The Perfessor in a typical pose. Artist: Jeff MacNelly.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Tribune Media Services
First Appeared: 1977
Creator: Jeff MacNelly
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The desks overflow with clutter. The personnel spend more time at the local watering hole than in the office. The editor is a …

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… cynical, overbearing tyrant and the reporter is a cynical, downtrodden serf. The whole scenario could easily have come from any journalism-comedy film of the past century or so, except for the fact that it takes place in treetops and the characters are all birds.

Shoe creator Jeff MacNelly was intimately familiar with the newspaper environment — before starting the strip in 1977, he was a Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist. He continued to pursue both endeavors until his death on June 8, 2000, garnering three Pulitzers in all (1972, '78 and '85). He was also given the highest honor a comic strip artist can receive, The Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year, which he won in 1978 and '79. He's the only person to win a Reuben two years in a row, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that those were only the second and third years of Shoe's existence. (The only other person to win two Reubens during his strip's first three years is Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes, who by the way also started as an editorial cartoonist.)

He also achieved a distinction not all that many comic strip artists can claim. He lived to see Shoe carried in over 1,000 newspapers.

P. Martin "Shoe" Shoemaker is the editor of The Treetop Tattler-Tribune. MacNelly named him after editor Jim Shumaker, his old boss at The Chapel Hill (NC) Weekly. But the strip's focus has shifted to reporter Cosmo "The Perfessor" Fishhawk, with a sidelight on The Perfessor's relationship with his nephew, Skyler. Both Perfessor and Shoe hang out at Roz's Roost, which is run by yet another cynical, hard-bitten bird of unspecified species.

Since MacNelly's untimely death (he was only 52), Shoe has been continued by his wife, Susan MacNelly; his former assistant, Chris Cassatt; and Gary Brookins. It took three people to fill his shoes on the Tribune Syndicate strip — but nobody will ever replace him on the Trib's editorial page.


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Text ©2001-02 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Tribune Media Services, Inc.