Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Sikela
John Joseph Sikela was born on December 1, 1906, in “Kosmalevecz”, Czechoslovakia. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Sikela’s birthplace was recorded on a passenger list which listed his first name as “Jan”.
Sikela and his mother, “Marie”, were passengers on the S.S. Manchuria which sailed from Antwerp, Belgium on December 25, 1920. They arrived in the port of New York City on January 6, 1921. Their final destination was 1309 Redman Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, where Sikela’s father lived.
In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Sikela was an advertising sign painter. He lived with his parents in Lakewood, Ohio at 12717 Plover Avenue.
The 1940 census was enumerated in April and recorded Sikela as a “cutter” at a paper box manufacturer. He continued to live with his parents in Lakewood on Plover Avenue.
Regarding Sikela’s art training, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Volume 2 (2006), said
While largely self-taught, he had taken a correspondence school art course during the 1930s. Answering a magazine ad from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Sikela joined Shuster’s Cleveland studio in 1940. Initially hired to draw backgrounds, Sikela was soon working on Superman comic-book stories. He would also illustrate several covers during his career….In The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips (1994), Ron Goulart said Jerry Siegel’s and Joe Shuster’s Superman comic strip was handled by the McClure Syndicate.
The initial dailies look to be the work of Shuster himself, but a number of other artists drew the feature in the funnies. They included Paul Cassidy, Dennis Neville, John Sikela, and Wayne Boring. Boring would inherit the strip in the late 1940s when Siegel and Shuster were legally separated from their creation.According to the Ohio, County Naturalization Records at Ancestry.com, Sikela became a naturalized citizen on March 13, 1942.
The Women’s Section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), October 4, 1942, listed some of the October brides including “…Mrs. John Sikela (Margaret Miller, 2156 Westbury Road, Lakewood)…”
The Department of Veterans Affairs Beneficiary Identification Records Locater Subsystem Death File said Sikela enlisted in the Army on December 8, 1942. A 1943 issue of Army Life and U.S. Army Recruiting News noted Sikela’s arrival: “John Sikela is the artist who has helped panel ‘Superman’ and other comics' characters.” The Sandusky Register (Ohio), March 24, 1998, said Sikela served in Europe in the Battle of the Bulge.
A military passenger list for the 745th Tank Battalion, Company J included Private Sikela. The group sailed aboard the S.S. George Washington from Marseille, France and arrived in New York City on October 26, 1945. Sikela’s file said he was discharged October 29, 1945.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Siegel and Shuster created Funnyman which ran from October 11, 1948 into Fall 1949. Ron Goulart’s Encyclopedia of American Comics said Sikela ghosted a good deal of Funnyman. Alberto Becattini said Gerald Altman and Dick Ayers assisted Shuster. The strip was produced for the Bell Syndicate. In Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014), Robert C. Harvey said
In May 1948, Shuster was writing John Sikela, one of his Cleveland studio crew who was still in his Ohio hometown. The letter reveals a good deal about the working methods Shuster had evolved through the Superman years as demand for material increased. After asking if Sikela had “received the pencil roughs of the Funnyman dailies,” Shuster goes on: “I thought they might help with the initial layouts. . . . You can use your own judgment as to following my sketches—if you can visualize any scene differently, that's okay too. . . . We’ve been getting wonderful reactions on the strip thus far and expect it to receive a deluge of publicity.”According to Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Sikela moved from the Superman comic book to Superboy.
Although he was involved with Superman at a very early point, Sikela is perhaps best remembered for his later work on Superboy, his style defining the look of the character form the late 1940s through the 1950s. Much of Sikela’s post-war efforts were as a penciller, and he would eventually pencil and ink his own material for Superboy until his departure in 1960.The Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) July 17, 1976, reported the marriage of Sikela’s daughter and said “…The former Joan Theresa Sikela is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Sikela, 34443 Detroit Rd., Avon.”
Sikela’s wife passed away February 29, 1992. On March 23, 1998 Sikela passed away at New Life St. Joseph Hospice in Lorain, Ohio. Sikela’s death was announced in DC Comics’ June publications.
Further Reading and Viewing
Grand Comics Database
Who Drew Superman?
Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman
Heritage Auctions: Unpublished Superman page; Funnyman page
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, December 10, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Moco
Seems like if you are really serious about getting a syndicated comic strip into your curriculum vitae, go pantomime. If your art and gags aren't necessarily masterworks, that's okay because your potential audience is approximately 7.5 billion people, as opposed to the paltry hundreds of millions that you filter down to by using a particular language and marketing yourself only in your home country. If you can get someone to syndicate you to all those worldwide markets, you're practically guaranteed to find enough editors who like your stuff, or at least perceive you as good space filler for the money.
Moco was created by Danish cartoonists Jørgen Mogensen and Cosper Cornelius and sold in their home country as Alfredo. The strip was offered on the international market, and according to one website was running in over 100 papers at its high water mark. Of those supposedly 40 were in the U.S. The U.S. title, Moco, comes from combining the first two letters of each creator's family name. I do not know what the division of labor was on the strip. The two creators seem to have had very similar art styles based on the samples I've found online of their separate works.
In the U.S. the strip was offered by the Los Angeles Times-Mirror Syndicate starting on October 12 1959*. However, I have a few examples of the strip running as Alfredo in the Toledo Blade as early as 1956, so someone else was syndicating it earlier. Perhaps PIB, the Danish syndicate, was giving a whirl to syndicating it in the U.S.
Alfredo, or Moco, or Presto or Pepe as it was also known in some countries, concerned the misadventures of a mustachioed gent who seemed to gain a new profession every day. The only stable thing about his life is his wife, a strong-willed Maude-type. The visual gags almost always land well enough if not spectacularly. It's one of those strips that you happily glance at every day in the paper, but if it disappears after twenty years the next day you may struggle to remember what was in that space.
