My favorite memory of Doug Marlette dates from the 1981 Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Nashville, Tenn. A group of us was closing down some dimly lit dive, and at one small table Marlette and Jeff MacNelly spent nearly a hour trying to make headway with a beehived blonde who'd never heard of them and didn't seem to regard artistic talent as much of a turn-on. MacNelly died in 2000, and now Marlette is gone, too—killed July 10 when the car he was riding in skidded into a tree in Mississippi. He was 57.
Marlette had intelligence, talent and energy: Over a career that began in 1972 at the Charlotte Observer, he published nine volumes of editorial cartoons; won a Pulitzer Prize; created a comic strip, "Kudzu," that he later adapted into a musical; and wrote two novels.
He also had an eye for the brass ring and the ability to shrug off critics—common traits in the ed-toon biz, but Marlette had them more than most. His relations with his colleagues, like the Hillsborough neighbors he satirized in his book, The Bridge, could be rocky. But in person he was unfailingly courteous, and on paper he was often deadly, a potent combination. He'll be missed.