Monday, December 05, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Tillers

 



As popular as NEA's main syndicate service was, their weekly 'pony service' never really seemed to catch on to any great extent. As close to the bone as most weekly papers were, it could just be that they simply could not afford ANY syndicate service, even one that offered great value for the money, as was a hallmark of the NEA brand. Another possibility is that back when newspapers were king, a rural weekly was probably going to sell a certain number of copies every week no matter what, and adding extra features would make little or no difference. Farmer and Mrs. Oatcake bought the paper every week to find out what their neighbours were up to, and the addition of a comic strip or two wasn't going to have any effect on circulation. 

Thus it is that NEA's weekly strips are ridiculously hard to find, including today's obscurity, The Tillers. The creator of the amiable weekly farmer strip was Les Carroll, who produced several features for the weekly service, worked as a staff artist on other NEA jobs, and eventually would take over on two of NEA's venerable flagship properties, Boots and her Buddies and then Our Boarding House. Carroll produced The Tillers from May 10 1943* until March 1961**, when a shake-up at the weekly service had them refocus on suburban papers instead of rural ones. Carroll dropped The Tillers and replaced it with Life With The Rimples, a strip about a suburban family. 

An interesting footnote to The Tillers is that a strip created by Jim Zilverberg used the same name. Zilverberg's version, which debuted around 1958, was marketed to weekly farming trade publications. Apparently it coexisted peacably with Carroll's strip while both were being offered to similar publications with similar audiences. Here's a sample of that strip:




* Source: NEA archives at Ohio State University

** Source: Florence Herald

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Hello Allan-
What about the Zilverberg version? Who was offering it? Weren't Autocaster and WNU gone by 1958? Did Mr. Zilverberg self-syndicate?
That two strips would exist with the same name at the same time is very unusual, but I would imagine "The Tillers" had gone unregistered as a trade mark, or even unregisterable.
 
Zilverberg apparently sold it himself to agricultural trade publications (never newspapers as far as I know). --Allan
 
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Sunday, December 04, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Reg Manning

 

Reg Manning is usually associated with postcards about Arizona (like this one), but during World War II he also produced popular cards for use by the armed forces. This card, Travelcard #16 from 1943, published by Curteich and distributed by Lollegard Specialty Company of Tucson Arizona, offers a whole cardful of good laughs, and a quick way for GIs to touch base with the folks at home.

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Saturday, December 03, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: May 6 1910

 

May 6 1910 -- Can you imagine if a police department today publicized the names of the cops who were over and underweight? 

This is one of the rare few microfilm copies I made from the Examiner that included the whole article. Unfortunately it's not written by Herriman.

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Comments:
Good morning. Wondering if I could ask a question.
 
I think you just did.
 
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Friday, December 02, 2022

 

Toppers: Popeye's Cartoon Club

 

In 2019-20, to celebrate Popeye's 90th birthday, King Features offered an online-only comic strip titled Popeye's Cartoon Club. The strip was written and drawn by various cartoonists, all given free rein to spin Popeye in whatever direction appealed to them. It was great fun, and much enjoyed by comic strip fans.

While the strips were new, the title clocked in at about 85 years old. E.C. Segar offered a few secondary toppers to Thimble Theatre in the 1930s in addition to the long-running Sappo main topper. The original Popeye's Cartoon Club debuted on April 9 1934 and offered advice on learning cartooning. Much of it was of the type, "if you can draw this simple shape, then you can turn it into ..." Segar gave the feature a little more than a year, ending it on May 5 1935, after which he eschewed secondary toppers entirely for the rest of his days on the Sunday strip.

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Ahoy Allan-
After the cartoon club, for a while, Sappo's strip shrank to one tier, without storylines, and only had Sappo himself "chalk talk" words or initials into full cartoons. It really comes off like a cheap way to dodge work, or something. But by early 1937,Sappo's full strip has come back, leaving cartoons about drawing cartoons behind.
That after his death, Segar's replacements added the extra panel again, now with stuff like
"Wimpy's Who's Zoo", they still never restored the "cartoon club".
 
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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

 

Mystery Strips: Tomorrow's Comics

Although the headline says this is a mystery strip post, this one's not so much mysterious as just so exceedingly rare I don't really know what to do with it.We're going to cover the whole range of a syndicate's offerings today, the comics of Argonaut Entertainment.

Never heard of them? Well, you're not alone. I'd never heard of them until Charles Brubaker stumbled upon a whole page's worth of unfamiliar comics in a 1994 issue of the Gaffney (SC) Ledger. Here's a sample:


The lineup consists of Bots by Ron Matzov, Dagney by Kelly Kennedy, Franky and Ralph by Moira Manion, Grey Matter by London and Chianca, Hobnob Inn by Paige Anderson, Time Trek by Jack Warren, Pipo and Company by Tomé, Amber Waves by Dave T. Phipps, Off The Top by Carl Jung and David Evans, Everything's O.K. by O.K. Elkins, Clancy by John Brundige, Carlos by Roy Delgado, Lunatic Fringe by Wardo, and Leadbellies by Thomas Burton. 

The only feature with which I was familiar was Phipps' Amber Waves, which was later syndicated by King Features Weekly Service, and continues to this day as far as I know.

This lineup stayed consist through the entire run in the Gaffney Ledger. And here's where we get to the problem. The Gaffney Ledger, a thrice weekly paper, ran the page from November 6 to December 4 in their 'experimental' Sunday edition (the longstanding Monday edition moved to Sunday and added a few extra features) -- a total of five times. The paper announced after this five week trial run that the Sunday paper had not been the big seller they were hoping for, so they moved it back to Monday and dropped the extra features, including the page from Argonaut Entertainment. 

