FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2016
Contact: Marianne Sugawara, VP of Operations
LOS ANGELES — Award-winning cartoonist Mell Lazarus, creator of the popular comic strips "Momma" and "Miss Peach," died peacefully Tuesday morning surrounded by his family at his home in Woodland Hills, California. He was 89. He will always be remembered for his unparalleled charm and wit.
Being a cartoonist was all Mell ever wanted to do. He sold his first comic strip to an independent newspaper in Brooklyn while he was in high school.
Mell won the National Cartoonists Society's coveted Reuben Award as the nation's outstanding cartoonist of the year in 1981. "I think it was the most exciting moment of my career," the Brooklyn native once said. He also won the NCS' award for best humor strip in 1973 and 1979.
One of the most respected and well-liked cartoonists in the world, Mell, who moved to Los Angeles in 1975, served two terms as president of the NCS, from 1989 to 1993.
Mell started his first hit strip, "Miss Peach," in 1957 and was first represented by the 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,'" Mell explained. Though he did not win the contest, "Miss Peach" went on to become an enormous success. The comic strip appeared in 300 newspapers worldwide until Mell ended it in 2002.
"Momma" was created in 1970, and he worked on it until just weeks before his death. He based the titular character, Sonya Hobbs, on his own mother, Frances "Frankie" Lazarus. He based the character Francis loosely on himself.
Mell joined Creators Syndicate in 1988, as soon as his contract let him take "Momma" and "Miss Peach" there. "He was an adviser to me from the beginning," said Rick Newcombe, founder and CEO of Creators. "I loved Mell. He was so talented, so smart and so much fun. He really was a very special person."
Mell wrote and drew over 33,000 comic strips during his life, but he also wrote novels. His 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." "Writing novels doesn’t interfere with doing the strips," Mell once said. "They use different creative muscles."
His second novel was "The Neighborhood Watch," about which "Catch-22" author Joseph Heller wrote, "Mell Lazarus is the second-funniest writer in America and has written the second-funniest novel."
A longtime member of The Century Association and the National Press Club, Mell also joined Mensa after his first wife, Eileen, challenged him to take the group's IQ test.
Mell leaves behind his brother, Herb; his beloved wife of 21 years, Sally Mitchell; his three daughters, Margie Lazarus White, Suesan Lazarus Pawlitski and Cathie Lazarus; his six grandchildren; and his two great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Alzheimer's Association "in memory of Mell Lazarus" by sending a check to 225 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60601 or by going to alz.org and finding the Mell Lazarus Memorial Fund.
Creators is a publishing and syndication house -- the third-largest syndicate in the United States. Since 1987, it has syndicated comic strips, puzzles, editorial cartoons and columns to publications worldwide. Founded on the belief that artists should own the rights to their work, Creators endures as a forward-thinking force in the media industry. Visit Creators online at www.creators.com.
For more information, please contact:
Marianne Sugawara, VP of Operations, Creators
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