Saturday, December 09, 2023


One Shot Wonders: 7 AM in Bedlam Flats, by Walter Bradford, 1905


Walter Bradford was one of the greatest lunatic cartoonists, which I don't mean as a pejorative in any way. He just came up with totally crazy ideas, took his strips in bizarre directions and came up with unexpectedly out of left field gags. I can't help but believe that if he had ever gotten to New York he would have made just as big a splash as Rube Goldberg. Yeah, he really was that good, in my opinion. 

Bradford came to the Philadelphia North American in 1905 and began an incredibly fertile period where he created an amazing string of wacky series. He generally didn't go in for one-shots at the NA, but here's one that might have been in the running to become a series and just never happened. This portrayal of rooming-house life is just bursting with little gags numbering in the dozens, all in a throwaway half-page strip. 

This strip ran on Sunday September 3 1905 in the North American, but our version ran the day before in a Saturday issue of the St. Paul Dispatch in glorious black and white.


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Friday, December 08, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Alden McWilliams

Alden Spurr McWilliams was born on February 2, 1916, in Greenwich, Connecticut, according to his World War II draft card. McWilliams’ parents were John McWilliams and Florence Spurr. 

The 1920 United States Census counted McWilliams and his parents in Greenwich. They lived on Parsonage Road near North Street. His father was a chauffeur and mother a musician and teacher.

In the 1930 census, McWilliams, his parents and sister, Faith, resided on Arch Street near Riverside in Greenwich. His father was a chemist at a laboratory and his mother a piano teacher. 

McWilliams’ National Cartoonists Society profile said he graduated from the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. The 1937 Greenwich, Connecticut city directory listed McWilliams whose occupation was artist. In the late 1930s his first published work appeared in pulp magazines such as Flying Aces

McWilliams was one of several artists who worked at Dell Comics, an early entrant in comic book publishing. The art director was Oskar Lebeck. Many of McWilliams’ credits are at the Grand Comics Database and Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999

According to the 1940 census, McWilliams lived with his widow mother, sister and maternal grandmother at the same address in Greenwich. He had completed four years of high school and, in 1939, earned $1,100. 

On October 16, 1940, McWilliams signed his World War II draft card. He was employed by the Whitman Publishing Company in New York City. McWilliams was described as six feet one inch, 155 pounds, with blue eyes, blonde hair and freckles. 

He enlisted on October 1, 1942. At Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, Dave Saunders said 
He fought in the Normandy D-Day invasion, for which he received the Bronze Star and French Croix de Guerre.
An obituary in The Comics Journal #158, April 1993 said 
He served throughout Europe and was present at the historic meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops on the banks of the Elbe River.
McWilliams’ veteran’s file said he served in the Army from October 15, 1942 to October 30, 1945.

The Daily Item (Port Chester, New York), December 17, 1945, said Ruth Linea Jensen was engaged to McWilliams. Their marriage was reported in the Standard-Star (New Rochelle, New York), April 12, 1946. 
Miss Ruth Linea Jensen daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Jensen of Greenwich, Conn. to Alden Spurr McWilliams son of Mrs. John McWilliams of Old Greenwich. The ceremony was performed Monday at the Jensen home and a reception followed at Pickwick Arms, Greenwich, Sunday in the rectory of St. Gabriel’s Church.
The 1950 census counted commercial artist McWilliams, his wife and son, Chris, in Darien, Connecticut at 33 Miles Road.

When Oskar Lebeck left Dell, he and McWilliams sold, in 1952, a science fiction comic strip, Twin Earths, to United Feature Syndicate

Editor & Publisher, 6/7/1952

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the strip ran from June 16, 1952 to May 25, 1963. In John Stanley: Giving Life to Little Lulu (2017), Bill Schelly said 
… Lebeck scripted it until 1957, when McWilliams assumed scripting duties along with the art. 
Twin Earths was featured in Popular Science, January 1953. 

McWilliams and writer John Saunders produced Dateline: Danger for Field Enterprises. The strip ran from November 11, 1968 to March 17, 1974. According to American Newspaper Comics, McWilliams assisted on or ghosted many strips including Dan Flagg, Heart of Juliet Jones, Joe Jinks, Kerry Drake, On Stage, Rip Kirby, Secret Agent X-9, and Tim Tyler’s Luck.

McWilliams passed away on March 19, 1993, in Stamford, Connecticut. He was laid to rest at Putnam Cemetery. Obituaries were published in the Stamford Advocate and The New York Times

Further Reading and Viewing
More Heroes of the Comics (2016) 
The Fabulous Fifties, Journalist Porn, A Date With Danger, Flying The Flagg, Dangerous Profession
Heritage Auctions, Twin Earths original art


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Wednesday, December 06, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Oskar Lebeck

Oskar Albert August Lebeck was born on August 30, 1903, in Mannheim, Germany, according to his naturalization application and World War II draft card. His full name was on a baptism register which was transcribed at

At age 23, Lebeck departed from Hamburg, Germany and arrived in New York City on March 8, 1927.