The LA Times Syndicate last advertised the strip in 1976, and the last paper I find running it in the U.S. is the El Paso Herald-Post, which ended it on November 19 1977. According to Lambiek, Morgenson dropped out of participation on the strip at some point and it was continued by Cornelius alone, but I don't know if that was before or after this point.
Moco continued until the mid- to late-1980s outside the U.S., and PIB advertised it in the U.S. in 1981 and 1982**, with no known takers.
* Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin and several other papers
** Source: Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directory
Saturday, December 08, 2018
October 30 1909 -- Without the associated story, I can only assume this Herriman cartoon is referring to a celebrity baseball game put on by the local dramatis personae. Unfortunately this microfilm clipping was missing a prose story by Herriman, always an interesting different take on his talents.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Silk O'Loughlin was a very well-known MLB umpire of the era.
I see a reference to a "Bob Leonard" as part of the Edgar Temple Opera company in the April 4, 1908 edition of the San Bernardino Daily Sun. The previous day's edition lists him as a comedian in that company's production of "The Filibuster." There's also a "Bob Leonard" who appears to have been an actor/director in a number of films in the 1910s, including some of the first Universal productions.
Friday, December 07, 2018
Wish You Were Here, from Nate Collier
After saying a few months ago that I only had one Nate Collier postcard example, I found another one lurking in the collection. This one is much more forthcoming on publishing details. It was issued in 1912 by Taylor Pratt and is marked as "T.P. Red Border Series 892".
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, December 06, 2018
News of Yore 1961: Editorial Cartoonist Carey Orr Profiled
50 Years at Drawing Board -- Orr Says Cartoons Use 2 Basic Artsby George A. Brandenburg (Editor & Publisher, 7/29/1961)
A newspaper cartoon is a combination of two basic arts -- the art of writing and the art of drawing -- and the best cartoon is one with the best idea expressed by a snappy caption and good craftsmanship, says Carey Cassius Orr, recent Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been drawing daily editorial cartoons for nearly 50 years.
Mr. Orr, 71, is in his 45th year of cartooning for the Chicago Tribune. Prior to that he was an editorial cartoonist for the Nashville (Tenn.) Tennessean, starting in 1912 as a young artist of 24. He had previously graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and had done some cartooning for the old Chicago Examiner.
When he went to Nashville he set some sort of a record by drawing a daily cartoon involving the gubernatorial race, featuring the leading contenders each day for 91 days in succession. The rival candidates were backed respectively by the two rival newspaper publishers, Col. Luke Lee of the Tennessean and Major Stahlman of the Nashville Banner. Orr's man, Tom Rye, won.
Over the years, Carey Orr has been in the midst of many a political battle, editorially, drawing hard-hitting cartoons in support of Chicago Tribune policies, including such bitter fights as attacking the late William Hale Thompson, then mayor of Chicago, prohibition, and later FDR and the New Deal, prior to World War II. His 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning cartoon dealt with the spread of communism to the African Congo.
Back in the 1920's and early '30's, one of his best known editorial cartoon characters was the long-nosed, lean-visaged individual representing "Prohibition." This dry law enforcement character as conceived by Mr. Orr was a combination of Torquemada, head of the Spanish Inquisition, and Cotton Mather, Massachusetts blue law enforcer in the early days of the Puritans. His clothing was mixture of those worn by a ham actor and our Puritan forefathers. He was a most unpopular character of that period as far as "drys" and many good-intentioned church people were concerned.
Gets TV Surprise
Upon his return recently from the convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in Los Angeles, where Carey was the honored guest on Ralph Edwards' NBC "This Is Your Life" television program, Mr. Orr took time to tell E&P about his working philosophy as practitioner and teacher of editorial cartooning.
He has had a part in helping to train some of the younger cartoonists of today, including Vaughn Shoemaker, Herblock and Shaw McCutcheon, son of the late John T. McCutcheon, who encouraged Col. Robert R. McCormick to offer Carey Orr a spot as "number two" man on the Tribune's editorial cartooning staff. He was a young artist when he joined the Tribune in 1917. He drew an eight-column strip, called "Tiny Tribune," for several years before "graduating" to the daily editorial page cartoon.
"Formerly cartoonists just 'happened,' " he recalled, "but now my profession is past the 'barber-doctor' stage and has become a language in itself."
Pioneered Color Cartoons
After years of meeting a daily deadline and pioneering with ROP color cartoons, which have become a hallmark of the Tribune's front page, Mr. Orr still thinks a "snappy caption" is equally as important as the vehicle drawn to express the idea.
"A cartoonist is often a crusader but he must believe in what he's crusading for to be effective," said Mr. Orr. "Unlike a specialized newspaper writer, he must have a catholicity of interests. He must know the basic ideas, at least, behind political, social and economic problems."
But reportorial and writing experience are not necessary beyond the ability to come up with a good caption. Sketches are the 'words' with which a cartoonist works. The idea that a man is born an artist is a fallacy.
Anyone who really cares to can learn to draw. Among beginners, the cartoonists who eventually succeed are the ones who sketch a lot and are not afraid to work."
Pictures Vs. Words
Mr. Orr does not necessarily subscribe to the old Chinese proverb that one picture is worth a thousand words.
He said, for instance, no picture is as forceful as Lincoln's Gettysburg address. "Yet when people read that speech they 'see' the battlefield before them," he added.
|Carey Orr front page color cartoon, 1945|
"It is fortunate," he said, "that cartooning represents a combination of the two arts of writing and drawing, just as the movies improved when talkies were added and just as television is superior to radio today, because two arts are employed. The combining of two arts, to a great extent, is a modern invention."
