Henry Boltinoff. Artist: Henry Boltinoff.


Born: 1914 : : : Died: 2001
Job Description: Cartoonist
Worked in: Comic books and newspaper comics
Noted for: Hocus Focus, Stoker the Broker and more, including dozens of filler characters for DC Comics
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Henry Boltinoff never worked on Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman or any of the other long-lasting and numerous superheroes that …

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… form the bulk of DC Comics' output over the past two-thirds of a century — and yet, his work has probably appeared in more individual DC issues than that of any other creator. And tho generations of comic book readers know him almost exclusively for his DC work, the vast majority of his millions of fans know absolutely nothing about anything he's done in comic books.

Boltinoff was born in 1914 in New York City. He was a professional cartoonist before he was out of his teens, drawing pictures for the theatre section of The New York American, where his brother, Murray, was an assistant editor. He worked there from 1933 until the paper folded, in 1937. Then he freelanced for magazines, selling hundreds of cartoons to Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal etc. Two years after that, he called on Whitney Ellsworth, DC's editor, whom he'd come to know while making the magazine rounds, and asked for steady work. Ellsworth gave him a go-ahead to submit fillers, ranging from half-page gags to tiny stories in the 2-3 page range. They began seeing print in 1940, and continued for decades.

Casey the Cop, Super Turtle, Jerry the Jitterbug, Homer, Doctor Rocket, Moolah the Mystic, Cora the Carhop, Little Pete, Chief Hot Foot … these are only a few of the characters Boltinoff created for DC. They were mixed randomly, with "On the Planet Og" sometimes turning up in Tomahawk and sometimes in Tales of the Unexpected and "Hy Wire" sometimes in Strange Adventures and sometimes in Superman. The only certainty was that practically every DC comic book would contain something by Henry Boltinoff.

When Ellsworth complained (as editors often do) of overwork, Henry Boltinoff suggested his brother, Murray, as an assistant. Murray Boltinoff spent most of his career at DC, editing such titles as Challengers of the Unknown, Legion of Super Heroes and Doom Patrol. Henry later said having his brother as an editor never made it easier to sell a page — harder, if anything, with both striving to avoid any appearance of favoritism.

In the mid-1940s, Boltinoff started doing longer stories for DC. Following the success of Archie, DC was publishing quite a bit of teenage humor, and Boltinoff did several stories for Buzzy, Leave It to Binky, A Date with Judy and other titles in that line. Also, for More Fun Comics, he created a feature called Dover & Clover, about a pair of identical twins who went into the detective business, and were so bad at it, they couldn't be fully relied on to detect which was which. Dover & Clover was the only Boltinoff creation ever to appear on a DC cover — it took that spot away from Green Arrow in 1945.

Dover & Clover ended in 1947, and the rest of Boltinoff's longer work was gone soon after. But the fillers continued until the early 1970s, and appeared in most DC issues during all that time. He did similar work for Harvey Comics, Fawcett Publications, and other comic book publishers, but that was dwarfed by his DC output. His last DC creation was Cap's Hobby Hints, which replaced all the other series in the late 1960s. By the time his DC work ended, there was relatively little humor, teenage or otherwise, being published in comic books, and therefore not much room for Henry Boltinoff.

Meanwhile, he continued freelancing, and made efforts to break into syndication as well. His first success in that area was This & That, which was done by a variety of cartoonists during its 14-year run. Boltinoff wrote and drew it in 1946. Other syndication successes include Woody Forrest, a minor but long-lasting strip distributed by a very small outfit called Conley Feature Syndicate, and King Features Syndicate's Nubbin, which he took over from George Crenshaw (Belvedere) in 1960. That same year, an editor told him it was impossible to put a cartoon on the business page, because business was too serious, and Boltinoff responded with Stoker the Broker — which ran until well into the 1990s.

His most famous syndicated work was probably Hocus Focus, a two-panel cartoon, distributed by King Features, in which the two pictures looked extremely similar, and readers were challenged to find at least six minor differences between them. A familiar favorite among the more observant readers of all ages, Hocus Focus has been running for years and years, in more than 300 newspapers worldwide. It's also widely imitated — in fact, King's own Slylock Fox frequently does puzzles of that sort.

The National Cartoonists' Society recognized Boltinoff's contributions with two of its category awards, one for syndicated humor and the other for his work in comic books. It's hard to be sure, tho, precisely what the awards were given for, among the endless array of quick gags that spewed so prolifically from him over such a long time.

The work continued to spew prolifically all his life. When he died (April 26, 2001), he left behind more than a year's worth of unpublished Hocus Focus cartoons.


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Text ©2002-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Henry Boltinoff estate.