If any book has influenced me to end up as a cartoonist it must be this one, 'The Penguin Max', published in paperback by... Penguin, in 1962. It belonged to my dad and it sat on a shelf behind glass, in his bureau, among various highbrow books on Plato, Emerson, Shakespeare, etc. It must have been a gift from someone as my dad was hardly a cartoon fan - it was the only cartoon book in the house when I was a young child.
If I was careful with it and had clean hands I was allowed to sit quietly and 'read' it, usually at Christmas. In it's pages were silent stories of a hamster called Max trying his hand at various activities, usually getting over-excited and ending up the worse for it, though now and then coming out on top. Many of the stories, and Max himself, made me laugh out loud, and still do.
'Max' is by Pericle Luigi Giovannetti. I can find nothing about him on the internet, and yet he created one of the best characters in cartoonland. In the front of the book is a biography of Max:
Max was born in Punch, London, in April 1952. Before his tenth birthday he had achieved an international reputation and is particularly well known in Great Britain, the United States, and Japan (where he passes under the name of Mr Makkusu-san). After service in the R.A.F., in which he reached the honorary rank of pilot officer, he transferred to the Royal Navy and was appointed mascot to H.M.S. Birmingham in 1953. In 1957 he was an honorary member of the Mount Kenya Expedition and that year, in order to underline his neutrality, joined the Swiss Air Force as heraldic beast of Jet Fighter Squadron No. 21. In 1958 he was placed on Enzo Ferrari's desk.
Max receives and deals with innumerable letters from his public in almost every country of the world. In addition to the present volume he has also published Max, Nothing but Max, and Max Presents, which he edited. Max receives minor assistance, such as drawings etc., from Pericle Luigi Giovannetti, who lives at Ascona in Switzerland.
... and that's it. If anyone knows anything more please let me know.
I should warn you that this blog may, for a while, become the Max Appreciation Society. Over the next few days I'm going to post, perversely perhaps, a single drawing a day of one sequence. Then follow that up occasionally with other sequences. I know it would be more intelligent to post whole sequences at once but each drawing is worth seeing large and you won't have to click on it to see it properly - and it will take up more days for this blogger, who is struggling to find new things to post from an ever-dwindling supply of material... So there.