Cartoonist, journalist, and writer. Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC, editorial cartoonist, 1972-87; creator and author of comic stripKudzu, 1981-2007; Constitution, Atlanta, GA, editorial cartoonist, 1987-89; Newsday, New York, NY, editorial cartoonist, beginning 1989; Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK, editorial cartoonist, 2006-07.
Also distinguished visiting professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001, and Gaylord distinguished visiting lecturer at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication, 2006-07; serves on the UNC J-School’s Board of Visitors. Appeared on television programs, including ABC News Nightline, Good Morning America, and CBS Morning News; and on radio shows, including Morning Edition.
Overseas Press Club citation; Nieman Fellow, Harvard University, 1980-81; award from Sigma Delta Chi—Atlanta Chapter, 1982; National Headliners Award, 1983, 1988; first prize for editorial cartooning, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, 1984; named to Register of Men and Women Who Are Changing America, Esquire, 1984; Distinguished Service Award for editorial cartooning, Sigma Delta Chi, c. 1985;
First Amendment Award, 1986; first place, John Fischetti Editorial Cartoon Competition, 1986; Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1988; Golden Plate Academy of Achievement Award, 1991; Journalism Hall of fame, 2002; Order of the Long Leaf Pine, State of North Carolina, 2007.
(Under name Marlette) The Emperor Has No Clothes, introduction by Reese Cleghorn, Graphic Press (Washington, DC), 1976.
Kudzu, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1982.
Preacher: The Wit and Wisdom of Reverend Will B. Dunn, Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1984.
It’s a Dirty Job—But Somebody Has to Do It! Cartoons, Willnotdee Press (Charlotte, NC), 1984.
Just a Simple Country Preacher: More Wit and Wisdom of Reverend Will B. Dunn, Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1985.
There’s No Business Like Soul Business, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 1987.
Shred This Book! The Scandalous Cartoons of Doug Marlette, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 1988.
I Am Not a Televangelist! The Continuing Saga of Reverend Will B. Dunn, Longstreet (Atlanta, GA), 1988.
A Doublewide with a View: The Kudzu Chronicles, Longstreet (Atlanta, GA), 1989.
‘Til Stress Do Us Part: A Guide to Modern Love by Reverend Will B. Dunn, Longstreet (Atlanta, GA), 1989.
In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.
Even White Boys Get the Blues: Kudzu’s First Ten Years, introduction by Pat Conroy, Times Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Faux Bubba: Bill & Hillary Goes to Washington, Times Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Gone with the Kudzu, Rutledge Hill Press (Nashville, TN), 1995.
“I Feel Your Pain,” Loblolly Books (Winston-Salem, NC), 1996.
Chocolate Is My Life: Featuring Doris the Parakeet, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 1987.
The Before and After Book (for children), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1992.
(With Jack Herrick and Bland Simpson) Kudzu: A Southern Musical (play; also produced at Duke University and at Ford’s Theatre, Washington, DC), S. French (New York, NY), 1999.
The Bridge (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Magic Time (novel), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Also collaborated on screenplay EX. Creator of syndicated animated editorial cartoons broadcast on Today, National Broadcasting Company. Creator of comic strip Kudzu, 1981.
Film rights for The Bridge have been purchased by Paramount Pictures.
Fresh out of college, Doug Marlette stepped into the job of a senior editorial cartoonist at the Charlotte Observer in 1972. He gained almost instant recognition for his work, and by the 1980s he was widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost political cartoonists. In 1987 he moved to the Atlanta Constitution, where he cemented his reputation by winning the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. He later established his home base at Newsday in New York City, but his cartoons were syndicated to over a hundred newspapers all over the United States.
By the time of his death in 2007, his work also appeared in such publications as Time, Newsweek, Christian Century, and Rolling Stone. Jerry Shinn, the editorial page editor at the Charlotte Observer, commented on the source of Marlette’s appeal in an article in Esquire: “He produces strong, uncomplicated, hit-the-mark kind of work that reflects an innocent refusal to be tricked.” Shred This Book! The Scandalous Cartoons of Doug Marlette is a collection of 154 of Marlette’s political cartoons, which People contributor Ralph Novak praised for its “stainless steel vividness.”
Many people who avoid the editorial pages are likely to be familiar with Marlette’s work from the comic pages, for in 1981 he launched the syndicated comic strip Kudzu, which chronicles life in a small, wacky Southern town. The Kudzustrips have reappeared in several collections, including Preacher: The Wit and Wisdom of Reverend Will B. Dunn, Just a Simple Country Preacher: More Wit and Wisdom of Reverend Will B. Dunn and Even White Boys Get the Blues: Kudzu’s First Ten Years.
Kudzu Dubose is a semi-autobiographical character, an awkward teenager desperate to escape the boredom and oppressiveness of his fictional home, Bypass, North Carolina. Perhaps the most popular character in the Kudzu strips, however, is the somewhat shady and self-serving Reverend Will B. Dunn, who embodies some of the widely publicized failings of certain televangelists.
