Saturday, December 17, 2005
Roger Lincoln, S-Man
I was afraid someone would ask what S-Man stands for, and DD Degg did. 'Fraid I don't have an answer for you, DD. I have a smattering of dailies somewhere that I think had the answer, but they are in the giganto pile of Stuff To Be Filed. Once they go in that pile they don't come back out - it's the comic strip black hole.
So I checked my inventory and found that I have one solitary Sunday in my collection (11/18/1951). I was able to dig that out and it is reproduced here. Problem #1 is that this Sunday has obviously gone on a sci-fi tangent. I could swear those dailies (the ones consigned to terra incognita) concerned some sort of spy/gangster type material. Problem #2 is that Milton Luros (aka the porno king - see DD Degg's reply to the prior post) is obviously doing the Sunday almost a year before the date I cited in the original post. That date came for my indexing of the strip in the microfilm of the Reading (PA) Eagle. So now I don't know what's going on. Either I did some sloppy indexing or there is a lot more information to be found on this strip. Can anyone shed some light on the subject?
Friday, December 16, 2005
Obscurity of the Day: Cynthia
The success of the soap opera strip Mary Worth was bound to spawn imitators, and they popped up all over in the 1940s and 50s. Some did well, like Rex Morgan MD and Judge Parker, while others languished. Cynthia, a soaper ostensibly about a career girl, was mostly a copy of Mary Worth with the improvement that instead of an old lady our heroine was a stunning babe. The concept was boffo, but the execution was pretty lame. According to Ron Goulart, the strip was anonymously written by Bert Whitman. The art by Irv Novick was designed to closely ape the look of Ken Ernst's slick style on Mary Worth. The storylines were standard soap opera fodder, although to be fair Whitman did at least try to introduce a little humor into the mix, something rarely seen in other soapers.
Cynthia never caught on and appeared in few papers. For an unsuccessful strip it had a surprisingly long run. The strip started in October 1946 and ran until 11/4/1951, when, in a desperate bid for success the strip was renamed Roger Lincoln, S-Man, and the focus was shifted to adventure and espionage. Irving Novick wisely bailed on this stinker in October 1952, and the strip continued under the guidance of Milton Luros until it finally breathed its last on 8/30/1953.
S-Man" not "Cynthia".
I don't remember ever hearing of Roger
Lincoln, whereas Cynthia is in most
good histories and I think all Novick
interviews and biographies.
Dave Strickler's E&P Index is the only
printed source I could find Luros.
So I went searching for Roger Lincoln and Milton Luros - yeah, that led to a rather interesting detour.
It seems Luros was a pretty good cover
artist for (mostly) sci-fi pulps in
the early fifties, before and during
his comic strip work.
well here's one description of his career after that:
"Luros started his professional life in New York City illustrating science fiction pulps. By the late 1950s sci-fi was a sinking ship; Luros jumped to illustrating the rising pin-up pulps. In 1958 he left New York for L. A., where he worked as art director for Adam and Knight, two of the better girlie magazines of the time. In 1959 he started his own publishing company, American Art Agency, in North Hollywood; his first magazine was a nudes and booze celebration called Cocktail. Where he got the money is debated and perhaps best unexplored. Whatever the source, there was plenty of it; by 1965 Milton Luros so dominated the field that the staid Readers Digest proclaimed him America's richest pornographer, citing profits of $20,000,000 a year."
Other sites hint that his start-up
money came from the Mafia.
And apparently he became an early
"champion" of first amendment rights
by successfully defending his
publications in courts throughout the
United States (including the Supreme
So - what did the "S" in "S-Man" stand
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Caniff at the Columbus Dispatch
Milton Caniff's career has been pretty thoroughly chronicled, but I have seen little discussed of his first major newspaper cartooning job at the Columbus Dispatch. He did a great deal of work at the Dispatch, from journeyman spot illustrations to full-fledged daily titled cartoon features. His longest running feature was Escapes From The Pen, which went through a number of incarnations, but today we'll highlight another long-running feature of his titled Life Is Like That. This was a weekly feature that ran in the Dispatch's Sunday entertainment section. As such many of the cartoons concern local theatre and music events, but Caniff also used the space for humorous personal commentary, as shown in a few of our samples here. Also interesting to note is that Caniff was obviously still exploring different styles -- I selected these samples to show a little of the range he was working through.
Life Is Like That ran in the Dispatch from 7/20/1930 until 1/17/1932.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
At the Top of my Christmas Wish List
My Stripper's Guide index, which is a serious attempt to bring together in one resource all the vital statistics on every newspaper comic strip and panel cartoon series to run in U.S. newspapers, has, if I may be so bold, darn few major informational 'holes' at this point. Much of the data still missing is for all intents and purposes impossible to find at this point.