So not only did I have a mysterious page of ultra-obscure comics, but with a five week run I had to ask myself whether it qualified for listing in my Stripper's Guide database. After all, I have said in the past that features that appear only in 'test runs' don't qualify -- they have to be used as regular features. They might have really, really short runs, but they can't just be mere samples. 

So, more digging, and I eventually came up with another run, this time in the Charlottesville (VA) Observer. This was a year earlier, and lasted ... hmm, what a coincidence ... five weekly appearances. The page ran from August 5 to September 2. The line-up changed slightly each week. Here's a sample page:


The complete line-up over the five week period was as follows (number in parentheses is a count of the times the feature appeared): Cuff & Rubin by Curt Brandao (5), The Brass & Fern by Steve Riehm (5), Dagney by Kelly Kennedy (2), Franky & Ralph by Moira Manion (5), The Purple Ort by Dan Fikes (4), The Art of Living by Valerie Costantino (2), Mum's The Word by Dan Rosandich (2), Business As Usual by Steve Brackett (2), Carlos by Roy Delgado (3), Leadbellies by Thomas Burton (3), At A Glance by Michael J. Saporito (3), Everything's O.K. by O.K. Elkins (4), and The Real World by Steve McNeon (1). 

Now with a second sample run in hand, we at least also had a syndicate name and the headline "Tomorrow's Comics." That was the clue that helped answer the big question, "Just what the heck is this stuff?"

It turns out that Argonaut Entertainment was primarily a creator of comic book inserts for college newspapers. The name of the comic book? Tomorrow's Comics, of course. There are apparently seven known issues, and you can see one of them here appearing in the Oregon Daily Emerald, and here in the Miami Hurricane. The comic books offered readers short runs of a big batch of daily style strips by what they billed as some of the brightest young undiscovered cartoonists. It was actually not a bad idea, and the publisher obviously had standards, because most of the strips are gifted amateur to semi-professional level. Learning the name of the publisher also led me to this advertisement in Editor & Publisher, from July 28 1990:


And I found that the publisher's Tomorrow Comics page was offered in the E&P listings from 1991-94. Whether they had any takers in mainstream papers beyond test runs is, of course, the $64 question. So please Please PLEASE if you know of a paper that ran the page on a regular ongoing basis, contact me so that all these features can find a permanent place in the Stripper's Guide database. Or, if you know anything about the syndication, or are one of the creators, I'd love to hear your story.

I found a few other interesting tidbits while trolling the interwebs looking for more information. First one concerns  the comic strip Franky and Ralph, by Moira Manion. The strip was about a fox and snake that end up living in encroaching suburbia when their native habitat disappears. This, of course, is the central thesis of Over The Hedge as well, and in 2006 there was a minor flap about whether Fry and Lewis might have been inspired by this earlier feature; the story was covered by Minnesota Public Radio.

Besides Amber Waves, I found one other feature that lived beyond Tomorrow's Comics. Hobnob Inn, in addition to becoming an early webcomic, ran weekly in the Virginia Gazette from June 28 1997 to October 10 1998. 

Thanks for much of this information from Charles Brubaker!




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Comments:
I am quite familiar with this source, as I did submit features to it years ago. They even showed some interest to one of my submissions, in fact, though turned it down a second time. I may have seen an ad for this source either in E&P, or in CARTOONIST PROfiles, or in Don Cook's "The Funnies Paper" fanzine.
 
Grey Matter by London and Chianca

London and Chianca are Dave London and Pete Chianca. They currently do a webcomic "Pet Peeves" (full disclosure: they interviewed me for their podcast). Their "About Us" page does mention "Grey Matter", saying it ran in over 100 newspapers in US and Canada. I wonder how many of those 100 papers are college publications, tho.

https://www.petpeevescomic.com/about_us
 
John -- Do you recall if they were claiming mainstream newspaper publication to you, or just that college paper insert?

--Allan
 
I tracked down one of the cartoonists, Ron Matzov, and asked him about Argonaut. This is what he wrote:

"My understanding of their business strategy is that they were trying to access the untapped market of the thousands of weekly and biweekly community papers. The syndicates weren’t supplying weekly papers, so Argonaut offered community papers a weekly supply of ‘free' cartoons from their roster of 50 artists. Argonaut provided free page-layout services and email delivery. They were based in Cincinnati. Lenny Dave was my contact at Argonaut. The expectation was that some of the comics would catch on, and eventually create merchandising opportunities. I viewed them as a startup cartoon syndicate for small/local newspapers. Around 1994, Argonaut had a list of enrolled weekly papers in the U.S. and Canada with a combined reach of around 1.2 million people weekly. I think they may have had a couple of conventional newspapers on the list. I actually don’t know what happened to them after that, or why they shut down."
 
If I had a nickel for every startup syndicate that thought weekly papers were a vast untapped market just waiting for them to exploit it ... well, I wouldn't be rich, but I'd have quite a stack of nickels. --Allan
 
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Monday, November 28, 2022

 

Selling It: Foxy Grandpa for Tuxedo Tobacco

 

In the April 28 1912 edition of Hearst's American Weekly the back cover was given over to a full page ad from Tuxedo Tobacco. Someone at that tobacco company must have been a big cartooning fan, because cartooning and cartoonists were frequent subject matter for their ads. This early one repurposes a Foxy Grandpa strip that has nothing to do with tobacco. Given how much a full page 4-color ad in a magazine section that ran in every Hearst paper must have cost, it's surprising that the Tuxedo advertising department didn't put some effort into finding a strip that had some connection to their product, or tobacco in general.