On December 19, 1927, Lebeck and Ruth Seelig obtained, in Manhattan, marriage license number 35061, and married that day

The 1930 United States Census counted the couple in Forest Hills, Queens County, New York at 67104 Burns Street. He was a self-employed artist.

The 1933 New York, New York city directory had a listing for Lebeck in the Artists category. His address was 47 East 9th Street, apartment 1.

According to the 1940 census, Lebeck, his wife, daughter Letty, in-laws Karl and Gertrude Seelig, and a maid, resided in Cortlandt, Westchester County, New York at 36 Lexington Drive. Lebeck was an illustrator who had three years of college. In 1939 he earned $5,000.

The Citizen Register (Ossining, New York), December 13, 1941, reported Lebeck’s real estate purchase. 
... Oskar Lebeck of New York, art director of the Whitman Publishing Company, has purchased the residence of Mrs. Phillp G. Jessup in Old Post Road. The property includes half an acre of lawns and gardens enclosed by a high stone wall and is improved with a field stone dwelling of nine rooms and three baths with attached garage. Like several other stone houses in the Post oRad [sic] section, both house and boundary lines are overgrown with English ivy and Virginia creeper.

The sale was made by Margaret Lane of New York City in cooperation with her Croton associate, Edward H. Briggs. Mr. Lebeck intends to make this his year-round-residence.
On February 14, 1942, Lebeck signed his World War II draft card. His address was 126 Old Post Road in Croton. Lebeck’s employer was Western Printing & Lithograph Company in Poughkeepsie, New York. His description was six feet, 182 pounds, with brown eyes and hair.

At Dell Comics, Lebeck was the art director who worked with Walt Kelly, John Stanley, Jim Chambers, Bill Ely, Alden McWilliams, Dan Noonan, Morris Gollub, Ray Burley and others.

The Citizen Register, July 9, 1945, reported Lebeck’s sailing win.
Lebeck’s “Letty” Takes 1st Place in Wood Pussy Race at Shattemuc
Guests and members at Shattemuc saw Oscar Lebeck, 126 Old Post Road North, Croton, skipper of the sailboat “Letty,” with his crew, William E. Haley, also of Croton, take first place in the Wood Pussy class, ... 
Lebeck’s vacation was noted in the Citizen Register, January 23, 1946.
Mr. and Mrs. Oskar Lebeck, 126 Old Post Rood, North, Croton, are spending an extended vacation in the Virgin Islands, expecting to do a good deal of sailing.
A photograph of Lebeck’s boat (left) appeared in the Citizen Register, July 5, 1946.

Lebeck has not yet been found in the 1950 census.

The 1950, 1951 and 1952 Poughkeepsie city directories listed K K Publications Inc. and its officers, including Lebeck who was one of three vice-presidents. 

After Lebeck left Dell, he and Alden McWilliams sold a science fiction comic strip, Twin Earths, to United Feature Syndicate

Editor & Publisher, 6/7/1952

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the strip ran from June 16, 1952 to May 25, 1963. In John Stanley: Giving Life to Little Lulu (2017), Bill Schelly said 
… Lebeck scripted it until 1957, when McWilliams assumed scripting duties along with the art. 
Twin Earths was featured in Popular Science, January 1953. 

The Citizen Register, September 10, 1954, reported the sale of Lebeck’s property.
… The property at 126 Old Post Road, North, in Croton, formerly owned by Oskar Lebeck, was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Tamarin, formerly of 66 Cleveland Drive, Croton, and New York City.

Mr. Tamarin is advertising director at United Artists Corp and Mrs. Tamarin is an M. D. with offices in New York City. She specializes in child psychiatry.

The property consists of a seven-room stone colonial on an acre plot with a free-form swimming pool. Featured is a large living room with hand-hewn beamed ceiling, natural stone interior walls, fireplace, two-car garage and a panoramic Hudson River view.

The Tamarins have taken occupancy of their home, which will be their permanent residence. The property had been held at $39,500. Mr. and Mrs. Lebeck have purchased land in Scarborough and have recently completed a new ranch house, designed by Mr. Lebeck, and are presently occupying their new home there. ...
At some point Lebeck and his wife moved. They were listed in the 1959 and 1960 Daytona Beach, Florida city directories at 5 Ellsworth Avenue in Ormond Beach. He was an artist. 

