Thursday, July 24, 2014
Wake up kids! It's time for your Morning Funnies Cereal!
If you were a kid in the late 1980s, you may have had a well-meaning parent inflict Morning Funnies cereal on you at the breakfast table. From the various accounts I find around the web, this cereal was pretty awful -- way too sweet, and the 'laughing face' cereal pieces were apparently so ludicrously big they were hard to get in your mouth. Lucky for me I was well beyond the age of wanting novelty cereals by 1988 when Morning Funnies debuted. I think the ad above, with an unusually high-value 65 cent coupon, tells us how desperate the Ralston folks (yes, the makers of Dog Chow) must have been to get some of these to move off the shelves.
I've never actually seen a box of this stuff in person, but evidently there was a fold-out ("secret") panel so lots of comics could fit on the package. Based on this ad, the line-up was Tiger, Hi and Lois, Dennis the Menace, Funky Winkerbean, Marvin, Hagar, Beetle Bailey and Luann. I've also seen late packages claiming Popeye as well, and early packages offered the rather obscure What a Guy. The question I'd love to have answered is whether the comics used on the packages were special material produced for them, or if they just reused existing strips from these features.
The cereal lasted on the supermarket shelves for two years or less, and during that time at least 10 different numbered boxes were available. Enough were saved by collectors that I think you could purchase a set of them on eBay if you keep a watch for awhile. But who would want to? I dunno. I suppose if the material was original to the boxes, that might be appealing to all those Hi and Lois completists out there.
Seriously, though, these were mostly comic strips that appealed primarily to grandmas, even in the halcyon days of 1988. Did Ralston really think any kid would scream at his mom to buy this stuff so he could read a Beetle Bailey strip? Okay, okay, Funky Winkerbean and Luann had a little teen/pre-teen appeal, but geez, how about a little Bloom County or the like?
Those strips left the date on, so obviously they were not original to the product.
D.D.Degg (hat tip to Brian Cronin)
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Thach Folsom
William Thatcher “Thach” Folsom was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 25, 1887, according to the Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records at Ancestry.com; the records spelled Thatcher with two Ts, while other sources, such as periodicals used one T, which, I believe, was Folsom’s preferred spelling.
In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Folsom was the oldest of three children born to William and Mary. His father was in construction. They resided in Medford, Massachusetts at 115 Winthrop Street. Information regarding Folsom’s art training has not been found.
Folsom was a newspaper artist according to the 1910 census. He remained in his parent’s home, now in Boston, Massachusetts at 187 Belgrade Street. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Folsom produced Bob Bonedome for the Boston Post; the strip ran from August 7 to 15, 1911.
Folsom signed his World War I draft card in June 1917. He lived at 71 Clement Avenue in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. His occupation was artist at the Boot and Shoe Recorder, a periodical devoted to footwear located in Boston at 207 South Street. He stated that he was the sole supporter of his mother. The description of him was medium height, slender build with brown eyes and black hair.
The 1920 census recorded Folsom and his wife, Mary, in Boston at 107 Jersey Street. He was a commercial artist. His cover illustration credit for House Beautiful, June 1920, is here (scroll up 16 pages to see cover). The Boston Register and Business Directory 1921 had a listing for Folsom in the “Architects—Artists” category: “Folsom, W Thatcher 126 Mass av rm 505”.
Folsom designed an alphabet for the National Display Alphabet Company’s Innes Alphabets. Advertisements appeared in Advertising & Selling, April 17, 1929, and Printers’ Ink Monthly, May 1929.
Canton, Ohio was Folsom’s home in 1930; his address was 1621 Shorb Avenue N.W. He worked as an advertising artist for a few years then returned to Boston.
Folsom was counted twice in the 1940 census. He and his wife lived with his sister-in-law at 542 Newbury Street. His highest level of education was one year of college. He was an advertising artist. The following day Folsom was counted at the same address and had the same occupation but his highest level of education was recorded as three years of high school, the same as his wife.
The 1942 Boston directory listed Folsom as a 53-year-old artist at 12 Hemenway Street. His address in 1941 was 542 Newbury Street. On April 27, 1942, Folsom signed his World War II draft card, which had his middle names as “Thacher”. His address was unchanged. He was employed at the Boston Post.
What become of Folsom is not known. An obituary has not been found and he does not appear in the Social Security Death Index.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Mort M. Burger
According to the 1900 census, Burger, an artist, resided in Scranton, Pennsylvania, at 423 Madison Avenue. His name was recorded as “Moses Burger”. His parents, Nathan and Regina, both German emigrants, and three siblings, Sallie, Gustave and Sidney, resided in Manhattan, New York City.
