Carl Gustaf Buettner, Jr. was born May 26, 1903 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father was also named Carl Gustaf Buettner. His mother was Minnie Buettner. His parents met and married in Minneapolis in 1897, after immigrating to America in the 1880s from Germany. His older sister Louise was three years old at the time of his birth. The family lived in a modest home at 1515 Lyndale Avenue North.
Although Carl Buettner sometimes used Von before his family name, this was only a playful affectation. The use of Von in a German family name indicates a member of nobility, but Germany abolished the monarchy in 1919, along with all privileges of nobility, after which time the use of Von became an anachronism. In fact the Buettner family were poor immigrants. The father worked as a shoemaker and machinist in a shoe factory.
In high school he won several awards for shorthand. One award was a free correspondence course in lettering from The Federal Schools, Inc. of Minneapolis. He took the course in 1919 and then continued to take other courses in art, graphics, and cartooning. In 1925 he was hired as a part time teacher at the school.
In 1926 he joined the art staff of Fawcett Publications, located in Robbinsdale, a suburb of Minneapolis. He contributed many cartoons to Captain Billy's Whiz Bang and most other Fawcett joke books. These small digest magazines were filled with saucy and irreverent humor and were immensely popular during the prohibition era.
His cartoons for Fawcett Publications featured glamorous flappers in alluring attire discussing suggestive topics. His lyrical drawing style influenced fellow staff-artists at Fawcett, including future pulp artists Norman Saunders, Allen Anderson, and Ralph Carlson.
At first he signed his work "CB" but subsequently left most of his work unsigned. In 1934 he made several full color covers for a large-format Fawcett humor magazine entitled HOOEY, which he signed "Von B."
In 1934 Fawcett began to shift their executive operations to NYC, where Buettner was sent as an art director for one of their magazines. While in NYC, he began to clandestinely sell freelance interior story illustrations to Fawcett's arch rival, Harry Donenfeld, for the pulp magazines Saucy Stories and Saucy Movie Tales. Buettner's impressive cartoons for this New York publisher featured full nudity, which was a "sophisticated" development over the comparative innocence of Capt. Billy's midwestern hayseed humor. Several of Buettner's saucy cartoons were chosen to be recreated on the pulp magazine's painted covers. These were assigned to Buettner's old pal from Fawcett, Norman Saunders, who had also moved to New York to start his own freelance art career. In order to avoid burning any bridges with Fawcett, these covers were signed with a fictitious composite name "Carl Blaine" using Buettner's first name (Carl) and Saunders' middle name (Blaine).
In 1937 Buettner left the pulps and moved to California to work at Walt Disney Studios.
In 1938 he joined the Hugh Harmon & Rudolph Ising animation studio.
In 1938 Buettner took over the syndicated comic strip Charlie McCarthy along with the cartoonist Chase Craig. Together they also created another strip called Hollywood Hams.
In 1942 Buettner and Chase joined Western (Whitman) Publishing Company as art directors along with Eleanor Packer. During monthly meetings, Buettner would enact new stories for the art staff in order to gauge reactions. As a result of his antics, these meetings were very popular with the staff.
Along with his editing, Buettner also wrote and penciled many Walt Disney comics. He also created many famous covers from 1942 to 1950 guiding the young Walt Kelly, who was clearly influenced by Buettner's graceful drawing style.
Buettner also produced comic books on Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers, Tarzan, Joe Carioca, Bucky Bug, Dumbo, Bambi, Woody Woodpecker, Bozo the Clown, and The Seven Dwarfs.
Carl Buettner died at age of sixty-two in Los Angeles on January 21, 1965.
© David Saunders 2009