The couple moved again. The 1961 San Diego, California city directory listed them at 309 1/2 Bon Air. Lebeck was a salesman with Walden H. Staude, a real estate broker. (She was the girls physical education instructor at Scarborough School where Lebeck’s daughter graduated in 1950.) The San Diego Union, December 3, 1961, said Lebeck was a co-owner with Staude’s husband. 
Another permit, valued at $36,495, was issued to Gustave G. Staude and Oskar Lebeck, owners, for construction of 10 studio unit apartments at 7443 La Jolla Blvd.
The La Jolla Light, from April 5, 1962 to May 23, 1963, published real estate advertisements with Staude and Lebeck’s names. 

The 1962 and 1964 directories said Lebeck’s address was 8368 Paseo del Ocaso in La Jolla. The 1965 directory is not available. 

The San Diego Union, April 24, 1965, published Lebeck’s letter to the editor. 

The listing in the 1966 directory said Lebeck was retired and resided at 1316 Park Row in La Jolla. 

Lebeck passed away on December 20, 1966, in La Jolla. 

Further Reading and Viewing
Maggie Thompson, Oskar Lebeck of Dell’s Golden Age
Mike Barrier, Oskar Lebeck, John Stanley & Friends 

A selection of books credited to Lebeck.

Illustrated by Oskar Lebeck
Whitman Publishing Company, 1935

The Story of Terwilliger Jellico (Jelly for Short)
Oskar Lebeck
Grosset & Dunlap, 1935

Big Animal and Bird Paint Book
Drawings by Oskar Lebeck
Whitman Publishing Company, 1936

Birds, Flowers and Animals Coloring Book
Drawings by Oskar Lebeck
Whitman Publishing Company, 1936

Stop–Go: The Story of Automobile City
Oskar Lebeck
Grosset & Dunlap, 1936

Clemintina the Flying Pig
Story and Pictures by Oskar Lebeck
Grosset & Dunlap, 1939

Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum
Adaptation by Herbert F. Juergens
Illustrated by Oskar Lebeck
Grosset & Dunlap, 1939

Hurricane Kids on the Lost Islands
Oskar Lebeck and Gaylord DuBois
Illustrated by William Ely
Whitman Publishing Company, 1941

Rex King of the Deep
Oskar Lebeck and Gaylord DuBois
Illustrated by Alden McWilliams
Whitman Publishing Company, 1941

Stratosphere Jim and His Flying Fortress
Oskar Lebeck and Gaylord DuBois
Illustrated by Alden McWilliams
Whitman Publishing Company, 1941

Alice in Wonderland
Story adapted by Oskar Lebeck
Illustrated by Sheila Beckett
Dell Publishing Company, 1950

If I Were a Cowboy
Oskar Lebeck
Illustrated by Mel Crawford
Dell Publishing Company, 1950

Little Black Sambo
Oskar Lebeck
Illustrated by Tony Rivera
Dell Publishing Company, 1950

Strange Happenings at the Zoo
Oskar Lebeck
Illustrated by Louis Myers
Dell Publishing Company, 1950

The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Adapted by Oskar Lebeck
Illustrated by Tony Rivera
Dell Publishing Company, 1950

Teddy B.B.
Oskar Lebeck
Illustrated by Dan Noonan
Dell Publishing Company, 1950


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Monday, December 04, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: A New Worry Every Day


Carl "Mort" Mortison (1910-1963) was reportedly a cartoonist-in-residence at the Waterbury Republican-American for over forty years. In addition to editorial cartoons, he penned a humor panel called A New Worry Every Day. Unfortunately beyond that my crystal ball gets decidedly blurry. 

The panel is mentioned in Mortison's obituary, so I assume it ran for a long time, but my only samples are from 1940. Based on the very flimsy evidence I have in my files, I think it might have been a replacement for a cartoon quiz feature Mortison did titled Lester G.'s Kartoon Kwizz, for which I have examples earlier that same year. 

Does anyone have access to online archives or the microfilm of this Waterbury paper to fill us in on Mortison's feature, or features?


Some interesting stuff here: apparently, there was an auction of Mortison artwork earlier this year, but the items didn't sell.
There's also a current auction on eBay that appears to show a "New Worry Every Day" panel from some time in the mid to late 1950s.
Great catch there; yes, I would agree that's gotta be 50s. We'll call it strong circumstantial proof that the panel ran a very long time in Waterbury.
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Sunday, December 03, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Alphonse and Gaston


Hey, that's not a postcard! We give a sideways skooch to Wish You Were Here this Sunday to bring you another form of mail communication, an envelope. This envelope from the collection of Mark Johnson was produced as a marketing gimmick specifically for wholesalers/distributors to shill their wares to retailers. To get those marks to pay attention they use (aka steal) the well-known Fred Opper characters Alphonse and Gaston to add eye appeal. Mark says this envelope was used by the William Cluff Company of San Francisco, a grocery wholesaler. The addressee, Winship-McQuarrie, was a wholesaler of produce based in Seattle.


