If a burping car doesn't get the attention of readers, nothing will. This Roy Hearn Plain Dealer cartoon appeared August 24, 1975, for a column by the paper's columnist George Condon. It concerned a man who bragged often about the high mileage. Tiring of it a neighbor would siphon the gas at night and replace it days later, thus confusing the braggart and his MPG calculations to the point he stopped bragging.

by Ed Black

Roy Hearn. Now there's a name that isn't up in lights with the Milton Caniffs, the Charles Schulzes, the Walt Kellys and the Garry Trudeaus. In fact, although his name is on the roster of Ohio cartoonists at the Cartoon Research Library at Ohio State University, he is largely unknown or forgotten. And that's a shame. Roy Hearn was one hell of a cartoonist. His following was not the syndicated audiences across the country, but confined to the newspaper readers in northeastern Ohio, those who read the Canton Repository and, later, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Roy Hearn's heyday was in the pre-computer era. The tools of the trade then were pen, brush, ink, Stabillo pencil (for shading), two-ply Bristol board, Coquille board (it had a rough surface cartoonists of old referred to as "having tooth."), and Craftint, a paper with two patterns imbedded in it brought out by the application of bottled chemicals which came with it. Roy Crane used Craftint in his syndicated strip "Buz Sawyer," as did "the usual gang of idiots" at Mad magazine.

From the early 'teens to the 1970s newspapers employed staff cartoonists to make the pages of the newspapers more interesting and arresting. Their cartoons were used to grab the attention of the readers for stories and columns.

Staff cartoonists had to be versatile. They'd be assigned to draw a cartoon of a burping anthropomorphic car one hour and a portrait of a prominent local or national personage the next. Roy Hearn could do all of that -- and with ease.

Roy was a man of few words. He smoked a pipe while he worked and always wore a green eyeshade like the newspapermen of old. The Plain Dealer editorial art department was at the north end of the bustling city room on the third floor of the building at Superior Ave. and E. 18th St. Roy shared a windowless office down the north hall with the paper's sports cartoonist Dick Dugan, an arrangement which lasted eight-years.

The now-retired Dugan, 78, who retired in 2000 after 38 years at the paper, remembers Roy well.

"He was great," Dugan said. "He was excellent at doing caricatures, leaning toward design and humor. He did them fast and was good with a brush. He seldom used a pen. I did caricatures, too, mostly of sports figures, but I couldn't do caricatures like he did. I admired how he used that brush and did the designs."

He admits Roy was reticent. "Roy never volunteered anything," Dugan said. "You had to pull it out of him. We used to talk of possibly submitting stuff to the syndicates, but I don't know if he did; he never said. I don't know if he free-lanced either. I and some of the other artists at the paper had studios in our homes and would do free-lance assignments after work. I don't know if Roy ever did. He never said."

Even though Roy Hearn officed with the paper's sports cartoonist, he wasn't interested in sports. His interests were bowling, fishing and the theater.




Roy Hearn was born in Scio, Ohio, northwest of Steubenville, May 17, 1928. Roy and his peers had three choices after high school: join a strip mining outfit, go to the mines nearby and dig coal deep in the earth or head for Steubenville for a job in the steel mills. Roy had his own plans. After high school he enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he spent six years. It's not known when the cartoon bug bit. High school? The Navy? Attempts to contact his widow and two adult children have been unsuccessful.

He apparently was interested in cartooning when he mustered out of the Navy in 1953 because he enrolled in the now-defunct Cooper School of Art in Cleveland. Its three-year course was taught by local commercial artists and cartoonists.

After graduating, Roy took a job at the Canton Repository. He was at the paper several months before his artwork was featured. His first assignment was to illustrate the Sunday feature, "People You Should Know," a column highlighting the careers of prominent Canton residents. Then some unsung hero-on the sports desk thought up a Sunday sports feature where the young Hearn's cartooning and designing ability first began to shine. Called, "My Big Thrills," it featured the highlights of the careers of Canton area high school football and basketball coaches.

On March 17, 1956, 27-year-old Roy Hearn married 20-year-old Betty Sue Wentling, a secretary. Two children were later born: Bryan in 1961 and Connie in 1968.

Roy left the paper in 1959 to work as a staff artist at the Canton Engraving Co. In 1960, he re-entered the newspaper world by joining the Plain Dealer on June 27th. His first cartoon did not appear until August 7, 1960. He moved his family to Lakewood, a city west of and adjacent to Cleveland.

There was no looking back. Day after day, week after week, the Plain Dealer was chock full of Roy's spot cartoons.

In 1971, he reluctantly joined the Plain Dealer speakers' bureau, and he came to enjoy it because he didn't have to speak. He would draw caricatures of those who attended events around town. His reputation grew and he would be invited to as many as twelve doings each month.

Dugan added both he and Roy smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes in that windowless room. "I quit later, but Roy didn't, he said.

Then the fates turned on him. First, his house was heavily damaged by fire in the early summer of 1976. Then he went to his doctor complaining of consistent coughing. His doctor put him in Lakewood Hospital for further tests on August 4th. On August 12th, they gave him the grim-news: he had cancer and six months to live. That prediction was optimistic. Just after dawn on August 17, 1976, Roy Hearn died. He was 48.

Ironically, at the time of his death he was at the top of his form. He had developed a more contemporary style with thicker lines from that reknowned brush. He would have had many more productive years at the Plain Dealer had he remained healthy.

Today he would have been 76 and most likely retired. The Plain Dealer hasn't skipped a beat. Computers replaced Coquille board long ago. The old building was razed in the late 1990s and a new state-of-the art multimillion dollar structure was built on the same site. The paper has consistently won statewide competitions for its computerized graphics.

Roy Hearn was tops in his day. Perhaps Dick Dugan said it best: ''He loved being a cartoonist. You could tell by looking at his work. He didn't have to say anything."

   Roy Hearn (1928-1976), top cartoonist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1960 to 1976 as drawn by his colleague Dick Dugan. The drawing was for hearn's obituary which ran in the Plain Dealer August 18, 1976. Hearn did some spectacular cartoon work for the paper in the days when pen, brush, ink and Bristol board, Coquille board and Craftint were the tools of the trade.