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Christian Comics Pioneers
(Late 19th Century
through the 1950s/60s)

Frank Beard
1842-1905
F.W. Alden
1873-1955
U.S. Abell
1876-1965
W.J. Dittmar
1879-1964
P.H. Kadey
1887-1965
J.E. Tate, Jr.
1908-1974
John M. Espey
1881-1963
C.L. Ramsay
1911-1994
J.E. Russell
1911-2004
Iva Hoth
1911-2007
Lorenz Graham
1902-1989
Jack Hamm
1921-2002
Betty Russell
19??- ??
Edwin B. Wallace
1921-2011
Carlos Sandoval
1917-2005
Other/Featured pioneer

Frank Beard (USA)

Born in 1842, Frank Beard grew to become a widely known Frank Beard American illustrator, "chalk talk" artist, and cartoonist in the late 19th century. In early 1850s, Beard was a boy of 7 or 8 years old when he first saw Yankee Notions, which he later termed "the first American comic journal," published by T.W. Strong in New York City USA. His favorite was Brother Jonathan published by Wilson & Company in New York City. He and his brothers would "spread the pages on the floor and lie on our stomachs, studying the pictures and spelling out the titles and jokes beneath them, for hours together." Beard's first published work as an illustrator may have appeared in Comic Monthly, published from 1859 to 1881. His cartoons also appeared in Judge. Beard drew both single panel cartoons and sequential art (comics). Around 1893 he began illustrating for The Ram's Horn, a non-denominational Christian periodical published during the 1890s and early 1900s by Frederick L. Chapman & Company in Chicago, Illinois USA. The magazine warned of the growing dangers of secularism in American society which were becoming more evident at that time. Eventually Beard became the magazine's principal illustrator, drawing both covers and interior illustrations. It is reported that, at some point in his career, Beard vowed to no longer do any cartoons which weren't aimed at spreading Christianity. Some of The Ram's Horn material was gathered together into a book called Fifty Great Cartoons (1899), published by the magazine for its subscribers. A full color edition of Beard's artwork, entitled One Hundred Sermon Pictures, was published in 1902. Beard died in 1905.


Urban Sereno Abell
U.S. Abell
(USA)

Urban Sereno Abell was born the 10th of March, 1876 in Minnesota USA. Abell went to the Pacific Garden Mission (PGM) in Chicago, Illinois USA in 1897 where he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Abell was the first convert of PGM founder Walter G. Taylor who went on to become a superintendent of the Mission. At that time, Abell was taking classes at the Chicago Art Institute. He created Christian cartoons for Moody Monthly from circa 1921 until 1948. He lived in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, throughout the 1930s, according to adverts he placed in Moody Monthly. These ads promoted his availability for doing "chalk talks" at "Sunday School, Young People's Societies, or Church Services" in the Chicago area. During this time he supported himself, his wife and his three children working as a commercial advertising artist. His artwork for Moody Monthly was collected together into a book entitled Gospel Cartoons, published by Polzin Press in 1937. In 1946 he drew the cover for The Sword Book of Treasures and the frontispiece for The Power of Pentecost, both published by The Sword of the Lord in Wheaton, Illinois. Abell died in January 1965.

[Click here to view some of U. S. Abell's cartoons.]


P. H. Kadey
(CANADA/USA)

Percy H. Kadey
Percy H. Kadey was born on the 19th of November, 1887 in Caradoc, Ontario, Canada. He began his career doing "crayon sketching on the public platform" for teachers' conventions, high schools and other groups. Kadey longed to work in the field of art full-time, but by the time an offer arrived from a prominent company, Christ had come into Kadey's life. Kadey wrote later, "The knowledge of my Lord led to the recognition of a call to full-time service for Him. As the result there came an extended struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. But the long-suffering Saviour gradually moulded my stubbornness into a yielded will. I gave my little 'all' to Him, crayons included. My lack of genius demanded plenty of perspiration, but I praise God that He has seen fit to sanctify my humble efforts to the praise of His Name." Rev. Kadey and his wife Amelia had six children, and resided in Port Huron, Michigan in the 1910s - 20s. The September, 1917 issue of The Christian Workers Magazine, published by the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, featured this notice: "The P. H. Kadey party held a campaign in North Port Huron, Mich., June 17 to July 22, three churches uniting. More than 450 went forward to the altar. The pastors and people are enthusiastic over the results of the work." Many similar notices of his evangelistic work in Michigan and the surrounding states appeared in later issues of this magazine, retitled Moody Monthly, throughout the 1920s. In 1925 Kadey provided several cartoon illustrations for Dr. B. H. Shadduck's anti-evolution booklets Puddle to Paradise and The Toadstool Among the Tombs, as well as for When Snakes Began to Nurse Their Young (1926) and the anti-Modernist Gee-Haw of the Modern Jehu (1928). By the 1930s Rev. Kadey was residing in Flint, Michigan, and continued with his evangelistic chalk talks over the next few decades, often singing hymns whilst he drew. He served as pastor of the First Bible Church in Flint for 28 years. A sixty page book, Pen Sketch and Poetry, was published by Carl J. Bihl in 1965, the year of Kadey's death. The material therein was derived from his chalk talks.