Hello Allan-
It never intrigued me enough to research what those companies were, but I think it shows these were main street small businesses, or they'd have the company printed on the cover. (That's the philatelic term for envelope, for you civilians)
I have seen other, non-authorized blanks with comic characters. Wish I had it, but there's one of Marriner's "Sambo" for a Dunning message, where he cheerfully yells out; " Kindly Make A Noise Lak' a Cheque!"
Oh geez, that's hilarious!!!
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Saturday, December 02, 2023


One-Shot Wonders: Things You Would Never Dream by Art Young, 1897


I'll be the first to admit that this isn't a particularly important work by Art Young, but in my humble opinion EVERYTHING Art Young does, even his tea stains on a placemat, are worthy of our attention. Here he is in an early colour comic section of the New York Journal, this the issue of January 17 1897. While the gags, all three of 'em, are nothing to write home about, check out the stylized action in the second panels of each two-panel series. There is a master class in these simple panels on how to depict restfulness and contrast it with activity.


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Friday, December 01, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Weekly Rib


Even Western Newspaper Union, probably the most prosperous of the syndicates that catered to weekly papers, started hitting hard times after World War II. Their comic offerings started bouncing around erratically, as opposed to before the war when they had maintained a mostly consistent and professional stable of features. 

Weekly Rib was one of their many experiments from this era. A panel cartoon with no consistent characters or setting, it was drawn by Roy Mathison, a decent enough cartoonist of whom I know nothing. The feature ran for just one year -- in other words, just 52 panels -- from April 15 1948* to April 7 1949**, and not many WNU clients used it. 

Given my bad track record on genealogical digging lately, I darent make any proclamations, but maybe this is our guy?

* Source: Pomeroy Herald

** Source: Graettinger Times


I've found a Roy L. Mathison who is listed in the 1952 Minneapolis City directory as an artist working for Brown & Bigelow, which makes him a highly likely candidate. Additionally, that directory lists his wife's name as Phyllis, which jibes with your link. The 1963 directory for La Mirada, California lists him as being married to Phyllis C. (slight variance to your link, which lists Phyllis E.), and his occupation as an artist with the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Southern California, which also jibes directly with your link. Interestingly, his 1940 draft card (which has him as an art student) and living in Minneapolis) has his name as Lee Roy Mathison, which may be a bit why you can't locate materials. His marriage record is under Lee Roy Mathison, too. I say you have the right man.
Got him. There's a bio in the May 15, 1975 edition of The Algona Upper Des Moines, page 29, which not only has a picture of him, but also specifically mentions that he had created a syndicated comic strip. So this is the same fellow who, when he was younger, was reported in the press as having a pet alligator.
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Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Toppers: Wiggle Line Movie


When E.C. Segar was battling leukemia and only sporadically able to work on Thimble Theatre the show had to go on, and other hands kept the franchise running. In much of 1938 someone other than Segar handled the Sunday much of the time, but Segar rallied and penned (or at least signed) the Sunday strip from July 17 to October 2. During this short period he came up with his last new contribution to the Sunday toppers, the Wiggle Line Movie

Unlike earlier activity panels like Funny Films that theoretically gave kids a moving picture but didn't really succeed, the Wiggle Line Movie actually offered a successful but extremely limited animation. In each installment you got a funny face and a wiggly line; put the two together in the prescribed method and you get a wacky face with moving eyes. Worth the effort? I dunno, but the feature didn't last long so maybe the syndicate wasn't too impressed. 

Wiggle Line Movie ran with the Sundays of September 11 through November 13 1938, during which time (on October 13), Segar died. After October 2, Segar's last signed Sunday, the art and writing may have been in the hands of King bullpenner Doc Winner, which seems to be the consensus opinion. But I wonder, given that the art and writing is a cut above what I would expect of Winner, if perhaps Bud Sagendorf or others were involved. In Sagendorf's book Popeye - The First 50 Years he says that he started working on the activity panels "after 1938," but maybe he jumped in a little earlier than he could recall many years later. Any Thimble Theatre scholars out there who can shed some light?


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Monday, November 27, 2023


Restoring Arnold by Charles Brubaker

 The following post was originally written for the Cartoonist Cooperative newsletter, but I am allowing Allan to run it here as I am in need of help for the Arnold complete collection I am publishing. I have every daily published for the comic, and I have most of the Sundays, enough to cover the first two volumes of a 3-volume series, but I am having a hard time finding the Sundays that ran from June 1987 to April 1988 (when the strip ended). Most of the copies I have for those dates came from microfilm, but I would vastly prefer using newspaper clippings if possible.

