Monday, July 06, 2020


The Long Slow Demise of Buster Brown, Part 15: October to December 1918

You may be wondering after all these posts if we're just going to chronicle the unclear, fitful partnership between Outcault and Ross ad infinitum. You'll know the answer today.

October  begins with a strip that looks like Ross pencilled it and did some of the inking, but there was also a significantly less gifted hand involved. Even Ross in deadline doom mode would not produce a face like we see in story panel 9. In fact throughout the strip Buster's ma is drawn pretty badly.

October 6 1918
And here we are at an important junction in Buster Brown's newspaper life. On October 13 the entire strip is drawn by someone other than Outcault and Ross with apparently little or no oversight from them whatsoever. I am not familiar with this cartoonist's style, which is not really terrible, just not at all in keeping with Outcault's work.

As far as I can determine, we'll never see Outcault involved with the strip from here on out, and Ross will appear only in very questionable form.

October 13 1918
Next week the drawing seems to be by the same hand, but it's stange. This new cartoonist seems to be able to draw Tige sort of on model, but yowza, does he blow it bigtime in the masthead. Interesting note that this strip seems to be the lone time Outcault's signature was left off the strip. It'll come back from now on.

October 20 1918
On the 27th it looks to me like we are transitioning to a new artist again. Buster in the masthead looks like he came out of an entirely different comic strip. I'm going to take a guess that we might be seeing for the first time an inkling of the presence of Doc Winner. Winner was certainly not a great cartoonist, but his ability to provide a hazy simulation of other styles made him an important guy in the Hearst bullpen. He's best known for bigfoot cartooning, but he could do the semi-realistic stuff, too. As proof, check out the sample here of one of his romantic cartoons for Newspaper Feature Service, the same Hearst syndicate responsible for Buster Brown. Nice simple timeline has him contributing to that series from June to August 1918, and now a few months later he seems to be jumping in on one of NFS's other properties.

From here on you'll see our new cartoonists, perhaps all NFS bullpenners, settle in and make the strip something quite different from Outcault. The art will get quite slapdash, losing all the elegance that was once a hallmark of the strip's art. Amazing to me that Buster Brown, a strip that was a hot property only a decade before is now consigned to relative hackwork. Did both Outcault and Newspaper Feature Service really not care a whiff for it?

October 27 1918

November 3 1918

November 10 1918

November 17 1918

I would have expected Ross to be gone forever along with Outcault, but story panel 9 of the November 24 strip has a vaguely Ross-y mama. It only lasts for one panel, though; in subsequent panels mother is drawn quite extremely badly. Perhaps our cartoonist tried to swipe Ross for this one panel?

November 24

On December 1, amongst lots of bad drawing, we have a piano teacher that looks quite Ross-y. Is it possible that Ross still consents to lend a hand to these bullpenners? One has to wonder, if that's the case, under what extreme circumstances he's called in to help. I mean, most of these strips are pretty darn cringe-worthy. I see nothing of Ross again for a long time.

December 1 1918

December 8 1918

December 15 1918

December 22 1918

December 29 1918

My house renovation is taking up a lot of time right now, so we're going to take a short break with the blog. Probably be back next week.

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Thursday, July 02, 2020


The Long Slow Demise of Buster Brown, Part 14: July to September 1918

The July 1918 strips are a good example of what I would have been for a long while calling the work of Outcault with an occasional minor assist from Ross. But is Ross getting better at aping Outcault's style? On the 7th we see a signature Ross pose in story panel 11, and on the 28th Tige adopts a Ross pose twice (panels 4 and 8). I find it hard to believe that this was the sum total of Ross' involvement, so I'm guessing that he's getting better able to throw us curveballs that look more like Outcault. If he's learned to draw Tige in Outcault's distinctive manner, I'm really losing an important element of my meager art-spotting toolkit.

July 7 1918

July 14 1918

July 21 1918

July 28 1918
On August 4 we get a page that seems to put my worries to rest. This is obviously mostly Ross work. Is it possible that Buster, Tige and Mary Jane are now being drawn by Ross but close enough to the Outcault standard that I fail to tell the difference? Sometimes Ross definitely still misses on these characters, but is that a true tell anymore, or a momentary lapse?

August 4 1918

After August 4th, we are back to what looks more like Outcault to me, but who's to say. The drawing is certainly less fussy than what Outcault used to produce, but it still has many of his distintive poses and stylistic flourishes with little in the way of obvious Ross-isms.

On the August 18 strip we get an enigmatic signature line, "I think this is pretty good,", along with a rather shaky Outcault signature. What does it mean? Is he complimenting Ross on a good ghosting job, or is he merely patting himself on the back for a good strip?

On a different note, I think the strip of the 11th is a real hoot.

August 11 1918

August 18 1918

August 25 1918
On September 1 we get a masthead that looks like vintage Outcault, over an at best indifferently drawn strip that has some telltale Ross-isms on Buster's face (one thing I look for is cheek pouches these days, as they are not something I associate with Outcault). If I had to make a bet, I'd say this masthead has been reused from an old strip.

