Gary Leib, Musician and Illustrator, Dies at 65

By Sam Sodomsky

The musician, cartoonist, and illustrator Gary Leib died on March 19 at the age of 65, his current label, Northern Spy, confirmed. As a musician, Leib was most recently a member of the ambient country group SUSS, whose latest album, Promise, arrived in December 2020. Leib is survived by his wife Judy and daughter Leila.

Born in Chicago, Leib attended the Rhode Island School of Design and later relocated to New York. In the 1980s, he was a member of the country and new wave group Rubber Rodeo, who released two albums and received a Grammy nomination for their “Scenic Views” music video. Leib was also a celebrated cartoonist and illustrator, and his work appeared frequently in The New Yorker, The New York Observer, Fantagraphics books, and more. He founded the animation studio Twinkle and was an animator for feature films including Happiness, American Splendor, and American Ultra.

In 1993, Leib co-authored the comic book Idiotland along with Doug Allen. It ran for seven issues and received a 1994 Harvey Award for Best New Series. In 2008, he began a series for The New York Times’ website featuring short animations about the city, soundtracked by jazz music. He taught in the graduate computer animation program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. From 2016 to 2017, he was the artist-in-residency at Fairmont State University.

“I am primarily influenced by comic books from the ’50s through the ’80s (EC comics, MAD, Zap Comix, Raw),” Leib said in a 2015 interview with Cartoon Brew. “Trying to draw like these geniuses keeps me inspired every day. The best work from that era transcended expectations of what a comic book could be: extreme violence, subversive humor, and brutal horror was presented with beautiful, seductive artwork.”