If you have any leads on finding clippings of “Arnold” Sundays from those dates, I would love if you would get in touch. Alternatively, if there are leads on finding bound, printed copies of newspapers that ran the strip, that would be great as well. “Arnold” ran in vanishingly few papers towards the end, but among the papers that ran it to the very end are Detroit Free-Press, the Baltimore Sun, and (I presume) Chicago Sun-Times.

I can be reached at


Restoring Arnold by Charles Brubaker

I never expected to become a publisher. Oh, I’ve self-published my own comics many times through my Smallbug Press label (a name I registered because a printing company I used back in 2017 required I have one). But there’s a difference between self-publishing, where you print your own work, and publishing another creator’s work. That happened to me this past August, when I released Arnold: The Complete Collection Volume 1.

Arnold was a comic strip by Kevin McCormick that ran in a small number of newspapers from 1982 to 1988. The strip featured the bizarre antics of a middle-school boy and his friend, two weird characters in a world that's just as weird to match. Very few characters appeared on-panel. In addition to the titular Arnold and his friend Tommy, the only other character to appear prominently was Mr. Lester, their teacher. There were technically other characters, as well, like Heather (who disappeared like Lyman in Garfield), but they mostly just yelled from off-screen, never appearing on-camera.

Trade advertisement for Arnold comic strip

I didn’t grow up on the strip, having been born over a year after the comic ended its run, but I was (and still am) obsessed with newspaper strips. In addition to reading the ones in my local newspaper growing up, I also sought out any comics I could find online. I eventually found an old message board dedicated to comic strips (remember message boards?). One strip was mentioned by several members: Arnold.

The more I read about the strip, the more intrigued I became. Finding samples proved to be hard as the strip ended before the internet became commonplace, but I managed to contact someone who xeroxed newspaper clippings and mailed them to me. I was hooked by the bizarre strip that seems to defy common decency. Arnold frequently wrote letters to Miss Manners, asking questions such as whether it was rude to do an impression of an anteater during dinner (which involved inhaling meatloaf with his nose), resulting in him getting a response asking if he was ever dragged through a cactus. Arnold's antagonism towards the cafeteria ladies (who frequently refer to him as "Ratso") got to the point that the ladies grabbed Arnold and force-fed him mayonnaise, which he refers to as the "White Death".

That this was serialized in the 1980s also made it more hilarious to me. The strip came out when Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County and Gary Larson’s The Far Side were taking off in the mainstream, so there was clearly a market for strips that pushed the envelope. Perhaps Arnold went too far for the editors as it never made a huge splash in the world of newspapers.

Proof sheet for a week of Arnold dailies

Not that readers didn’t notice. The newspaper strip gained a cult following among college students. It was especially popular in Detroit, where it ran in the Free Press until the bitter end, when a giant bird grabbed Arnold and flew off, never to be seen again. Kevin McCormick even acknowledged his Detroit audience by creating a special drawing for the paper and running a short letter thanking his readers.

Over the years I managed to track down more and more strips, through microfilms, newspaper clippings, and scans, but to my disappointment the strip never received a proper book collection. I contacted a few acquaintances with experience in reprinting complete runs of newspaper comics, but they all told me Arnold was such a niche title they didn’t feel it would be worth the investment. Well, as the saying goes, “if no one will do it, do it yourself.”

I had contacted Kevin McCormick before for an interview that ran on my blog, but getting his blessing for a book reprint took some repeated inquiries. I eventually got his attention on the matter after his daughter expressed support for the project. After consulting Nat Gertler, who specializes in reprinting obscure comic materials (including those by Charles M. Schulz), I put a contract together and we signed an agreement.

As it turned out, that was the EASIEST part of the project. The actual hard part was finding the comics. I was able to acquire scans of the proof sheets (a set of sheets containing a week’s worth of strips for newspapers to cut and paste into their page layouts) from King Features Syndicate for most of Arnold, but not for every single strip from the original run. They had most of the dailies, but half of the Sundays were missing, and some of the dailies had missing weeks as well. I also got lucky and managed to find original art for three of the strips from different collectors on eBay. With each original costing $100, it wasn’t the cheapest of investments, but collecting comic strip original art is already a worthwhile pursuit of mine. Those three strips (dated 1/6/1983, 2/16/1983. and 6/21/1983) have the sharpest reproduction among the weekday strips.

Finding the missing dailies was considerably easier, thanks to microfilm I was able to scan and sufficiently clean, using Photoshop to remove any dust and artifacts along the way. In extreme cases I had to Frankenstein a single strip together by stitching parts together from different sources.

The Sundays proved to be the hardest to track down. I found old newspaper clippings of the Sundays on eBay over a better part of the decade, and Kevin McCormick sent me camera captures of Sundays from his original pieces, but he didn’t have everything. He had given some originals away over the years, and others had been damaged by squirrels that had snuck into his attic.