An example of data that is most likely lost beyond any chance of retrieval is much of the information from the New York Evening Graphic syndicate. Only a few bits and pieces of the home paper was microfilmed, and the few papers that took the syndicated material are similarly unfilmed or present the material late, incomplete or out of sequence. Although I hate to admit defeat, I realize that certain information like this will probably never be found.
On the other hand, there is certain data that I know is out there somewhere, but despite my efforts I have been unable to track it down. At the top of that list is the beginning of the Associated Press' Sunday comics. According to Ron Goulart the AP Sunday comics were inaugurated in October 1941, yet in a decade of searching I have never been able to find any Sundays that early. The closest I can come is March 1942 when the New York Post began running what I assume is the complete section. The line-up was:
Adventures of Patsy
Things To Come
If anyone could supply the name of a paper that ran this section from the start (and preferably complete) I would be very much in your debt.
PS: An obvious source for this information would be Ron Goulart. I have not been in contact with Ron for many years, but way back when I was I did ask him for the source of his information but did not get a reply.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Comic Book Artist Elmer Stoner
COMICS GO TO WAR
This Negro Artist's Drawings Are Fighting Our Enemies
by Eugene Gordon
Elmer C. Stoner agrees when you say there's little that's comic in the comic magazines. His opinion is worth something, for he draws comic continuities for a living.
Not only are they not funny; they're not supposed to be -- especially since Pearl Harbor. He says a growing bloc of progressive publishers is bringing enlightenment to the youngsters through the comic books.
But the fact behind that fact is that the artists who draw the comics have themselves gone to war. Not literally, in all cases, but in the sense that they are using all their talents in explaining the meaning of the war -- how to win it.
Everybody who has seen War Heroes, with its stories of Douglas MacArthur, General Patton, and outstanding heroes of the merchant marine, has seen Elmer Stoner's way of going to war. For these personages in War Heroes are Stoner's creations. Millions of American kids -- and many of their elders -- see these comics every month. Millions are published for the armed services.
These came under the general head of True Comics. Even his Phantasmo, however, an imaginary figure of the Superman type, fights fascism -- as does Superman. Comics like Stoner's Phantasmo and Gang Busters perform stunts that are literally out of this world. These stunts, just the same, are usually demonstrations against wrongs and injustices and are, therefore, demonstrations in moral behavior.
Stoner's Blue Beetle today holds very much the same kind of place that Phantasmo had. Stoner is working right now on a 30-page volume of the Blue Beetle continuity. This renowned counter-spy is known to our troops on all battlefronts, and, being the practical anti-fascist that he is, Stoner sees to it that the Blue Beetle carries a practical lesson.
Stoner's True Stories continuities on Colin Kelly, Mayer Levin, General Doolittle's Tokio bombing and the Red Army are as carefully prepared and drawn -- with respect to facts -- as any feature writer's story. That is why the best of these comics have educative value. Parents Magazine learned that long ago, and Stoner has done some excellent work for it. The Methodist Book Concern now issues Bible stories in comic form.
Stoner loves illustrating for children. One of his most popular works was Seeing The World's Fair, a child's book that was equally popular with parents because of the maturity and attractiveness of the drawings and accuracy of the information.
Right now, in between doing his Blue Beetle continuities and painting portraits, he shows up regularly at USO centers to draw for servicemen and sevicewomen. One of the USO centers is Harlem's, where, also, he teaches the soldiers to sketch. He occasionally gives art lectures as a means of improving Negro-white relations.
"With all this commercial stuff I am doing," he says, " I still like to paint. I still hope, some day, to work in fine arts."
Winning the war is the most important immediate task, he insists. That is why he has turned the full battery of his genius and skill against fascism.
PS: the article included a photo of Stoner at his drawing board, but the microfilm was so badly underexposed I could not get a copy good enough to reproduce.
PPS: A web search on Elmer Stoner reveals that he apparently designed the Planters peanut man!
Monday, December 12, 2005
Rudy - Doomed From The Start
How do you doom a comic strip to a short run? Well, in the case of Rudy by William Overgard, you make the humor smart and character driven. You add great art. You build it all on the basis of an unusually intelligent and involved story. Once you've got all those great ingredients, not even a talking monkey can save a strip from oblivion.
Rudy was a dapper, urbane talking chimp, the only one in the world. He was a washed-up vaudeville star trying to make a comeback in present day (1980s) Hollywood. Much of the humor comes from his interactions with entertainment industry hangers-on, agents of questionable character, and an endless string of Hollywood oddballs and weirdos. Think of him as sort of like George Burns in The Sunshine Boys and you'll have the general gist of the strip.
The strip ran Sunday and daily from 1/3/1983 to 12/22/1985. If you get a chance to read the strip (a reprint book, Rudy In Hollywood, was published in 1984) and appreciate writing that transcends the run-of-the-mill comic strip level, you'll really enjoy Rudy.
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