Noel Sickles grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio where he was inspired by his father's many sketches of his hard days working on the railroad. Taking a correspondence course from the Landon School of Art, Noel would often scourer the library studying all the illustrations he could find in books and magazines. At the age of nineteen, Sickles joined the Ohio State Journal as a political cartoonist, and three years later he created his classic adventure strip Scorchy Smith. Described as "the greatest natural cartoonist I ever knew" by his good friend Milton Caniff, Sickles gave up cartooning in 1940 to begin his illustration career with Life magazine during WWII. He drew for both the Navy and War Departments illustrating highly sensitive material and events that could not be photographed. After the war he worked for many different publications drawing his unique black-and-white scenes and often sparsely colored illustrations for National Geographic, Reader's Digest, and Life, who sponsored an exhibit of his work that toured the world.