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Murray Harris; Illustrator, Comic Art Collector

Surrounded by drawings of Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Krazy Kat and Prince Valiant, retired illustrator and comic art collector Murray Harris died Friday at his home in Simi Valley after suffering a heart attack a month earlier. He was 87.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Monica Daniels of Simi Valley, a close friend. “We’d go to swap meets every Sunday and he’d look for any kind of cartoon or art or book from Walt Disney--that was just the passion inside him.”

An exhibit of his pen-and-ink portraits of the U.S. presidents is on display now at the Historical Museum of Texas.

Harris began drawing at age 5 by copying Mutt and Jeff from the Sunday funnies.

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He later studied fine-art techniques of painting and illustration at the Massachusetts School of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art and Harvard University before going to work full time illustrating newspaper stories, whiskey labels and drugstore ads.

But his collection of original comic art was one of his prized possessions, begun at age 16 when he mailed a blank, prepaid penny postcard to artist L.S. Segar asking for a sample drawing.

To Harris’ delight, the card returned a few weeks later inscribed with Castor Oyl and Nana Oyl. They were the brothers of a character whom Segar would later create--Olive Oyl.

Soon, penny postcards came back to Harris populated by Blondie, Brenda Starr, Snoopy and the Wizard of Id--a collection that Daniels says Harris wanted donated to a comics museum.

“I knew I’d get a personal response” from the artists, Harris said years later of his collection of hundreds of drawings. “But I didn’t expect they’d put the time and effort into it the way they have.”

Funeral services are planned for 2 p.m. Thursday at Glen Haven Memorial Park and Mortuary in Sylmar. Call (818) 899-5211 for information.


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