[Click here to view some of P. H. Kadey's cartoons.]


John Morton Espey
John M. Espey
(USA / CHINA)

John Morton Espey was born in 1881 and worked as a Presbyterian missionary in Shanghai, China from 1905-1934. He was the first principal of the Shanghai American School in 1911. In 1927 he collaborated with a (currently unknown) Chinese artist to produce a series of line sketches illustrating the life of Christ in Chinese style (but not Chinese figures). Produced for the China Sunday School Union, the series was called Bible Picture Cartoons and was aimed at Chinese children or adults new to the Christian message. The cartoons were issued four on a sheet, in wall scroll form and intended to be shown one by one as the Bible story was told. Reportedly, the sketches had heavy lines with little detail, so that they could be easily seen across the schoolroom and comprehended by scholars with little Bible knowledge. Accompanying the cartoons were leaflets with incomplete facsimiles of the cartoons to be filled in from memory by the pupils. These cartoons were prepared originally for the Primary and Daily Vacation Bible Schools, but were also available for use in country districts. Currently it is unknown whether any copies of these cartoons still exist. Apparently, Espey left China well before the Communists took control in 1949 and all missionaries were expelled. He died in 1963 in a retirement home in Pasadena, California USA.


Charles Lowe Ramsay
C. L. Ramsay (USA)

Charles Lowe Ramsay was born on 3 June 1911 in St. Paul, Minnesota USA. He grew up in a Christian family, and while still a youth his artistic talent was noted by his pastor who prayed that God would save him and give him a ministry like Dr. E. J. Pace's. Ramsay did surrender his life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, attending the Chicago Art Institute and graduating from Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. In the mid-1930s he began a forty year stint as a cartoonist-illustrator for the Gospel Publishing House in Springfield. In addition to weekly cartoons which appeared in The Pentecostal Evangel and drawing for many of their vacation Bible school textbooks and the like, Ramsay's art appeared in The Adventures of Blacky the Wasp (1936), Studying the Pupil (1940), and Reveille (1946). Sword of the Lord, Dr. John R. Rice's publishing imprint, released 101 Christian Cartoons in 1949, a best-of collection of Ramsay's drawings for the Gospel Publishing House. Some of his work was syndicated in newspapers nationwide. He was also involved in a children's television program in which he drew cartoons during the show. In 1955 he moved to Tulsa to become art director for the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association for whom he created the True Stories and Junior Partners series of Christian comic books. Ramsay was also active in the local art community, president of the Tulsa Art Directors Club, and a member of the Tulsa Artists Guild. In 1965 Ramsay began teaching art at Oral Roberts University, the year of its inception. His last known illustrations appeared in Hiding Hoover, written by Roberts' wife Evelyn and published in 1979. He was awarded professor emeritus status at ORU and retired from teaching in 1982. Following a long-term illness, Charles L. Ramsay went to be with the Lord on 26 February 1994.

[Click here to view some of C. L. Ramsay's cartoons.]


Iva Stevens Hoth
Iva Hoth
(USA)

Mrs. Iva Stevens Hoth was born on the 14th of November, 1911 in in Savannah, Illinois USA, and grew up in Marion, Iowa USA. Her parents were devout Methodists, and she gave her life to Christ while still a child. After graduating from Coe College in Cedar Rapids in 1938, she went to work for the David C. Cook Publishing Co. (then in Elgin, Illinois) as a writer of Sunday School curricula. She married Frank J. Hoth in 1946. On the 1st of May, 1949, Cook's first Sunday School papers with lessons, stories, and features entirely in comics form, Sunday Pix, was launched under Iva Hoth's editorship. (Still in print with almost 3,000 weekly take-home papers having been published, Sunday Pix is said to be the longest-running comic book series in the world. At present, over 66 million Pix have been distributed worldwide.) "Our Bible in Pictures" was a feature that Hoth wrote, illustrated by Andre LeBlanc, which first appeared in Sunday Pix in October, 1959 with new installments running weekly until 1966. In the mid-1970s a black-and-white collection of these was released, then as The Picture Bible in full color in 1978. Still in print, this 750-page comics adaptation of Old and New Testament stories has been translated into more than 140 languages with over 86 million copies distributed worldwide. After working for Cook for 39 years, Mrs. Hoth retired, living with her husband in Dundee, Illinois until his death in 1998. She relocated to a retirement home in southeastern Wisconsin where she attended the East Troy Bible Church. Mrs. Hoth died 17 March 2007 at the age of 95.