An article in the Fourth Estate, February 7, 1920, told of Burger’s early career.
Mort M. Burger…started his newspaper career at the age of 17, cartooning for the New York World under the direction of the famous Walt McDougall. Later he started a school of caricature with Dan McCarthy, another well known cartoonist….In Printer’s Ink, April 23, 1902, McCarthy explained how their business, The National School of Caricature, operated.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Burger produced these series for The World: The Trouble Brothers (1902), Scrappie Sisters (1903), and Drawing Lessons for Young Cartoonists (1904).
After the school closed, Burger moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was listed as art manager of the Morning World, 210 Camp, in the 1908 New Orleans city directory. He stayed at the Hotel Gruenwald. The 1909 directory was not available.
According to the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), January 27, 1908, Burger, a photographer for the Morning World, was assaulted while attempting to photograph a former police inspector and judge. The February 6, 1908, New Orleans Item, said the local newspaper artists formed the New Orleans Newspaper Artists’ Society to exhibit their work. Burger was the society’s treasurer.
A School of Art.
The Burger School of Art has just been opened in this city in the Cosmopolitan Bank Building, and executive offices in the Hennen Building. The aim of the institution is to give to the student a thorough knowledge of the methods of illustrating for reproduction in the newspaper and magazines. This will be a home concern, offering the same advantages as schools of art in distant cities.
Exhibitions of the work will be held from time to time, and prizes will be awarded. Mort M. Burger is the director and N.D. Boniel assistant director.
The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Engravings, etc., New Series, Volume 3, Number 23, June 1908, had this entry: “Burger (Mort M.), New Orleans, La. [14512 Blackbirds. (F 65541, May 20, 1908.)”
In the 1910 census, Burger was recorded, as Moses, in his father’s household. They lived in Manhattan, New York City at 2527 Seventh Avenue. Burger was a newspaper cartoonist. He was listed as Mortimer, in the 1915 New York State Census, at his father’s residence, 167 West 146 Street in Manhattan.
Burger turned to vaudeville as reported in the New York Dramatic Mirror, December 31, 1913:
Mort. M. Burger, the comic artist whose work has appeared in the foremost newspapers of America, is entering vaudeville in a cartoon act.
The action is built about an artist and his model. Mr. Burger will be supported by Elsa Howard, formerly with the Aborn opera company.His act received mixed reviews. The New York Dramatic Mirror, February 14, 1914, said:
Mort M. Burger presented his novelty cartoon act in New Britain last week. The act was well received, according to reports. Mr. Burger is assisted by Elsie Howard in poses and songs.The Billboard, April 16, 1914, gave their opinion of the act:
Mort M. Burger, cartoonist, assisted by Elsa Howard, the singing model. To pass judgment on the first performance would not do the act justice as almost everything went wrong. Eleven minutes, in three.
The Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon) carried two Burger strips: Did It Ever Happen to You? ran from March 27, 1915 to April 13, 1916, and Heeza Boob ran from August 11, 1915 to December 2, 1916.
Burger was involved in a new service, Telephotography, according to the Fourth Estate, April 19, 1919, and Advertising and Selling, May 10, 1919:
Pictures by Telegraph
Another means of eliminating time is an invention of Le Roy J. Leishman of Ogden, Utah. By the use of this new device a picture can be drawn in New York and reproduced by wire, at the rate of 186,000 miles per second, in San Francisco — or between any other two points where this electrical apparatus is installed.
As a result of the experiments made with this invention, the Leishman Telegraphed Picture Service has been organized. This company is establishing zone centres in thirty large cities, where artists will be in charge to illustrate big events and instantly wire them to newspapers using the service.
Mort M. Burger, an experienced newspaper man, is in charge of the New York office, which has been established in the Flatiron building, and active operations will begin about June 1.Burger, his parents and brother, Gustave, lived at 53 Adrian Avenue in Manhattan according to the 1920 census, which had his name as “Morton M”. Burger was head of a “correspondence office.”
The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune (Nebraska), August 6, 1920, published a photograph of Burger’s students, wounded veterans, at a life drawing session. I believe Burger is the one who is standing.
Purling Resident Killed.