Wrote One Serial
Carey Orr, incidentally, had one brief venture into literature after World War I when Col. McCormick suggested he do a "story" about a young West Pointer who goes to war. Carey struggled with his manuscript for two months and had produced only the first two chapters, when the Colonel asked how the story was progressing.
Carey showed him his copy and Colonel McCormick laughed and said he had meant for Carey to draw a "story" in a series of pictures. However, the Colonel liked what Carey had written and the manuscript continued, winding up as "Borrowed Glory," running in installments in the Chicago Tribune.
"Leon Stolz (now chief editorial writer at the Tribume) was kind enough to say that it was a good story," Mr. Orr remembered with a chuckle, but he recalled that when the Colonel asked for a second serial, Carey told him he preferred being a cartoonist.
Credits Colonel For Color
Mr. Orr credits Colonel McCormick with the idea of introducing ROP color into the front-page cartoon. The effectiveness of color cartoons first strikingly illustrated the Tribune on May 5, 1932, when the paper printed one of Orr's drawings in two colors on page one.
The color work was done on a black background with red and white stripes of an American flag in the upper left hand corner and the red flag of communism being held in the hand of the late U.S. Senator Huey Long of Louisiana.
The cartoon attracted national attention. Even Senator Long was impressed and insisted the cartoon be entered in the Congressional Record without benefit of color, however. Since World War II, front-page color cartoons have become a daily feature in the Tribune. These cartoons are prepared and submitted two days in advance of publication normally, although on occasion the Tribune has turned out a four-color cartoon for the next day's issue.
In the early 40's, when the Tribune was experimenting with color vs. black-and-white cartoons, readership studies showed that when color was used, 85% of the men readers noted the cartoon and 82% of the women saw the color drawing, Mr. Orr recalled.
Get Rid of Tags
Mr. Orr told E&P he was impressed with the serious attitude and professional journalistic approach to their daily work as evidenced by the editorial cartoonists' discussion at the recent Los Angeles convention.
"Cartoonists today are seeking to get rid of tags, such as the GOP elephant, Democratic donkey and Uncle Sam," he observed. "These tags have been over used and, in most cases have outlived their usefulness or have become somewhat corny."
He is hopeful that more newspapers will employ staffs of cartoonists in the future, rather than relying on one or two cartoonists to turn out the work. The exactions of the profession, he says, together with the complexities of the times, are such that it is nearly impossible for one artist to "ring the bell" with a cartoon seven days a week.
|Carey Orr front page color editorial cartoon, 1960|
Inspired by Tramp Artist
Carey Orr's interest in drawing dates back to his boyhood days on his grandfather's farm in Ohio when a tramp artist came to the house and begged for an evening meal. "My grandfather was opposed to feeding tramps because if you fed one there was the grapevine that led others to our door," said Carey. "However this particular tramp sat on the porch and drew for me a fine likeness of Jesus Christ. I begged my grandfather to feed him and he did. For the rest of the summer I tried drawing pictures, too."
Later young Orr went to live with his father in Spokane, where the elder Orr ran a saw mill and had married again following the death of Carey's mother. Carey would copy the cartoons drawn by Morris for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review and when Carey was 17 he took the W.L. Evans cartooning course by correspondence. As a result, he would occasionally sell a cartoon to the old Life magazine, but received more rejections than acceptance checks.
After graduating from high school and taking special college tutoring in mathematics and engineering, Orr became a semi-pro baseball pitcher, earning $15 per game, and acquiring quite a local following as a possible big leaguer.
Saves Baseball Money
His father wasn't too impressed, however, with Carey becoming a professional ball player. He wanted him to study to be a mechanical engineer at the University of Washington. Carey wanted to be a cartoonist and had been saving his pitcher's salary for tuition to attend the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.
"My father's impression of an artist was of a man living in a cold garret, starving to death, or coming home with tuberculosis," Carey recalls. ''But he didn't want me to be a ball player, either. So· I won out and came to Chicago to study art."
His first newspaper job was with the Examiner, where he and three other art students were given $15-a-week jobs for six months, when the best of the four would then be hired for $60. Carey made the grade, but the art editor lost his job, so young Orr was still getting only $15 a week.
At the age of 24, he joined the Nashville Tennessean as fulltime editorial cartoonist. In those days, the old Literary Digest was a cartoonist's best friend. 'To have your cartoons reprinted in the Digest was a mark of distinction. Orr sent his cartoons to the Digest every week and more and more of them were used.
Missed His Second Honeymoon
Carey Orr was married in 1912, but the Orrs didn't go on a honeymoon trip because funds were scarce. Two years later -- August, 1914 -- Carey had a two-week vacation coming and the Orrs were planning to make it their second "honeymoon." But war was beginning to erupt in Europe.
"I told my wife," said Mr. Orr, "Honey, this war scare won't last too long, but I want to be here to draw some cartoons about it, so we'll take our vacation later. So you can see how smart I was. As the war progressed up to 1917, my cartoons continued to appear in the Digest and, subsequently, I had offers from Pulitzer, Hearst and Col. McCormick. I joined the Tribune in the Fall of 1917."
Mr. Orr was awarded the U.S. government gold medal for his prize-winning cartoon of the Fourth Liberty Loan drive. On the recent TV "This Is Your Life" program, Ralph Edwards told Orr:
"Through your pen and wit, you fight against the things you hate and for the things you love. You attack gangsterism, and the causes of evil, waste in government and corruption in high places. You crusade for public safety. You are one of the first to call wide attention to the dangers of communism."
Labels: News of Yore
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: T.O. McGill
Thomas Owen McGill was born on February 4, 1869, in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, according to his death certificate (viewed at Ancestry.com) which had his full name and birth information.
In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, McGill was the oldest of two sons born to Richard and Jennie. His father was a baker. The family lived in Kirwin, Kansas. Herringshaw’s American Blue-Book of Biography (1926) said McGill was educated in public schools.