Comments:
The masthead with Foxy & co. in the goat cart-I don't remember such a device in a Hearst Strip- it looks like something used in one of those big books they made showing a half a stip on each page.
 
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Sunday, November 27, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael

 

One of the less seen of the Taylor Pratt series by Albert Carmichael was called "Anybody Here Seen Kelly?" The phrase comes from a popular song hit of the day, "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?" The phrase was appropriated by Carmichael, and he came up with a whole batch of cartoons for which it could serve as the punchline. Here's the song (this is the second version, the one that made it big in the States):



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Saturday, November 26, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: May 5 1910

 

May 5 1910  -- Yet another in the seemingly endless well of Herriman gags about the level of public interest in the upcoming Fight of the Century.

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Friday, November 25, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Character Sketches

 

The great W.E. Hill Sunday page, Among Us Mortals, debuted in 1916 to immediate success. The page offered a group of beautifully drawn cartoon vignettes all about one common subject which changed weekly. While that doesn't sound like an earth-shattering new idea, Hill's page was also a little different in that it was offered for use primarily outside of the Sunday comics section, the impressive drawings looking especially handsome when run in the rotogravure section. Newspaper cartoonists who fancied themselves to be somewhat more artistically advanced than their brethren saw that this could be a showcase to show off their chops. Imitations of Among Us Mortals began to pop up all over the place.

One of those me-too features was Character Sketches, by A. Russell (I've not been able to discover what the A stands for). This feature ran only in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and started there on January 21 1917, just eight months after Among Us Mortals debuted in the New York Tribune. While I would give Mr. Hill the nod for a greater achievement in art, Russell's version was quite impressively drawn, too. Character Sketches did not get prime placement in the rotogravure section; instead he was afforded a color page in the magazine section. Russell wanted people to focus on his linework, so though the page was run through a 4-colour press, he used it sparingly for spot colour.

As best I can tell Character Sketches was not offered in syndication, so it was enjoyed only by readers of the G-D. They got to enjoy it for a long time, too. The feature ran for just short of a full decade, ending on April 18 1926. On April 6 Russell suffered a stroke, from which the paper said he was expected to recover, but evidence seems to indicate the contrary. 

[EDIT: EOCostello has lifted the veil on A. Russell, see comments below.]

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Comments:
For what it's worth, the January 28, 1922 edition of the Globe-Democrat has a brief article/advertisement, showing a picture of the gentleman, who appears middle-aged.
 
Gould's 1921 Red Book city directory lists an "Alf Russell," married to an Emma, at 3002 Geyer Avenue, the address listed for Russell in that April 6, 1926 G-D article about his stroke. Further developments as they become apparent.
 
Got him. His name is Alfred Russell. In the 1920 census, he was living at 3002 Geyer Avenue (14th Ward), the address in the stroke article. As of 1920, he was 57. Occupation listed as a newspaper artist. Born in Baden, Germany. The April 29, 1957 edition of the Globe-Democrat has an article (page 6A) positively identifying Alfred Russell as "A. Russell," and notes he was the art editor of the paper in the early 1900s, with his working appearing on the cover of the paper's Sunday magazine for more than a quarter-century. The July 15, 1952 G-D noted that he had died on that date in 1927. The obit for his wife was in the April 14, 1952 edition. The July 24, 1927 edition notes he came to St. Louis from Germany at the age of 12, and has other interesting bio data. The July 16, 1927 G-D has an editorial on him. And yes, the July 15, 1927 G-D has his obit on page 21.
 
Nice sleuthing, EOCostello!!
 
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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

 

Selling It: Unusual Facts Revealed

 






What to do if you are a newspaper editor wanting to add a little Hollywood glamour to your paper, but you don't have the resources to buy a feature like Seein' Stars, Screen Oddities or even a celebrity gossip column? Never fear, Mr. Editor, just check your in-box. There you'll find freebies from some of the major Hollywood studios that fit the bill. 

While most of these freebies, ads disguised as entertainment, tried to hide their origin, you've got to give Columbia Pictures points for being forthright about Unusual Facts Revealed. It carried a 'syndicate stamp' for Columbia Feature Service, a nom de plume about as transparent as Hemming Ernestway. 

As with most of these freebies, determining start and end dates is pretty well impossible. Even if they came with release dates on the proofs, you can be sure any newspaper that was on the skids enough to use them ran them when they needed to fill a hole, even if it was ten years late, or running a whole page's worth of them in a single edition. I suppose if we wanted to make a life's work out of Unusual Facts Revealed we could examine the movies being flogged, check their release dates, and .... no, it's just too depressing to think about a time sink like that.  

My best fix on a start date, December 1 1933, is from the Moorhead County Press. The feature seemed to be available on a more or less weekly frequency through 1943*, I'm guessing with some gaps. It's not as if Columbia Pictures was overly concerned with guaranteeing papers an installment every single week.

The feature was credited as "by Movie Spotlight", and I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that's not someone's real name. Seldom was the art signed, and there were definitely a number of different artists involved, but Barrye Phillips did sign some early episodes (the top sample here is signed by him), and he occasionally admitted his involvement through sometime in 1935. I don't know much about him, but his work appeared on some paperback and magazine covers in the 1950s and 60s. He also did a stint on the Sunday strip Famous Fiction from 1944-46.  

After Phillips' departure the panel was unsigned for a long stretch, but then in 1939-40 Erwin Hess signed some. After that the feature was unsigned until its apparent end in 1943.


* Source: end year from Covington Virginian.

 

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Monday, November 21, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Ginger

 

To the admittedly slight extent to which I have considered Ginger, a daily panel about an impish little girl, I always assumed that the creator, Orla Gettermann, was female. Oops! Turns out that we better call him Mister Gettermann, or better yet, Herr Getterman, since he was Danish. 

