The Hubenthal Galleries

Hubenthal Biography

Hubenthal: An Analysis

Hubenthal: In His Own Words

The textual contents of this site remain © 2013 by Bob Staake. The art is © 2013 by Karl and Elsie Hubenthal - All Rights Reserved. No portion of this web site may be used without the consent of the copyright owners.

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Karl Hubenthal

1917 - 1998

Born on May 1, 1917 in Beemer, Nebraska, Karl Hubenthal (known as "Hubie") graduated from Hollywood High School (class of 1935) and Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles.

As a teenage cartoonist, Hubenthal began working with the likes of George Herriman, Will Gould, and the great sports cartoonist, Willard Mullin -- whom he had always considered his "mentor".

During high school in 1934, Hubenthal's track coach introduced him to Mullin, then the sports cartoonist for the Los Angeles Herald Express who would later pen the famous 'Brooklyn Bum' character.

Mullin offered Hubenthal advice and counsel and the pair gradually developed a lifelong friendship. In fact, when speaking of the younger Hubenthal's sports cartoons, Mullin would say that "they look mine on a good day."



Karl Hubenthal (above) - Circa 1937

Hubenthal started his newspaper career in 1935, at the age of 17, in the art department of the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Express. He began drawing a weekly sports cartoon in 1938, and two years later was named Top Sports Cartoonist of the Year at the New York Worlds Fair.

The 1935 Los Angeles Herald-Express art department - with a youthful, wide-eyed Karl Hubenthal (second from the right).

He served in the Marine Corps in World War II and worked after his discharge as a commercial illustrator in New York and Los Angeles. In 1949, he became one of the last people personally hired by William Randolph Hearst, when the legendary publisher persuaded him to return to the newspaper business as sports cartoonist for the Hearst publishing chain. "Old W. R. was also convinced I could become a political cartoonist", recalled Hubenthal.

In 1955, Hubenthal became editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Examiner, and the Hearst chain distributed his political cartoons nationally for the next 33 years. He continued at the Herald-Examiner until his retirement in 1982, sharing editorial cartooning duties during the last few years with Bill Schorr -- ironically, a former "student" of Hubenthal's who was hired by the Herald-Examiner from the Kansas City Star.

    Hubenthal (circa 1966) at the drawing table of his Encino, California studio -- surrounded by awards, photographs, and original cartoon art drawn by his professional peers.

"Hubenthal's cartoons display an amazing command of composition, anatomy and his media," Richard Marschall wrote in The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons. "His work is handsome and easy to look at; Hubenthal can make a hard-hitting point or elicit a chuckle with equal ease."


In a 1982 Herald-Examiner article commemorating his retirement, Hubenthal said "The nice part of what I do is that I get instant responses. I either get panned, or praised, but at least I know what I'm saying is having some effect. When you don't get mail, that's when you should worry."

Hubenthal also claimed that his mail ran about 40% in favor of his work, 60% against. "But that's human nature", he said. "People who generally agree with you are not too moved to write. It's the people who become exasperated with my view who usually write."


Long a fan of Hubenthal's work, President Johnson is presented with an original caricature by the cartoonist in the Oval Office



Hubenthal is remembered for his kindness and generosity. Steve Greenberg, a cartoonist with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, recalled that Hubenthal  "was the first pro to see my fledgling cartoons at the Los Angeles Daily News, and was always willing to offer advice to someone just starting out." To freelance cartoonist Bob Staake, "Hubenthal was like a God to me. He was so kind, so generous with his advice and counsel, and I will always remember with great fondness the times I spent talking cartooning with him in his Encino studio. For a sixteen-year-old kid who wanted to become a professional cartoonist, nothing more firmly sealed that destiny than when I became friends with Karl in 1974."

After his retirement, Hubenthal pursued a successful career in Fine Arts, showing his paintings in galleries in Laguna Beach, California, and in Arizona. His paintings and drawings are in the private collections of eight former U.S. Presidents, as well as various personalities in national politics and sports.

Revered for his sports cartoons, particularly by the Southern California sports community, Hubenthal was honored at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium.  

During his 47-year newspaper career, he received numerous awards, winning seven National Cartoonist Society awards, 25 Freedom Foundation medals, the National Headliners Award, the Helms Foundation medal, and five Pulitzer Prize nominations.

He was the Past President of the Society of Illustrators, Past President of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and Regional Director of the National Cartoonists Society.

When he wasn't working at the drawing board on an editorial or sports cartoon, Hubenthal would turn his attention to the canvas. In retirement, Hubenthal created hundreds of paintings in both oil and watercolor.

His papers and the bulk of his drawings are being maintained in permanent archive collections at the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University and the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Boca Raton, Florida. A terrific designer, Hubenthal also created the ink bottle logo for the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists as well as the internationally-recognized helmet logo for the Minnesota Vikings.

"With political cartoons", Hubenthal once said, "if you inject a little humor, you're better off. You just can't be serious every day. When it comes to sports images, I work with mascots -- Bears, Lions, Rams, etc. I always try to find a visual gimmick to support what I have to say and work around it. The irony is that some of my most intricate drawings got no response at all, but the cartoons I drew at the last minute, or were very simple in their design, got a lot of attention. You just can't figure it."

  The Hubenthal Family in December of 1996 : (Left to right) Kathleen, Elsie, Karen, and Karl

Married for 58 years, Karl Hubenthal is survived by his wife, Elsie, of Laguna Hills, California, daughters Kathleen Ciervo of Malibu, Ca, and Karen Chappell of Iowa City, Iowa, and a brother, John, of San Marcos, Ca.

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Biographical material culled from news accounts, press articles, and Hubenthal's personally-drafted obituary. Archive photographs the property of Elsie Hubenthal. Special thanks to John Hubenthal for digital preparation of images.