New weapon fielded for Marines

25 Oct 2006 | Sgt. Paul Kane

Every Marine possesses a secret weapon; a sense of humor.

What do the cartoons like The Simpson’s, Dilbert, Sempertoons, Charlie Brown and Doonesbury all have in common? They can all deliver a laugh, during times of peace or times of war.

A new addition to Marines’ armory of humor is the comic strip “Private King & Company.” The new comic strip was officially launched on Oct. 17, 2006 at a benefit event for Vietnam Veterans of America. The event was held at HBO’s headquarters inNew York City.

Karen Leon is the comic strip’s creator and illustrator. Leon ’s cartoon series about Marines, Private King & Company, made its debut as an animated segment in two new videos: “Thank you for Serving” and “Broadway to Baghdad. ”
The segments got laughs and received rousing applause from the audience.   The series will be made available as a traditional comic strip, and also, in funny animated cartoon segments.

The event was sponsored by various veterans groups and featured the new USO video entitled, “Thank you for serving.”   The video will be available and shown publicly in November. Many are called, few are chosen, even fewer get selected; but Karen Leon was.  

Back in 1998, out of 150 contending artists, Leon’s design was selected by Kentucky Fried Chicken executives to be their animated creation of the KFC founder, Col. Sanders.

Pvt. King and his band of Marine brothers and sisters are the creation of cartoonist and artist Karen Leon of New York City .  

The series will also feature a few of Pvt. King’s U.S. Army colleagues serving with him on his deployment to Iraq.

Warriors in World War II had Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Bill Maudlin’s G.I. Joe characters “Willie and Joe” as company in their foxhole for laughs.  

The soldier “Beatle Bailey” came into being with the pen strokes of cartoonist Mort Walker during the Korean War.

Even soldiers in the American Civil War passed copies of “Harper’s Weekly” magazine to view cartoons and caricatures for laughs between battles and bouts of combat.

Now, serving Marines will have their own story featured in Private King & Company.

“War happens.   I created the series to bring a little humor to a very difficult situation,” said Leon when asked why she created the comic strip Private King, “But it was former Commandant Gen. Krulak was who sparked the idea and inspired me to learn more about Marines and do the comic.”

Leon met 31 st Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Charles Krulak (1995-1999) aboard the USS Intrepid.   Gen. Krulak regaled Leon the artist with tales of the Corps and peaked her curiosity about a service she had never known very much.

The New York-native’s father had served as a U.S. Navy petty officer aviation electronic 2 nd class.   But meeting Gen. Krulak inspired her to learn more about the Marines.

“Gen. Krulak told me that Marines adapt and overcome to accomplish missions.   When he said Marines second motto was ‘Semper Gumby’ - - always flexible.   I had to laugh and I was hooked!” recalled Leon.

Karen Leon checked-out Tom Rick’s book “Making the Corps” from the library to do her homework.   She also started interviewing current and former Marines, like the actor Harvey Keitel famous for movies like Pulp Fiction and U-571, as sources of background for the strip.

Leon soon discovered a floor is a deck; a hat is a cover; food is chow; a rifle is a weapon; and history, and plenty of it: 1775; Iwo Jima ; Chosen Reservoir; Khe Sahn; and Fallujah.    Her knowledge of the Corps grew and the characters in the series were developed to accurately represent Marines and U.S.military life.

Leon said the best part of her job (aside from getting to draw) was meeting Marines.

“I found they have a great sense of humor.   Marines are charming, and they have the best uniform!” said Leon, “I marvel at their discipline and ability to cope with tough work.”

Leon felt many Americans don’t always know as much about the military and Marines as they should.  

“Freedom is not free and some Americans don’t always remember that fact.   The Marines I met all have a self-confidence and positive outlook that seems to stay with them long after the Corps.   They are accustomed to working on a team.   They are bright and take responsibility.   Whether I was talking to retired, reserve or serving Marines they all said they had been changed by their experience of serving, and that they were happy about the change,” offer Leon.

Karen Leon started out her career as an admin support person in a large advertising agency and worked her way up.   She worked on the Army’s “Be all you can be” campaign and decided she liked drawing military cartoons.   She took night classes after work at Queens College and the Parson’s School of Design in New York .  

Eventually, she became a freelance illustrator and won the prestigious KFC account, and other major art and illustration projects.

“It’s been a wonderful experience and the comic strip is a work in progress.   I can’t wait to see where it takes me,” said Leon.

The antics and adventures of Marine “Private King & Company” will be making the rounds in the fleet next month on DVD with the support of the USO.

The cartoon features:

PVT. KING:  Young, friendly, smart, computer savvy, brainiac, overeager.  Overanalyzes simple things and complicates the ordinary thereby irritating his Gunnery Sergeant and fellow Marines.

GUNNY:  No nonsense experienced combat veteran.  Not an intellectual, but no fool.  Will step on King and his pals when necessary.  Patient up to a point.  His mission in life is to produce good Marines.  Somewhat wary of new ways or new fangled technology.

PVT. RAMOS:  Private King's buddy.  Easy-going, tolerant, jokester, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy.

PVT. REED:  Private King's buddy.  A keen observer.  Chooses words carefully and avoids the kind of trouble King gets into.  But he tolerates King's big-thoughts.

NAVY DOC:  All Navy and nothing but Navy, professional with no patience for Private King's over analysis of anything.

GENERAL JUPITER:  Commandant and the center of the Marine universe.
Headquarters Marine Corps