Herringshaw’s said McGill married Elizabeth Ehrmann in 1900. The Daily Inter Mountain (Butte, Montana), May 26, 1900, noted McGill and his wife at the McDermott Hotel. The 1900 census (enumerated June 6) recorded journalist McGill and his wife in Butte at 101 East Granite Street.
McGill was a New York City employee. The City Record, May 12, 1902, had this note, on page 2711, under Bureau of Buildings.
Thomas Owen McGill resigned as Secretary to the Superintendent of Buildings for the Borough of Manhattan on May 9,. 1902, and on the same day appointed as Chief Inspector of Buildings at a salary of $3,000 per anum.The Fergus County Argus (Lewistown, Montana), October 29, 1902, reported McGill’s arrest and release.
Butte, Oct. 22.—P.A. O’Farrell, editor, and A.W. Brouse, business manager of Heinze’s campaign sheet, generally known as the “Reviler,” must appear before the federal grand jury and answer a charge of sending obscene matter through the mails. A decision to that effect was rendered at 10 o’clock this morning by United States Commissioner W.J. Naughton after due consideration of the evidence presented before him yesterday afternoon.The Denver Post (Colorado), October 30, 1903, published an article about McGill’s time in Butte and said in part
R.A. Pelkey, an employee of Brouse, and Thomas O. McGill and W.D. Wilmarth, cartoonists with the Heinze sheet, were discharged from custody. They were arraigned yesterday with O’Farrell and Brouse….
…O’Farrell, Brouse, Pelkey, McGill and Wilmarth were arrested Saturday by Deputy Marshal Meiklejohn on the complaint of Postoffice Inspector E.D. Beatty of Great Falls. His charge was the result of a cartoon representing Senator W.A. Clark and several other prominent men in an alleged obscene pose and which appeared in the Reveille a short time ago.
The paper is said to have been sent through the mails and the prosecution was brought under the statute prohibiting the sending of obscene matter through the mails….
…Mr. McGill is by profession a cartoonist and newspaper artist. Now that he is out of what is called journalism and has become tainted with commercialism, the cartoon is merely a side line with him, but at the time he went to Butte it was on a journalistic mission of the higher class.Around 1903 McGill’s newspaper career began at the New York Evening World where he contributed comic art and humor articles. In 1906 two McGill columns were Dominick, the Head Waiter and Two-Minute Talks with New Yorkers.
Mr. McGill stayed in Butte, Mont., nine months. Although he has many intimate friends, he rarely goes into the details of those nine months.
“In the words of the play bill,” is all Mr. McGill will say, “nine months are supposed to have elapsed.”
“But you have nothing to say for or against Butte?” he may be asked.
“I have nothing to say against Butte,” Mr. McGill will reply with decision.
However there are inklings that Mr. McGill found Butte one of the most interesting places he has ever visited. A small book of cartoons, distributed among his friends, lends color to the impression. Mr. McGill did not write for general circulation, and as the number of copies of “Sketches with Pen and Pencil at Butte, Mont.,” are rare, they are the more highly prized…
McGill produced over a score of comics for the Evening World. The Jollys’ Bull Pup was the longest running series from October 15, 1908 to September 6, 1909. Others include Affable Aleck; Dan Ticker Sure Is a Queer Old Man; Everybody Works for the Captain; Hasty Helen; A Later Edition of Mother Goose; Peter Kettle, the Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up; Silly Mary; and The Three Terrors.
The Fourth Estate, April 11, 1908, said McGill was one of six men in charge of entertainment at the reunion dinner of “comic artists, cartoonist, caricaturists and writers associated with humorous publications and with the humorous departments of newspapers and other publications…”
According to Editor & Publisher, April 9, 1910, McGill was elected president of Amen Corner.
The 1910 census recorded McGill and his wife in Manhattan, New York City, at 2173 Broadway.
McGill was in Stockholm, Sweden, when he applied for an emergency passport (viewed at Ancestry.com) August 1, 1913. He planned to visit Russia. On August 21, 1913, McGill departed Liverpool, England and arrived August 30 in New York City. His address was 2173 Broadway, New York.
McGill has not yet been found in the 1920 census.
The Fourth Estate, May 29, 1920, said McGill was one of several people honoring the Morning Telegraph editor’s birthday.
The Fourth Estate, September 10, 1921, said McGill was a director, executive director and secretary of Amen Corner.
A 1936 passenger list said McGill’s address was 201 West 79th Street. He traveled solo from August 22 to September 3 on a cruise originating and ending in New York.
McGill has not yet been found in the 1940 census.
McGill passed way November 30, 1947 at St. Mary’s Hospital, Evansville, Indiana. The death certificate said the cause was heart attack and he had bladder cancer. McGill and his wife, Suzette Dunlevy McGill, resided at 803 S. E. Riverside in Evansville. His occupation was recorded as advertising art for newspapers. McGill was laid to rest at Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. An obituary in the Evansville Courier, December 1, 1947, said McGill
spent his youth in Denver Colo. He later moved to New York City where he had a varied career as reporter, art editor and chief cartoonist for both the old Morning and Evening World.
He was instrumental in writing and supporting the bill which created the Port of New York Authority. He served as chief inspector of the Bureau of Buildings for the borough of Manhattan, and for 10 years was advertising manager for White Rock Mineral Water company.
Mr. and Mrs. McGill returned to Evansville in 1941 and his activities since coming here have been confined chiefly to art work.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: The Jollys' Bull Pup
T. O. McGill is known to have worked for the New York Evening World at least 1903-1911, and perhaps much longer. The only bit of biographical data I've been able to find on him is that he was named as manager of their art department in 1908. Except for that one little mote of knowledge, all the evidence I can find for his existence are the comics he produced for the Evening World. He created eleven series in that nine year period, and the only one that ran more than a handful of times was The Jollys' Bull Pup. so he must have been primarily active in other art duties for the paper, and comic strips were just an occasional sideline. Not to worry, though, as Alex Jay has turned up quite a bit of material on him, which we'll be acquainted with tomorrow.