Typical Arnold Sunday tearsheet sample with awful print quality and color

Luckily I was able to get in touch with comic strip historian Allan Holtz, who possessed many of the early Sundays in his own collection. But even that proved to be a challenge because, as Allan explained, “the printing of the Sundays was truly awful. The word balloon text always seemed to be washed out and full of printing losses, and the coloring was a sickening miasma.” I knew that very well, from my own experience dealing with newspaper clippings, and applied many of my own. Photoshop techniques, including redrawing missing lineart and manually erasing artifacts. There was one strip that I spent an entire week cleaning up. Thankfully later strips didn’t suffer from nearly as many printing issues and I was able to get them presentable relatively quickly.

The first of three volumes came out in the last week of August 2023, after five years of attempts,, marking my official debut as a “publisher.” The reactions have been favorable, with many writing they’d been waiting over 30 years for this book to happen. This production was very much a labor of love. As I noted earlier, I had always wanted to have an Arnold book collection and ensure that this strip was preserved, so I took the initiative to make it happen. There are a number of other forgotten comic strips I’d like to see reprinted, and I wonder if I have the drive to do this further while keeping my own comics going. Time will tell, but first I need to get the other two volumes out.

You can get the book on Amazon here: Here's the cover of book two, not yet published:

This is a fascinating article, as I've stated on the Facebook page, I've been waiting for books to come out after sadly reading the final strip. As far as I'm concerned, Arnold returns, and would have an interesting story as to what he went through to get back. Thirty five years later, we're rewarded with the excellent Volume One. I can't wait for the others.
Arnold was one of my favorite strips at the time. It ran daily in my daily newspaper, The Miami Herald. I purchased this compilation as soon as I saw it was out. Very funny and brings back memories Aieeeee!
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Sunday, November 26, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Little Nemo


Here's another card in the Raphael Tuck series of Little Nemo Valentines Day postcards. Can you find the original McCay panel on which this image is based?


This is loosely based on the one from February 25, 1906.
Thank you Brian. And what a great McCay page that was!
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Saturday, November 25, 2023


One-Shot Wonders: The Wonderful Wizard's Terrible Revenge by Morris, 1904


This one-shot strip that ran in the World Color Printing Sunday comics section of December 4 1904 generates so many questions. Why does the wizard turn a snake into a watermelon? Why does he finger a mysterious case labelled "Goo-Goo From India"? Why does the wizard turn George Washington White into a chicken particularly? I'm so confused... 

This one-shot is signed Morris. He was not an artist in World Color's regular stable; in fact this seems to be the only strip he contributed to the syndicate. Nice art, but that gag needed some polishing.


Ah, because the stereotypical rural black character steals that which he craves; watermelon and chicken. So, to become the object of his desire would seem a grimly ironic punishment indeed. But this is really a terribly plotted strip. A really basic cause-and-effect gag is hard to muck up, but this one is.
What's the snake about? It's introduced to no effect; and why was transforming into watermelon done? More questions can be considered as well, but it's more than it's worth.
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Friday, November 24, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: The Hurry Up New Yorker


I rarely get to feature Maurice Ketten* on the blog because he worked on his daily panel, often titled Can You Beat It?, for the New York World pretty much for his whole newspaper career. But that's a shame because though his later style lost most of its allure, in his early days at the World he was a pretty incredible stylist. His work was so distinctive that the World billed him as "the Angle and Curve Cartoonist." His style at that time was so highly stylized I tend to think of it as Art Deco, or perhaps Cubist, and that's well before either of those were even things. 

As Ketten settled in at the World in 1906 his style quickly became more conventional, and to imitate T.E. Powers over at the New York Journal. However, in his only series that predates Can You Beat It?, The Hurry Up New Yorker, the vestiges of his "angle and curve" days are still in evidence. This series makes fun of Big Apple denizens, who always seem to be scrambling to make time. Of course in Ketten's series this always backfires to comic effect. 

The series ran from October 19 to November 17 1906**, predating Ketten's decades-long series Can You Beat It?  by a few months. As you can see from the samples above, which ran in other papers, the original title was changed to suit the local paper, sometimes made generic like these, other times by substituting the name of the newspaper's city.

* Ketten's real name was Prosper Fiorini; he changed it when he came to the U.S. 

** Source: New York Evening World.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Frank Robbins

Franklin “Frank” Robbins was born on September 9, 1917, in Boston, Massachusetts, according to his World War II draft card and Social Security application (transcribed at

In the 1920 United States Census, Robbins was the only child of Archibald (salesman born in Russia) and Laura (born in Austria). They were Boston residents at 3144 Washington Street. 

Famous Artists and Writers of King Features Syndicate (1949) profiled Robbins and said
... Robbins was a Grade-A prodigy of the drawing board in his native Boston at the age of four, won several art scholarships at 9, painted giant murals for his high school at 13 ...
Who’s Who in American Art 1976 said Robbins studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. 

