Harold LeDoux- Judge Parker Artist to Retire after more than 50 years drawing the Judge

Looks like King Features will have some BIG shoes to fill as Harold
LeDoux retires after more than 50 years drawing Judge Parker. It
sounds like he will stop drawing the feature in April.

Graham Nolan was a very good choice to replace Tony Dipreta on Rex
Morgan, hopefully they can find someone to keep the characters of Judge
Parker realistic. Nolan updated the look of Rex Morgan, maybe they
will find someone to do the same on Judge Parker. Although I did like
LeDoux's style, true old-school, but very unique.

Here is the article in this mornings DMN:

Keeping it 'realistic,' for 50 years
Cartoonist Harold LeDoux is ready to lay down his pen

12:00 AM CST on Sunday, January 29, 2006

Harold LeDoux has a million stories. Good thing, since he's been half
of the creative team driving the Judge Parker comic strip for more than
50 years.

Photo illustration by LOUIS DeLUCA/DMNBut the 79-year-old Richardson
artist almost didn't get the job. There's a story there, too.

"Judge Parker started in 1952, and I was just the assistant the first
year because they said, 'He can't do realistic, he just does
comics-style art,' " Mr. LeDoux says, opening his eyes wide in mock
amazement. The expressive Cajun from Port Arthur, Texas, had come to
New York via Chicago - "I was in art school there with George Booth"
- with a portfolio full of "Antoine of the Bayou."

Those colorful cartoons celebrated the Louisiana-French culture he grew
up in, but the big-city editors convinced him that a daily strip packed
with references to "boudin" and "Pontchartrain" wouldn't resonate with
most folks across the U.S.

So Mr. LeDoux went to work as an assistant, applying his pencils, pens
and paints to graphic magazines that converted popular movies to a
comic-book format. "I did the first Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin movie," he
says, digging through a pile of work that came off the presses when
America liked Ike and watched June Cleaver on TV with the same
enthusiasm today's viewers have for Desperate Housewives.

Several magazines in the stack sport the Martin and Lewis grins. On
another, a stunning young lovely in an evening gown turns out to be
19-year-old Angela Lansbury. Inside, the stories of each movie came to
life as he rendered the stars of the day into a narrative of colorful
squares and dialog balloons.

All the while, he was an assistant artist with Judge Parker, showing
"them" he could draw realistic. That was important to the strip's
writer and creator, Nick Dallis, a former psychiatrist who had earlier
developed Rex Morgan "because he wanted a comic strip that showcased
the miracle of medicine," says Mr. LeDoux.

"By the last week of September 1953," he says like it was yesterday, "I
had the job of drawing Judge Parker for myself."

It's a job that's only gotten better. "Judge Parker has become the best
narrative strip out there," he says of a genre that launched the golden
age of newspaper comics early this century.

Under Mr. LeDoux's pen, Judge Parker has had an illustrious career,
married the beautiful Katherine after seeing her acquitted in his
court, and retired from the court and the action, which is now
dominated by attorney Sam Driver and his heiress wife, Abbey Spencer.

The Dallas Morning News was one of the original papers to carry Judge
Parker, he notes. He is too much a gentleman to mention that when
serial strips became less popular Dallas was one of several markets
that dropped the Judge. The News did so in the 1980s; the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution yanked the strip in 2004. In both cases, fans
besieged the papers and the strips returned.

Mr. LeDoux heaps praise on his current collaborator, Woody Wilson, who
took over the writing when Mr. Dallis retired in 1990.

They've met face-to-face only once; but Mr. Wilson describes their
collaboration as "a dream come true."

Mr. LeDoux says his long-distance partner writes the story line like a
movie script.

"He'll e-mail a story with prompts like: 'We see the scene of a
classroom, and we're approaching Sophie from the right side.' " Mr.
LeDoux taps a finger on his drafting table, where we see Sophie in
strips for the week of April 2, sketched out in pencil, waiting for the
finality of his Gillotte 1290 pen.

But Mr. LeDoux has the freedom to embellish on such directions, and
sometimes he gets involved in the writing, too.

"We got Sophie - this great kid who was taken in by Abbey at Spencer
Farms - all set to go away to art school. And I said to Woody: Why
not have her go to Paris for art school? I would love to draw Paris for
the strip," he says, his eyes gleaming at the memory of a city he first
embraced as a Merchant Marine sailor after World War II.

So now Sophie is off to Paris, but Mr. LeDoux won't be drawing the city
after all.

After more than half a century, Mr. LeDoux decided it's his turn to
call it quits. A new artist is expected to be named shortly.

"My daughters are grown, I've got enough money for my needs, and it's
just time to do something different."

He's going to travel, for instance. First stop: Paris.

He's planning to get there before Sophie does.

E-mail mpeters@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx



10 things you may not know about one of America's longest-running comic
strips, plus a look at early strips and some vintage movie magazines
illustrated by Harold LeDoux.