Don Flowers

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Don Flowers

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The son of a Custer City portrait photographer, Don Flowers left Oklahoma at age 16, and landed his first newspaper job with the Kansas City Star, where he spent five years as a staff artist and photo retoucher before moving on to a short stint with the Chicago Journal American. Essentially self-taught, he launched his cartooning career after moving to NYC and creating a panel feature for the AP called “Puffy Pig” followed by a strip called “Oh, Diana”. During these early years he worked alongside several other struggling, later-to-be-famous young cartoonists such as Al Capp and Milt Caniff.

Family and early life

Flowers’ first big break came in 1931, when he originated “Modest Maidens”, a panel feature that over the ensuing years became so popular that in the early 40′s the cartoonist was lured away from the AP by William Randolph Hearst, who decided he wanted Flowers’ work in King Features papers, and made him an offer too good to refuse. For the next 25 years, Flowers continued to draw his long-legged chorus girls, hatcheck girls, housewives, gold diggers and bathing beauties under the title “Glamor Girls” for KFS. (The AP couldn’t keep him from moving to King, but they did hold onto the name Modest Maidens, which was continued by a succession of artists — most notably Jay Allen — until well into the 1960′s.) 

Though never as well known as contemporaries such as Capp, Caniff and Ketcham, Flowers’ work was published in some 300 papers at the height of his career, and provided acknowledged inspiration to such latter-day cartoonists and animators as Sergio Aragones, Shane Glines and Andrew Pepoy. 

Career outline

Always kind and generous, Flowers spent the last 19 years of his life working from his studio in the Malibu, California, home he and his second wife Eloise built in 1947, where they raised Flowers’ adopted son, Don, Jr. (now a Portland, OR marketing consultant). During this period, Flowers pursued his hobbies of water-coloring and light carpentry, and enjoyed an active social life that included many of the Hollywood actors, directors and screenwriters who lived in the so-called “Malibu Film Colony” at that time.  

Like many cartoonists of his era, however, Flowers fought an ongoing battle with the bottle, and the combination of alcoholism and emphysema (he was a lifelong smoker) led to his premature death at 59.  And yet, as noted in Chun’s book, the Glamor Girls panels drawn by the dying cartoonist in the last months of his life (when he couldn’t walk from bedroom to drawing board without stopping to expel the poisoned air from the remaining fragment of his one working lung) exhibited the same snap, grace and sure-handedness that had by then become the signature quality of Don Flowers’ long, under-recognized career.

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