B. ‘Hap’ Kliban

B. ‘Hap’ Kliban was born on January 1, 1935, in Norwalk, Connecticut. He began painting and drawing while he was in elementary school. As a teenager, he joked about wanting to join the Air Force to strafe civilians, something that epitomized the bizarre sense of humor that later characterized his cartoons and drawings. However, his military classification was 4F, and he set out to strafe the population through his cartoons. The Kliban wit and style attest to the success of this life long pursuit.

Kliban attended Pratt Institute in New York City for two years in the 1950's, before dropping out to become a beatnik painter in Europe. He made Florence his home for a few years, while painting, drawing, and wandering through this rich art-filled European world.

After returning from Europe, Kliban stayed briefly in Connecticut before setting off by motorcycle to cross the United States. His journey took him to San Francisco, where he plugged into the Beat Scene and North Beach. Realizing that there had to be something better than working at the San Francisco post office, Kliban began working seriously on his cartoons. He had heard about a new publication that was interested in buying cartoons and sold the first of his to Playboy Magazine. This connection established Hap as one of America's top cartoonists. He also sold many cartoons to the New Yorker, National Lampoon, Esquire, and Punch, but Playboy remained his primary publisher for the cartoon market.

In 1974, Kliban's Playboy cartoon editor, Michelle Urry, visited his studio and saw some of the 5"x7" drawings Hap had done to pass the time while thinking of Playboy ideas. She recognized that these drawings were extraordinary and would make a great foundation for a book. She later found Hap an agent who sold the idea to a somewhat reluctant publisher.

In 1975, Workman Publishing published Cat, with an initial run of 15,000 books. A chord was struck that went beyond mere cat lovers. As the New York Times called it, ‘Klibanophilia’ had taken over, making Cat and Kliban's subsequent humor books bestsellers over many reprints, while Cat merchandise appeared everywhere, on everything. Cat was hailed by the publishing world: It began a new genre of humor, as well as a very new way of presenting cartoons.

The developing Cat craze even led people to steal bookstore displays. Shortly, product manufacturers of posters, t-shirts, stuffed toys, sheets, stationery, towels, mugs, sleepwear, pens & pencils, pins, key chains, greeting cards, baby clothing, glassware, ceramics, tote bags, clocks & watches, jewelry, etc. began licensing Cat, creating one of the largest merchandising efforts ever seen at the time. The Cat Craze was not limited to the United States. Cat was published in Britain, as well as in translations into Japanese, French, German, and Spanish.

Although much of Kliban’s success can be attributed to his Cat images, it would be a misrepresentation to overlook the impact and success that his non-Cat cartooning made on American humor. His subsequent humor books, such as Advanced Cartooning, Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head, Whack Your Porcupine, Tiny Footprints, Two Guys Fooling Around with the Moon, Luminous Animals, and the Biggest Tongue in Tunisia, pioneered a new genre of adult humor that has been imitated by many cartoonists working today.

B. Kliban died in 1990, but the breadth of his work, much of it as yet un-published, will continue as a durable testament to his remarkable craft, creativity, and brilliance in molding an amazing segment of American humor.

Judith Kamman Kliban

Judith Kamman Kliban grew up in New England and attended college at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. She trained in fine arts where her main interests were landscape painting and photography.

After completing college, Judith worked in Boston as an art director, graphic designer and publishing designer. In 1975, she moved west to San Francisco where she radically changed her lifestyle, and continued to pursue her ambitions as an artist and designer. Living in San Francisco she worked as an advertising agency art director and as a freelance designer. She also continued her painting and photography.

During the crazy mid 1970's, Judith met artist and cartoonist B. Kliban and began a deep and lasting friendship. They later married and enjoyed a wonderful creative and spiritual alliance. While Hap continued to create and publish other humor books and Playboy Cartoons, Judith ran the business and became the Art Director/ Designer and facilitator of all B. Kliban®Cats Licensing and Design.

The husband and wife team ran the business as a "cottage industry," preferring to keep things simple, under control, and small. Both were fanatical about maintaining the highest standards in all phases of business and artistic life. Judith Kliban is still adamant about maintaining that quality in all endeavors.

Since B. Kliban's untimely death in 1990, Judith has continued to expand and strengthen B. Kliban®Cats. The positive changes have promoted growth and added more polish to the classic license, Cat. Judith works on creation of new Kliban concepts and calls upon the huge residual of work from B. Kliban's prolific artistic life. As a designer, Judith's wide experience in design and with Cat enables her, in a way, to continue even today her collaboration with her husband.

Judith Kliban, with her several assorted cats, maintains homes in Hawaii and in the San Francisco Bay Area. The official B. Kliban® Cat lives in Hawaii.