McGill's style is a bit reminiscent of the Evening World's star cartoonist of the time, Maurice Ketten, and the fellow he in turn emulated, T. E. Powers over in the Hearst camp. Flinn's artwork is spare, angular and uses a flattened perspective that harkens back to woodcuts. Anatomy is definitely not his strong suit. And yet, there's something about his very low-key work that really appeals to me. Maybe it is how this purely functional, unadorned art style so perfectly complements his gags, which are very dry indeed. Take the second example above; a different cartoonist would make each panel all about the slapstick of people looking for their lost items. While McGill gives a nod to that, the humor he prefers to catch is in the impassive face of the bull pup viewing his handiwork with neither joy nor malice. The pup can't even really draw the connection between what he did and what has resulted. He's simply found an interesting pastime in collecting items and bringing them to the basement, completely unaware that this will have any effect on the humans. The humor is quiet but feels very true ... or perhaps I read too much into the work. McGill certainly produced more than his fair share of dopey not-even-really-gags like the top example.
The Jollys' Bull Pup ran as a weekday strip in the Evening World from October 15 1908 to September 6 1909*.
* Source: New York Evening World
Monday, December 03, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: The Jobs of J. Jasper Jinks Jr.
William F. Marriner settled down at the McClure syndicate about 1905 and produced most of his work there until his death in 1914. Although the majority of his time was spent producing Sambo and his Funny Noises, he threw in an extra series now and then.
This one is The Jobs of J. Jasper Jinks Jr., starring the typical Marriner waif who in this series is desperately looking for a job and failing miserably. As is generally true of Marriner's work, the funny drawing and the terrific playful writing make each strip a real treat to be savored. No wonder so many other cartoonists tried to copy his style. This is one of the many series that Marriner didn't sign, but there's no mistaking his work even with all those imitators trying to copy him.
The Jobs of J. Jasper Jinks Jr. ran in one version of the McClure Sunday section from November 7 1909 until May 8 1910*. One installment, presumably a leftover or reprint, was used much later in a McClure section of February 28 1915**.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.
* Source: San Francisco Chronicle
** Source: Washington Herald
Saturday, December 01, 2018
Ocxtober 16 1909 -- Cook and Peary both claimed to have 'discovered' the North Pole this year. The Examiner confronts the conundrum of which time zone applies at that point on the globe.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, November 30, 2018
Wish You Were Here, from Dwig
Here's another Dwig card, this one copyrighted by Charles Rose in 1908. On the reverse is the logo with the little Swiss fellow holding the stein and American flag. Rose usually listed a series on his cards, but this one just bears a number on the reverse -- 2151.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: George H. Blair
George H. Blair was January 1863, in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. The birth date is from the 1900 U.S. Federal Census and the birthplace was revealed in the Boston Herald, January 11, 1941, which also said Blair “was a graduate of Dalhousie College, Halifax, Nova Scotia.” The census said Blair emigrated to the U.S. in 1884.
Information regarding Blair’s art training has not been found.
Yesterday in Old Fall River: A Lizzie Borden Companion (2000) said “Blair was a staff artist for the Boston Herald. As such, he covered the Borden trial along with reporters Warren T. Billings and George H. Brennan. Blair was also a popular cartoon artist for the Boston Sunday Herald.” The trial of Lizzie Borden began June 5, 1893. She was acquitted on June 20.
Eight days later Blair got married. The Massachusetts, Marriage Records, at Ancestry.com, recorded Blair’s marriage to Marion L. Graham as June 28, 1893 in Boston.
Blair and two other Boston artists were mentioned in Profitable Advertising, August 15, 1894.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Blair produced seven series for the Boston Globe. The Herald said Blair joined the Globe at the turn of the century. Blair’s series, in chronological order, were Mr. Dusenbury (1900), Percy and the Hoobley Family (1901), Absent-Minded Abner (1902), Notes from an Ancestral Diary, (1903), The Great Football Game (1905), Evening Stars (1906) and Hay Fever—Harold Has It Horrid (1910).
The 1900 census said Blair, his wife and son, John, lived at 9 Montrose Street in Boston. Blair was an artist. The same address was published in Clark’s Boston Blue Book for the years 1902, 1908 and 1909. Blair was at that address in the 1910 census.
Blair and his family were Boston residents at 62 Copeland Street in the 1920 census.
Blair’a address in the 1930 and 1940 censuses was 10 Aspen Street in Boston. He was a newspaper artist. The 1940 census said Blair had three years of college.
Blair passed away January 10, 1941, at his home in Roxbury, Massachusetts, according to the Herald. He was survived by his wife and son.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Fatty Spilliker
George H. Blair produced a number of comic strips for the Boston Globe, but the one that became his bread and butter, and ran for over a quarter of a century, never had a title. It had a consistent cast and locale, but Blair could not bring himself to put one character, or even the name of the family, up there in the title bar. Instead, as you can see in the samples above, the headline always related to the day's gag and only mentioned character names in passing.
The strip to which I have assigned the name Fatty Spilliker began on November 24 1901, introducing a family that would eventually be known as the Hoobleys, but were then called the Goodwins. The star of these early strips was the trouble-courting pre-teen daughter, Kitty. She was every bit the match for Buster Brown in hellraising. She had a brother, a little younger than she, a well-behaved kid named Danny. That poor kid often suffered along with her, pulled along to trouble in her wake.
The earliest strips called her Kurious Kitty, thus tantalizing future researchers that this would be the name of the strip. But Blair tired of that, and Kitty lost her descriptive title after only a handful of episodes.