Mortimer M. Burger of New York and Purling, one of the owners of the Columbian Hotel, Purling, was almost instantly killed in an automobile accident near Rifton, a few miles below Kingston, last Friday evening. Two other members of his party—Walter Kaufman and Ira Wulf—also died soon after from injuries received. Mr. Burger was thirty-eight years old, a member of Catskill Lodge of Elks, and was on his way to Purling for the Labor Day holiday when the accident took place. He was driving a new Paige car. When Philip Miller attempted to pass in his Cadillac. The machines came together at the foot of a hill, it being said that each was going about fifty miles an hour. The impact threw the Cadillac to the side of the road, tearing up a piece of concrete. The machine bounded back onto the highway, hitting the Paige full in the back and diverting its course, the vehicle going head-on into a tree, while the other automobile smashed into a telegraph pole and turned over several times. Both machines were badly damaged, the Paige being rendered practically useless.
In the car with Mr. Miller, who was on his way to his camp at Tannersville, were Benjamin Burnett of Brooklyn and William Musken of New York. All were more or less injured and were hurried to the Kingston City Hospital. Large crowds soon gathered at the scene of the accident, and the general opinion was that both drivers were exceeding the speed limit, they having chosen a dangerous part of the road to try out their machines, Thompson Hill being steep and long.
Who was to blame is merely conjecture, but with two automobiles traveling in the same direction it would seem that the man behind should take plenty of room in endeavoring to pass a car ahead unless he has plenty of room to insure a safe and sane passage. These accidents are regrettable, when it is considered that a minute or two in time would undoubtedly have saved the lives of three men and kept harmless as many more.Here are the first two paragraphs of the article in the Stamford Mirror-Recorder (New York), September 3, 1924:
A taunt, followed by a thrilling race between two cars, a Paige and a Cadillac, ended in a horrible tragedy near St. Remy, about four miles south of Kingston, Friday evening, in which three men were killed and three others were sent to Kingston hospitals. The dead are:
Mortimer M. Burger, 38, of No. 949 Broadway, New York, driver of the Paige, who was killed instantly. He was a member of the firm of N. Burger & Sons, proprietors of the Columbian Hotel at Purling, N. Y. He was on his way to spend Labor Day at the Purling resort.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, July 21, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Heeza Boob
What Burger lacked in artistic ability he almost managed to make up in salesmanship and energy. Although Mr. Burger has very few credits that made my book, his doggedness and chutzpah are certainly worth remembering.
Speaking of my book, the only credits for Burger you'll find there are a few minor series he penned for the New York Evening World in the early 1900s. But that under-represents his time at the World, because his style (well, perhaps style is too strong a word) is recognizable on literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of those little one-column spot cartoons that adorned the evening paper in those days.
After his time at the World I lose track of him for a long while, but then in the 1910s he keeps himself constantly in the public eye by showing a flair for self-promotion. He started sending out press releases to industry journals for every event in his life, and often they printed them. From these we could (if we had a really good searchable version of E&P and The Fourth Estate, et al) probably track him on practically a monthly basis.
I have on file articles in which he was running an advertising art company, a photo reproduction studio, and even (I kid you not) a cartooning correspondence school. He would also occasionally promote a new comic strip series, presumably self-syndicated though he tended to puff the press release up with a high-class syndicate name.
Heeza Boob, which he seems to have self-syndicated, appears to have been a daily strip though I have not yet found a paper that ran it with great consistency. Alex Jay found it appearing with pretty good regularity in the Salem Capital Journal, and from there we offer tentative running dates of August 11 1915 to December 2 1916.
Thanks to Mark Johnson, who found some reasonably clear PDF newspaper pages from which our samples are taken. As rare as these strips are, we could all wait forever to find actual tearsheets.
Tomorrow, Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile will fill us in on Mort Burger's life story much better than I ever could.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Saturday, July 19, 2014
I had no idea that hanging a fish above your food would discourage yellowjackets. Chances of me putting this newfound knowledge to use -- slim.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 18, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Art Beeman
The 1930 census found the family in the same city but at a different address, 1311 East 83 Street. His mother, a widow, was the head of the household. The fate of his father is not known. Information on Beeman’s education and art training has not been found. His sports cartoon was published in the San Diego Union (California), July 30, 1933.
The New Salem Journal (North Dakota) published his strip, Those Were the Days; selected strips: March 2, 1955; May 4, 1955; July 13, 1955; and December 14, 1955.
Beeman found employment at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Star-News (Pasadena, California), May 9, 1958, published his comments about the American space program.
Caltech Speaker Predicts ‘Man in Orbit in 2 or 3 Years’
“The satellites already shot aloft are fingers reaching for knowledge of the unknown,” Arthur D. Beeman, art director for Caltech’s Jet Propulsion technical publications and former aircraft designer, emphasized yesterday before Council of Woman’s Club….
…Titling his talk “Spotlighting the Future in Transportation,” Mr. Beeman spoke of the new age of outer space flight which lies ahead. He predicted, “Within 2 or 3 years a man will be put in orbit and be safely returned to the earth.” He also opined that a manned outer-space platform will be in operation within 5 years.
Declaring that the moon, our nearest neighbor, is going to be the first goal, he explained, “Why are we racing the Russians to get to the moon first? Man’s curiosity is such that he is perpetually driven to find new ways and things by which he can improve himself, and this, the last physical frontier, this expanse of eternal mystery, he can’t resist.”
“Man must strive unceasingly to be the master of his physical universe. This space program is dedicated to man’s eternal quest for means to improve himself.”He contributed art to Mars Revisited (1959) by Donald L. Cyr, and Mariner Mission to Venus (1963). Beeman passed away April 14, 1999, in Altadena, California, according to the Social Security Death Index. His portrait of William Pickering was used on the cover of William H. Pickering: America’s Deep Space Pioneer (2008).
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Those Were the Days
One of the things about our world that makes me despair is that most of us lack even the most basic knowledge of history. No, wait, that's not quite it. I have pretty much come to terms with the idea that many people don't know who was president during the American Civil War, or know when the Great Depression occurred. What actually bothers me is not outright ignorance, I guess. It is the fantasyland people have built around the past. Witness Art Beeman's Those Were The Days, which affords a perfect example. This genre of feature, in which the cartoonist paints an idealized portrait of the past, has been popular since the dawn of newspaper cartooning.
Many of us idealize the past, forgetting all the ills of those times, and repainting them in gay Disney-bright colors. Everything was better then, and if only this horrid modern world would stop moving forward, everything would be just great. This attitude goes well beyond nostalgia, which I suppose is pretty harmless, to an absolute rejection of the world as it is, in favor of one that supposedly, but didn't, exist in the past.
The past was not some idyllic time when everyone was nice to each other and everything cost a nickel. There were the same murders, kidnappings, rapes, and every other vice known today. For every decade you go back, sicknesses become more and more deadly, and its not too long you have to go before simply being born becomes a crapshoot. Government was not once full of earnest Jimmy Stewarts; it was corrupt in many truly spectacular ways that make today's politicos seem downright angelic.Rapacious businesspeople ran roughshod over workers and ruined the environment with immunity. Minorities were treated with all the courtesy of lepers when they weren't being taken advantage of, or, if we go back far enough, enslaved outright.
Every generation longs for the world of its youth. Life and the world seemed so simple then. Well, of course it did, for crying out loud! You were a child. You didn't worry about keeping your job, you weren't wondering if that weird pain that won't go away is cancer, you didn't sit in traffic for two hours a day, and you didn't have a honey-do list a mile long waiting for you when you got home.
You can bet your prized mint-in-box Flash Gordon raygun that people who had rotten childhoods don't feel much love for the 'good old days'. Being smacked around at home as a kid, or worse yet, not having a home at all, is a sure way to avoid the pitfall of revering the "good old days."
Okay. Got that off my chest. On to business.
Those Were the Days was by Art Beeman, the only comic strip credit by him of which I'm aware. The strip was produced for Al "Mutt and Jeff" Smith's weekly syndicate service. It debuted in 1951, almost certainly as one of the original line-up of strips and panels for the new service. (I still haven't been able to pin down an exact starting date for the service -- anyone?). As with most of the Al Smith Service features, Beeman's strip probably went into reprints at some point, but the strip was included in the service's offerings until 1983, an impressive 32 year run. I just don't know how much of that 32 years was new material, and how much recycled.
The strip was consistent not only in content but in format -- each strip began with a superfluous title panel, ignoring that the strip was titled in a headline above, and a middle panel with the caption "But now -- Wow!"
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: A.Y. Hambleton
(William M. Owen, Jr., the great-grandson of Arthur Y. Hambleton, contributed some family information which has been incorporated in this updated profile. The earlier profile is here.)
Arthur Yeager Hambleton was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 24, 1876, according to his World War I draft card at Ancestry.com. According to a family tree at Ancestry.com, his parents were Richard Emory Hugg-Hambleton (1845–1898) and Ella Frances Yeager (1849–1933). Owen said: “Richard Emory Hugg-Hambleton was born Hugg but took his bride’s maiden name in order to keep her family name alive. That can’t have been a very common decision in the 19th century.”
