Johnny B. Goodrich

A few years before I met the incredible Crawfords, I was already fortunate enough to have certain of my adventures enhanced and illustrated in cartoon form by John Goodrich, a schoolmate at Northwestern University in Evanston.

In the fall of 1978, John and I were cast in what would ultimately become …But is it Art?, the ’79 Mee-Show. John was a precocious, gangly, and quick-witted freshman, the youngest in a cast that included a senior, Winnie Freedman, my fellow juniors Rush Pearson, Dana Olsen and Bill Aiken, plus sophomores Barb Guarino, Althea Haropulos, and the incomparable Larry Shanker on the piano.

It was my second Mee-Ow show, and I was already behaving (insufferably, no doubt) like a sagacious old veteran, so a young newcomer like John was under my microscope. I liked John right away, but I’m sure I was tough on him.

C’mon! The kid was a freshman. He was two years younger than me.

Even now, it’s strange how, among the friends you meet in college, those who were a year or two ahead of you in school still appear far older and more experienced than you – and will for the rest of your life. Likewise, those who were a grade or two behind you always remain much younger in your mind. And somehow this applies even when we’re all in our early 50’s! I may be nearing 52, but that nearly 50-year old guy who was a freshman when I was a junior still seems much younger than me.

John made unique contributions to …But is it Art? In addition to his role as “The Incredible Dork” and his all-important portrayal of an unsuspecting young man who slips on a banana peel – John drew the poster for the show, created flyers and ads for us — and also began to turn his funny friends into cartoons. As a frustrated cartoonist myself, I was very impressed that John was the real deal.

Click on image to enlarge and read the jokes...

During my senior year in 1980, John and Dana Olsen got together and created a comic strip called “No Dumping” which appeared in The Daily Northwestern. The strip portrayed the adventures of four brain-addled 20-something slackers. Man, I thought that was cool. But then John did something even cooler: he turned us all into cartoon superheroes.

The title of the 1980 Mee-Ow Show was Ten Against The Empire. We were doubtless inspired by the second Stars Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, which was being heavily promoted at the time, and set to be released in May, three months after our 3-week February run.

John launched our own promo efforts into a whole new galaxy by drawing a series of comic strip advertisements that ran in The Daily Northwestern during the week leading up to the show’s opening.

That's John on the far left, me with the beard, Julia, Rush & Judy. Back from from left: Mike, Kenny, Dana & Rod.

In the promotional strips, John transformed the cast of Ten Against the Empire — 
John, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rod McLachlan, Mike Markowitz, Kenny Marks, Dana Olsen, Rush Pearson, 
Judy Pruitt and 
piano virtuoso Larry Shanker – into a team of oddball heroes battling a humorless super-villain.

My own character’s name was Infra Death. You can tell how cool I thought all this was by the fact that I saved all 6 comics in the series. (The rest of them are posted at the end of this article.)

Even before he graduated from NU, John became very involved with the Practical Theatre Company as an actor and artist. He performed in our first production of Subnormal and our first improvisational comedy revue, Bag O’ Fun. He also did great graphic work for our third improv comedy show, Scubba Hey (’81) and a silly Shakespearean send-up I wrote called, Song of the Snells (’82).

John would contribute to many more PTC projects between ’82 and ’84, both onstage and with his brilliant pencils in hand. I’ll save some of those details for the next two installments of my PTC history – but for The Merry Guys Who Windsurf, the comedy revue we staged at The Gooodman Theatre Studio in the summer of 1984, John not only performed – but he once again turned his fellow cast members into cartoons.

John’s still doing his cartoon thing, only now he’s a pro. He’s got his own company, which you can check out by clicking here. He specializes in custom cartoon graphics, graphic design and desktop publishing services.

Check out this funny blog post I found, written by one of John’s satisfied customers.

A few years ago, John and I teamed up on a cartoon series I was trying to sell to — where else – Cartoon Network. Superhero Haven was about a rehab center and halfway house for troubled superheroes.

