Geoffrey (Jeff) Raynor Hook

Born Hobart, Tasmania 1928
Died Melbourne, Victoria 2018

By Lindsay Foyle

After starting work at The Sun News-Pictorial in 1965, Geoff Hook found it hard to get his cartoons published. In the pub one evening he told the editor in a very emphatic manor about his frustration. Worried that his pub rant might be the end of his career, he was delighted the next day when he discovered his complaint was to be acted on and he work was soon being run daily.

Geoffrey (Jeff) Raynor Hook was born in December 1928 and was not a native Victorian. He was born in Tasmania and started his cartooning career in Hobart on The Mercury.

He grew up in Hobart and when he left school he enrolled at the Art Society of Tasmania. He was keen on watercolour landscapes, and exhibited several times. But he needed money and took a job as a clerk in the Department of Labour and Industry while continuing his art classes at the Hobart Technical College at night.

At college he met an old school friend, Christopher Koch who was working in the art department at The Mercury. Koch told Hook he was leaving and that he should look into taking his job. Koch who had grown up wanting to be a cartoonist but had come to the conclusion, what he really wanted to do was write. He succeeded in this ambition and became a well-known novelist, best remembered for his book, The Year of Living Dangerously.

At the age of 20 Hook applied for Koch’s job at The Mercury and got it. At the time Norman Southey was there drawing two cartoons a week. When Southey went on leave Hook got to fill in for him, as had Koch before him. When The Saturday Mercury got going Hook was asked to do the weekly cartoon.

When Southey retired Hook took over from him as nobody, apart from him, was interested in drawing a daily cartoon.

By the time Hook had been with the paper for 13 years he felt his career was going nowhere, just drawing three cartoons a week. So, in 1964 he decided to visit The Sun News-Pictorial in Melbourne with a portfolio of his work. At the time syndicated cartoons drawn by Paul Rigby were being used. A few months after his visit Hook was taken on as a Creative Artist at The Sun News-Pictorial, with some possibilities of draw cartoons. He quickly resigned and headed to Melbourne leaving Kevin Bailey to take over the cartooning at The Mercury.

It was shortly after Hook’s work being appearing daily in 1966 he started hiding what became his "trademark" fishhook in his cartoons. Bill Green (WEG) always said it was him who suggested to Hook he use the hidden hook. It became so popular that on the occasions he forgot to put it in The Sun News-Pictorial switchboard would be flooded with calls from frustrated readers wanting to know where the hook was.

Hook’s personal stance was to think as a member of the Opposition no matter which party is in power – “you must remember that I go back to the late 1950’s in that regard. I’m a news-aholic and still follow world, national and local stories throughout my day.” 

To add to his even-handed approach Hook wrote with his right hand and drew with his left. He enjoyed drawing Gough Whitlam, “a very tall man with magnificent eyebrows”. Bob Hawke boasted a face “nobody could forget”. Former Victorian premier Joan Kirner took exception to Hook’s constant depictions of her in a polka dot dress. Hook pointed out nobody else had complained about what cloths he drew them in. He was surprised, “She took it personally.”

In 1987, Hook won the Stanley Award for Humorous Illustration and at the International Cartoon Festival at Knokke-Heist, Belgium festival the Best Political Cartoon award in 1998 and the Best Press Cartoon in 1991.

Hook retired from daily cartooning in 1993 and Mark Knight took over his cartooning duties at the paper. However, Hook continued to contribute to The Sunday Herald Sun till 2000.

Geoff also drew for numerous papers and magazines as well as 46 books, including two children's books Harry the Honkerzoid and Planet of the Honkerzoids written by one of his sons, Brendan, and a children's book of his own, Jamie the Jumbo Jet, which was first published in the mid 1970s, and revised and reprinted in 1998.

After retiring from full time cartooning, Geoff was awarded a Stanley for lifetime achievement in 1998, and in 2009 a lifetime achievement award by the Melbourne Press Club. In 2016 he was inducted into the Australian Cartoonists’ Association Hall of Fame and was a Life member of the ACA. He was also a member of the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance, Life Governor of The Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, and a Patron of The Amputees Association of Victoria. He was also a member of the Australian Guild of Realist Artists and The Peninsula Arts Society.

Jeff left his mark on cartooning in Melbourne. Mark Knight has been quoted as saying, “Many years after Geoff’s retirement, I felt I was establishing myself as the Herald Sun’s cartoonist, when a group of school kids came through the editorial floor on tour.”

“They stopped at my desk and were excited to discover that I was the cartoonist for the paper. Looking at my drawings, one of them asked: ‘Where’s the hook?’”

Hook passed away in hospital on the morning of the July 20, 2018. He had not been in hospital long and died quite peacefully.

His wife of 57 years, Pauline, five children and nine grandchildren survives him.

Geoff Hook entered the ACA Hall of Fame in 2016.

Further reading