Mom, dad and grandma were present in the strip but were rarely named. An older sister was there, too, but she was soon married off, leaving the strip. In 1902 Uncle Henry came on the scene, and he became a sometimes co-star. An officious-looking gent, he was a great foil for Kitty's pranks. He was soon followed by hayseed Uncle Zeke, who owned a farm next door. This character opened the door to gags involving farm animals, always a rich vein for naughty kid pranks.
On March 22 1903, Kitty brought home a stray mutt, who was named Percy two Sundays later. Percy threatened to take over the strip, starring in gag after gag that year. But eventually Percy had to be content to be a member of the troupe, not the star of the show.
Blurring the lines even further, Blair started giving his other running characters cameos in the strip. Mister Dusenberry moved into the neighborhood in 1903, and thereafter his own strip disappeared. Absent-Minded Abner also made occasional appearances, but his own strip kept running for many years, albeit at a much curtailed frequency.
It wasn't until 1904 that Blair finally found himself a character who he'd offer star billing, if not in title at least by frequency of the starring role. Fatty Spilliker showed up out of nowhere on April 17 1904, nonchalantly acting as if he'd been part of the show from the beginning. As far as I can discern there was never an explanation as to where he came from, where he lived, or if he was somehow related. He was just sort of .. there. He wasn't the stereotypical dim-witted fat kid so often seen in this sort of strip. What defined him, beyond the typical Buster Brown-inspired shenangians, is that he thought he was a lot smarter and worldly-wise than he really was -- not dumb, mind you, but not the mastermind he believed himself to be. Fatty Spilliker concocts lots of ingenious schemes that generally blow up in his face, but sometimes he does get a good one over on Uncle Henry, his most common foil.
All the characters were now finally in place, and the strip basically ran on auto-pilot for the ensuing twenty-four years. What was already a somewhat dated looking strip in the 1900s looked ludicrously antiquated by the 1920s, and the writing was just as creaky twenty years after it debuted. It certainly didn't help that the strip was demoted to a third-page format at the beginning of that decade, and then further miniaturized to a quarter-page format. By October 28 1928, when it breathed its last still untitled gasp, I doubt that it was missed by many Globe readers.
While it is true that Blair never assigned a running title to the strip, that didn't stop some anonymous syndicate from assigning it one when they made an attempt to distribute old episodes of the series in the mid-1920s. They called it Fatty Spilliker's Troubles, a perfectly serviceable choice. Speaking of syndication, by the way, the Globe did attempt to syndicate this strip and Ed Payne's Billy the Boy Artist, but never managed to interest more than a few clients.
PS: In my book I list this feature under the title Percy and the Hoobley Family. Why I chose that title as the primary one I don't know except that Percy the dog does get title billing a lot, despite Fatty Spilliker clearly being the star of the show. The second edition, if and when it comes, will have this strip listed as Fatty Spilliker.
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: The Rag Tags and Bob Tail
Arthur Lewis, who apparently went by the name Allen Lewis when working on more serious art projects, did just a little newspaper cartooning work. He shared duties on Nervy Nat with James Montgomery Flagg, and produced one comic strip series of his own creation, The Rag Tags and Bob Tail.
The Sunday strip was produced for the New York Herald's comic section from March 12 to July 16 1911*. This kid gang strip was interesting in that half the four-man crew were minorities -- an Asian and a Native American -- and they were not exclusively used as the butt of jokes. Granted, there is some heavy duty stereotyping going on here, but the kids play together and sometimes the Chink and the Papoose (they seem not to have had real names) get the better of the white kids, Jimmy and Eddy. This is a far cry from the typical kid gang strip in which the entire gang is as white as the driven snow, or there is a single minority character who functions only as a club mascot and target of derision. The Rag Tags and Bob Tail is no classic by any means, but did at least offer readers the concept of the races living together in something a little like harmony.
By the way, it took me awhile to suss out that Bob Tail is the dog, so I'm going to save you the trouble in case you're as unobservant as me.
* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index.
Monday, November 26, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Middle Class Animals
In 1970 Hugh Laidman, an accomplished illustrator and commercial artist, came up with an interesting and original idea for a comic strip. Middle Class Animals offered readers a talking animal comic, but with the twist that the animals are drawn in a straight illustration style. While the description may make it sound kinda meh, in execution I think the idea had a lot of merit. Laidman's strip, which debuted on May 18 1970* via the MacNaught Syndicate, really stood out superbly on the comics page. The eccentric combination of word balloons and realistic drawing just seems to catch your eye. You find yourself reading the strip just to find out what the heck is going on there with that odd juxtaposition.
Unfortunately, while readers were drawn to Middle Class Animals, the actual reading tended to leave them a bit underwhelmed. Laidman was a wonderful illustrator, but unfortunately as a gag writer he wasn't so terrific. Way too many of his gags fall flat, leaning heavily on the art to make up for it. It's too bad that McNaught did not exercise a more active editorial hand, because with the assistance of good gag-writers the strip could have, at least in my opinion, turned into a pretty major hit.
McNaught further hobbled the strip by giving it an identity crisis. I quite like the title Middle Class Animals, which is a terrific name for a 1970s strip that offers a lot of hip references. However, they for some bizarre reason had newspapers running it under other titles. I'm aware of one paper that ran it as Us Animals, one that used the title Ani-Malcontents, and as you can see above, one used the title Animal Crackers, which is not only a klunky name but also trademark infringement since Rog Bollen's strip used the same title. How do you create buzz about a strip that runs under any old name some comics editor dreams up?
With too many cards in the deck stacked against it, Middle Class Animals seems to have ended its run after two years, on May 13 1972**.
* Source: Editor & Publisher, May 9 1970.
** Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on Long Island Press.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
October 16 1909 -- Another Baron Mooch strip that didn't make it into the Blackbeard book. Freed from the sports page, Herriman doesn't feel the need to demean Johnson for a refreshing change.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, November 23, 2018
Wish You Were Here, from August Hutaf
Here's a card that proves Albert Carmichael did not have the market cornered on "Gee, I Wish I Had a Girl". Although Carmichael penned lots of 'em, apparently the market could bear one from the pen of August Hutaf, too. Hutaf was best known as a poster and illustration artist, but he dabbled in cartooning as well.
This card was published in 1909 by P. Riche of New York.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Stripper's Guide Q & A: Promoting the Funnies
A: That's a good question, and yes, there definitely was an era when newspapers promoted their comics, some with great vigor. That era is long over, but back in the 1920s through 1970s or so you could count on quite a few papers -- not all by any means -- actively promoting the comics they ran through promos in the paper and even sometimes in their outside advertising.
Because many people in charge at newspapers are embarrassed by the pulling power of their comics, promos from the syndicates often went straight into the circular file. But in big cities where there was intense competition between papers, one way to set yourself apart and attract readers was with a good line-up of comics, and you ignored that at your peril. Smart marketers realized that their paper might cover the news somewhat better than the competition, or offer a different editorial slant, but for many readers the decision about which paper to buy was based more on the features the newspaper offered. Some might buy a particular paper for a good columnist, or a movie reviewer, or a better crossword puzzle, but plenty of people (not to mention their kids) chose a newspaper at least in part because of the comic strips that were offered.
The question then, is why did this end? The answer is lack of competition. When most cities became one-newspaper towns, why should those papers waste column-inches or outside advertising trying to sell you on a particular comic strip -- you have no other option. Your only choice is whether to buy a paper every day or not. If you really despise the local paper, then your other options -- USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times -- don't carry comic strips. So like it or lump it, what they print is what you get.
A secondary factor worth mentioning is the computerization of newspaper layout. This began in the 1970s, and as software got better and better, the machine version of the layout man got really good at solving layout problems. Rare was theoccasion now when a page would be laid out and a hole would need to be filled with in-house content. When those holes became scarce, one of the things that used to fill them -- comic strip and other promos -- became rare.
The syndicates can take a tiny slice of the blame, too. When newspapers curtailed their use of promotional materials, it was natural for the syndicates to become more and more lax about producing them. Nowadays even if a newspaper wanted to run promotional material, they'd find that the syndicates are so out of the habit of producing it that there's little available, and not much energy for producing some of it for them.
Labels: Q and A
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Jordan
The story of John Jordan is sketchy. No birth information has been found but Jordan* was a New York City metropolitan resident during the early years of the Golden Age of Comics. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Jordan was a member of Funnies Inc., from around 1940 to 1943, and produced art for Novelty Comics, from 1941 to 1945, and Parent’s Magazine Press in 1941 and 1942. Many of his comic book credits are at the Grand Comics Database.
Who’s Who of Comic Strip Producers said Jordan was an editorial cartoonist with the New York Journal.
In the Fawcett Companion: The Best of FCA (2001), Ed Robbins said:
John Jordan had been an editorial cartoonist before he got into comic books. He had a solid drawing style. He was a kindly, hard working man.
He was one of the artists who epitomized the difference between the people producing comics during the Golden Age and those drawing them now. He and his kind were artists whose experience had been gained in other fields. They were drawn into the comic field because it was a new, promising outlet for their work….In the same book, Jordan was mentioned in an interview with Fawcett artist Robert Laughlin.
FCA: You also mentioned inker John Jordan as one of your favorite Fawcett artists. What memories do you have of him and the [Carl] Pfeufer/Jordan art team?Pfeufer was born in 1910. Jordan may have been about the same age as Pfeufer.
LAUGHLIN: Pfeufer didn’t do a lot of tight penciling; it was very loose. From time to time Jordan would want Carl’s penciling to be tighter, which nettled Carl a bit! I guess Pfeufer and Jordan worked together for so long that John knew what Carl meant. There was something very slick about the combination. Carl was more of an illustrator...loose-styled, and a lot of brush black. One thing I recall Carl saying concerning getting a lot of work done for a deadline was, “Just sit down and do the work.” It was that simple—for him. He would apply himself for whatever length of time was needed to complete a job.
Jordan was a Brooklyn resident and family man as noted in the Otsego Farmer (Cooperstown, New York), September 3, 1948, “Mr. and Mrs. John Jordan and son of Brooklyn are guests at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wick, Pioneer street. Mr. Jordan is the artist for the popular ‘Don Winslow’ and ‘Tom Mix’ comic books.”
According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Jordan took over the Don Winslow of the Navy comic strip from Leon Beroth. Jordan’s run began March 2, 1953 and ended July 30, 1955.
What became of Jordan is not yet known. Any information is greatly appreciated.
* Some artists changed their names, for example, Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzburg. A New York City cartoonist or artist with the Jordan surname has not been found in the 1940 census.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Leon A. Beroth
Leon Allen Beroth was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on February 21, 1895, according to his World War I and II draft cards, and The Beroth Roots (1987) which also said “Beroth and son, William, decided to capitalize the letter “R” in the name BeRoth.”.
The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Beroth as the only child of James, a railroad machinist, and Ida. The family had a servant and lived in Noble, Indiana, at 159 East Hill Street.
The Grand Rapids Press (Michigan), December 30, 1905, announced an upcoming production.
The junior division of St. Paul’s Dramatic club will present the beautiful cantina, “Christmas at Grandpa’s,” New Year’s evening in the parish house under direction of Mr. Arthur E. Drodge. The following children are in the cast: …Leon BerothIn the 1910 census, Beroth’s home was in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 10 Eleventh Street. City directories, from 1912 to 1918, listed Beroth at 308 Eleventh Street. In 1912 he was an assembler at the Barrett Adding Machine Company. Beroth was a student in the 1915 directory. The 1916 directory said Beroth produced advertising illustrations.