Betty Russell
Betty Russell
(USA)

Betty Russell was the producer of the Beanie Baker and Lil' Bess series of color cartoon tracts in the late 1940s. These were meant to be used for childrens' evangelism and were sold in "Get-Acquainted Packets" of 50 different tracts for 50 cents by the Kids' Tract Club of Winona Lake, Indiana USA. Until very recently at least one of Russell's Beanie Baker tracts was still in print in black & white, but currently none of them appears to be available.


Edwin B. Wallace
Edwin B. Wallace
(USA)

Edwin B. Wallace was born in 1921 in Sharon, Pennsylvania USA. An ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church, Wallace combined pastoral work with his artistic ability for many years. In the early years of his ministry, he travelled extensively throughout the United States doing "chalk talks," and also provided the special music and preached. During the 1940s he drew single panel cartoons and some comic book-style pages for The American Holiness Journal. He also drew a full page cartoon for the 1942 edition of B. H. Shadduck's Gee-Haw of the Modern Jehu and the cover for Shadduck's Puzzles of Genesis in 1946. His editorial cartoons appeared alongside Dr. E. J. Pace's in The Higher Way: How to be Filled With the Spirit, published in 1946. Wallace was also involved in radio ministry during this time. Latterly, he worked primarily in the sphere of illustration, not cartooning, for various Mennonite and Amish publications. His drawings for The Cornhusk Doll, published in 1987 by Herald Press, won an Angel award. In the early 1990s, Wallace’s artwork appeared in numerous Scripture booklets published by World Missionary Press and distributed worldwide. In retirement, he kept busy with smaller projects for the church and community in Florida USA where he and his wife resided. Wallace passed away on 16 May 2011.


Other featured Pioneers
from this time period

Dr. E.J. Pace (USA)
Phil Saint (USA/Argentina)
Graham Wade (Australia)
Dudley D. Watkins
(United Kingdom)

F. W. Alden
(USA)
Frederick William Alden

Frederick William Alden was born 28 June 1873 in Waseca, Minnesota USA. He was a ninth generation descendent of John Alden, who came to America on the Mayflower, and the son of Rev. Edwin Hyde Alden, a friend of the Ingalls family (popularized in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and the "Little House on the Prairie" television series). After graduating from school, F. W. Alden worked in Milwaukee as a chemist, commercial artist, editorial cartoonist and etcher. A dedicated follower of Jesus Christ, Alden was a member of First Congregational Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin USA where he sang in the choir and chamber ensemble. He was also involved in prison ministry and outreaches to people of color. From June, 1916 until June, 1918 his editorial cartoons appeared in The Bible Champion, a Christian journal for which he drew pithy commentaries upon the various forms of apostasy which were affecting the church, particularly evolution and the "higher criticism" (liberal theological revision of the Bible). In 1924 he began what would become a twenty year association with the Rev. B. H. Shadduck, PhD as the principle cartoon illustrator of Shadduck's series of booklets including Jocko-Homo Heavenbound (1924), Puddle to Paradise: the Pilgrim's Progress of Modernism (1925), 100 Questions for Teachers of Evolution (1926), Alibi, Lullaby, By-by, The Gee-Haw of the Modern Jehu, The "Seven Thunders" of Millennial Dawn, and Rastus Agustus Explains Evolution (1928), Cousin's Day at the Zoo (1929), and Buzzard Eggs in the Eagle's Nest (1932). Alden died from injuries sustained in an accidental fall in September 1955.

[Click here to read a longer biography of F.W. Alden.]


