The black lines took on familiar shape as Jack Meckler flicked a felt pen across his sketch pad.
"It's Jiggs . . . and Maggie," audience members chorused as he drew.
Next came Popeye and Olive Oyl, Dagwood and Blondie, Alley Oop and Oola, Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart, Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae, Superman and Lois Lane -- all familiar comic strip couples that Mr. Meckler used to provoke happy memories among his senior-citizen audience.
"It takes you back to the old days, makes you feel young again," said Hilda Hanson, 79, of Perry Hall.
"It's a reminder," echoed her husband, Herbert, 78.
The Hansons were among 55 people at the monthly meeting of the Perry Hall Chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons who fell under Mr. Meckler's spell Wednesday as he outlined the history of the characters he sketched.
Since 1992, the 68-year-old retired public relations director for Israel Bonds in Maryland has brought the funnies to life several times a week at senior centers, retirement and nursing homes and senior social groups throughout the Baltimore area.
Sometimes he does what he calls Famous Funnies, drawing popular individual comic characters. Other times the Randallstown resident talks about famous comedians and Hollywood stars as he caricatures them.
Although the theme at the Perry Hall United Methodist Church was comic Valentines, Mr. Meckler began yesterday's show by drawing The Yellow Kid, who made his debut in February 1895 in the New York World. He explained that the jug-eared, gap-toothed Kid, in his yellow nightshirt, was the first comic character in the modern sense.
"That was the start of it, 100 years ago," he said.
A comic book fan since childhood, Mr. Meckler said he loved to dabble at drawing, although a teacher in Williamsport, Pa., dampened his interest by telling him bluntly, "Jack, you have no art talent."
His audience yesterday couldn't believe it.
"I think it's a real talent. I recognized every one but Flash Gordon," said Louise Jones, 77, of Parkville.
"It was great. I remember all the way back to the Katzenjammer Kids when I was 6 or 7 years old. I have to read the comics every day," said Luke Buckler, 80, of Towson.
"I guess there was always a frustrated artist inside me that wanted to get out," said Mr. Meckler, dressed appropriately in a brightly striped shirt with a Mickey Mouse necktie.
He said he sketched for years, including occasional artwork for clients during his years with advertising agencies. When he retired, Mr. Meckler decided to expand his artistic horizons and took a class in painting with oils and acrylics at the Reisterstown Senior Center.
He also opened, for the first time, the box of pastel colors that his wife, Shirley, had given him 25 years ago. Now he does portraits, copied from photographs, in all three media.
For years, Mr. Meckler said, he drove past the Liberty Senior Center every day and saw it only as "an anonymous redbrick building." After he appeared there for the first time, he said, "The blinders came off. It's very fulfilling."
Mr. Meckler said he enjoys bringing back memories for people. "Comics seem to be something people have enjoyed over many years. It's recognition -- they recall something favorable from their youth."
Sometimes, he said, he does shows at Alzheimer's units at nursing homes, hoping to spark a memory in victims of the disease.
His second career came as a surprise to him. In business, he said, "I was always the guy behind the desk, but now I feel comfortable standing up before people to do this. It's a very nice outlet."