The 1930 census counted twelve-year-old Robbins and his widow mother in Boston at 121 Chambers Street. 

In Famous Artists Robbins said
“I began life back of the North Station in Boston … precisely on the wrong side of the tracks! At fifteen [around 1933], my family came to New York, lived on the East Side and I began my professional career.”

After kicking around as errand boy in ad agencies, Frank, at the age of sixteen, came under the eagle eye of Edward Trumbull, well-known muralist. Trumbull was then color director of the Radio City project, and through him Frank met the architects and contractors for the buildings being erected. He immediately received commissions to do pencil portraits of all the architects and other personalities connected with the construction project. Upon completion of this lengthy and challenging job, Frank met the Rockefellers and received a grant from them to study and paint. A year later, in a studio given to him in the Graybar building, Frank was busy working on a series of mural sketches for the then proposed Children’s Broadcasting Studio in the RCA building. The sketches were approved when then NBC studios opened for a full schedule of broadcasting. Since the murals were to be painted directly on the walls this gave Frank the choice of working for three months in the wee hours between midnight and early dawn or forgetting the whole deal. Due to his health at the time Frank had to regretfully drop the project.
Art Digest, March 15, 1936, mentioned Robbins’ prize. 
… the Thomas B. Clarke prize of $100 was awarded to Franklin Robbins’ “Sixth Avenue ‘L’.”

In The World Encyclopedia of Comics, Volume 5 (1999), Maurice Horn said “In 1938 he flirted briefly with the comic book medium.” In The Encyclopedia of American Comics from 1897 to the Present (1990), Ron Goulart said Robbins “even put in time in Bert Whitman’s comic book shop.” 

In 1939, Robbins accepted the Associated Press’s offer to produce Scorchy Smith which began in 1930 with John Terry who was followed by Noel Sickles (1934), Bert Christman (1936) and Howell Dodd (1938). American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Robbins did the strip from May 22, 1939 to March 11, 1944 with a small gap in 1943 by other hands

In the Encyclopedia of American Comics, Goulart said 
At about the same time he’d been doing Scorchy Smith, Robbins also drew Lightnin’ and the Lone Rider, a thinly syndicated cowboy strip. This poor man’s Lone Ranger had originally been drawn by Jack Kirby.

According to the 1940 census, Robbins and his mother resided in Manhattan at 840 Third Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets. He was a freelance artist who had four years of high school. 

On August 20, 1940, Robbins, aboard the steamship Mexico, returned from Veracruz, Mexico to the port of New York. The passenger list said his address was 11 West 52nd Street in Manhattan.

Robbins signed his World War II draft card on October 16, 1940. His employer was the Associated Press. Robbins was described as five feet nine inches, 147 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. Apparently he did not serve during the war.

The Artists League of America’s 1943 exhibition, “This Is Our War”, was at the Wildenstein Galleries in New York. Robbins was one of 89 painters and 12 sculptors represented. His painting, “This Is Our War, Too”, was published in the Springfield Sunday Union and Republican (Massachusetts), March 7, 1943. (The painting was sold in 2019.)

American Newspaper Comics said Robbins was a ghost artist on The Green Hornet (1941) for the Bell Syndicate. For the King Features Syndicate, Robbins created the adventure strip Johnny Hazard. The daily and Sunday series ran from June 5, 1944 to August 20, 1977. Alberto Becattini says the strip was ghost written by Howard Liss from 1951 to 1971, and Jack Kirby drew six weeks of dailies in 1956. 

On April 30, 1945, Robbins and Bertha Greenstein obtained, in Manhattan, marriage license number 10025. Robbins’ lettering is evident on the affidavit. They married on May 17.

Famous Artists said
Frank is now married, and his lovely wife, Berta, helps him on research and the more pleasant matters of life. “Frankly,” Frank confided to me, “Any similarity between my comic strip heroines and my wife are pure coincidence!”
National Cartoonists Society

On October 15, 1947, Robbins and his wife flew on American Airlines from Mexico City to San Antonio, Texas. Their address on the passenger list was 418 West 20th Street in Manhattan.

The same address was recorded in the 1950 census. Robbins, his wife and son, Michael, lived on the second floor.  

Robbins and his wife departed New York, January 20, 1951, aboard the steamship Queen of Bermuda for a week’s vacation in Bermuda. Their address was 10 West 86th Street. 

Robbins was one of 239 cartoonists in the 1951 exhibition, “American Cartooning”, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A photograph of Robbins, at the museum, was published in the Daily Bulletin (Endicott, New York), May 29, 1951. 

On September 9, 1953, Robbins took his family on a two-month vacation in Europe. They sailed on the steamship Ile de France bound for Le Havre, France.

