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 Percy L. Crosby  (1891 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: Virginia/New York      Known for: cartoonist, landscape

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Ad Code: 3
Percy L Crosby
from Auction House Records.
Skippy Historic First Comic Strip Original Art
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Percy Crosby was a creator of oil paintings, watercolors, and sculpture, as well as poems, fiction, and nonfiction. He was an expert in recording the flow of motion in his ink drawings and watercolors. Crosby made his mark with his cartoon Skippy, about a mischievous, yet philosophical kid, loosely drawn in a sketchy, effortless manner. At the peak of its popularity the strip ran on the front page of the New York American.

Crosby was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Richmond Hill, Long Island. He dropped out of high school to work as an office boy in the art department of the popular Delineator magazine, sold an idea to Life when he was 16 years old, worked as a newspaper sketch artist at 19. He then attended Pratt Institute and the Art Students League, and began drawing strips for the New York World. After doing such titles as Toddles and Beany and the Gang, he settled in with the McClure Syndicate in 1915 with The Clancy Kids. In 1917, he went overseas to serve in World War I; rising from the rank of second lieutenant to captain, he, in his time off, still managed to fill sketchbooks with his work.

Returning in 1919, he commenced freelancing for "Life" and other markets, drawing Skippy in single-page episodes for magazines, and moving on to syndication in newspapers. After King Features took over the distribution of Skippy, the strip quickly spread out into other areas.

NBCs Skippy radio show began in 1931, and Paramount pictures Skippy, starring Jackie Cooper, was also released in 1931. Cooper, then nine, was nominated for an Academy Award, as was the picture, the director, and the scriptwriters. The success of the movie led to an immediate sequel, Sooky, that same year, adapted from Crosbys book, Dear Sooky. In a tie-in with the radio show, M.C. Gaines published Skippys Own Book of Comics in 1934. The first four-color, single-character comic book of reprints was issued as a giveaway with the purchase of Phillips Tooth Paste.

Crosby drew very rapidly and could usually turn out a years worth of Skippy, daily and Sunday, in less than two months. This gave him time, while working out of his 130-acre farm in Virginia, to turn out paintings and watercolors. These were exhibited in New York, London, Paris, and Rome, and a few even ended up in the permanent collections of several museums.

He became a crusader as well. Crosby was against communism, prohibition, gangsters he allegedly took out a newspaper ad challenging Al Capone to hand to hand combat and other evils of the day. He devoted considerable time and money to self-publishing books, pamphlets, and newspaper advertisements, pointing out what was wrong with the nation. There are those who find these diatribes as foreshadows of Crosbys mental breakdown in the 1940s. He gave up Skippy in 1945, and his final decade and a half of life was spent in a mental institution.

(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "The Encyclopedia of American Comics," edited by Ron Goulart.)

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