Walter John DittmarW.J. Dittmar
(USA)

Walter John Dittmar, the youngest of six children, was born on 7 February 1879 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania USA. Though his artistic talent was recognized at an early age, he had no formal training except what he acquired prior to graduating high school. In his late teens he was already freelancing, and was employed by the Grit Publishing Co. in Williamsport. From 1904-1914 Dittmar drew over fifty-four Ragtime sheet music covers for the Vandersloot Music Publishing Co. As he was color blind, these were ink drawings with only one additional hue. In 1913 he was married, and later sired three children. A follower of Jesus Christ and affiliated with the Christian Missionary Alliance Church, Dittmar illustrated for the Union Gospel Press of Cleveland, Ohio from the 1910s-1960s. During this same period his work appeared in their nonsectarian Christian monthly, The Gospel Herald, as well as in their various Sunday School publications and posters. He also taught art in the Williamsport school system from the 1920s-40s. W. J. Dittmar went to be with the Lord on 23 October 1964 at age 85 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


Jesse Elmo Tate, Jr.J.E. Tate, Jr.
(USA)

Jesse Elmo Tate, Jr. was born in 1908 in Roanoke, Virginia USA and brought up in a church-going Baptist family. In his adult life, he was a Christian businessman, working for the North & Western Railroad Co. in Roanoke, and occasionally illustrating for their magazine. From October, 1936 until the early 1940s he created, wrote, and drew the Richard Lee comic strip in Christian Youth, a weekly children's magazine published by the Sunday School Times Co. in Philadelphia. This humour-style strip (which he signed "JET") was about a Christian boy, Richard Lee, his friends Patsy and Blinky, and his older sister Sally and their involvement with the Hope Alley Mission. The main character was based on Tate's own son David Lee. Eventually, Tate felt called of God to give up his business and to enter the pastorate full-time. Returning to school, he was ordained a Baptist minister, and held two pastorates in West Virginia during the 1940s until ill health forced him into semi-retirement in 1951. Several years later he was ordained into the Methodist church and was assigned to a charge of five churches around Winchester, Virginia. In 1973 Tate and his wife retired to Arizona. He went to be with the Lord in April of 1974.


Vaughn Shoemaker (USA)

Vaughn ShoemakerVaughn Shoemaker was born in 1902 in Chicago, Illinois USA, had one year of high school education, studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and became the chief cartoonist of The Chicago Daily News by the age of 22. He is often remembered as the creator of the "John Q. Public" character. In 1938, when he won his first Pulitzer Prize, he was described in The Sunday School Times as "a born-again Christian who believes in a prayer-answering God." He said he had prayed "that God would see fit to give me this award in order that my testimony for Christ might be strengthened." Even in those days getting a spiritual message into one of Chicago's largest newspapers wasn't an easy thing, but readers of the Daily News could expect to see cartoons with a clear Christian witness every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. He also included a Gospel message into his other pictures whenever possible, as may be seen in '41 and '42 A.D., his 1942 book of wartime cartoons (criticized by Herman Goering as "horrible examples of anti-Nazi propaganda"). Shoemaker also did a great deal of public speaking and illustrating, telling people about Jesus Christ both in the USA and overseas. He founded the Christian Fellowship Club for Chicago businessmen and Christian Artists Fellowship Club, serving as Chairman of both. Shoemaker began every day's work by kneeling before his drawing board and asking God's guidance. He is quoted as saying, "It is not difficult to bear testimony for Christ even in the business world, but in order to do this it is essential that one should take his stand and make his position known. There is only misery in store for the Christian who attempts to conceal his testimony." From April through Sept. 1940 Shoemaker drew E.J. Pace's cartoon ideas for The Sunday School Times when Dr. Pace suffered a stroke. Shoemaker won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1947. He was an instructor at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for 15 years, and received an honourary doctorate of letters from Wheaton University. His illustrations appeared in Eat Drink and Be Ready (For Tomorrow You Will Live) in 1977. Reportedly he decided to give up cartooning later in life and devote full time to painting. He joined with other Christian painters to form the Men of the Masters Gallery. Shoemaker died 18 August 1991.


J. E. RussellJames Emerson Russell
(USA)

James Emerson Russell was born in Marion, Ohio USA on 22 January 1911. Following high school, he was a show-card writer for a local department store, then attended Ohio State University from 1932-34. In 1935 he earned a bachelors degree in Social Science from Asbury College, a Methodist institution in Wilmore, Kentucky, USA. In 1939 Russell wrote his Master's thesis/dissertation, published in 47 pages by the Ohio State University, called The Use of the Cartoon to Interpret Christian Ideology. His school peers remarked that he was "courteous in his bearing, refined in his taste, and a very agreeable companion." A dedicated follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, Russell found time while at college to take part in the Mountain Missionary Society and to serve as president of the Pocket Testament League. From the 1st of January, 1946 through the 15th of August, 1948 he drew editorial cartoons for United Evangelical Action, a journal published by the National Association of Evangelicals in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was also drawing Christian cartoons for The Cincinnati Enquirer during that time. Following the death of Dr. E. J. Pace in 1946, James Emerson Russell was called upon to provide weekly cartoon-illustrations for The Sunday School Times from the 20th of December, 1947 until the 15th of December, 1956. Cathedral Press of Brainerd, Minnesota published a 1956 wall calendar of his Times cartoons. During this time Rev. Russell pastored the Church of the Open Door, a Baptist congregation in the Cincinnati area, and was invited to speak as a Bible expositor in conferences held in numerous evangelical churches. In the 1960s he was the assistant professor of art at Cedarville University, and he conducted a weekly program on WTVN-TV in Columbus, Ohio, drawing illustrated Bible messages, assisted by some of his students. In 1969 he wrote a 29-page booklet entitled Inner Space Challenges, published by Cedarville College Press in Ohio. In 1978 he illustrated Dr. N. A. Woychuk’s Keep in Memory: How to Enjoy Bible Memorizing With Profit, and in 1979 he and Woychuk collaborated on Servant of the Lord, both published by Scripture Memory Fellowship in St. Louis, Missouri. In later years Russell moved from Chillicothe, Ohio to Alvin, Texas where he was promoted to glory on 10 June 2004 at age 93.


