Home LifestyleCareer A List of Famous Hudson County Cartoonists

A List of Famous Hudson County Cartoonists

by Eliot Hudson
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Hudson County has produced some of the best cartoonists in history — even influencing Mickey Mouse, himself. The following round-up showcases beloved, multigenerational characters who — just like their creators — come from Hudson County. Mutts, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Felix the Cat, along with cartoonists from the Daily News and The New Yorker have all got their start in Hudson County. Read on for a list of famous Hudson County-based cartoonists.

Otto Messmer (West Hoboken — now Union City)

Notable Works: Felix the Cat


Otto Messmer was born in West Hoboken (now Union City) in 1892 and went on to create the prototype which all animated characters have followed ever since — even influencing  Mickey Mouse. Otto would go on to create Felix the Cat.

Otto attended Union City’s Holy Family Parochial High School and by 1914, his comics were acquired by Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. This success drew the interest of an early film producer, Pat Sullivan. Otto was drafted into WWI, but when he returned, he was hired by  Sullivan to create a “short” which would accompany a feature film. In 1919, Otto created the Feline Follies, centered around a black cat who brought good luck to those in trouble — this character would become Felix the Cat.

Felix the Cat became the world’s first animated film star, drawing audiences into movie theaters by his own celebrity. For nearly a decade, Felix the Cat was the most famous animated character in the world — long before Walt Disney began to monopolize the animation market with the success of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie (1928). Felix’s image even influenced Mickey Mouse. In 1922, Walt Disney drew “Julius the Cat,” a direct copycat-ripoff of Felix the Cat. Eventually, Disney drew Oswalt the Lucky Rabbit (1927), and then Mickey Mouse (1928) — both of whom look remarkably similar to Felix the Cat — especially in their large eyes, wide mouths, black ears, and black bodies.




Felix also became the prototype for all following cartoon characters in that he was a silver-screen success, as well as being the first animated character to become licensed and mass merchandised. In the 1920s, men wore Felix tiepins and women wore Felix brooches. Smoke shops sold Felix cigars and 5 & 10 stores sold Felix baby oil beside Felix blankets.

Otto remained a lifelong New Jersey resident, eventually passing away from a heart attack in 1983, at the age of 91, in Fort Lee.

Read More: Dolly Sinatra: One of Hoboken’s Most Fearless Women’s Rights Activists

Joe Oriolo (West Hoboken — now Union City)

Notable Works: Casper the Friendly Ghost, Felix the Cat


Joseph Oriolo was born in West Hoboken (now Union City) in 1913 to Italian immigrants and dreamed of becoming a cartoon animator. In 1933, Joe began to realize his dream while working at the prestigious Fleischer Studios as an errand boy. His talent and ambition as a  draftsman advanced his career to an animator within a single year.

In 1939, Joe met author, Seymour Reit, and together they created Casper the Friendly Ghost.

In 1942, Paramount took over Fleischer studio (creating Famous Studios) where Joe met fellow West Hoboken cartoonist Otto Messmer. The two went on to further develop Felix the Cat, and in 1954, Joe developed a new series of Felix cartoons for television. By 1971, Joe had taken complete control of Felix the Cat and continued to market the character until his death in 1985.

Joe would remain an NJ resident for the rest of his life, living in Woodcliff Lake and passing away at the age of 72 at Hackensack University Medical Center. Felix the Cat: The Movie (1989) is dedicated to his memory.

Patrick McDonnell (Hoboken)

Notable Works: Mutts


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One of the most endearing comic strips to grace the funnies may be Mutts, a daily comic strip launched in 1994 by Elizabeth-born, Hoboken resident, Patrick McDonnell.  Patrick attended the School of Visual arts in New York where he met fellow Hobokenite Kazimieras G. Prapuolenis (Kaz). After graduating in 1978, Patrick moved to Hoboken where he provided illustrations for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, and Times.

Mutts follows the quirky lives of Earl, a dog, and Mooch, a cat.

Even Charles Schultz (creator of Peanuts) praised Mutts as “one of the best comic strips  of all time.”

Patrick reminisces about his time in Hoboken and once told NJ Monthly that: “[Hoboken] was fun because we could all get together — Peter Bagge [best known for his comic Hate] and Kaz [Underworld, SpongeBob SquarePants] lived there, I guess because it was a lot cheaper than New York. There were great Italian delis and pizzerias, and the place still had that On the Waterfront feel back then…When Earl and Mooch go into town, you can see the influence of  Hoboken in things like the Fatty Snax deli.”


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Patrick and his wife live in Edison, NJ — the Jack Russell Terrier, Earl, who inspired Mutts, died in November 2007 after living with Patrick for over 18 years.

Kaz (Hoboken)

Notable Works: Underworld, SpongeBob SquarePants, Phineas and Ferb


Kazimieras Gediminas Prapuolenis [Kaz] was born in Hoboken in 1959. In 1992, his  underground comic strip Underworld made a hit in alternative weeklies such as the New York Press and the SF Bay Guardian.

