Mel Crawford, Little Golden Books Illustrator, RIP

Mel Crawford, ca. early-1960s.

Mel Crawford, ca. early-1960s.

Mel Crawford died peacefully on Monday, February 23, at the age of 89. He passed away at Valerie Manor in Torrington, Connecticut, and had lived in nearby Washington, Connecticut. Crawford spent decades drawing the world’s most famous cartoon characters, but he didn’t do it at any animation studio. A painter and illustrator, he drew hundreds of comics and illustrated books (especially Little Golden Books) featuring characters like the Flintstones, Scrooge McDuck, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Gerald McBoing Boing.

The Canadian artist was born on September 10, 1925 in Toronto, Canada, and spent his childhood in various provinces of Canada, including Alberta, as well as in Oklahoma. Mel began drawing professionally at the age of 16 when he illustrated the feature “The Three T’s” in Bell Features Publications’ Joke Comics. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, and afterward attended Ontario College of Art. Following his schooling, he moved permanently to the United States.

Crawford drew his first professional work, "The Three T's," when he was sixteen years old. (Image via Today's Inspiration)

Crawford drew his first professional work, “The Three T’s,” when he was sixteen years old. (Image via Comic Book Daily)

In the late-1940s he began working regularly on licensed projects for animation studios through Western Publishing, and its subsidiaries like Whitman Publishing. A versatile artist who was equally comfortable working in both cartoonish and realistic styles, Mel drew and painted not only cartoon characters, but pop culture icons as diverse as Rootie Kazootie, Buck Rogers, Raggedy Ann & Andy, Roy Rogers, Howdy Doody, Rin Tin Tin, Smokey Bear, and Tarzan. A sampling of his work can be seen on the Golden Gems blog.

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Crawford is survived by his wife, Virginia; three sons, Gregory of Gaysville, VT; Neil of Southfield, MA and Lindsey Crawford of Sheffield, MA; a daughter Anne Crawford of Litchfield, CT; stepson Trevor Reynolds of Farmington, CT; a stepdaughter Heather Feinsinger of Simsbury, CT, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

A more comprehensive biography of his life can be found at Comic Book Daily.

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  • Mark

    Wow, I loved this man’s work. GREAT style, especially the background painting. I had that Flintstones book with the large dino as child. I found out years later that Mel had to produce this before the show’s debut. Nice work!
    R.I.P. to a great artist.

  • James Madison

    Great Illustrator. RIP

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    Thank you for the thoughtful well researched article and not a rushed obit. Never knew he was Canadian!

  • Bobby

    R.I.P. to a very inspirational artist.. John K. summed his work up nicely http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2008/12/can-angular-styles-be-staged-and.html

  • http://skitstudios.deviantart.com/ SkitsO.

    Unfortunate. But I think what’s more unfortunate is half of us weren’t even aware he was still alive. At least he lived well, and slept well. The colors of Mel Crawford will always brighten our days, past, present, and future. R.I.P.

  • Paul M

    Marvellous work, just realized I have admired this fellows’s skills most of my life but never knew who he was ’till now.

  • ardro2

    He lived so close to me. And I had no idea. I would have loved to meet him. Being an Illustrator myself, I would’ve loved talking shop and laughing with him. Heartbreaking.

  • MagcargoMan

    I used to have plenty of Little Golden Books as a child. R.I.P to a great artist.