The 1870 U.S. Federal Census recorded Hugg, his wife, Ella, and son, Willie, in District 12, Allegheny County, Maryland; their post office was located in Cumberland.
The 1880 census recorded the Hugg family, including Arthur, in Sharpsburg, Maryland, on Main Street. (The spelling of the surname was “Heugg”.) When Arthur reached his mid-teens, Owen said: “According to legend, A.Y. ran away from home at age 16 to join the circus because he could walk on his hands, and the circus sent him right back home.”
At some point, Hugg added Hambleton to his surname. When Arthur married, he had dropped Hugg from his name as reported in The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), November 14, 1899:
Issued by the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas
The following marriage licenses were issued yesterday in Baltimore, the parties residing in Baltimore unless otherwise stated:
Arthur Y. Hambleton, 319 North Paca street, Alice B. Sisselberger.In the 1900 census, Hambleton and wife, were in the household of his mother-in-law, Mary Sisselberger, a widow. They lived in Baltimore at 1506 Mount Royal Avenue. Hambleton’s occupation was artist. Addresses for Hambleton were also found in the R.L. Polk & Co.’s Baltimore City Directory for 1901: Hambleton Arthur Y, artist, 1506 w Mt. Royal av; 1903: Hambleton Arthur Y, artist, Woodland av c Reisterstown rd; and 1904 Hambleton Arthur Y, artist, 607 Lennox.
One of Hambleton’s early works, The Theatrical Alphabet, appeared in the Baltimore Herald. He illustrated the poetry, which was written by H.L. Mencken, and the signed his name “Hamb”. The five-part series ran in early 1901.
Hambleton’s work was included in a number of exhibitions including the Charcoal Club (The Sun, March 10, 1905); the Newspaper Artists Association and the Book and Magazine Illustrators’ Society exhibition (The Sun, May 2, 1906); and the Journalists’ Club Show (The Sun, February 26, 1909).
In 1910, artist Hambleton was the head of the household which included son, Richard Waldo, born 1901. The family of three lived in Baltimore on Pimlico Road.
Hambleton signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He lived at 2710 Reisterstown Road in Baltimore and was a newspaper artist for the International Syndicate. His description was tall, slender, with gray eyes and brown hair.
In the next census, Hambleton remained in Baltimore at another address, 2710 Fanview Avenue. He had his own business as an artist. According to the 1924 Baltimore city directory, he lived at 2710 Reisterstown Road. Advertising Arts & Crafts (1927) had his business address: Hambleton, A. Y. Studio, 13 W. Mulbury, Ven 6065 Baltimore, Md. The 1929 Baltimore city directory listed his studio at 122–24 West Franklin and his residence at 3110 Reisterstown Road.
The 1930 census said Baltimore remained Hambleton’s hometown where he lived with his wife and mother at 3110 Reisterstown Road. He was a newspaper artist. The listing in the 1936 Baltimore city directory said his address was unchanged and he was an instructor at the Maryland Institute.
At some point after 1935, Hambleton moved to Severna Park, Maryland. He continued teaching at the Maryland Institute. The record shows that he completed the seventh grade. His home was valued at $4,500. In 1939 he worked 40 weeks and earned $1,500.
The Sun, November 14, 1949, reported the Hambleton’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. In addition to being a commercial artist, he had conducted guitar and ukulele lessons, for ten years, beginning around 1915.
Hambleton passed away July 3, 1957, according to a death notice, the following day, in The Sun:
Hambleton.—On July 3, 1957, at his home, Luna lane, Round Bay, Arthur Y., beloved husband of Beatrice S. Hambleton (nee Sisselberger) and father of Mr. Waldo Hambleton.
Funeral services will be held at Wm. J. Tickner & Sons, North and Pennsylvania avenues. Due notice of services will be given.He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Baltimore.
(Thanks to Cole Johnson for the color scan, and Leonardo De Sá for additional information from The Sun.)
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, July 14, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Countdown
Countdown is a really interesting panel. If you are into gag cartoons, the moment you look at an example of the series you know that it must be the work of master gag cartoonist George Price. Price's cartoons are quite distinctive, so there seems like no room for mistake. However, when you let you eye wander down to the signature, some guy named Dave Cox has signed it!
As perfectly as the style (and even the subjects!) seem to fit Price, I wondered if Price was using a pseudonym to produce a daily panel series. But that doesn't make a lot of sense. Price was not on contract to anyone that I know of, so there seems like there'd be no reason for him to hide behind a pen-name.