His unique style fuses traditional, old school, rubber hose animation with modern, adult themes, both of which can be evidenced in his work on SpongeBob SquarePants. He went on to  contribute to highly successful cartoons like Phineas and Ferb.

In 2016, Kaz even published the book Underworld: From Hoboken to Hollywood with a foreword by fellow-Hobokenite Patrick McDonnell (of Mutts).

Growing up in Hoboken, Kaz reminisced with his friend Peter Bagge (another Hobokenite-cartoonist) reflecting on how Hoboken influenced his work:

Hoboken and Jersey City did look like Betty Boop backgrounds back in the 60’s. It’s perhaps a psychic space that reflects my own run-down mind. But the simple truth is that  I like drawing depressed backgrounds and interiors as well as weird architecture…The underground comics that influenced me the most had the same feeling. Robert Crumb and Kim Deitch. But yes, I was drawn to them because they looked like Hoboken. I found drawing plain suburban houses, storefronts, and strip malls pretty boring at the time.

[My girlfriend] and I moved into Hoboken after we were both done with college. The rents were cheaper and the apartments larger than what we could have gotten in Manhattan. And it was fun in Hoboken back then. The same bands that played Manhattan played Maxwell’s…The local Hoboken movie theatre was showing the same grindhouse films that Times Square was showing. The subway from Hoboken to Manhattan (The Tubes) was only thirty cents…I was DJing on WFMU…I remember many summer nights sitting on the crumbling docks on the Hudson River drinking cheap beer, looking at the New York skyline and telling funny stories with friends.

I think I moved [back] into Hoboken in 1982 or ’83. I remember that landlords  were burning their buildings for the insurance around that time. We would go to a fire every week as if it was entertainment.

Ed Murawinski (Jersey City)

Notable Works: The New York Daily News


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Ed Murawinski was born in Jersey City in 1951 and grew up in North Bergen. He  recalled “We didn’t have art classes when I went to St. Joseph of the Palisades. So I spent a lot of  time just doodling on the back of notebooks and what have you.”

At 17 years old, Ed got a job as a copy boy for the New York Daily News, running copy, fetching coffee, and performing odd jobs and errands for various departments. In 1981, his talent as a cartoonist was noticed, and he began illustrating for the newspaper’s sports section. He drew mainly for the sports department until 2015, when he branched out into politics.

Ed’s reputation has grown so that he no longer works directly for the New York Daily News, but instead does freelance work under the name Spilled Ink Studios and Sluice Box Media.  He remains a lifelong New Jersey resident.

Pia Guerra (Hoboken)

Notable Works: Y: The Last Man, The New Yorker, MAD Magazine


Pia Guerra was born in Hoboken. She was introduced to comics at the age of 10 when her  cousin absentmindedly left an X-Men comic at her house while visiting, and Pia has loved  comics ever since. Her realistic renderings and dramatic style are surprising for a self-taught artist.

Pia found breakout success with her 2002 publication of Y: The Last Man — published by  Vertigo/DC. The post-apocalyptic science fiction series received three Eisner Awards (the most prestigious award in the comic book industry), and a television series adaptation premiered on FX and Hulu in 2021.

After the 2016 election, Pia began drawing political cartoons online as an outlet to vent  her frustration with what she considered an “alarming turn in politics.” After her cartoon Big Boy went viral, she became a regular contributor to theNib.com, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She’s contributed to both DC and Marvel comics and has drawn stories for  Doctor Who, Spider-Man Unlimited, Superman Adventures, and the Simpson’s Treehouse of  Horror Comics. She currently resides in Vancouver, Canada. 


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See More: Famous Ukrainian Americans With Roots In North Jersey

Leo Cullum (North Bergen)

Notable Works: The New Yorker

Leo Cullum was born in Newark in 1942, but was raised in North Bergen. He joined the United States Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam before returning to civilian life as a pilot for TWA — which became acquired by American Airlines. Between flights, he began doodling cartoons. He took such an interest in the craft that he bought instructional books and began to study famous cartoonists. In his early career, many of his cartoons were turned down by The New Yorker until 1975, when the magazine enjoyed one of his concepts — but gave the work to Charles Addams to illustrate. Charles persuaded Leo to pursue illustrating, and soon Leo’s first illustration was published in Air Line Pilot Magazine. Leo continued to cultivate his craft and built a reputation by publishing in Argosy, Saturday Review, and Sports Afield. Two years after accepting Leo’s concept, The New Yorker accepted Leo’s work in 1977.

Over the course of his career, The New Yorker published 819 of Leo’s cartoons. Cartoon editor Robert Mankoff called Leo “one of the most popular” cartoonists at The New Yorker and  “one of the most consistently funny cartoonists we ever had.”

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