Lorenz GrahamLorenz Graham
(USA)

Lorenz Graham was born in 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana USA, the son of a Methodist minister. While in college he gave up his studies and moved to West Africa to teach at a boys' mission school in Liberia. His experiences there inspired him to become a writer. In 1955 Graham wrote the comic book script adaptation of The Story of Jesus for the "Classics Illustrated Special Issues" series. The following year he adapted The Ten Commandments as part of that same series. Graham died in 1989.


Jack Hamm (USA)
Jack Hamm

Jack Hamm was born in 1921 and began studying at the Moody Bible Institute while he was working his way through art school in Chicago, Illinois USA. Later he went to Baylor University in Waco, Texas to prepare for the ministry, but finally chose a career in cartooning. In 1941 he joined the NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association), one of the first newspaper syndicates, to work as an assistant on such comic strips as Boots and Her Buddies and Alley Oop. Over the years he also assisted on strips such as Bugs Bunny and Buck Rogers. After Army service in Alaska and the Aleutians during the war, he went back to Baylor for his B.A. and began to teach commercial art there. He served as an interim director of Baylor's art department and also taught art at Dallas Baptist University. In the 1950s he founded "The Jack Hamm Show," one of the first television art programs, which aired in the Dallas, Houston and Waco TV markets in the USA. He was an editorial cartoonist for the Baptist Standard of Texas and distributed his Gospel cartoons and illustrations to newspapers and magazines - including Time and Newsweek ­ free of charge. Hamm and his wife, Dorisnel, distributed his inspirational artwork through Religious Drawings Inc., which they founded in the 1960s. Hamm wrote and illustrated more than 25 books, including some instruction books that are still in print today: Cartooning the Head & Figure, How to Draw Animals, Drawing Scenery: Landscapes & Seascapes, and Drawing the Head & Figure. Hamm also supplied artwork for the book Peter Marshall's Lasting Prayers, published in 1969, and Did Genesis Man Conquer Space? in 1974. Hamm gave several hundred of his Christian cartoons to a church in Texas for use in their church newsletter. He also granted permission for these to be scanned and made available online, stating his desire that these graphics be used free of charge to all who would use them to further the Gospel. (Those cartoons can be downloaded here.) He was a member of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas USA. Hamm died at age 81, on 22 December 2002, after a lengthy struggle with heart illness.


Carlos Sandoval BennettCarlos Sandoval
(MEXICO)

Señor Carlos Sandoval Bennett was born in 1917 in Mexico City. He was involved in all stages of animated cartoon production in Mexico for nearly 60 years, working on such cartoons as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Underdog, The Flintstones, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Smokey Stover. He worked for a number of studios including Caricaturas Animadas de Mexico, Dibujos Animados SA, Valmar, Kinema, and Producciones Animadas SA. These studios produced uncredited animation work for Hanna-Barbera and others in the USA. In his Christian ministry, he did cartoon drawings and comic strips during six years for the Christian Reformed Church in Mexico and their Theological Course by Extension (in Spanish). He also did illustrations for Mexican Christian publications such as El Faro magazine, Prisma magazine, and Noticiero Milamex. He was elected first president of a support group for Prisma magazine when it was founded in 1969 by Latin America Mission of Mexico. In recent years he had done illustrations for children's Sunday School materials at the Berith Presbyterian Church where he attended. He was a presenter at COMIX35's seminar in Mexico City in March 2005. Señor Sandoval died in Mexico City shortly afterward, during the early summer of that year.


Our special thanks to Christian comics writer/artist/publisher Alec Stevens for his research efforts which have uncovered many of these older "Christian Comics Pioneers."

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