I might still be scratching my head over this one if I hadn't stumbled across two additional series by Mr. Cox, ones that he self-syndicated back in the late 1940s. In those series the George Price style is much less accomplished. Cox had yet to earn his chops as a doppelganger for that master cartoonist, and although he is definitely going for a George Price look, the effect is far less convincing.
Countdown was self-syndicated to a few newspapers (mostly or maybe all in California) starting May 16 1962. The latest I've found the panel still running is in early 1963, but I don't have anything like a certain end date.
PS: Oh, by the way. If you're confused by that second panel above, you young whippersnapper, you can watch this (overly dramatic) video relating John Glenn's odd encounter in space.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
I actually like well done puns. You know, when they are truly punny.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 11, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Hem and Haw
Alfred Frueh is quite well-known in the New York art scene as one of the premier caricaturists of the 20th century. Luckily for us stripper-types, he was not above penning some newspaper comics in the early portion of his art career. Though Frueh's newspaper work, like his later art, concentrates mainly on caricature, he also did several comic strip series, all of them for the New York World organization.
Hem and Haw, penned near the end of his association with the World, ran from June 13 1920 to February 6 1921. Though limited to a paltry quarter page and one washed out color on an inside page of the funnies section, Frueh's sinuously sexy, expressive line is nonetheless evident. His work seems ridiculously simple, at least until you try to duplicate it.
In 1925 the New Yorker snapped up Frueh as a regular in its pages, and that was about it for Frueh's dalliance with the newspapers.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Queenie
I'm a bit too young to be a member of the original Playboy-reading generation, but I did sneak peeks at my dad's collection often enough to be intimately familiar with the work of Phil Interlandi, who was a regular in their pages. Just Google "Phil Interlandi" and "Playboy" and select the Images option and you'll be treated to plenty of his bawdy (and beautifully drawn) cartoons.
Being in the know regarding Interlandi's deviant mind, the first time I saw the panel series Queenie, my reaction was, I imagine, similar to every Playboy reader's, "Oh my god, the newspaper's gone mad -- they're printing Playboy cartoons!!!!"
But no. While Phil's unmistakeable style is there, the nymphomaniacs and Casanovas are missing in action -- in fact the whole sexual revolution seems to have gotten a stiff dose of saltpeter. The cartooning style that is so inextricably associated in my mind with wanton women in all their nude, sex-hungry glory here is so chaste that I'm not sure the other characters have even noticed that Queenie is a buxom blonde in a mini-skirt.
Reader(s), I have a philosophical question for you. Let us take as our assumptions that
(1) I find Phil Interlandi's Playboy cartoons pretty darn funny
(2) I find his Queenie cartoons to be pallid, formulaic and a downright bore by comparison
The question is what can we draw as our conclusion from these two pieces of information. I see some possibilities:
(1) the Stripper is so emotionally stunted that he automatically finds anything to do with sex funny
(2) our society is so uncomfortable with sex that the humor mines therein are rich and practically bottomless, making it easy to make funny cartoons
(3) Phil Interlandi put a lot more work into his Playboy cartoons; after all, Hef paid very well
(4) Phil much preferred drawing sex cartoons, and the Queenie series were basically just a job that he'd gotten stuck with, and he put in the minimum of effort
I think the overarching question of whether cartoons about sex have a (figurative) leg up on 'straight' humor is an interesting one. We certainly hear of people looking down at comedians who "work blue", as if they don't really have to work very hard for laughs because of it. I imagine the same can be said about cartoons.
Sheesh. That was quite the digression. I need to get back on track. Here's are Queenie's vital statistics. She was first syndicated by King Features on April 11 1966, and her long but never particularly popular run came to an end on May 10 1986, a full two decades. The feature was daily-only, no Sunday was ever offered (which is a shame considering Phil's color work is delightful).
I have come to the conclusion that their best gags were reserved for the better paying magazines and their syndicated work was where the lesser (or rejected) gags ended up.
Mort Walker and Hank Ketcham quickly gave up their magazine work to concentrate on their strips/panels. Did that make their syndicated work better, or did their successful syndicated work enable them to give up gag cartoons?
While I agree with you that gag cartoonists generally slough off their weakest work on the newspapers, I can sympathize with them. When you are in business for yourself, having only one client will keep your stomach in knots and make it hard to sleep at night. I can imagine Interlandi keeping up Queenie as a hedge against a time when Playboy might say, "no more, thanks, been nice knowing you."
