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"which drew good humour" [VALL]

Norm Schatell's opus magnum on Sherlock Holmes cartoons

Humorists have been taking stabs at Sherlock Holmes since about the same time as Doyle started writing his detective stories.  The first parody was probably anonymously penned by J.M.Barrie in 1891.  Since then, authors and artists have had a grand time making the great detective a bumbling fool or the butt end of a joke.  One of the most talented Holmes comedians was Norman Schatell, BSI ("Jonathan Small"), a cartoonist whose Holmes parodies were published in Sherlockian publications during the 1970s, such as The Baker Street Journal and The Sherlock Holmes Journal. Schatell had a knack for creating jokes that only lovers of the original canon could get, such as having a doctor complain that Watson's delirious because he can't decide if his injury is in his arm or his leg.

Fortunately for those who enjoy a dose of humor with their Holmes, all of Norm Schatell's Sherlockian  pieces have been collected by his son, Glenn, in the book The Lighter Side of Sherlock Holmes.  I had the opportunity to interview Glenn Schatell via e-mail and discover what drove his dad to make funny drawings of the world's greatest detective.

IHOSE: Your father is one of the best known Holmes humor cartoonists.  What inspired him to combine the detective with cartoons?

Glenn Schatell:  My father loved mystery books, especially English ones.  At the very beginning of Jon Lellenberg's introduction to the book, Jon mentions that when my Dad was 17, and still in high school, he asked the famous Sherlockian, Howard Haycraft, about someday becoming a Baker Street Irregular.  Eventually, my Dad's dream came true!

My father had a great sense of humor.  I've been told that my Dad's father, my Grandpa Nat, used to draw cartoons for my Dad when he was a child.  Grandpa Nat, who was a senior Internal Revenue Agent, and a local Union City, New Jersey, politician, was renowned for his sense of humor and often was asked by civic organizations to do humorous toasts.

My Dad was primarily a teacher.  He taught art at Union Hill High School in Union City for 25 years.  He also taught adults and children.  What he mainly taught students was "creativity".  My Dad really enjoyed drawing cartoons although he also did absolutely terrific realistic paintings,watercolors, abstract artwork, pen and ink drawings, murals, sculpture, and greeting cards.  However, he basically gave all of his artwork away for free, to his friends and relatives, and especially to his Sherlockian friends.

IHOSE:  How did you decide to organize this book?

GS: My wife, Gail Tavlin Schatell, was a great help in organizing the book.  We decided to begin the book with more precise cartoons my father did for Sherlock Holmes magazines, such as The Baker Street Journal.  Following that section is a series of cartoons that were originally drawn on legal-sized paper.  At the bottom of each page my father provides detailed information about where in the stories he found the idea for the cartoon.  The following section is what I call "rough sketches". These are "quick drawings" done primarily in pencil.  Following that section are 5 pages with a total of 60 cartoons (12 per page), which my father gave out as a Christmas gift to attendees at a Baker Street Irregulars dinner in the late 1970s.

Sections that follow include three "Sherlock Holmes through Literature" cartoons, the Arts and Crafts Sherlock Holmes (my father used to teach arts and crafts to children), and a section with photographs (including photographs of Sherlockian sculpture my father did, a picture of my Dad and his friend Irving Kamil, and prizes he did for Mrs. Hudson's Cliffdwellers meetings, the scion he helped found). Next is a series of illustrations he drew in a Pablo Picasso style, drawings he did for various Sherlockian events, and Sherlockian stationery, including stationery (one-page) he drew for The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes.

The next main section my father called "The Anthropological Holmes", a series of humorous illustrations he drew about Sherlock Holmes in different cultures from around the world.  It is followed by a serious of envelopes he illustrated with cartoons on the cover, which he sent to some of his friends, including John Bennett Shaw and Peter Blau.   (Peter is the Sherlockian who told me about MX Publishing.  He also runs "The Red Circle", the Washington, D.C. area scion, to which I belong).  On the book's last page, I decided to include a photograph of my father's Baker Street Irregulars investiture award.  He was given the name "Jonathan Small".  This was meant as a joke.  My Dad was almost 6 feet, 4 inches tall.

IHOSE:  Who were your father's main artistic influences?

GS: I previously mentioned that my Grandpa Nat liked to draw cartoons for my Dad.  His mother, my Grandma Eva, was also interested in art.  My father studied art at New York University, and received a master's degree in art education from Hunter College in New York City.  He always enjoyed going to school.  He would go to many museum shows in Manhattan, and visited countless art galleries.  He would often talk to many of the artists he met at art gallery shows.  My father was familiar with practically every well-known artist, and was especially fond of Pablo Picasso.

IHOSE:  Are you planning any more collections of your father's artwork?

GS: I am not planning on any more collections of my father's Sherlock Holmes artwork.  I included every Sherlock Holmes cartoon and humorous illustration I could find in this book.  However, when I have time, I would love to try to have a museum show of my Dad's non-Sherlockian artwork, which is of museum quality.

IHOSE:  Is there any additional information you'd like our readers to know?

GS: I donated my half of my father's Sherlock Holmes artwork, which my mother, Diana Schatell, gave me, to The University of Minnesota Library several years ago.  (My sister, Amy (Shea) Schatell decided to keep her half of the artwork for our family; however, I gave photocopies of what she kept to the Library.)  Julie McKuras, the editor of the Library's Sherlockian newsletter The Friends of The Sherlock Holmes Collections, intends to write an article about the book in the June 2015 edition.  The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes is now selling the book at its gift shop.  This travelling exhibition is currently at The Perot Museum in Dallas, Texas. Over the last few years, Steven Rothman, the editor of The Baker Street Journal, has been printing my Dad's cartoons in this quarterly publication.

My father wasn't just the leading Sherlock Holmes artist of the 1970s.  He was also a major collector of Sherlockian material.  He collected everything he could find about Sherlock Holmes, such as movie posters, radio scripts, Sherlock Holmes games and toys, and every edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles he could find (including foreign versions).  I couldn't possibly mention all the types of collectibles he acquired in this e-mail.  He also bought original copies of the Strand Magazine, and purchased a series of letters that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette exchanged when the actor was writing the play "Sherlock Holmes".  My mother gave some of the material my father collected to The University of Minnesota Library, but sold the letters, and many of the Sherlockian books my Dad bought, to a Japanese collector.

My father also drew about 300 cartoons when he was in the United States Navy during World War II. They are mainly about Navy life in Australia, the Philippines, and Hawaii.  They're very funny!  I donated them to The Library of Congress (Veterans History Project) a number of years ago.  You can see a sample on-line.

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In the early 1950s, my father briefly worked on "The Popeye" television series.  He also illustrated a very funny book called "How to Curse in Yiddish".   Quite a few of my Dad's cartoons were printed as greeting cards by "The Murder Ink" book store in Manhattan.  I would like to re-issue them some day.

My father would have been happy knowing that a new generation of readers is enjoying the artwork in his book.

For more about Norman Schatell and his artwork, see The Lighter Side of Sherlock Holmes on Tumblr.