Robbins’ 1954 painting “Orchestra” was accepted in the 1955 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The catalog said Robbins lived at 285 Central Park West in Manhattan. Who’s Who said Robbins’ paintings were exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, National Academy of Design, and Audubon Artists in 1957 and 1958. 

Something About the Author, Volume 32 (1983) said Robbins’ magazine illustrations appeared in Life, Look, Cosmopolitan and The Saturday Evening Post

In the 1970s, Johnny Hazard appeared in fewer newspapers which affected Robbins’ income. He found work in comic books, first at DC then Marvel. Johnny Hazard ended in August 1977. Robbins’ final comic book contributions appeared in 1979. He and his second wife, Ida Hecht, whom he married in 1977, moved to Mexico. She passed away on January 27, 1989 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Co-incidentally, Robbins’ first wife passed away the same year on March 4 (Social Security Death Index). 

Robbins’ third wife, Fran, was interviewed in Comic Book Creator #1, Spring 2013.
“I taught English there,” she said. “I met Frank while I was directing a play reading of Amadeus.”

“His wife had died two years before I met him … We were together for about five years. We had a wonderful marriage. It was a big loss when he died, let me tell you.”
In addition to his artistic talent, Robbins was an audiophile according to Fran.
“We had a sound system that was second to none. ... He created a single cone speaker that was astonishing. It was very pure sound, very clear. wonderful, wonderful. He knew a lot about sound. He had boxes and boxes of research about sound.”
Robbins passed away on November 28, 1994 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He was laid to rest at Panteón de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Further Reading and Viewing
News from ME, About Frank Robbins – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
More Heroes of the Comics: Portraits of the Legends of Comic Books (2016)
Fabulous Fifties, Frank Robbins’ comics and advertising
Art Digest, May 1951, Met Surveys U.S. Cartooning
Invaluableoriginal comics art and paintings
Heritage Auctions, Frank Robbins original art
Syracuse University, Frank Robbins Cartoons
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999


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Monday, November 20, 2023


Firsts and Lasts: Dumb Dora's Not So Dumb ... But Cancelled Anyway


Dumb Dora was on its third artist, or more like a hundred and third if you count ghosts and assistants, when her strip was retired in January 1936. Bil Dwyer was the final credited artist on the strip, taking over in late 1932 from Paul Fung, who in turn had taken over from Chic Young. 

Dwyer reportedly brought on a small army of helpers to get the Sunday and daily strip out on time, including Milton Caniff, who R.C. Harvey reports did much of the pencilling for the initial eighteen months of Dwyer's tenure, plus inking some of the girl characters. By the time Dumb Dora ended Caniff was long gone, but we can still easily see vestiges of his style on the dailies above, the last two of the series. 

Dumb Dora had begun as a me-too flapper strip in 1924, but had the additional hook that Dora acts dumb but usually turns out to have a bean firing on all cylinders by the end of each gag. The concept is fine, but awfully repetitive. By the time Dwyer took over the conceit was well and truly played out, and flappers were long gone, so the strip had turned into a more generic "teen boys chasing the pretty girl" feature, which left it drowning in a sea of its betters -- Tillie the Toiler, Harold Teen, Winnie Winkle, Etta Kett, etc. 

Mark Johnson supplied a scan of the last two rather rare dailies seen above, which offer no farewell or conclusion to the strip. So I went looking online to see if the Sunday, which ended the next day (January 5 1936), offered us some closure. Nope!


By the end of 1935, Dora had exhausted itself, very few papers were still hanging on to it. I can't think of any clients offhand. The two final dailies are from the bottom third of a proof sheet.
My guess is that the feature lasted as long as it did because Dora had been such famous character that her very name became part of the popular American idiom, everybody said it, there were "Dumb Dora Clubs" organised by college girls; a "Dumb Dora" was a shorthand description of a He said-she said joke or cartoon gag.
Thing is, though still well known, it became stale. It was corny. The name was associated with the 1920s.
It was like calling your strip "Oh You Kid" or "Sheik n' Sheba". And all those change of artists didn't help. There's nothing interesting story-wise, either.
Yung was the only one who really understood the character and material to suit her, perhaps Fung did as well to some extent, but by the time it was dumped on Dwyer's drawing board, the feature had lost its soul.
Errata: Meant Chic YOUNG, not Yung.
The phrase "Dumb Dora" hung on at least until the mid-1970s, when they used it regularly on the game show "Match Game:"

Gene Rayburn: Dumb Dora is SO dumb . . .

Audience: HOW-DUMB-IS-SHE?

Rayburn: She thinks "Night School" is where you learn how to be a ______.

I never knew it was a comic strip reference. I wonder how many people did.
If anybody cares to read a little more about Dora, take a peek at my now-defunct web page's entry on it:
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