September 1 1918

September 8 1918

September 15 1918

The last four panels of the September 22 strip are definitely Ross, the rest of the strip it's harder to tell.

September 22 1918

And finally on September 29, I'm calling this Ross in his 'deadline doom' mode. Buster's face is badly drawn, Tige is off-model, but Ross always has time for those frilly dresses.

September 29 1918

Hey! This doesn't have anything to do with Buster Brown, but it does relate to some older posts on this blog and I wasn't sure if you would see the comment there.
I noticed several posts about Fay King while reading through the archives of this blog, and her bio mentioned that after February 1954, when she paid for "Bat" Nelson's funeral, her whereabouts were unknown. Someone on another comic strip forum found the following passenger list from a few months later, which shows her leaving for England:
I just thought you might find this interesting, since it gives more of an idea of what happened to King after her cartooning career ended.
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Wednesday, July 01, 2020


Happy Canada Day!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020


The Long Slow Demise of Buster Brown, Part 13: April to June 1918

We start April 1918 with some definite Ross involvement, looks to me like Ross handled most everything except for Buster and Tige in this one.

April 7 1918
April 14 at first blush looks to be a very fine example of Outcault, including some great dialog, but I see Ross' hand on Mary Jane in story panel 7, and the dentist also comes across as a Ross-y kinda guy. Great strip, tho.

April 14 1918

Another good strip on the 21st is marred by indifferent art. Looks mostly like Outcault to me, but it is so slapdash I can't really tell. Did photographers really need to put their subjects on those head positioners as late as 1918? I'm thinking that went out with the horse and buggy.

April 21 1918

I'm guessing April 28 is all Outcault, but again the art is pretty unadorned.

April 28 1918

All the May strips look to me like all or mostly Outcault episodes. A real mix though, with some really fine Outcault work on many pages mixed in with barely journeyman stuff.

May 5 1918

May 12 1918

May 19 1918

May 26 1918

On June 2 it looks to me like Outcault did the first tier or so and then gradually relinquished the work to Ross. The gag of having Tige in a celluloid collar and tie goes precisely nowhere.

June 2 1918

On June 9 I'm guessing the lion's share of the page is by Ross, and he seems pretty rushed. Tige and Buster both go off-model several times.

June 9 1918
 The style is all Ross on June 16, but the execution is pretty darn awful. Did neither cartoonist give a darn about these strips anymore?

June 16 1918

Almost as bad is the 23rd, another seemingly all-Ross page.

June 23 1918
 And finally on the 30th it looks like Outcault stepped in to do the Tige figures maybe, but once again mostly Ross in deadline mode.

June 30 1918

Re the head brace for photography: this site says the braces were used "well into the 20th century," so they were likely in use as of 1918.
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Monday, June 29, 2020


The Long Slow Demise of Buster Brown, Part 12: January to March 1918

Here we are in 1918, the year which Outcault's obituary seems to indicate would have been his last involvement. Are they correct? Well, let's take a look....

We start out the year with an odd strip. That cat, which certainly has personality plus, doesn't look at all to me like Outcault or Ross. The old lady also seems like a different style. Buster and Tige, though, seem like Outcault work.

January 6 1918
January 13 pretty much looks like an all-Outcault production to me.

January 13 1918
 Now here's an interesting strip. We get a visit from both Smithy and Eddie Loomis, but check out this kid who goes by the name Smiley Jones. If that isn't the Yellow Kid a few years older than we're used to, I'll eat my hat. This looks like an all-Outcault strip to me.

January 20 1918

January 27 is a real rush job, but I'm guessing still Outcault.

January 27 1918

After a long layoff, I finally see a little bit of Ross here on February 3. When those twins start to cry they seem to be drawn by Ross.  Earlier on the page I never would have thought of them as being at all 'Rossy'.

Back to what seems to me to be an all-Outcault strip on the 10th

February 10 1918

Tige is the star in this strip, which to me seems like Outcault.

February 17 1918
 The 24th looks like hurried Outcault to me until story panel 11, when Buster sure looks like he's drawn by Ross.

February 24 1918

I'm guessing that Ross did all the adult women in the March 3 strip, and maybe the man as well, and perhaps even some help with Buster and Mary Ann.

March 3 1918
 March 10 is an odd one. The masthead, usually where Outcault puts in a lot of effort, is quite badly drawn. The cow looks like nothing I'd expect Outcault or Ross to draw. Otherwise looks like Outcault to me.

March 10 1918
 Ross is definitely doing a lot of the work on the March 17 strip. It's also one of his favorite gags, where Buster dresses as a girl. Ross could not get enough of this theme.

March 17 1918
 Ross again, and it wouldn't surprise me if this is 90% him with just a few bits by Outcault.

March 24 1918
 The Sunday school teacher doesn't really look like an Outcault or Ross character to me, otherwise I'm guessing almost all Outcault.
March 31 1918

I would swear that Smiley's head(s) in panels 5 thru 9 are pasted-in photostats of the head in panel 4.
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