#TBT: How Jim Borgman's family did Christmas

Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 31, 2015

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here at WCPO Insider, we profile some prominent local residents and moments in their past for our "Throwback Thursday" series by telling the story behind memorable photographs.

CINCINNATI -- Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and Price Hill native Jim Borgman, 61, made Cincinnatians think, laugh and cry for 32 years before leaving the newspaper business in 2008 to concentrate on his syndicated cartoon,”Zits,” which he produces with Jerry Scott.


Cartoonist Jim Borgman

Borgman's cartoons were syndicated -- distributed on Borgman's behalf to news outlets across the nation -- just four years after he graduated from Kenyon College. He and Scott launched “Zits” in 1997. The cartoon appears in more than 1,600 newspapers.

Borgman's drawings are hotly sought after by collectors in Cincinnati and around the country. Not only has he been honored by cartoon and comic strip groups around the world, but Borgman has published more than 20 books, personally signing hundreds for his hometown fans. He penned the popular “Jim Borgman’s Cincinnati” and is widely admired by Cincinnati Bengals fans for drawing the famous “Next” cartoon, showing a menacing Bengal tiger crouched as if ready to pounce on the team’s next opponent.

Even though Borgman now lives in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains with his wife, Suzanne Saled, his name is still displayed in neon at The Framery gallery on Edwards Road in Hyde Park.

The photograph Borgman chose to add to our Throwback series was taken 59 years ago. Here’s how he describes the memories the photograph stirs:

Borgman: Hello from the Borgman family, Christmas 1956! Those are older sisters Mary Jo and Kathy with me astride my dad, widely known and loved as Big Jim. Mom, of course, is behind the camera, and little brother Tom would join us the following November.

We’re in the living room of our house on Clearview Avenue in West Price Hill, and this is probably Christmas Eve when we always opened our presents. In addition to my stylish striped pajamas, I’m wearing the slack-jawed expression of bewilderment I’ve worn most of my life. But look how cheery everyone else is — I especially love my dad’s twinkling eyes.

When we were little kids, Dad painted a life-sized nativity scene, which his chapter of the Knights of Columbus erected each holiday season at Western Hills Shopping Center. I often went along to hold the hammers and sip hot chocolate on the day after Thanksgiving when the men reassembled the stable and set up the Masonite figures, leaving the manger empty. Then, on Christmas Eve right after supper, Dad would pile us kids into the car to go put the baby Jesus doll into the manger while Mom and the grandparents stayed behind. By the time we got back home, Santa would have visited — we just missed him every year!

What have you been up to since leaving Cincinnati?

Borgman: I draw "Zits" every day from our home in the mountains above Boulder — the strip is 18 years old and I still love creating it with my buddy Jerry Scott. The Reds or Bengals are usually my radio companions while I work.

I’m beginning to find time to do other art, too, just for myself. Suzanne and I saw a lot of the world in the last decade, but lately we've stayed closer to home, exploring national parks and the American West. Our kids are spread across the country, so we visit them, and I take my “studio” with me.

When you visit your hometown, what is on your must-do list?

Borgman: Lunches and dinners with friends and family are our top priority, and that’s a handy way of getting around to my favorite restaurants. Cincinnati is so exciting these days; there are new discoveries everywhere. Brazee Street Studios is always a stop, OTR, Ludlow Avenue, the Sleepy Bee in Oakley (you can't get goetta in Colorado), and often the Contemporary Arts Center. The zoo will always be a favorite place. Sometime, I want to stay in the hotel that has opened in the old Enquirer Building on Vine Street. And during baseball season, I love to get to a Reds game.