Ginger was just one of many Dennis the Menace competitors who ran rampant on the comics pages starting in the 1950s, and for the life of me I can't see what might set Ginger apart from all the others. The art is okay but nothing to get excited about, and most of the gags feel like they could have been recycled from all the other panels of this type. My problem with these features, generally, is that I sense no actual personality in most of these kids -- they are just automatons, programmed to produce a wearisome formulaic gag every day.

Ginger debuted in Denmark in 1958*, and got picked up for American distribution by United Feature Syndicate the next year, debuting on September 7 1959. The panel was not picked up by very many U.S. papers, but UFS stuck with it, presumably because they were paying a low re-run rate for the work. 

Ginger had a surprisingly long run in the U.S., almost twenty years. It was last advertised in Editor & Publisher in 1977, and the latest sample I can find is an appearance in the  Gettysburg Times dated September 23. That places the earliest possible end date as September 24 1977. The Times, who evidently felt that impish kids were a necessary ingredient in the paper, replaced Ginger with yet another of these panels, Gumdrop, also from United Feature.

 

* Under the title "Gitte" I think, though there is very little information out there, and most of it is of course in Danish. Any Danes out there to tell us more?


Comments:
"Gumdrop" might be a good candidate for Obscurity of the Day, if only for Jerry Scott's involvement with it.
 
Hello Allan-
It's impressive this panel lasted so long, as either I somehow managed to never see a paper that took it in my life, or it's so amazingly hackneyed it didn't register.
Might you consider that a precursor in the shall we say, distaff Dennis panels like "Sweetie pie" may have been, for at least a while, been a hit with client papers, so it brought about also rans like "Ginger" and "Amy?"
Today's date reminds me of another little girl panel, the uniquely ill-timed "Caroline" panel, about JFK's young daughter, launched in November, 1963.
 
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Sunday, November 20, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Fred Opper

 

A great bust of Happy Hooligan on this 1904 Kaufmann & Strauss card, #62. Most of this series was Outcault cards, but there were a few from Opper, including this one that I failed to recognize at the time. It was correctly IDed by Mark Johnson, though, so thanks Mark.

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I have seen this same card, with the "Valentine Greetings" omitted.
 
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Saturday, November 19, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: May 4 1910

 

May 4 1910: Everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY, is in the know about the upcoming Fight of the Century.

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Friday, November 18, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Preparedness

 




Here's a feature whose reason for being is arguable more interesting than the feature itself. 

Thornton Fisher, a mainstay at the New York Evening World in the 1910s, took a break from his usual strip work to create the panel series Preparedness, which debuted on January 31 1916. Reading samples today you may be forgiven if the theme of the panels is anything but apparent. The key, it turns out, are the captions, all of which use militaristic terminology to describe the activity going on in the cartoon. 

In 1916 the U.S. was still sitting out the war in Europe, officially neutral though leaning heavily toward supporting the Allies. The more hawkish contingents in the U.S. were itching to get involved, and they came up with a proposed national policy called 'Preparedness'. The idea as it was put forth was that to keep us safely out of war we need to immediately develop a strong and highly prepared military -- no one would dare attack us or risk our involvement if we are seen as an unbeatable juggernaut. The concept was pure misdirection and everyone knew it, but the notion did catch on as the war in Europe ground on. Even President Wilson, originally a vocal critic of the idea, cozied up to it in 1916, evidently realizing that our involvement was just a matter of time and that we should indeed start getting prepared.  

Okay, so with that in mind, we can reread these panels and see how they all tie together. The day's actors (there were no recurring characters) are in the midst of some sort of crisis, and they are preparing to meet the situation head on and with strength of numbers. The theme is carried through into the captions, where Fisher uses military mumbo-jumbo to drive the theme home. 

Preparedness ran in the Evening World until April 6 1916. 

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I was more taken with the "Illustrated Comical Jokes". The title suggests they're lame on purpose, an early example of ironic, almost inside snark. Problem for a modern reader is whether they really were lame compared to the main panel.

"Illustrated Unpopular Songs" leans the same way, the title itself being a clearer gag. The "illustration" being a tiny captioned square is also kind of clever. The verse and the added comment sadly fall short.

Of course, a hundred years from then who'll care?
 
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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

 

Firsts and Lasts: The Final Skippy Sunday Page

 

If you haven't read Jerry Robinson's biography of Percy Crosby (Skippy and Percy Crosby, Holt Rinehart Winston, 1978) you should -- it's one heckuva read describing a cartoonist's life of incredible highs and lows. In 1945 Percy Crosby was already depressed over a divorce, tax problems, the plummeting circulation of his strip, and the reduction of his Sunday from a full page to a lowly half. The final shoe dropped in December of that year when the Skippy comic strip was cancelled outright, a victim not just of lower popularity but of the syndicate being tired of dealing with its mercurial creator. 

Here is the final Skippy Sunday, dated December 2 1945. I've been seeking these late Skippy strips for decades now and finally stumbled across this one recently. It ran in the Ashland Daily Independent.

According to Jerry Robinson, the daily ran one further week, ending on December 8. But Jeffrey Lindenblatt has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that is not so. He documented a half-dozen newspapers that all ended Skippy on November 17. This date actually make s a lot of sense if the syndicate fired Crosby and the strip ended with the material they had on hand. Sundays have a much more involved production process to run through before they see print, so King would have had at least a few more weeks of them than dailies. With that in mind, I have changed my end date for the Skippy daily based on Lindenblatt's proof.

