Hard mes­sages through el­e­gant art

Mark­ing the pass­ing of a Pulitzer Prize-win­ning car­toon­ist whose po­lit­i­cal out­look was as bold and in­ci­sive as his art­work.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By BOB GOLDSBOROUGH Tracy

A LONG­TIME ed­i­to­rial car­toon­ist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983, Richard E. “Dick” Locher also worked on the glob­ally pop­u­lar comic strip Dick Tracy for more than three decades, both writ­ing and draw­ing the ad­ven­tures of the square-jawed pri­vate de­tec­tive.

Locher, 88, died of com­pli­ca­tions from Parkin­son’s dis­ease last week at Ed­ward Hos­pi­tal in Naperville, Illi­nois, said his son, Stephen. The artist had lived in Naperville for more than 45 years.

“Dick was one of the best car­toon­ists in Amer­ica,” says Tribune ed­i­tor and pub­lisher Bruce Dold.

“I most ad­mired the rich­ness of de­tail in his draw­ings. His work was funny and in­ci­sive and his mes­sage of­ten car­ried a hard pop, but his art­work was al­ways in­cred­i­bly el­e­gant.”

Born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, Locher grad­u­ated from Lo­ras Academy in Dubuque and then stud­ied at Lo­ras Col­lege, the Univer­sity of Iowa, and the Art Cen­ter of Los An­ge­les be­fore earn­ing a de­gree from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

He spent two years on ac­tive duty as a test pi­lot in the US Air Force, fol­lowed by another 18 years in the Air Force Re­serve.

While a Chicago Academy of Fine Arts stu­dent in 1957, Locher was tapped to do some ink­ing for Ch­ester Gould, the cre­ator of the Dick Tracy strip. He went on to work as Gould’s as­sis­tant for the next four years.

“He had reg­i­mented work­ing re­quire­ments,” Locher says of Gould in a 1981 Tribune in­ter­view. “Be in at 7.30am ev­ery morn­ing, have ev­ery­thing com­pleted by Fri­day, no ex­cuses.”

Locher left Gould’s em­ploy in 1961 and even­tu­ally headed an art stu­dio called No­va­mark. In 1973, de­spite hav­ing no ex­pe­ri­ence as an ed­i­to­rial car­toon­ist, Locher was hired by the Tribune .He re­mained on staff un­til his re­tire­ment in 2013, pro­duc­ing more than 10,000 draw­ings on a raft of top­ics.

“That’s a whole lot of get­ting mad six times a week,” Locher quipped to the Tribune upon his re­tire­ment.

Tribune ed­i­to­rial car­toon­ist Scott Stan­tis says Locher’s work “had a level of cer­ti­tude re­served for very fine artists”.

“Ev­ery line had a con­fi­dence that sep­a­rates the good from the great,” Stan­tis says. “Con­cep­tu­ally, you never had to guess where Dick stood on the is­sues. His po­lit­i­cal out­look was as bold and straight­for­ward as his art­work – the per­fect com­bi­na­tion that all ed­i­to­rial car­toon­ists strive for.”

Locher won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for ed­i­to­rial car­toon­ing with work that weighed in on then US Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan – with whom the artist once dined in the Oval Of­fice – home com­put­ers and the Mid­dle East.

“I’m still numb. I’m still wait­ing for some­one to come in and say they made a mis­take,” Locher said upon learn­ing he had won.

“My first thoughts were that some­one was play­ing a ter­ri­ble, cruel gag.

“This sounds hack­neyed, but I’m re­ally proud the Tribune won a Pulitzer. I al­ways thought it was an East Coast in­sti­tu­tion, and I’m glad to see it made it all the way to the Mid­west.”

Locher was pulled back into Dick Tracy’s or­bit in 1983 af­ter the death of Rick Fletcher, who had taken over when Gould re­tired in 1977.

Locher con­tin­ued draw­ing the strip un­til 2009 and kept writ­ing the sto­ry­line un­til in 2011.

Over the years, Locher’s long­time hometown of Naperville be­came closely as­so­ci­ated with the char­ac­ter Dick Tracy. In 1990, the city’s new po­lice sta­tion placed large dis­plays of both the car­toon and the movie (re­leased that year) in its lobby. And in 2010, a nearly 3m-tall statue of Tracy was placed on the River­walk in Naperville. Locher cre­ated 27cm model for the sculp­ture and also helped se­lect its lo­ca­tion.

He also de­signed a sculp­ture of Naperville founder Joseph Naper, which stands at the site of Naper’s home­stead.

Fran­cie Wehrli Chirico, a long­time fam­ily friend who works for Naperville Town­ship, says the Dick Tracy statue re­mains a pop­u­lar draw in town. “A lot of vis­i­tors come here to Naperville to see it,” she says.

Locher’s son John was a car­toon­ist who worked with his fa­ther on Dick Tracy un­til his sud­den death in 1986 at age 25. In his hon­our, Locher cre­ated the John Locher Award for col­lege car­toon­ists.

Locher served on the board of trustees for Bene­dic­tine Univer­sity in Lisle and also re­ceived hon­orary de­grees from Lo­ras Col­lege and Bene­dic­tine Univer­sity.

In ad­di­tion to his son, Locher is sur­vived by his wife of 60 years, Mary; a daugh­ter, Jan Evans; a brother, Bob; a sis­ter, Carolyn Hol­ubar; five grand­chil­dren; and one great-grand­son. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Ser­vice

This car­toon, pub­lished on March 17, 1982, is among sev­eral of Locher’s works to be cited by the Pulitzer Prize com­mit­tee.

Locher in his home stu­dio in 2011. He wrote and drew the square-jawed Amer­i­can de­tec­tive (in­set, be­low) for the in­ter­na­tion­ally syn­di­cated Dick

strip for decades. — Pho­tos: TNS

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