Marlette, who drew cartoons since the first grade, also tried his hand at fiction. His first novel, The Bridge, was published in 2001. A loosely autobiographical work, The Bridge tells the story of Pick Cantrell, a political cartoonist, who returns to his hometown after a dust-up with his big-city editor. As Pick settles warily into his new/old surroundings, he is forced to deal with his cantankerous grandmother, Mama Lucy.
Only gradually does he discover that Mama Lucy risked her life during the textile strike of 1934. Charlotte Observercorrespondent Polly Paddock described the book as “a well-written, engrossing tale that provides a fascinating glimpse into a little-known chapter of North Carolina history. And it’s evidence that talent in one creative arena can spill abundantly into another.”
Paddock also wrote: “Marlette brings the story to light with wit and poignancy, his writing graceful and sure-footed, his passion for the workers’ cause deep and profound.” In Library Journal, Thomas L. Kilpatrick noted that the novel “shed light on a little-known chapter of North Carolina history and contains just the right mix of humor and dignity.” Several reviewers also noted that the novel is about more than just the strike. According to Carol Haggas in Booklist, Marlette “masterfully evokes the fierce familial bonds that can either devastate or liberate the human spirit.”
In his second novel, Magic Time, Marlette combines a coming-of-age story with a tale about the civil rights movement. Successful New York journalist Carter Ransom comes home to Troy, Mississippi, looking to recuperate after suffering a mental breakdown. However, once he arrives in Troy he is faced with the paroling of a man that Troy’s father, Judge Mitchell Ransom, had sent to prison for a church killing of blacks and civil rights activists in 1965.
In the meantime, Carter suspects that his father might have been covering up for a family friend who was the real murderer as Carter faces the media spotlight associated with a new trial, in which a local businessman who was the imperial wizard of the local Klansmen is charged with the crime nearly thirty years later.
“Marlette … has written a powerful and eloquent novel filled with all the emotions and fury of the early Sixties,” wrote Donna Bettencourt in LibraryJournal. Other reviewers also praised the novel. Noting that Marlette “sets a harmonic tone, both glorious and deeply moving,” a Kirkus Reviews contributor went on to write that the author “perfectly captures a time of epic change,” adding that Magic Time is “an exceptional work of Southern fiction.” Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, noted: “Marlette’s majestic and detailed second offering communicates the assured finesse of a seasoned author.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Marlette, Doug, In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.
Booklist, March 15, 1993, review of In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work, p. 1341; September 15, 2001, Carol Haggas, review of The Bridge, p. 193; August 1, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of Magic Time, p. 42.
Charlotte Observer, October 17, 2001, Polly Paddock, review of The Bridge.
Christian Century, August 28, 1985, review of Just a Simple Country Preacher, p. 778; July 1, 1987, review of There’s No Business Like Soul Business, p. 604.
Current Events, a Weekly Reader Publication, September 30, 2005, Laura McClure, “Battle Lines: Political Cartoonists Take on Iraq,” interview with the author, p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly, January 24, 1992, Liz Logan, review of In Your Face, p. 52; September 29, 2006, Gilbert Cruz, review of Magic Time, p. 87.
Esquire, December 1984, “Proud Performers; Entertainment, Sports & Style. (Esquire’s Register),” p. 377.
Food Technology, summer, 1992, review of In Your Face.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of The Bridge, p. 1155; June 15, 2006, review of Magic Time, p. 595.
Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of The Bridge, p. 108; August 1, 2006, Donna Bettencourt, review of Magic Time, p. 72.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 3, 1991, review of In Your Face, p. 18; December 20, 1992, review of Even White Boys Get the Blues: Kudzu’s First Ten Years, p. 8.
National Catholic Reporter, May 12, 1989, William C. Graham, review of I Am Not a Televangelist! The Continuing Saga of Reverend Will B. Dunn, p. 36.
Nieman Reports, winter, 1991, Mike Peters, review of In Your Face.
New York Times Book Review, November 4, 2001, Jon Garelick, review of The Bridge, p. 32; October 29, 2006, Christopher Dickey, “Freedom Summer,” review of Magic Time, p. 11.
People, June 1, 1987, review of There’s No Business Like Soul Business, p. 18; August 1, 1988, Ralph Novak, review of Shred This Book! The Scandalous Cartoons of Doug Marlette, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1992, review of The Before and After Book, p. 65; August 6, 2001, Michael Archer, review of The Bridge, p. 54; September 10, 2001, review of The Bridge,p. 58; June 26, 2006, review of Magic Time, p. 27.
State, October 18, 2006, Claudia Smith Brinson, review of Magic Time.
Sun-News (Myrtle Beach, SC), October 15, 2006, D.G. Schumacher, “Tale Bridges 2 Periods: Marlette’s Story Draws Southern Town, People,” review of Magic Time.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 29, 1991, review of In Your Face, p. 2.
Tulsa World, January 29, 2006, Tom Droege, “World Hires Pulitzer-winning Cartoonist.”
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