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Monday, November 14, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Maiden Meditations

 


Among the women cartoonists of the earlier part of the 20th century, Sara Moore (aka Sara Moore Eastman) stood out for not having what I would call a 'frilly' or feminine style. She was a darn fine cartoonist/illustrator, and although her subjects were often touching on that female cartoonist staple, romance, I think she rose above the sterotypical material. What she lacked, though, was the instantly recognizeable style of the top echelon of her sorority. Although she had a long and prolific career, she never became a household name by any means. She even stayed under the radar to cartooning historian Trina Robbins, not rating a mention in any of her books on women cartoonists. 

Moore created several newspaper series over a span of three decades, including some that involved just as much writing as art. We're going to look at her latest known cartooning work today, the feature Maiden Meditations that she penned for the Chicago Tribune from December 27 1925 to March 27 1932. The weekly half-page feature, usually consisting of several vignettes, mostly hits the subjects of romance and fashion with cheesecake drawings for the fellas. Although the feature was offered in syndication, it is rarely found outside the pages of its home paper. 

As best I can tell Sara Moore retired after this feature ended, but it wasn't because she was elderly. Although I don't have a birth year, she died in 1969, some thirty-seven years after Maiden Meditations ended.

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I have a Sarah Moore, per Editor & Publisher in 1913 - likely to be the same one? I have no images to share, unfortunately. My entry for Sarah Moore: In 1913, while working for the Detroit News, she contributed a drawing to a national cartoon compilation of autographed sketches, begun in 1904 and possessed by James D. Preston, Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery.

Info from: “Unique Cartoon Book,” Editor and Publisher, May 10, 1913, p. 15

Sara W. Duke, Curator, Popular & Applied Graphic Art, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress sduk@loc.gov

 
Probably, I recall a Detroit connection. She was already nationally syndicated by this time, starting in 1911.
 
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Sunday, November 13, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Dave Breger

 

Here's a Private Breger card, Graycraft #306. Usually I find these postally unused, but this one went through the mails in 1944. It has quite a message on the reverse:

Two-in-One witch overzealous to read leaves finishes job on pa's lid. Stickum is useless. Prices in sewer. Don't let two-in-one witch forget this. 

  --- The Three Cupids

Did I just uncover some Axis plot that was organized via Private Breger postcards?

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What a profound,inspiring message. I think we'll all be better for it.
The original date this panel ran was 29 December 1942, while Breger was still stationed "Somewhere in Britain."
 
"Did I just uncover some Axis plot that was organized via Private Breger postcards?" Ha. That makes more sense than anything I can come up with.
 
Hi Alan, what is the actual post date on the card? You might not be too far wrong if it is dated around June or a little after. If you are able to post the back, it would fascinating to see.
 
The card was postmarked on November 8, sent between Moscow and Lewiston Idaho.
 
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Saturday, November 12, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: May 3 1910

 

May 3 1910: E.C. Lewis was in his cups and decided it would be hilarious to stage fake muggings with the pistol he happened to have handy. He made the exercise more interesting for himself by commanding each victim to stand around him with their hands up as he gathered more butts for his practical joke. When a cop on patrol happened along he evidently lacked a sense of humor, and arrested Mr. Lewis.

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Friday, November 11, 2022

 

Toppers: Things We Can Do Without

 

Another in George McManus' secondary toppers was Things We Can Do Without. The title pretty much says it all. This was the first of the Bringing Up Father panel toppers and ran from July 23 1933 to April 22 1934, after which it was replaced by How To Keep From Getting Old.

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I love Bringing Up Father! Does anybody know more or less exactly when Zeke Zekely started working with McManus? I know it was in the early-to-mid 1930s. This page looks like it has the Zekely touch. The lines are more crisped-up than McManus ever managed. McM's design was always great, but with Z's inking, the whole thing looks like it's been ironed with starch. Poor Z never got real credit for his improvements. Everybody always praises McM's wonderful Art Deco artwork, but it t'waren't McM who did it.

Incidentally, I also love these "memory" strips. I have lots of them from the late 40s & early 50s, but this is the earliest one I've ever seen. Anybody know when they started?
 
To Miss Collins, all,
I don't know what the first of this memories themed Sundays was, It would seem to me an invention of ZZ's. I do know the last Sunday ever to have McManus's signature (19 December 1954) was one of these good old days pages, and it was by ZZ.
 
To Mark Johnson: Thank you for the info, although I want MORE. A question, however: you say that ZZ invented the Memories strips. Do you mean to say that he wrote them all by himself? They have always struck me as being authentically penned by McManus, reflective of his own younger years.

In the early 1980s, I produced a radio show about BUF, for Canada's CBC Radio network. It included a "reading" of a bunch of the memory strips, performed as Jiggs by Don Harron (known in the USA as Charlie Farquarson on the HeeHaw TV show). We played some old-time music in the background, and also had some sound effects. That's how much I love those old memory strips.
 
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Wednesday, November 09, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Dear God Kids

 


If Charmers didn't give you a case of sugar shock, Bears In Love didn't make your brain melt, and Kisses didn't send your glycemic index into the red zone, then prepare for guaranteed diabetic overload, here come the Dear God Kids

In the 1980s the cherubic children with adorably innocent questions for the Almighty graced everything from cards to mugs to calendars to books to coasters to statuettes to stickers to posters ... well, you get the idea. Creator Anne Fitzgerald of Limerick, Ireland, came up with the idea sometime before 1982, but the origin of this licensing bonanza is a little murky. Supposedly she attended a licensing fair and encountered a German firm that sold novelty phone pads. She suggested a pad that was headed with a "Dear God" aphorism; the firm tried it and the pads sold like a Biblical rain of frogs. Fitzgerald being an artist, she came up with the idea of adding cute kids as the speakers of these pithy lines, and a marketing bonanza was born. 

