Gary Panter (born December 1, 1950 in Durant, Oklahoma) is an illustrator, painter, designer and part-time musician. Panter is a luminary of the post-underground, new wave comics movement that began with the end of Arcade: The Comics Revue and the initiation of RAW. Many consider him the second generation in American underground comix
Panter has published his work in various magazines and newspapers, including Raw, Time and Rolling Stone magazine. He has exhibited all over the world, and won three Emmy awards for his set designs for Pee-Wee's Playhouse. His most famous works include Jimbo, Adventures in Paradise, Jimbo's Inferno and Facetasm, which was created together with Charles Burns.
Panter is known to many as the "father of punk comics" and the “King of the Ratty Line” due to his idiosyncratic, scratchy line work emblematic of the DIY aesthetic prominent in the work of many small press cartoonists. His comics are fast and hard and are drawn in an expressionistic manner. His works easily balances the worlds of painting, commercial art, illustration, cartoons, alternative comix, and music. Panter undertakes all of his projects with imaginative punk flair.
Recipient of the Chrysler Design Award in 2000, Gary Panter has been everything from an underground cartoonist to an interior designer, (for a children's playroom inside the Philippe Starck-designed Paramount Hotel in New York City), to an internet animator, (his Pink Donkey and the Fly series can be seen online at Cartoon Network’s web site). He is also the creator of Jimbo, a "post-nuclear punk-rock" cartoon character whose adventures were first chronicled as a comic strip in the ’70s LA hardcore-punk paper Slash and later in RAW magazine. Although the inspiration for Jimbo was partly rooted in the ’60s underground comix movement, other influences such as Japanese monster movies, cheap commercial packaging, the work of Marvel Comics artist Jack Kirby, Mothers Of Invention house artist Cal Schenkel, and the writing of cult science fiction author Philip K. Dick leaked into the project. All of which gave Jimbo a startlingly fresh look that was subliminally familiar yet defiantly oddball.
Drawn with pen and black ink in his now familiar “ratty line” style, Panter’s work (like Andy Warhol’s before him) straddles the barrier that separates “trash” from “art”, arguably transforming underground comix into a viable art form. Equally ground-breaking were his extended comic novels Dal Tokyo and Cola Madnes (which has recently been published by Funny Garbage Press). Cola Madnes was created by Panter primarily for his Japanese audience (who named a café in Nagoya ‘Gary Panter Squar’ in his honor) using a manga-style two-panel-per-page layout that paid silent and respectful homage to the work of Toho Studios (creator of Godzilla) and comic book legend Jack “King” Kirby. Cola Madnes was Gary Panter’s artistic “holy mission” way back in 1983.
As an illustrator, Panter was one of the first to stop worrying about graphic perfection, preferring instead to push the underground punk attitude he had nurtured since the ’70s into his commercial art for established magazines such as Time, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and The New Yorker. By deliberately presenting his work with serrated edges instead of clean lines, Panter’s style came as a breath of fresh air to both publishers and audience alike. His fame as an illustrator grew when he was commissioned by Warner Brothers to produce a set of album sleeves for Frank Zappa. The resulting covers for Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites were universally admired (albeit initially not by Zappa himself), as was his cover illustration for the debut album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also did the cover artwork for Red Hot Chili Peppers record 'the uplift mofo party plan'. He also did the artwork for Avant-Garde duo Renaldo & The Loaf's "Song's For Swinging Larvae" album artwork in 1980.
In the 1980s, he was the set designer for Pee Wee's Playhouse, where he changed the face of children's television, winning three Emmy Awards in the process. Prior to Panter's work, kid shows had a drearily lulling aesthetic: everything was round, cute, simplified, and pastel. The set of Pee-wee's Playhouse was the antithesis of pablum-art: it was dense as a jungle and jam-packed with surprises, often loud and abrasive ones.
While doing illustration and set designs, Panter kept up an active career as a cartoonist. His work in comics includes contributions to the avant-garde comics magazine RAW and the graphic novel Cola Madnes. Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons TV show, once noted that Panter "applied his fine-art training to the casualness of the comic strip, and the result was an explosive series of graphic experiments that are imitated in small doses all over the world today". Groening himself can be seen as an example of a cartoonist who has learned much from Panter. The jagged smashed-glass rawness of The Simpsons (think of Lisa's hair) can be traced back to the post-apocalyptic world that Panter was sketching in the early 1980s. The Simpsons could be seen as mutant escapees from Panter's early work.
Panter also created the online series Pink Donkey for Cartoon Network. He has recently published Jimbo in Purgatory, and Jimbo's Inferno, lavishly produced graphic novels which incorporate classic literature elements (most prominently Dante's Inferno) with pop and punk culture sensibilities.
He was best friends with Matt Groening.
An exhibition of originals of Gary Panter's drawings and paintings was shown at the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, AZ from April 21st through August 19th 2007. An exhibition of paintings was at the Dunn and Brown Contemporary gallery in Dallas in October 2007.
A 2-volume monograph was published in March 2008 by PictureBox.