Gustave Verbeek was a cartoonist/illustrator/painter/engraver, most famous for his "upside-down" cartoons that appeared in the New York Herald around 1900.

Verbeek was born Gustave Verbeck in 1867, in Nagasaki, Japan. He was the fourth child of Dutch/Belgian missionary Guido Verbeck, who was the headmaster of the Tokyo School (now Imperial University). Gustave spent his childhood in Japan, and then moved to Paris, to study at the art school. He worked as an illustrator for several European newspapers.

Around 1900, Verbeck moved to the United States. An immigration officer misspelled his last name as "Verbeek", and the artist continued using both names to sign his work. Verbeek worked as an illustrator for several magazines, including McClure's, Harper's, American Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. He then joined the New York Herald, where he created three original comic strips:

  1. The Upside Downs of Little Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo (1903-1905)
  2. The Terrors of the Tiny Tads (1905-1915)
  3. The Loony Lyrics of Lulu (1910)

The Upside Downs of Little Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo are a truly amazing work of art. Verbeek may have felt too constricted to the space of six frames the newspaper allocated for his work, so he doubled this number by making them "upside-downs". After reading six frames, the reader turns the page upside down to continue the story

It is already amazing to see how this would work for one single frame; it takes a lot of skill to draw an image that makes sense the right-side up, and rotated 180 degrees. But to make a complete story out of six frames is a truly masterful feat. Keep in (e.g.the first frame becomes the last frame, and the second frame becomes the eleventh frame when rotated). To achieve this, the characters generally reversed; turned upside down, Lady Lovekins would become Muffaroo and vice versa. Prior to Verbeek's work, Peter Newell (1862-1927) had experimented with "upside down" images (Topsys and Turvys), but these were single frames, and not complete 6-frame stories.

Little Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo appeared only one-and-a-half years. Verbeek's follow-up, The Terrors of the Tiny Tads first appeared on 15 September 1905 -- The same day another very successful cartoon premiered in the New York Herald: Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McKay. Verbeek produced a third cartoon The Loony Lyrics of Lulu. He retired as a cartoonist in the 1920s to fully concentrate on engraving and painting. Verbeek died in 1937.

You have to see it to believe it! Some examples of Verbeek's "upside down" cartoons can be seen on:

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