Fitzgerald might have been a marketing wunderkind, but to be fair, she did seem to take her religion seriously. She wrote many books in which the Dear God Kids get Bible-based answers to their questions, the goal being to help kids understand how the Christian deity thinks in a cute, non-threatening format. But to be clear, the dynamo that ran this fad was all the junk that took up shelf space at your local K-Mart.

A newspaper feature for the Dear God Kids started in an unpredictable venue, Britain's notorious tabloid newspaper, The Sun (the one with topless girls on page three)*. It came to the U.S. under the distributorship of King Features, debuting on February 13 1984. American newspaper editors, perhaps sensing that the feature was essentially an advertisement for Fitzgerald's cornucopia of licensed gewgaws, wisely stayed away in droves. 

King Features gave the feature a sporting chance, keeping it on the roster for almost four years. By then the craze for Dear God Kids had pretty much run its course, perhaps drowned under the mountain of over 1000 different licensed products dumped on the market. The kids were retired from American newspapers on January 2 1988. 

Many thanks to Mark Johnson, who supplied me with the proof sheets seen above for the initial and final weeks of the feature.

~~~~~

* Oddly, this feature is not mentioned in the newly published book The A To Z of British Newspaper Strips by Paul Hudson, which otherwise seems pretty darn all-encompassing. It's also a captivating read for this comic strip fan, whose knowledge of British comics has all the depth of an Andy Capp gag.



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I couldn't have been the only one who read the title as "Dear God, Kids!".
 
I really like this feature. It is adorable and charming. We need more stuff like this today. I am not very impressed at all by the so-called "entertainment" out there especially nowadays, as it often endorses bad behavior. I am neither into the woke nor the edgy.

As a cartooning hobbyist, I did my take of a comic strip with children in it from 2020 through 2022. I attempted to put some of the same endearing qualities in it. For example, I notice that everyone wants to anger everyone else in this world, so I always avoided making my characters angry in this series. I have been curious what some other people's take is on my kid comic strip, though, as I have showed it to very few.
 
Hello Allan-
It would be hard to not say there was some sort of connexion, or inspiration, with another feature we put out several years prior to this one,
"Children's Letters to God" by Stuart Hample. (1968-1976)
Hample's panel was initially so successful, he had a prime time TV special on it in 1969, but it tanked very fast. It was reasoned that it might be offending to some for it's possible frivoulous religous aspirations, and it was changed to "Children's Letters" midway through it's run.
 
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Monday, November 07, 2022

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bart Tumey


Paul Barton “Bart” Tumey was born on July 24, 1912, in Wichita, Kansas, according to his World War II draft card. 

In the 1920 United States Census, Tumey was the youngest of two children born to Lemuel, a farmer, and Martha. They resided in Marion, Iowa. 

Tumey has not yet been found in the 1930 census. 

Information about his art training is a mystery. At some point Tumey moved to Chicago. 

Tumey was interested in comics and aviation. His question was published in Dick Calkins’ Skyroads strip which appeared in Illinois State Journal, (Springfield, Illinois), June 26, 1933. 


His question was answered the following day.


The Skyroads artist was Zack Mosley who, years later, briefly figured in Tumey’s career. 

The Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, at Ancestry.com, said Tumey and Beulahbelle Hurd married on September 17, 1938. She was a Chicago native born on July 12, 1915. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Tumey married artist Janice Valleau but that is incorrect. (Valleau and Edward H. Winkleman were engaged in November 1947 and married in June 1948.)

Beulahbelle Hurd, Lindblom Technical 
High School, Chicago, Illinois, 1933.

The 1940 census counted Tumey and his wife in his mother’s household which included his sister. They lived on East Monroe in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Tumey was a freelance cartoonist who had two years of college. Later that year he moved to New York.

On October 16, 1940, Tumey signed his World War II draft card. His address was 10 Ruxton Road in Port Washington, New York. He worked for Zack Mosley who lived in Sands Point, Port Washington, New York. 


It’s not clear if Tumey ghosted Mosley’s Smilin’ Jack. In American Newspaper Comics (2012), Alberto Becattini said Boody Rogers drew Smilin’ Jack from 1936 to 1942 while Mosley spent a lot time flying. (See Popular Aviation, February 1939, “The House That Smilin’ Jack Built”.) 

Eventually, Tumey found work in the comic book field. He created Dan’l Flannel for Novelty Press. The character debuted in 4 Most #3, Summer 1942. Tumey used his wife’s name, Beulahbelle, for the lead female character. 

Tumey enlisted in the Army on May 12, 1943. His veteran’s file said he was discharged on October 29, 1945. 

Tumey was mentioned in Stars Without Garters!: The Memoirs of Two Gay GI’s in WWII (1996). 
… The newspaper staff published a daily which introduced a new cartoon, “Private Pokey,” created by Corporal Bart Tumey. “Private Pokey” was picked up by Yank and eventually syndicated in civilian papers. 
Some of Tumey’s Private Pokey cartoons can be viewed at Heritage Auctions. The cartoons were signed and said Tumey was in the 34th Special Service Company which provided entertainment. 

After the war Tumey returned to New York City. The 1950 census said he was married and lived alone at 60 West 92nd Street, B-4. The Grand Comics Database said Tumey’s comic book career spanned from 1939 to 1953. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, Tumey was one of many cartoonists who did gag cartoons for farm and agriculture periodicals. Here are Tumey cartoons in The Feed Bag: December 1957, February 1958, June 1958, August 1958, February 1961, February 1962, and July 1962. Other publications with Tumey cartoons are Farm Store Merchandising and Grain Age

The Writer’s Market, Volume 18, (1961), had an entry for Tumey. 
