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Joseph Messerli, 1930-2010
posted June 30, 2010


Joseph Hugh Messerli, a prolific cartoonist who worked a number of high-profile assistant and ghost jobs in addition to primary credit work on a variety of humors features, passed away on June 23. He was 79 years old. It is believe that cause of death may have been complications from cancer.

Messerli was born in Kingsville, Texas, a military town southwest of Corpus Christi. His first work in comics came as an assistant to fellow Texan and notorious, serial employer of talented artistic assistants Charlie Plumb on the sturdy Ella Cinders in the last couple of years of Plumb's collaboration with the writer Bill Conselman. Messerli served in the US Army in Korea from 1950 to 1952, then attend Los Angeles' Chouinard Art Institute -- a school with perhaps the broadest range of comics-related alumni operating in North America -- on the GI Bill. While at Chouinard he took on his first ghosting assignment, on Napoleon and Uncle Elby, this time for another Ella Cinders alum, Roger Armstrong (the strip's creator had died in 1950).

Over the next several years, Messerli worked on a number of high-quality assignments, some in his name, some assisting other artists. Highlights included assistant work for Al Wiseman on Dennis The Menace comic books in the mid-1950s, inking and lettering work in support of Gene Hazelton's fine Flintstones comics in the 1960s (he also worked on Yogi Bear), and a bunch of comics for Western that were either published in the 1970s and early 1980s or inventoried from past assignments and re-run through that time: Baby Snoots, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pink Panther, and Yosemite Sam among them. He also did a smattering of work for Marvel's book and children's comics lines.

A concurrent career in television and animation from 1957 to about 1973 brought Messerli his most famous credit: designing the logo for the television show Twilight Zone. Other TV shows that benefited from his contributions of art were The Tonight Show and Bonanza.

Visitation will be held on Friday, with a funeral mass scheduled for Saturday. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn. Past articles about Messerli mention sons.