We didn’t sell the show (Alas, Drawn Together beat us to the marketplace.) But it was great fun to work with John again – and he really brought a lot of great characters to life.

Since then, it’s always a pleasure to get John’s annual Groundhog Day card. For one thing, it’s fun to see how John’s going to work the cartoon groundhog into the photo. And, of course, it’s great to see his lovely family grow lovelier each year. It looks like John has done really, really well in the family business.

The last bit of art John drew for one of the PTC family was the announcement he did for Tom “Wolf” Larson’s big Twin Cities performing arts center opening last year. Of course, Wolf recently left the snowy tundra for the sunny climes of Spain. But before he left, Wolf got the chance to have John Goodrich turn him into a cartoon hero, too.

This is Infra Death, signing off!


Filed under Art, History

9 responses to “Johnny B. Goodrich

  1. Wow. THAT takes me back. Your archives are amazing. I can’t tell you how much stuff I’ve lost moving from city to city. John rocks, and those old Daily NU cartoons…it’s true – lived through the 70’s, barely remember ’em. Thanks for reactivating my damaged brain cells.

  2. MarkMarty

    For all that is good and right, Paul, about this tribute to the Janner…Wot’s this? no exampling of a Goodrichian Mud Hens trading card would fit into this graphic Pantheon?! Ye gods, man. You torture us with the teasingness of it all. In those mini-masterpieces, like unto the so-reliable superhero patina that he lent his fortunate Mee-Ow models, he also had the flattering knack of giving every dude a set of guns he never had a hope of achieving and the same can be said for the ladies and their anatomical attributes. And we would all swoon while complimenting him. Overall, the most flattering attention that can be payed is if John draws you. He made a show poster of me as Mowgli in “The Jungle Book” as a gift that I carried around as my resume for a little while in the 80s.

  3. Mr. Barrosse:
    Your blog debuted with such verve and promise, to be so desperate for material already is… just sad.

    Damn flattered, really — collaborating with you back in the day and a bit recently is always a great pleasure. But screw InfraDeath — that stuff, like me, has not aged well — I’m inspired to create your new, more true comic book persona — be he hero or villain? Lurking behind looming boxes of ancient paper — THE ARCHIVIST!

    But. Honest to God. I wince and roil. Where is your sense of timing and scale? To follow Ron Crawford?!? Oy. I never forgot an art teacher back in school coldly intoning that a cartoonist is merely a lazy artist. Ron’s brilliant and prolific artistic output repudiates that haughty nonsense, living proof that cartoons can indeed be Art.

    I’m just a lazy cartoonist.

  4. First, to Sally I can only say that, having lugged all these boxes from state to state and house to house — I’m delighted to finally have come up with a way to keep three decades of lugging from being wasted.

    Secondly, of Marty I demand — send me an example of these heroic 16″ softball cards and I will post one post-haste!

    And to Johnny B Goodrich, I await your portrait of “The Archivist”. Simply take Infra Death, add 25 pounds, take away some hair, and, by all means, add more bulge to my guns.
    Why not?

  5. emiliab9291

    Your new blog posts are literally the highlight of my day. LOVE THE PICS

  6. Thanks, John, for the fabulous Mud Hens baseball cards. No doubt, they will make an appearance on this blog in the near future. I’ve got some other cool Mud Hens photos and stuff to go with them. Start of spring raining perhaps? Opening day? Stay tuned…

  7. li'l rushy

    All Hail The Archivist!
    (which when I look at your name in my dyslexic manner looks like The Antichrist, coincidence?)

  8. Ross

    I would love to see them mud hen cards. I found mine a little while ago and left them out, thinking I would bring them in to work or something, then my four year old ripped mine into little pieces. hmm?

    • Hi, Ross! I’m planning something special with the Mud Hen cards — probably for MLB Opening Day. (Or maybe earlier.) I’ve got some very, very ancient Mud Hens photos to accompany Johnny’s cards.

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