Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoonist To Be Featured Speaker at Cartoonist Society Meeting in St. Petersburg

Orlando, Fla. (Sept. 28, 2006) – The illustrator of the world’s longest running daily cartoon strip, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! will be the featured speaker when the Florida Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society gather for its annual conference for the first time in St. Petersburg, Fla., Oct. 6-8 at the Bayfront Hilton. Graziano is set to speak following the Saturday night reception and dinner. The conference is for society members only.

 John Graziano is Only the 4th Ripley Cartoonist to Draw the Daily Strip Since Robert Ripley Laid Down His Pen in 1949

John Graziano took over the drawing boards in 2004, becoming only the fifth, including Robert Ripley himself, to pen the historic daily cartoon. It proved to be a tough job for Graziano to acquire.

 In fact, it took Graziano 25 years to land the job. For years, he studied Ripley’s Believe it or Not cartoons in his daily newspaper and in 1979, at the age of 15, Graziano heard a search was underway for a new cartoonist.  He was turned down with a polite, “no” but continued drawing, first as a student at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art and later as a freelance artist.  His passion for Ripley cartoons never changed. Graziano continued to study Ripley’s cartoons and the company and eventually, made it to Florida where Ripley Entertainment is based.  In early 2004, Graziano heard another search was underway for a new cartoonist. With an application dated 25 years after the original, Graziano sent off samples of his work and finally landed the job. Believe It or Not!

It was on a slow day in December 1918, while working as a sports illustrator for the New York Globe, that Robert Ripley created his first collection of odd facts and feats. The sketches, based on unusual athletic achievements, were initially entitled “Champs & Chumps,” but after much deliberation, Ripley changed the title to Believe It or Not!  It soon became a super popular cartoon in newspapers across the world.

At its peak, the feature was carried in more than 360 newspapers and was translated into 17 different languages. The cartoon, now distributed by United Features Syndicate, is still seen daily in nearly 200 newspapers in 42 different countries.  Ripley published his first volume of Believe It or Not! cartoons in 1929. The book, published by Simon & Schuster, and was an immediate hit. Today, if every Believe It or Not! book ever printed was stacked one upon another, the pile would be nearly 300 times taller than New York City’s 1,454-foot tall Empire State Building. In August 2006, the company published Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Expect the Unexpected, the most successful book of Believe It or Not! facts printed to date.

Other Florida-based cartoonists attending this year’s conference include:

 Chris Browne, son of Hagar the Horrible creator, Dik Browne.  Chris works on Hagar the Horrible and is also the creator of the syndicated comic strip, Raising Duncan.

 Tom Armstrong, creator of the syndicated comic strip, Marvin.

 Dana Summers, editorial cartoonist for the Orlando Sentinel, also has two syndicated comic strips, The Middletons and Bound & Gagged.

 Jeff Parker, editorial cartoonist for Florida Today.

 Bruce Beattie, editorial cartoonist for the Daytona Beach News Journal.

 Don Perlin, retired art director for Marvel Comics, his artwork credits include the comic series Werewolf By Night, Ghostrider, Captain America, Defenders, Transformers and Scooby Doo

 About Ripley Entertainment

Ripley Entertainment, Inc. (www.ripleys.com) is a leading global attractions company with annual attendance of more than 12 million guests. In addition to its 50-plus attractions, the Orlando-based company has publishing and broadcast divisions that oversee projects including the global syndicated Believe it or Not! television show, best selling books, and the popular syndicated comic strip. Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.

To set up an interview with the affable John Graziano or to learn more about Ripley Entertainment, contact: Tim O’Brien, VP Publishing & Communications, Ripley Entertainment at (615) 646-7465 or Obrien@ripleys.com

For more information on the conference or the National Cartoonist Society, contact Florida Chapter President Mike Osbun at (352) 242 – 1321 or OSBUN@LCIA.COM

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