, "I hope you know how to steer this thing, Sam."
Later in his career Partch drew the successful syndicated comic strip Big George, created the lesser-known but somewhat "edgier" strip titled The Captain's Gig (about a motley bunch of mariners and castaways), and illustrated several children's books.
From 1956, Partch lived in Orange County, California where he was a resident of Laguna Beach California. With the onset of cataracts, he retired from cartooning in January 1984 and donated his collection of 3,700 original cartoons to the University of California, Irvine library. Partch and his wife died in an auto accident August 10, 1984 on Interstate 5 near Valencia, California. His uncle was the composer Harry Partch.


Anonymous said...

My introduction to VIP was cartoons in my dad's True magazines. I quickly became a fan. Eventually as an adult, I got VPI original cartoon art -- the piece is framed & on display in our den.

Too bad your scans aren't complete books. Eventually I will scan at least some of the VIP books completely.

Thanks for what you share anyway!