Bart Tumey, 2820A W. Vliet St., Milwaukee 8, Wis. There is non limit to the gags per batch Mr. Tumey will look at. However, he wants industrial gags only, for which he will pay a 25% commission.
Tumey’s mother passed away on February 8, 1965. Her obituary said he lived in St. Louis, Missouri.

Tumey passed away on July 11, 1974. He was laid to rest at Keokuk National Cemetery. Tumey’s wife, Beulahbelle Mellan, passed away on September 13, 2000 in Chicago


Further Reading and Viewing
Four-Color Shadows, Shenanigan-Bart Tumey–1949
Lambiek Comiclopedia
War Comics, Private Dogtag
Cole’s Comics, Sexy Nurses, Jive Genies, and Innocent Racism in Jack Cole’s 1944 Private Dogtag Screwball Adventure 


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Sunday, November 06, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from J.R. Williams

 

This is yet another J.R. Williams card from Standley-May of New Mexico, Series 1 #W512 to be specific. This Out Our Way panel was originally published on February 24 1951.

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Saturday, November 05, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: May 3 1910

 

May 3 1910: Yet another gag based on the upcoming Fight of the Century. This one features a character never yet seen in real life: the bookie who will give money back.


Comments:
The fellow in the second panel is the only person in this strip to have the straight dope. $5, in 1910, is the 2022 equivalent of $156, and $100 (assuming that's not a stack of $100 bills) is $3,124. $5 could be classified as big betting money, at least by 1910 standards.
 
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Friday, November 04, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Hapless Towser

 

Hapless Towser was a short-lived strip about a dog who can't catch a break; it ran in the New York Herald Sunday comics section from January 26* to April 13 1902**. The creator signed himself Ollendorff. 

At the time I was putting together my book, American Newspaper Comics, I weighed whether I was willing to assume this was Julian Ollendorff, an accomplished cartoonist who has series credits in the 1930s-40s. At the time I thought of that lengthy missing span of years and decided that chances were against it. I ended up listing the creator of this strip as just Ollendorff. 

But now that Alex Jay has done the legwork to do Julian's Ink-Slinger Profile, I can be pretty confident that the wet-behind-the-ears 20-year old did actually produce this strip. Ollendorff is on record saying that he was working at the New York World as early as about 1901, and so it's no long-shot that he was shopping his wares around to other Big Apple papers at that time. 

The art on Hapless Towser is a bit rough but it's easy to see that there's a wonderful cartoonist just at the cusp of mastering his trade. After this lone series Ollendorff would explore other venues for his art, mostly illustration and fashion work, for almost thirty years. Once he finally came back to the fold it was as an accomplished and confident cartoonist, producing wonderful series like Gloria and Olly of the Movies.


* Source: Author's collection.

** Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index.

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Hello Allan-
I'm confused, you credit this to the New York Tribune, and Barker having a Tribune index, but I didn't think they had any comics that early, and the example shown has a Herald identia. Do you mean Herald all along?
 
Argh! Thank you for catching that. Yes, it should be Herald!
 
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Wednesday, November 02, 2022

 

Toppers: "Good Deed" Dotty

 

The comic strip Dixie Dugan began in 1929 under the title Showgirl, and, just like the magazine serial and Broadway show from which the name came, it starred a heroine who looked like the breathtakingly beautiful young starlet Louise Brooks. In the beginning, the strip was about a beautiful young would-be star, her forays into the entertainment biz and her many ardent beaus. Art was provided by the team of J.P. McEvoy (writer) and John H. Striebel (art). Both men were holdovers from the original appearance of Showgirl as a magazine serial, which was the source of the Broadway play.

While the well-known creators, the Louise Brooks connection and the media-tie-in sold a lot of papers on the strip, for some reason, maybe the onset of the Great Depression, the strip took a a major change in direction. Dixie lost her showgirl ambitions and concentrated on earning a conventional living, and her looks were toned down so that she was attractive but in a much more girl-next-door style. She became quite family-oriented and earnest, almost to the point of being priggish. 

The newly conservative Dixie seemed to be just fine with readers, and a popular Sunday page was added on February 5 1933*. Along with the new Sunday came a one-tier topper strip called "Good Deed" Dotty (yes, complete with self-conscious quotes).  

In each strip little girl Dotty searches for some good turn she can do, and when she does one she writes it down in her booklet of, yes, "Good Deeds". Her good deeds are humorous but they are all, indeed, truly good deeds -- the example above is the tone set throughout the series. 

The strip was often pantomime, which was a favorite form for John Striebel. Before Dixie Dugan he had a wonderful strip feature titled Pantomime which ran for three years.  That makes me wonder if the topper was his baby, and that McEvoy wasn't involved.  

"Good Deed" Dotty was the only topper Dixie Dugan ever had, and it was dropped on October 17 1948**. From then on Dixie had the page to herself.

* Source: Milwaukee Journal.

** Source: Chicago Sun-Times.

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Monday, October 31, 2022

 

Halloween Obscurity of the Day: Homer






 

Homer may have been a ghost, but he seldom inspired fear. His particular brand of haunting behavior was to play mild practical jokes, more lilely to inspire grins than screams. In fact, some of his tricks are beneficial, like warning movie-goers about a stinker of a film before they waste their money (above). Homer could even on occasion be downright prudish -- he had a penchant for slap-on-the-wrist punishments for even mildly bad behavior. 

