Mell Lazarus is an award-winning cartoonist and a leader in his profession, having created the strips MOMMA and MISS PEACH and served as president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1989 to 1993. He is also a successful novelist, and his writing includes television scripts and plays.
In 1982, Lazarus received the National Cartoonists Society’s coveted Reuben Award as the nation’s “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.”
“I think it was the most exciting moment of my career,” he said.
Mell started his first hit strip, MISS PEACH, in 1957 and was first represented by the old New York Herald Tribune Syndicate. MISS PEACH was developed in response to a contest for new comics sponsored by United Features Syndicate. “I scanned the papers, and there was nothing about schools, so I invented MISS PEACH,” Lazarus said. While he did not win the UFS contest, MISS PEACH went on to become an enormous success. The comic strip appeared in 300 newspapers worldwide until Lazarus ended it in 2002.
MOMMA was created in 1970 and distributed by Publishers-Hall Syndicate, now known as North America Syndicate. MOMMA, which currently appears in more than 400 newspapers worldwide, is based partly on Mell’s mother, Frances. When Lazarus first showed the comic strip to his mother, she replied, “You caught Aunt Helen to a tee!” While his own mother was influential, however, Lazarus points out that MOMMA reflects everyone’s mother.
Lazarus’ first novel, The Boss Is Crazy, Too, was influenced by his experiences as an editor at Toby Press, whose owners included Al Capp, creator of LI’L ABNER. Mell’s second novel, The Neighborhood Watch, is the story of a financially strapped writer in Brooklyn who steals from his wealthy neighbors. Doubleday published the book, and it was optioned for a movie.
“Writing novels doesn’t interfere with doing the strips,” Lazarus said. “They use different creative muscles.”
A native of Brooklyn, Lazarus has lived in Los Angeles since the 1970s. He has three daughters.
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