That being said, when cartoonists who have mega-successful newspaper series keep throwing additional features on the wall, apparently in some desire to have the whole darn comics page to themselves, I think it is very bad form, not to mention dilutive.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Biff and Bang
Western Newspaper Union would occasionally buy up old stock of a dead comic strip, and Biff and Bang seems to come under that heading. Some prowling around the interwebs has brought me a few little nuggets of information about Frederick H. Cumberworth, the author of these rather prosaic strips about a set of mischievous twins Seems he was a Kiwi originally, but spent a lot of time (1890s - 1930s) in Australia as a cartoonist. In the 30s he seems to have moved on to Great Britain, where he seems to have spent perhaps as little as a few years.
Where and for whom he originally produced the strip Biff and Bang (or whatever it was originally called) I cannot determine, but in the 1930s it was reprinted in a German publication under the heading "Funny stories of an Australian cartoonist".
I consider the term 'funny' being applied to these strips debatable. The pantomime form is a demanding one, though, so I suppose I owe Mr. Cumberworth a break since he was working with one funnybone tied behind his back.
Western Newspaper Union used the strip as one of its stable of weekly offerings from May 21 1942 to February 16 1944. Also worth mentioning is that the elusive Watkins Syndicate advertised a strip by Mr. Cumberworth in 1939 titled Buzz and Biff. My guess is that they were attempting to sell reprints of this same strip, just under a slightly different title.
Monday, July 07, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: W.C. Fields
In the early 1980s, when the L.A. Times Syndicate was busy throwing licensed properties against the comic strip wall (Dallas, Star Trek, The Legend of Bruce Lee and Star Wars), one that really got lost in the shuffle, even more obscure than the others, was W.C. Fields.
As you most likely already know, W.C. Fields was a great film comedian of Hollywood's golden age. He was an iconic misanthrope, and one who reveled in every known bad habit. Unfortunately, by the 1980s the W.C. Fields persona was no longer sharply defined in the public consciousness. While the classic images of Fields were still cultural touchstones, relatively few people had seen any of his movies.
While it is a shame that the general public had begun to lose touch with the W.C. Fields character, it is beyond ridiculous that the LA Times was willing to do a strip about the man, yet right from the beginning diluted the character into an almost unrecognizeably plain vanilla version of himself. If the syndicate was afraid to do a strip about a man who drinks to excess, hates children and kicks dogs, why in the world do a strip about W.C. Fields? It would be like licensing the Marx Brothers and deciding that the strip should have Harpo speak, drop Chico's accent and swap out Groucho's moustache for a nice beard.
The first team to tackle Fields-lite, starting on October 31 1982, consisted of artist Frank Smith, and Jim Smart. Smart is unknown to me, but Smith had proven his chops on Disney's Donald Duck newspaper comic strip. The art is fine, as you would expect, though Fields is made to look far too cuddly -- but the lackluster amiable gags are enough to make the ghost of Fields move to Philadelphia.
By July 1983 somebody had decided that something had to be done to, if not necessarily save the strip, at least rehabilitate the W.C. Fields image. On July 31, a new creative team took over. Gags were now credited to a member of W.C.'s own family, Ronald J. Fields. Ronald was very much involved in licensing of his grandfather's images, but was also a scholar, having published several books about his grandpa. While Ronald may not have necessarily inherited his grandfather's comedic gifts, at least his heart was in the right place. All of a sudden, Fields became rancorous, lethargic and half-lit -- just as he ought to be.
Throwing the baby out with the bath water, artist Frank Smith also exited, and was replaced by Fred Fredericks. Apparently Mandrake the Magician wasn't keeping Fredericks busy, so he tried his hand at this strip, probably knowing that the gig would be short-term.
And short term it certainly was. The latest I can find the W.C. Fields strip running is August 7 1983, meaning that if I have the right end date then the new team was active for a mere two weeks. However, all my dates cited in this article are for the Sunday strip -- it may be that the even rarer daily switched creators earlier and/or lasted longer. (Actually, I have yet to find a single example of the daily strip running anywhere -- it was advertised as available, but did it even exist?).
I have no doubt that there is more to the story of the W.C. Fields comic strip, and I've undoubtedly made assumptions that will turn out to be wrong. I'd certainly be delighted to hear from anyone who was involved in the strip, to get all the details right about this strange tale.
My first thought of W. C. and comic strips go to The Great Gusto and Big Chief Wahoo.
Followed by Larsen E. Pettifogger from The Wizard of Id.
Barnaby's Mr. O'Malley may have been closer to Fields in attitude, in not appearance, than the other two.
Surely there were more comic strip characters based on W. C. Fields.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Saturday, July 05, 2014
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 04, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
Frank Godwin's Connie - Sundays Volume 1 - more info to come!--on his 'upcoming release' schedule?
