Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Grin and Bear It
A sample daily panel from the early 1970s. Artist: Lichty.


Medium: Newspaper panel
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1932
Creator: Lichty
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Cartoonist George M. Lichtenstein (probably no relation) did exactly one sort of work throughout his career. Using the pen name "Lichty", he drew single-panel cartoons, on a truly vast variety of subjects, in a loose, squiggly …

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… style that his many fans could spot from across the room. In magazines (starting in 1910 with Judge magazine, which also featured the work of Carl Barks (Uncle Scrooge) "Tad" Dorgan (Judge Rummy), George Herriman (Major Ozone) and other greats), advertising (he shilled for a number of products during the 1930s and '40s) and wherever else cartoons are found, funny panels without continuing characters, clearly identifiable as his wherever they appeared, were what he did.

When United Feature Syndicate (Ella Cinders, Gordo) hired him to produce a weekly comic for newspapers, it was more of the same. Grin & Bear It, which started in 1932, was a bunch of unrelated cartoons thrown together into a Sunday page. Before long, a daily version was added — same thing, except there was only one at a time and they were printed in black and white.

It isn't precisely accurate to say there were no continuing characters at all. Whenever Lichty used a pompous, posturing politician, the gasbag's name was Senator Snort — but Snort wasn't really a clearly-defined character, just a parody of a type. Other types appearing regularly include, but are far from limited to, bumbling parents, smartypants kids, ruthless businessmen, self-righteous do-gooders, incompetent psychiatrists, overbearing bosses, etc. etc. But when a gag called for it, he was perfectly willing to use a type nobody had ever seen before.

United continued to distribute Grin & Bear It until 1940, when it switched to Field Enterprises (Barnaby, Latigo). Field was still handling it in 1956, when it won the National Cartoonists' Society's very first award for best syndicated panel. It won the same award again in 1960, '62 and '64. The Field syndicate was later absorbed by King Features, which continues to distribute Grin & Bear It to this day.

Lichty retired in 1974, and the feature was taken over by assistants Fred Wagner (Animal Crackers), who did the daily, and Rick Yager (Buck Rogers of the 1950s), who did the Sunday. They made a fine attempt, but nobody could ever quite capture Lichty's unique style. Wagner now draws it seven days a week, with Ralph Dunagin (The Middletons) writing the gags.


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Text ©2006-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hank Ketcham