Ray Thompson was repsonsible for Homer, a pantomime single-panel daily that debuted on July 2 1945* through the auspices of the New York Tribune syndicate. Papers that signed up often improved the title of the feature by renaming it Homer the Invisible, Hauntin' Homer, or Homer Did It. Thompson was a journeyman cartoonist who had a few of his own features in the 20s and thirties, collaborated as writer on Myra North Special Nurse and ghosted Somebody's Stenog for awhile. 

Homer had some high-profile newspaper clients, but evidently not enough to make Thompson or his syndicate happy. The panel feature was exorcised from newspapers on August 30 1947**, just a little more than a two year run. 

Later Thompson apparently found employment as cartoonist on bubble-gum comics The Dubble Bubble Kids, and then as a writer of non-fiction.

 

* Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

** Source: Oakland Tribune


Comments:
A comic about a ghost named Homer? I wondered if this was a passing inspiration for Atlas/Marvel's Homer the Happy Ghost in the 1950s?
 
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Sunday, October 30, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Dwig

 

Here is a Valentine's Day postcard from Dwig. It was published by Samuel Gabriel & Sons. We've seen a few of their Dwig Valentine cards before, but they were coded as series 402. This card is from series 403, so, apparently the previous series sold quite well and they decided to add more?

This card sports a faux wood frame effect obviously intended to make it look like a Tuck card -- sort of the Cadillac of postcards -- but they didn't go so far as to splurge on the metallic ink like Tuck usually did.

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Saturday, October 29, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: April 30 1910

 

April 30 1910 -- They sure did take the census seriously in 1910. 

A census-taker came to the Los Angeles residence of J.H. Todd, a man who seemed to be in his 60s. When asked his age, Mr. Todd replied that he was seven years old, due to the amazing properties of "The Elixir Of Life", a mineral water for which he is a salesman. He claimed that every time he partook of the water that his life would begin over again, and that he typically imbibed it every seven years -- he was about due for his next dose. 

The census taker found no humor in this, and called a policeman to witness Mr. Todd's obvious false witness to a census-taker. The deputy, also a man of no humor, arrested Mr. Todd, who was obliged to pay bail to get out of jail. 

You have to hand it to Mr. Todd for being a truly devoted fan of the product he sells. When called before the district court in October of that year, he stuck to his guns that he was seven years old. The judge fined him $100 (a quite substantial amount in 1910). Todd paid the fine on the spot. 

But maybe Mr. Todd was the smart one -- how much "Elixir of Life" did he sell because of all the free publicity he was given?

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Comments:
This is a rare example of a front-flip, the reverse of the usual backwards flip-take. I must have seen it elsewhere but I can't think where.
 
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Friday, October 28, 2022

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: A.C. Fera



Adolph Christian Fera was born on September 14, 1877, in Danville, Illinois, according to his Social Security application at Ancestry.com. His parents were Charles A. Fera and Mary E. Gilman who married on October 26, 1875 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In the 1880 United States Census, Fera, his parents and younger brother, Gilman, lived in Danville. Fera’s father was a merchant. 

Apparently Fera served during the Spanish-American War. His name appeared in the Official Register of the United States, Officers and Employees of the Civil, Military, and Naval Service, July 1, 1899, Volume 1

On August 23, 1902, Fera married Miss E. Baunn in Alexandria, Virginia. It was the first of three marriages. 

The beginning of Fera’s cartooning education and career is not known. The Billings Gazette (Montana), July 26, 1907, said Fera was a cartoonist on the Chicago Examiner. In the book, Artists in California 1786–1940, the author, Edan Hughes said “Fera settled in Los Angeles in 1909. For many years he worked there as a cartoonist for the Hearst papers.”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Fera’s strips include What You Lafin’ At? (1909); Oh, There Goes My Car (1909); Just Boy (1914, continued by Doc Winner in 1926); and An Embarrassing Moment (1916, with Fred Locher). 

In the 1910 census, Fera lived with his father and aunt in South Pasadena at 1218 Fremont Avenue. Fera’s occupation was newspaper cartoonist. That same year a collection of his cartoons was published under the title, Post Cards of a Tourist (Mr. ‘Skinny’ East): Cartoons of Southern California. Below is a partial description from Art Books, 1876–1949 (1981). 
The cartoons used in this volume were originally published in “The Los Angeles Express” excepting six drawings which appeared in “The Los Angeles Herald.”
Almost seven weeks after the census enumeration, Fera married Dorothy V. Quincey on June 10, 1910 in Los Angeles. Fera’s third marriage was to Mabel L. Jamieson on February 8, 1913 in Los Angeles. 

Fera signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was a Los Angeles-based cartoonist working for the Newspaper Feature Service which was in New York. He was described as tall and slender with gray eyes and dark hair. 

Editor and Publisher, April 24, 1919, published a King Features Syndicate advertisement that included Fera’s Just Boy

The 1920 census said Fera had two sons, Gilman and Donald. The family of four lived in Los Angeles on Western Avenue. 

Editor and Publisher, April 30, 1921, reported the American Newspaper Publishers’ Association convention dinner at the Friars Club. Fera was one of the Hearst stars to attend. 

Fera was included in Our American Humorists (1922). 

The Sierra Madre News, March 23, 1928, said Fera was a member of the Cartoonists Dinner Club. 

In 1924, Fera was a registered voter. The Republican resided at 943 South New Hampshire Avenue. The same address was recorded in the 1930 census and 1932 Los Angeles city directory. 

Fera has not yet been found in the 1940 census. Fera’s son, Gilman, signed his World War II draft card on October 16, 1940. He lived with his parents in Los Angeles at 1463 West Washington. 

Fera was mentioned in King News: An Autobiography (1941). 

Fera passed away on June 15, 1941 in Los Angeles, according to the California Death Index. 

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