Out this summer from author Leif Peng, with Ana-Marina Vlahovic, is The Art of the Real Tom Sawyer, focusing on the life and work of an artist who was a huge influence on Batman artist Neal Adams, among many others.
Bestselling novelist/author, screenwriter, playwright, former illustrator, Tom Sawyer (also known as Tom Scheuer, or Thomas B. Scheuer, his original name, pronounced “Shoy-yer”), began drawing gag cartoons for a baking industry trade journal aged just 11, and freelanced on several American romance comics in the 1950s, mainly on titles such as Marvel’s My Own Romance, and Mary Perkins On Stage, and drew an advertising strip “Chip Martin, College Reporter”, for Boy’s Life magazine.
He also ghosted on several newspaper strips as Flash Gordon, On Stage, The Heart of Juliet Jones, and Li’l Abner, and worked extensively in the advertising field, working at Johnson and Cushing, and Neal Adams became his young successor, with some overlap).
If you’re finding this influential artist hard to track down online, Leif explains that although Tom introduced himself as “Scheuer” to clients, people kept hearing “Sawyer” when he would introduce himself. So, out of exasperation, he legally changed it.
“He also guessed (correctly) that, back in those days, a good ol’ Anglo Saxon name would make his Madison Avenue ad agency clients more accepting of him.”
“Tom abandoned his illustration career at the height of his ability, moved to Hollywood and became a screenwriter,” Leif notes, who has previously documented Sawyer’s art career on the Today’s Inspiration blog.
“The last and longest phase of his career was drawing ‘clip art’ for a company called Harry Volk Jr. Studios. Tom did hundreds and hundreds of illustrations of all manner of people and situations, which publishers could literally clip. out of little booklets and paste down in their ads, magazines, books, flyers, newsletters – you name it. And that work, by its very nature, had to be unsigned. So for the vast majority of Tom’s career, despite his artwork being everywhere, he was working anonymously.”
Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, Leif Peng is a cartoonist, illustrator and teacher, who has always enjoyed exploring many styles and techniques. He’s also spent quite a bit of time over the last few years researching and writing about illustrators and cartoonists of the mid-20th century. You can find the results of those efforts at the indispensable Today’s Inspiration.
The Art of the Real Tom Sawyer will be published under Leif’s own Today’s Inspiration Press imprint, an extension of Leif’s “Today’s Inspiration”, which began as a mailing list of just 10 friends, grew into a blog of over 3000 readers, and evolved into a Facebook group of over 12,000 members, all of whom share a passion and appreciation for illustration in the mid 20th century.
The team successfully published The Art of Will Davies in 2019 with great success through Kickstarter, and Today’s Inspiration Press was born, leading to a second release last year, Ken Dallison – A Life in Illustration.
These previous two books had very limited runs based on fulfilment only, and are now completely sold out, with no plans for a second printing. The Art of the Real Tom Sawyer will be published traditionally and available to pre-order, with Peng telling downthetubes his aim is to complete design work, which is proceeding apace, by the end of June, with publication over the summer.
As Leif notes, Tom Sawyer moved into television writing and production, and went on to become the showrunner and head writer for the 1990s Murder She Wrote CBS TV series.
Edgar and Emmy-nominated, Tom has sold then written nine TV series pilots, 100 episodes – both comedy and drama. He has been Showrunner/Head Writer or Producer/Story Editor on 15 network TV series.
As well as being a mystery writer, Tom (writing as Thomas B. Sawyer) has also written his own, well-received memoir, The Adventures of the Real Tom Sawyer, and its companion book, 9 Badass Secrets for Putting Yourself in Luck’s Way.
Cross Purposes, Tom’s mystery/thriller novel was released in 2014, the first in a series about Barney Moon, a born and bred New York P.I. with attitude who doesn’t drive and is stuck in L.A. – a place he definitely doesn’t get. His novels also include The Sixteenth Man, the bestselling conspiracy thriller about the JFK assassination, and No Place to Run, which deals with the conspiracy behind 9/11.
As well as writing, directing and independently producing the feature film comedy, Alice Goodbody, his documentary, Reunion, was honoured by the New York Film Festival, the Rochester and Edinburgh Festivals, and received national theatrical release.
Tom is co-librettist/lyricist of Jack, a Musical Drama about John F. Kennedy, that has been performed to acclaim in the US and Europe; and also offers one-on-one consulting on screenplays and teleplays, providing detailed comment, analysis and alternate suggestions.