'John Q' honors life of longtime Oklahoman cartoonist Jim Lange

Jim Lange, who drew political cartoons for The Oklahoman for 58 years, is the subject of “John Q,” a book written by his son, Robert Lange.
by Ken Raymond Published: September 29, 2013

A new book celebrates the life and work of Jim Lange, the political cartoonist who worked for The Oklahoman for about 58 years.

“John Q: The Life and Times of Jim Lange” is a self-published book by the cartoonist's son, Robert Lange, the youngest of four children born to Jim and Helen Lange.

“My dad passed away about four years ago,” the author said. “I'd thought to myself over the years that I should do a book about him someday. Then a friend suggested the same thing. I said, ‘You're right. He needs to be remembered.'”

The book's title refers to John Q. Public, a round-headed, fedora-wearing cartoon character with big eyes and prominent ears. The character appeared in much of Jim Lange's work.

“John Q. Public was every man, the regular guy who was the brunt of political shenanigans or crazy laws or just the inability of politicians to get anything done,” John Greiner, retired capitol reporter for The Oklahoman, wrote in the book's foreword.

Surprisingly, John Q. wasn't Jim Lange's original creation — at least not entirely.

After World War II, Jim Lange, originally from Minnesota, attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Art on the G.I. Bill. He studied under the cartoonists at the Chicago Tribune, including Joseph Parrish, Carey Orr, Ed Holland and Vaughn Shoemaker.

“The style he drew is very much like the style used at the … Tribune,” Robert Lange said. “They used a John Q. Public character and were very hard-hitting. … I asked Dad one time how you develop your own style. He said it comes with time. If you find somebody whose work you like, copy it and make it your own, and someday people will think it was developed by you.”

Spotlight on politics

For someone whose work was viewed by tens of thousands of people each day, Jim Lange was unassuming and private, his son said. He remained constantly positive, always looking for the best in people, and he was politically savvy. He had to be to draw seven cartoons a week year after year, calling politicians to task and defining, in single images, critical dilemmas facing Oklahoma and the nation.

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