A painterly cartoonist wit with a social conscience

Drew Playboy's Granny character

Robert "Buck" Brown, who created Playboy magazine's horny Granny cartoon character and drew more than 600 panels for the book after his first sale there in 1962, has died. He was 71.

Brown, whose cartoons had appeared in Playboy, Ebony, Jet, Dollars and Sense, Esquire, the New Yorker and the Chicago Sun-Times, died July 2 in Chicago after a stroke.

The dried-up, toothless Granny character was seen as a parody of the Playboy Bunny, and during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Brown exercised this satirical bent as he filled his work with cutting social commentary.

In one such cartoon, a young black man was pictured admonishing a young boy: "I know my name is Thomas, and I know you are my nephew. But don't ever call me that again!"

Playboy's longtime cartoon editor, the late Michelle Urry, said of his work, "Buck rendered the most incisive comments on race relations in America in his tour-de-force painterly style," employing color acrylics and charcoal washes in a characteristic way.

Brown was in fact a noted painter of what he called "soul genre paintings," or humorous, slice-of-life images.

These often were bought by celebrities such as Bill Cosby, Johnny Mathis and Henry Mancini.

"One of several paintings bought by Cosby was a scene on a beach," said Brown's daughter, Tracy Hill. "Out in the ocean was a big ship. He had all of these Africans coming out to greet the ship, and they were all dressed as basketball players. There was a coach standing there with them."

While Brown was widely acclaimed as a leading black cartoonist, some of the fans of the pale-skinned Granny were surprised to discover that her creator was a black man, his daughter said.

Playboy once ran a reader's letter complaining that they allowed a white guy to make fun of blacks. Underneath it was a picture of Brown with the caption, "Whitey unmasked."