Herman cartoonist Jim Unger dies

Jim Unger, the Canadian creator of the offbeat comic strip Herman, died Monday in Victoria, B.C. He was 75.

Comic featuring his wry observations began in Ontario

Jim Unger created the Herman comic strip. He died Monday at age 75. (Universal)

Jim Unger, the Canadian creator of the offbeat comic strip Herman, died Monday in Victoria, B.C. He was 75.

According to a statement from his syndication service, he died in his sleep at his home.

Herman, with its wry observations of the world and distinctive drawing style, ran in 600 newspapers in 25 countries and continues in syndication in some U.S. newspapers.

Unger began the strip in the Mississauga Times Newspaper in Mississauga, Ont. He moved to Ottawa and in 1974, the strip was picked up for syndication by Universal Press. It became an international hit.

Unger’s strips featured sagging, plump characters with craggy faces, big noses and sprigs of hair. Its witty captions commented on the way we live now.

The strip was an influence on later comic creators including The Far Side’s Gary Larson and Dilbert’s Scott Adams, according to Universal.

Unger was born in London, U.K., and held jobs as a London bobby, dock worker and repo-man before moving to Canada and beginning his cartooning career.

"Jim was genuinely funny on and off the comic page," long-time friend and fellow cartoonist David Waisglass said in a statement released by Universal. "He loved to share a laugh with just about anyone."

After 20 years of cartooning and more than 6,000 original comics to his credit, Unger retired to the Bahamas in 1992. Waisglass worked with him as Herman comics returned in syndication in 1997. Unger created new material for the strips from his home in the Bahamas.

"It gives me the opportunity to bring them (strips) up to date and to introduce Herman to a new generation," Unger told the Detroit News as the comic was relaunched.

Unger twice won the best syndicated panel award from the U.S. National Cartoonist Society. He also created several collections of Herman comics.

Herman became the first newspaper cartoon syndicated in Communist East Germany in 1990 and also released the book Herman: Over the Wall. He joked that, "Six months later the (Berlin) Wall came down; I think that's what did it."

With Waisglass, he created INTRACA, a company that emails motivational quotes to employees on their computers and creates workplace posters promoting safety and improved production.

"He was not just a business partner, colleague, and friend. He was truly a hilarious man with a sweet caring soul," Waisglass said.

His brother Robert lived with Unger until his death in 2003. Many Herman cartoons also were inspired by Unger’s sister Deborah and her family.

Unger is survived by Deborah and her husband Danny Parker, another sister Shirley Mann in Ottawa and his brother Steve Unger in the U.K.