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June 08, 1990 - Image 65

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-06-08

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Cartoon by Neal Levin

Neal draws attention
to Detroiters with
his 200-plus cartoon
characters while Mark
rewrites history on
TV's "Wonder Years."


Staff Writer

A t

er a in osfi trying
draw inside the
lines of their color-
ing books, Neal and
Mark Levin traded in their
crayons for a couple of
sharpened pencils.
They knew it would be a
long shot to put Detroit's
leading newspapers out of
business, but went against
the odds and published the
Castle Drive Free Press —
circulation: 35.
The first issue of their
newspaper, which was nam-
ed after the street they grew
up on in Bloomfield
Township, rolled hot off the
presses in 1973, the year
Hitler's car was sold for
$153,000 to a man in
Arizona; U.S. Vice President
Spiro Agnew resigned; the


United States agreed to stop
fighting in Viet Nam; and
Israel's first prime minister,
Ben Gurion, died.
Neal, 9, was the writer,
while 7-year-old Mark drew
the comic strips. But after
six months, the Castle Drive
Free Press closed its doors
Perhaps if the brothers
had switched jobs, the prin-
ting presses would still be
Today, the newspaper's il-
lustrator, Mark, is rewriting
history in Los . Angeles on
the set of ABC-TV's
"Wonder Years." He just
signed a two-year contract as
a writer for the show. And
Neal, Castle Drive Free
Press' man of words, is
animating Detroit as a pro-

Photo by G le nn T


There's no sibling rivalry between Neal and Mark Levin.

fessional cartoonist. His
comic strip, "Phish," will
appear regularly in Subur-
ban Sunday, the Sunday edi-
tion of the Royal Oak Daily
Tribune and the Macomb
Mark, who worked for
Henry Winkler's production
company on the set of
"MacGyver" in 1986, return-
ed to Hollywood last summer
as a staff writer for "Capital
News," NBC-TV's short-
lived series that starred
Lloyd Bridges.
Executive producer David
("Hill Street Blues") Milch
came across some of Mark's
plays and invited him to join
the "Capital News" staff.
As a pre-law student at the
University of Michigan,
Mark worked part time for
the Ann Arbor News. But
wanting to report more than
"just the facts," he enrolled
in a creative writing course
at U-M.
"The teacher assigned me
to write a play, and I became
enamored with playwright-
ing," Mark said. "That
summer, I went off to Paris
for five months — and it
was there that I decided
I'd devote my life to pursu-
ing a career in writing."
Once he returned to U-M,
Mark free-lanced for
Metropolitan Detroit and con-
tinued to write for the Ann
Arbor News.
In 1987, he piled up some
of U-M's most prestigious
writing awards. Following
in the footsteps of U-M
alumni Arthur (Death of a

Salesman) Miller and
Lawrence (The Big Chill)
Kazden, Mark received the
Hopwood Award for Dra-
matic Writing for his family
drama, Naked Came the
Prince. He also was honored
with a journalism award for
his work at the Ann Arbor
News and the Roy Cowden
Award, a $1,500 creative
writing scholarship.
While Mark was writing in
Ann Arbor, his brother Neal
was illustrating his way
through U-M-Dearborn,
where "Phish" appeared in
its college paper, Michigan
Journal. At UM-D, he
received a degree in psychol-
ogy and a teaching cer-
Neal taught himself how
to draw. He was at a summer
camp in 1981 when he visu-
alized a walrus with its own
personality. He named it
Since then, Neal has cre-
ated more than 200
characters, including
Heywood, a punk rocker
happy with life even though
his music career never really
took off; Rushmore, a quiet,
intelligent turtle that enjoys
observing the world but
doesn't like to rush into
things; and Phish, a teacher
in a school of fish; its motto:
"I'm the only Ph.D. whose
grades are all below C-
When he's not leading car-
tooning workshops at
various schools in Oakland
County, Neal works as a
substitute teacher for junior

high classes in Birmingham,
West Bloomfield and Bloom-
field Hills.
"Students learn to draw
my characters, but I also
stress teaching them how to
create original cartoons," he
Neal's biggest business is
cartooning at bar mitzvah
celebrations. Some of the
souvenirs and decorations he
designs are T-shirts, sign-in
boards and mock
Neal has also written two
young adult novels he hopes
to one day publish.
One of the novels he penn-
ed is The Hands of Time, a
fantasy about a boy who has
a magic watch that can stop
and travel through time.
"The book shows how
power can be abused," he
This month, Neal will
return to Camp Walden,
where he's spent the past six
years publishing its daily
newspaper, Walden Pond.
His brother Mark will be liv-
ing 3,000 miles away where,
besides writing for the
"Wonder Years," he will be
putting the finishing
touches on his first
The screenplay is set in the
Detroit Jewish Community
in 1951. It is centered
around a 12-year-old boy.
"He's a combination of my
father and myself," Mark
When Neal and Mark were
growing up, sibling rivalry
never came between them.
"We were never directly
competitive," Mark said.
"Our interests never
overlapped. The teachers
always expected me to follow
in Neal's footsteps, but I
never got the high grades he
did until I went away to col-
Although they're now
keeping busy concentrating
on their careers, Neal and
Mark will always remember
a time when they were as
close as two brothers could
be — best friends.
"We used to call ourselves
"The Burstyn Brothers" —
that was the stage name
Mark and I used during the
Jewish holidays when we'd
steal the hats and coats of
our visiting relatives and
put on a show," Neal said.
Mark added, "We'd do our
shtick and get big raves;
everyone loved it."








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