The Seattle Times (Washington), March 13, 1980, said “BeRoth studied color illustration and figure painting at the Art Institute of Chicago for four years.”
One of Beroth’s earliest published work was in Charlotte Wait Calkins’ book, A Course in House Planning and Furnishing (1915). The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Books, Group 1, New Series, Volume 13, Number 54, June 1915, named the other illustrators: Harry W. Jacobs, Raymond Everett, H.M. Kurtzworth and Paul Eugene Olson.
On June 4, 1917, Beroth signed his World War I draft card. The self-employed artist was described as tall, medium build with dark blue eye and dark brown hair. The Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File said Beroth served in the army from July 2, 1918 to January 28, 1919.
At Ancestry.com the Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index recorded Beroth’s marriage to Ethel I. E. Harker in Chicago on April 26, 1919.
Advertising artist Beroth and his wife were in his father-in-law’s household as recorded in the 1920 census. They resided in Chicago at 4826 St. Anthony Court.
When the 1930 census was enumerated, artist and homeowner Beroth had a daughter, Yvonne, and son, William. The family of four lived in Elmhurst, Addison Township, DuPage County, Illinois, at 332 Myrtle. The address was the same in the 1940 census. Beroth was a self-employed artist working in publishing. Future Don Winslow of the Navy artist and researcher, Carl E. Hammond, was a resident of Elmhurst, too.
Beroth signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. The artist was at the same home address and had an office at 400 West Madison Street in Chicago. His description was five feet eleven-and-a-half inches and 170 pounds with blue eyes and gray hair.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Beroth’s first comic strip was Adventures of Tom, Dick and Harry that ran from December 5, 1932 to April 24, 1933, and was distributed by the Bonnet-Brown Syndicate. Next, Beroth was the artist on Don Winslow of the Navy, which was created by Frank V. Martinek and ran from March 5, 1934 to July 30, 1955. Beroth’s last strip appeared February 28, 1953. John Jordan replaced Beroth. In Coulton Waugh’s The Comics (1947) was an explanation on how the creative team came together and worked.
“One day two artists came into my office,” he [Martinek] writes. “Leon A. Beroth and Carl E. Hammond. Why they came, I cannot explain, but it seemed that Providence was getting us together. I asked them if they would be interested and they said ‘Yes.’ We organized. I became the creator and producer, Leon Beroth the art director, and Carl Hammond the layout and research man.”A similar description was in The Quill, January 1938.
Colonel Frank Knox, who was shortly to become Secretary of the Navy, became interested and helped sell the idea to the Bell Syndicate….
“Three years ago,” Commander Martinek wrote in 1945, “Carl Hammond, our layout and research man, went into war work, being single and within draft age. Leon Beroth and I have carried on ever since….
“Every Saturday I write the week’s daily strips and Sunday page, and each week I send the typewritten continuity to Mr. Beroth [in Thompson Falls, Montana], and he interprets it pictorially and returns the art work for approval. It works very satisfactorily—somewhat by remote control.”
Martinek has set up a highly departmentalized organization to handle the widespread interests of Don Winslow. First he writes the plot for the strip, then turns it over to Carl Hammond, in charge of research. When the episodes are checked for authenticity, Hammond confers with Martinek on the finished continuity and dialog, then the material is turned over to Leon Beroth, the art director.The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976) referred to Beroth as “Lieutenant Leon A. Beroth, USN”. In the first World War, Beroth served in the army. “Comics Are a Serious Business” by Allen Saunders appeared in Coronet, August 1945, and included a paragraph on Don Winslow.
Even more involved are the preparations for the adventures of “Don Winslow of the Navy.” The creator, Lieutenant Commander Frank V. Martinek, dreams up characters and continuity. He turns his ideas over to a research director, who lays out the copy and hands it over to a preliminary artist. The finished drawing is done by Leon Beroth, an old Navy man, whose signature appears on the published strip.Sara Duke said in the Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection (2014) that Ken Ernst assisted Beroth and Hammond beginning in 1940.
Beroth returned to comics with Kitten Kaye. American Newspaper Comics said the strip ran from May 6, 1957 to 1961 and was self-syndicated.
The Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), February 7, 1957, profiled Beroth who was in the process of selling Kitten Kaye through his Beroth Features Service. The Montana artist planned to feature the Montana forest, such as the Forest Service lookout on Clark Peak, and wildlife locale. In September 1944, Beroth and his wife moved to Thompson Falls where he continued to draw Don Wnislow at home. For the past four years Beroth freelanced, painted watercolor landscapes and exhibited his work.
SN 31,457. Leon A. Beroth, d. b. a. L. A. Beroth Features Service, Thompson Falls, Mont. Filed June 6, 1957.Beroth was a contributor to the Ford Times, July 1961.
For Comic Strip Published in Newspapers From Time to Time. First use in or about January 1957.
The University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center has a collection of Beroth’s papers. The Guide to Entertainment Industry Resources said “BeRoth was also a watercolor and oil landscape painter. He was commissioned by Ford Times magazine to paint western historic and scenic watercolor landscapes to accompany magazine articles, including some written by BeRoth.”
Beroth passed away March 8, 1980, in Edmonds according to the Washington Death Index. He was laid to rest at Floral Hills Cemetery. An obituary appeared in the Seattle Times on March 13 and said in part:
Mr. BeRoth moved to Edmonds in 1962 from Thompson Falls, Mont., where he had painted landscapes for 15 years. He was a member of the West Coast Water Color Society and was an honorary member of Gallery North in Edmonds. He recently taught art classes at the Edmonds Recreation Center.
Mr. BeRoth was a Mason and a Shriner.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles