SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — In less than a month from now, people will gather in Sioux Falls to celebrate the life of Hagar the Horrible cartoonist Chris Browne, who died earlier this year at the age of 70. Browne’s death came on the 50th anniversary of the comic strip that his father created. A fellow cartoonist from Sioux Falls is helping organize the celebration of Browne’s life, which will take place on May 20th. Ken Alvine is optimistic about the future of cartooning, even though another of the industry’s giants is gone.

Ken Alvine traces his cartooning talents all the way back to childhood.

“And I used to trace, copy all the comic strips so then I could impress my friends. I said hey, I know how to draw Joe Palooka, I could draw Smilin’ Jack or Dick Tracy or Mickey Mouse or whatever,” Alvine said.

Alvine graduated from the Colorado Institute of Art but says his cartooning skills were mostly self-taught.

“I could have the greatest cartoon in the world, but if it’s not funny, what good is the cartoon,” Alvine said.

Alvine’s professional cartooning career has included works for private corporations and state agencies, including the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management. He often collaborates with Sioux Falls graphic designer Linda Smith.

“He comes up with some really unique ideas. And it’s kind of fun to see what he comes up with like those books for the state. He wanted to know if I wanted to do the drawing and I said, no, you do the drawings, I will add the color,” Smith said.

Alvine has also taught cartooning to school kids across South Dakota.

“I just like the children and adults to understand you have creativity and imagination. Put big eyes on something and bingo! You have a cartoon,” Alvine said.

Alvine was also the driving force behind the creation of National Cartoonists Day, which is coming up next week.

“And here I’m presenting this as a new member of the National Cartoonists Society and anyway, we came up with May fifth and since that time, every year we have National Cartoonists Day has grown and grown and grown,” Alvine said.

You’ll find plenty of drawings by the Hagar the Horrible cartoonist, the late Chris Browne inside Alvine’s Sioux Falls studio. Alvine first invited Browne to speak at a cartoonists’ meeting in Sioux Falls nearly 20 years ago. Browne loved the city so much, he made it his permanent home.

“I got a call from his wife and said Ken, this is Carol Browne, we’re moving here. And I thought, really? Yeah? So I helped them find a home, helped them get settled and from that point on, we were friends for 15 years. We traveled together, we went to lunches together and we had chapter meetings together,” Alvine said.

Now, Alvine is making arrangements to hold a celebration of Browne’s life for May 20th at Wild Water West, west of Sioux Falls.

“And we’re making it open to the public. I didn’t want it, it’s going to be a celebration of life, not a memorial-type of thing, but more of a celebration,” Alvine said.

Alvine foresees a bright future for cartooning, even though the nationwide decline in newspaper and magazine subscriptions offers fewer opportunities for the public to read comic strips. Alvine says a new generation of tech-savvy cartoonists will bring their talents to the internet and comic books, while drawing their inspiration from the likes of his longtime friend, Chris Browne.

“He was a wonderful man and I can always say that at that time in my life, I knew someone very special,” Alvine said.

Next month’s celebration will include a meet & greet with professional cartoonists who will be autographing their drawings.

Alvine, who’s 79 years old, says his strength as a cartoonist was in his drawings. But in his later years, he’s become more focused on the writing part of cartooning.