The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod               


Jim Unger, Creator of Herman

4 May 2001

   We've seen the characters - craggy faces, balding heads with sprigs of hair, big noses and the tiniest of eyes. Sagging, plump bodies and humour that can tickle almost everyone's funny bone. Hmm... must be a Herman cartoon!

    Jim Unger, the creator of Herman, was born in London, England in 1940. He worked at various occupations before becoming a cartoonist. Holding positions such as a London bobby, a dock-worker and repo-man added to his flair for finding the comedy in everyday life. He began his cartooning career at the Mississauga Times newspaper in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Jim moved to Ottawa, Ontario, where his famous Herman comic sprung to life under the syndication of Universal Press.

    The Herman cartoon panel hit the newspapers in 1974 and was an immediate success. (The cartoon's intended name was "Attila the Bum.") Jim produced over six thousand panels, equalling almost 365 witty comments on the state of the world each year. He continued drawing Herman when he moved from Canada to a beach-front home in the Bahamas in 1982. He decided to retire in 1992 and be done with the high-pressure demands of creating a daily cartoon.

"Herman," Collection 2, by Jim Unger

   During his first 18 years of creating Herman, Jim twice won Best Syndicated Panel from the National Cartoonists Society. Herman appeared in many best-selling books and on varied merchandise. The comic panel was a favourite in more than 600 newspapers with 40 million readers, and in 25 countries.

    Jim Unger's friends encouraged him to give up retirement. He said he would not have suggested it himself, but he liked the idea. On June 02 1997, Herman made a comeback, under the United Media umbrella. "It gives me the opportunity to bring them (strips) up to date and to introduce Herman to a new generation," he said in the May 31/97 edition of the Detroit News. He does not expect to return to full-time cartooning, but will be adding some new material. Jim signed a long-term contract to bring 10 years of classic Herman back to the funny pages.


Jim Unger's "1st Treasury of Herman," 1979


   Jim Unger is a co-founder of INTRACA along with David Waisglass, creator of "Farcus". INTRACA is an intranet feature that uses the humour of popular cartoons and motivational quotes to inform and boost employees with "positive daily business messages" on their computers. Herman characters are also found on workplace posters promoting safety and improved production.

    In 1990, Jim achieved a rewarding place in cartoon history when Herman became the first newspaper cartoon syndicated in Communist East Germany. Shortly afterward, Jim produced a new book, entitled "Herman: Over the Wall." He joked that, "Six months later the (Berlin) Wall came down; I think that's what did it."

Delight your giggle factor with a daily dose of Herman at United Media's GoComics.

Herman posters, safety posters and inspiration cartoons are available for a fee to brighten and bring thoughtful humour to your workplace at Skilven Publications.

Note: Jim Unger passed away on May 30, 2012 at his home in Victoria, B.C. He died in his sleep. A great humourist, artist and inspiration, Jim Unger will be missed.

© Susanna McLeod 2001  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on