As it often happens when a minor artist or writer passes away, news of their death often takes too long to filter through the ether in time to create a proper tribute. Jeff Millar, co-creator of the comic strip Tank McNamara passed away from bile-duct cancer November 30, 2012.
Growing up, I learned a lot about politics and satire from Doonesbury which ran at the top of the comic section in my childhood newspaper, the now-defunct Pittsburgh Press. While Doonesbury taught me about Reagan, Iran-Contra and Donald Trump (!) jokes, Tank McNamara — which the Press buried back in the sports section — taught me about drug testing, wide receiver prima donnas, the Houston Oilers ownership and why being a sports fan really is sort of a ludicrous pastime. If I had to estimate, I’d say a good 60% of what I understand about ’80s and ’90s college bowl games probably comes from reading the daily comic. While KSK is a wildly different animal than a mainstream sports comic, the roots of sports satire are firmly planted in the ground Millar and Hinds plowed in the 1970s before many of us were even born.
Millar himself was no stranger to controversy. A biting series of strips in 2009 depicted Roger Goodell going to Vice President Dick Cheney for advice on how to handle the Michael Vick dog fighting charges were pulled from the Washington Post after Cheney’s character suggested killing Vick.
Co-creator and artist Bill Hinds took over writing duties a few months ago when Millar became too sick to continue on with his duties and will continue with the strip. Judging by the recent series about Ronnie Lott being a part of the NFL Safety Committee, Tank McNamara seems to be in good hands.