Something Funny Happening Downtown at The Box Gallery

Doonesbury was the first comic to be signed by Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel in 1970.

By Kevin Collison

A “funny” and memorable show has opened at The Box Gallery downtown, a colorful look at Andrews McMeel Universal and its influence on our national popular culture since its founding here in 1970.

“The Art of the Comics” displays how Andrews McMeel, a national syndication, publishing and entertainment firm based at 1130 Walnut, has introduced such funny-page superstars as Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Ziggy, The Far Side and Cathy to millions of fans.

“Andrews McMeel is a humble company,” said Susan Johnson, chief people and communications officer at the firm. “We want to use opportunities like the Box Gallery to remind our friends and family in Kansas City what’s in their hometown.”

The show, which runs through May 25, came to Gallery located in the Commerce Bank Building arcade after an invitation by Jonathan Kemper, CEO of Commerce Bank, Kansas City, to Hugh Andrews, vice chairman of Andrews McMeel.

Calvin and Hobbes is one of many comics introduced to our popular culture by Andrews McMeel Universal.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that having Andrews McMeel downtown is one our greatest coups,” Kemper said, a reception opening the exhibit last week. “We love what you’ve done with the Boley Building.”

Andrews McMeel relocated to the historic Boley Clothing Building after a major renovation project in 2008.

The building, which was completed in 1909, is a downtown landmark. It was designed by Louis S. Curtiss and was one of the first, glass curtain-wall structures in the world.

The syndicate has had its own impact on the world through its groundbreaking comics like Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. It originally ran from 1985 to 1995 and appeared in 2,400 newspapers globally at its peak.

Andrews McMeel launched Calvin and Hobbes after another syndicate rejected it.

FoxTrot, another AMU comic, is the creation of Kansas City-based cartoonist Bill Amend.

The firm was founded as Universal Press Syndicated in 1970 by Jim Andrews, who died in 1980, and John McMeel. All of its operations were combined under the Andrews McMeel Universal banner in 1997.

The partners discovered a huge hit from the start when they signed a young cartoonist who’d just graduated from Yale University, Garry Trudeau.

His Doonesbury was launched in 1970 and remains a major part of the Andrews McMeel lineup as well as a lasting force in pop culture and politics. In 1975, Trudeau became the first comic writer to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Andrews McMeel has evolved with the changing times. It now describes itself as operating “as a single powerful media organization designed to help you reach massive audiences through integrated print, online and mobile products,” according to its website.

But it’s creative heart remains rooted in the comics on display at The Box Gallery. The Gallery is located at 1000 Walnut St., Suite 211. Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visitors at the opening last week of “The Art of Comics” at The Box Gallery.

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