News of Yore: Louie’s Harry Hanan Profiled

“Louie” Thrives at 5; So Does His Creator
By Erwin Knoll (E&P, 5/15/52)

George McManus, who looks like a walking edition of his hero, Jiggs, claims that all cartoonists tend to resemble their creations, and vice versa. Harry Hanan and “Louie” are a case in point.

Though the bespectacled car­toonist bears little physical resem­blance to his bemoustached panto­mime hero, Mr. Hanan and “Louie” are definitely soulmates. Their philosophies, economic status -and weight-keep pace with each other.

When “Louie” made his bow in U. S. papers five years ago this week, he was a slight young man who eked out a precarious liveli­hood as a burglar, panhandler or pickpocket. His creator was a staff artist on the The People in austere post-war England, whose income was equally precarious, if slightly more legitimate. Since that time things have been looking up for Harry Hanan and, consequently, they’ve been looking up for “Louie” too. The cartoon­ist and his family are settled in a model suburban home in Westfield, N. J. (they came to the U. S. in November, 1948) and, equipped with a car, a television set, etc., lead model suburban lives. Mr. Hanan has gained 12 pounds.

In that time “Louie” has aban­doned his life of crime, though he still cuts corners from time to time. Readers of the daily and Sunday strips now usually find their hero in the role of henpecked family man, ignored restaurant patron or cheat­ed customer. And, though exact fig­ures are not available, he seems to have gained at least 12 pounds.

Mr. Hanan, once described as a “solemn, helpless-looking” man, shares these qualities with “Louie.” Yet both manage to wreak occa­sional revenge, real or fancied, on a hostile, confusing world. Mr. Hanan admits to a long-standing ambition to snip the feathers off women’s hats. The 35-year old cartoonist went to art school in his native Liver­pool, and got his first job doing layouts and illustrated articles for the Liverpool Evening Express at $16 a week. Occasionally he re­ceived a $2 bonus for doing a daily cartoon.

After six years of Army service in World War II, Mr. Hanan joined the staff of The People, London’s four million circulation weekly, as editorial cartoonist. He started “Louie” because he found that drawing one weekly editorial cartoon didn’t quite take up all his time. It was in The People that H. R. Wishengrad, head of Press Fea­tures, saw “Louie” and decided to syndicate it in the U. S. The strip defied two old taboos of the syndicate business: against panto­mime strips and against British imports. “Louie” caught on, and both taboos have since been scrapped.

Today Mr. Hanan’s strip ap­pears in almost 100 U. S. papers, and in more than 100 publications abroad. Some newspapers use it on their editorial pages-a unique distinction for a comic strip. “Louie” has rated high in reader­ship surveys in Oakland, Calif., New York City, and Stockholm, Sweden, among others.

“Even when we’re settled, ‘Louie’ and I tend to be shiftless,” Mr. Hanan says. “People seem to like that.”

4 comments on “News of Yore: Louie’s Harry Hanan Profiled

  1. Hi Allan,

    I have a question. What is the purpose of the long standing American tradition of including an editorial cartoon in almost every daily newspaper across the United States?

  2. Hi Hilton –
    Hmm. Sorta sounds like a homework assignment.

    Well, ok, let’s throw Miss Grundy a curveball.

    Rather than blather on about the innate power of the editorial cartoon, or citing the master, Nast, and how his toons succeeded in bringing down a government, let’s keep it real. About 2% of the population reads newspaper editorials, but more like 98% will look at the editorial cartoon. Newspaper editors hate to admit it, but the best way to get across a viewpoint on a news story is with the editorial cartoon, not with some long-winded blather from the editor. Ipso facto ergo sum the editorial cartoon is the unacknowledged king of the op-ed page. Howzat?


  3. Alan:
    Louie was a classic comic strip.
    Any possibilty that a book could
    be put together showing all the
    strips that appeared in the New
    York Daily News for many a year?
    I would think it would sell well.
    Pat Cosgrove

  4. Hi Pat –
    Louie was a nice strip but never all that popular. I think such a reprint project would fall into the ‘labor of love’ category. Perhaps you should consider taking a whack at it.


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