The Pulitzer Prize-winning and sometimes controversial cartoonist Doug Marlette, who the Washington Post reports recently turned his incisive wit toward a budding career as a novelist, died on Tuesday 10 July in a car accident in Mississippi.
Marlette, who was 57, split his time between Hillsborough and Tulsa, and was visiting Mississippi to help a group of high school students with the musical version of his syndicated comic strip, Kudzu., and had just delivered the eulogy at his father’s funeral Friday in Charlotte, N.C.
Marlette’s editorial cartoons and his comic strip, Kudzu (which has been made into a musical) are syndicated in newspapers worldwide and he won every major US award for editorial cartooning, including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and was the first and only cartoonist ever awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.
His work has appeared in media such as Time and The Washington Post, and he made many TV appearances, as well as writing an ethics column for Esquire and contributing to titles that included The New Republic, The Nation and Salon.com.
He was opinionated and often controversial: residents of Hillborough, the small town west of Raleigh that is home to several well-known writers were annoyed by his first novel, The Bridge, feeling some of the characters were based on them. In 2002, he received death threats for a cartoon he drew in 2002 that depicted a Muslim driving a rental truck with a nuclear weapon on board. Above were the words, “What Would Muhammad Drive?”
Above: Today’s Kudzu, published online by gocomics.
Much of his work has been collected – although, sadly, none recently it appears – including In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work (selected by the American Library Association as one of its Best Books of the Year for Young People as an inspirational work on cartooning for young artists), Faux Bubba: Bill and Hillary Go To Washington, Gone With The Kudzu, Shred This Book: The Scandalous Cartoons of Doug Marlette, I Feel Your Pain, What Would Marlette Drive?, and the brilliantly-titled A Town So Backwards Even the Episcopalians Handle Snakes.
Doug Marlette’s first novel, The Bridge, was published in 2001 and was voted one of the best books of the last five years by BookSense, the American Booksellers Association after release. Paramount Pictures purchased the rights for a film adaptation for Tom Cruise some time ago. His second novel, the critically acclaimed thriller Magic Time, was published earlier this year.
Our sympathies to his friends and family.