Bertram “Bert” Whitman was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 27, 1908. His birthplace was determined by examining the census records, and his birth date was at the Social Security Death Index.
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was the youngest of two children born to Joseph and Sadie. They resided in Brooklyn at 554 Seventh Street. His father was the manager of a jewelry company.
Ten years later they were recorded in Chicago, Illinois at 4521 Michigan Avenue. His father was an auctioneer. In his book, The Comics, Coulton Waugh said: “…Bert Whitman was an office boy for the Chicago Herald-Examiner and the Los Angeles Times; then, like so many other strippers, he became a sports cartoonist in Detroit….” The Los Angeles Times (California), December 15, 1990, said Whitman “taught himself to draw, and in 1924, at age 16, began working for the Los Angeles Times.”
The 1930 census said he and his parents lived in Detroit, Michigan in the Warwick Apartments, 730 Whitmore Road. Syracuse University Library said: “…He drew for the Detroit Mirror from 1929 until 1932 and was on the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer during 1937. Whitman then began working on comic books….” Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999, said he did cartoons for Ken Magazine.
Whitman lived in New York City when the 1940 census was enumerated. His address was 150 Riverside Drive, and occupation, artist. Ron Goulart, in The Comics Journal #249, December 2002, wrote about comic art shops and said:
…Bert Whitman, later an award-winning political cartoonist, launched his small operation in 1940. Calling it Bert Whitman Associates, he rented office space in the New York Times building. Artists working for him included Jack Kirby, Frank Robbins and Irwin Hasen along with newspaper veteran George Storm. Whitman packaged comic books for smaller publishers such as Frank Temerson. His Tem Publishing Co. brought out the Whitman-produced Crash Comics, which contained work by Kirby, Hasen and Storm plus some covers by Whitman. Strongman the Perfect Human was not a compelling hero and his star position was taken over by Cat-Man in the fourth issue. Hasen drew the feature. Crash, living up to its name, went out of business after the fifth issue….In a meteorological mood, Whitman next put together Whirlwind Comics starring Cyclone. That lasted three issues.
Whitman always felt that his biggest coup during his shop-owner period was licensing the popular radio masked man, the Green Hornet, for comics. He’d arranged a long term deal with Detroit radio producer George W. Trendle. The first issue consisting entirely of Green Hornet stories, appeared at the end of 1940 and was published by Helnit. After six issues over the next eight months, the book went on hiatus. It was revived in the spring of 1941 under the Harvey Publications colophon. Whitman had sold his licensing agreement to Harvey. He once told me that he was certain he’d made more money selling the comic-book rights to the character than any publisher ever made from the comics. Shutting down his shop in 1941, Whitman drew for Fawcett for a time, then did a comic strip called Debbie Dean before moving on to editorial cartoons.
For the Chicago Tribune Comic Book, he produced Mr. Ex which ran from January 19 to July 4, 1941. (Ken Quattro suggests that Bernard Bailey did some ghost work on Mr. Ex.) Later that year, renamed The Whizzer, it appeared on September 5 and 26. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said his Debbie Dean, Career Girl ran from January 10, 1944 to July 23, 1949. One of his assistants, in 1947, was Mort Drucker. Whitman found time to ghost Hap Hopper, Washington Correspondent in 1944, and write Cynthia from October 1946 to 1951. A photo of Whitman and unpublished Green Hornet strips are here.
Whitman left comics and drew cartoons for a succession of newspapers: the New York Post from 1944 to 1948; the Miami Herald (Florida) from 1948 to 1952; the Stockton Record (California) from 1952 to 1969; and the Phoenix Gazette (Arizona) from 1969 to 1982. He wrote and illustrated a book about newspaper editorial cartooning.