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Elmer Messner
In 1900, Messner was the second of two sons born to Charles, an upholster, and Susan. His father was born in Germany and mother in New York. They lived in Rochester at 43 Martin.
The 1910 and 1920 censuses recorded the Messners in Rochester at 98 Myrtle Street. Messner signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was a student at the Mechanics Institute. His description was medium height and build, with brown eyes and hair.
The Courier-Journal, February 17, 1956, said Messner “attended city public schools…and studied at the Art School of Rochester Athenaeum, Mechanics Institute and the Art Students League, New York City….[He] was sports cartoonist for the now defunct Rochester Herald and the Rochester Times-Union from 1923 to 1932….”
According to the Rochester Institute of Technology Library, Messner “graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1918 and…In 1925 he returned to RIT to teach drawing. He taught there for over twenty years….”
The Daily Record (Rochester, New York), July 26, 1923, reported a marriage license issued to: “Elmer Reed Messner, 98 Myrte st, artist, and Grace I Eysvogel, 8 Delmar st.”
In 1926, Messner created the panel, That’s Not the Half of It, for Editors Feature Service.
According to the 1930 census, newspaper artist Messner, his wife and two sons resided in Rochester at 90 Roxborough Road.
The Courier-Journal said Messner was editorial cartoonist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle from 1932 to 1934. He joined the Times-Union staff as editorial cartoonist and editor and illustrator of an outdoors column.
The 1940 recorded Messner at the same address plus a third child. He was a newspaper cartoonist.
Messner retired from the Times-Union in 1964.
Messner passed away May 23, 1979, in Pittsford, New York. His death was reported in several New York state newspapers including the Herald News (Avon, New York), May 30, 1979:
On May 23, 1979, Elmer R. Messner of Pittsford. He is survived by his wife, Grace; one son, Paul; daughter and son-in-law, Carolyn and Edward Bean of Ithaca; daughter-in-law, Gwendolyn Messner of Lakeville, NY; ten grand-children; five great-grand-children; Friends wishing may contribute to the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford Memorial Fund in his memory or the Elmer Messner Scholarship of Fine Arts, c/o Rochester Institute of Technology.He was buried at Temple Hill Cemetery in Geneseo, New York.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: That's Not the Half of It
Elmer (aka Al) Messner penned this series, his only syndicated comic strip that I know of. The earliest examples I've found are from February 1926. The syndicate was the smallish Editors Feature Service, whose history is a bit murky. They were responsible for some very good features, but got bought out by Central Press Association in 1927. That's Not the Half of It seems to have been a casualty of that sale, as were many of EFS's less stellar features, and seems to have ended in July 1927.
Elmer Messner went on to a distinguished career as an editorial cartoonist, mostly for the Rochester Times-Union.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Dreamy Dave
No, Winsor McCay certainly wasn't first to take on the subject of dreams in comics, but Dreamy Dave will not tempt you to knock him off his pedestal as king of the dream comics.
Dave has an unfortunate habit of acting out his dreams in real life, which should afford us with an interesting different take on the subject of dreams. Unfortunately a lack of imagination leads to some pretty darn lame strips.
Dreamy Dave debuted on November 13 1904 in the World Color Printing Sunday section, in a series drawn by someone signing themselves what looks like 'Jarrant'*. I don't have any samples at hand of his version of the strip, but you can see them all over at Barnacle Press. The barely passable art of Jarrant reminds me somewhat of Dink Shannon's work, but why Shannon would have chosen to use a pseudonym on a couple strips in late 1904 is unknown.
The Jarrant version of Dreamy Dave only lasted until November 27, a mere three episodes. However, the series was soon resurrected by C.H. Wellington, who penned additional episodes from March 12 to June 25 1905. His version might have been a bit better drawn, but it was no more humorous. Eventually Wellington would be one of the brighter humorous lights on the comics page, but this was only his second pro series, and he was still learning his craft.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!
* Alex Jay can find no evidence of a cartoonist named Jarrant. Though this might lead a mere mortal to assume that Jarrant is indeed simply a pen-name, Mr. Jay is not so easily put off the scent. Trying other variations of the spelling, he does find a John Tarrant, who shared a studio with New York Journal cartoonist Gus Dirks in 1902 (right before Gus offed himself). Alex says he can find no evidence of this Tarrant being a cartoonist, working for a newspaper, or of having a St. Louis connection (as did many of the World Color Printing cartoonists), but it does leave the door open to the possibility. Thanks Alex!