Saturday, August 26, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Bubble Land
The New York Herald sometimes makes me scratch my head in wonder. They were an important New York paper, and their comics were generally classy productions. And then they'd feature something like Bubble Land on the cover (ok, sometimes back cover) of their Sunday comics section. The only thing that saves this kiddie fable from being a total loss is the vibrant color and sometimes interesting page layout, like in this example. The cartoonist, one R.D. Highet, of whom I know nothing, produced uneven work (that creature in panel five was the product of what, two seconds of drawing?), and the story is practically just random thoughts strung together in no particular order.
Bubble Land graced, or wasted, a page of the Sunday comics from November 10 1918 to April 25 1920, a very long run for a strip I bet even the little ones gave up reading early on.
I think I musta got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning...
Friday, August 25, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Broadway
Jay Maeder sent these samples of the New York Daily News' Broadway photo-comic that he told us about a few days ago.
Let's get the skinny from Jay:
"Can't provide an exact startdate, but the feature launched circa late 1926/early 1927. I assume it was Hellinger's creation. He was already a big-name colyumist by then, probably unlikely to have been assigned daily gruntwork he didn't personally care to do.
"The stage stars, greater and lesser, were the drawing cards, of course -- obviously not the gags. Nifty these years later to see some of these local showfolk, just starting out at the time, who would go on to become huge. (Or not: Note tragic young Helen Walsh, one of the Great White Way's most famously beauteous chorines of the moment, who burned to death in a boat explosion in 1931. ) I'd bet Humphrey Bogart appeared in this strip at one point or another.
"Unknown to me who carried it on after Hellinger jumped from the Daily News to the Mirror in January 1930. But on it went,not expiring till late 1936."
Jay provided two images from the infamously godawful Daily News microfilm. I cleaned one of them up as best I could (forgot one word balloon -- oops!), the other I left in its pristine raw glory. I must admit that I am dumbfounded that I've never seen this strip before - running in the Daily News I should have seen a sample somewhere. Heck, it was even syndicated. From E&P I can contribute that it was credited to Sidney Skolsky in 1930 and 1933, and Jack Chapman in 1932. It was advertised uncredited in 1935-36.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: May and Junie
Here's the last of the Graphic Syndicate strips that I scanned. This one, called May and Junie (aka May and June), features the usual pretty girls. The story here are the creators. The originator was Harold MacGill, a very important guy in the history of comics, as you well know if you are a Hogan's Alley reader. This was MacGill's last known strip, and he didn't keep at it long. The strip began sometime in 1926, and he was gone by mid-1927, if not earlier. Taking over was someone who signed the strip 'Pat', when they signed it at all. Pat is the cartoonist on our sample today. Pat wasn't much of a cartoonist, but s/he kept it going for about another year. The final cartoonist to draw the gals was Gladys (Mopsy) Parker in her first known syndicate credit. She didn't last long, perhaps little more than a month or two, before the strip ended on March 3 1928.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Mack and Marx
The strip was credited to Sam Hitt, who I assume is actually Oscar Hitt. It ran 1927-28, no specific dates known because the Graphic only survives in a fragmentary microfilm record.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: The Chance Brothers
Another New York Evening Graphic strip today. Miraculously, the stars aren't pretty girls, though they managed to shoehorn them in anyway. J. Carver Pusey drew The Chance Brothers for about a year or so for the Graphic, starting sometime in 1927. Pusey started the classic strip Benny after escaping from the Graphic offices.
Obscurity of the Day: Antics of Arabella
Antics of Arabella apparently started in October 1925 (according to a contemporary E&P article; my bet is earlier) and the writing and photography was credited to one Lois M. Bull (yeah, right). The last new episode of the series ran on December 7 1929, but the feature continued in reprints right up to the end of the Graphic itself on July 7 1932.
EDIT: Leonardo de Sa writes to tell me that the pseudonymous-sounding Lois M. Bull was a real live human. She also did a little writing for the pulps. Oops, sorry Ms. Bull!
The three photo-comic titles you listed are the ones that always come to mind for me. Undoubtedly there are a few others, but I can't think of them at the moment.
Hellinger did a cartoon and photo illustrated column in the 30s (for King, I think) but I don't recall a "Broadway" photo-comic from the 20s. Got a sample we could share on the blog?
Yeah, I've seen King Kong and a few others in that on-again off-again series. For the Stripper's Guide index I don't count them, but they certainly are neat oddities.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Susie Sunshine
If you'd like to learn more about the Porno-Graphic (a popular nickname for the paper in its day) I refer you to any of these fine memoirs and histories:
The New York Graphic - The World's Zaniest Newspaper by Lester Cohen
Sauce For The Gander by Frank Mallen
My Last Million Readers by Emile Gauvreau
Dumbbells And Carrot Strips by Mary MacFadden and Emile Gauvreau
All are out of print, but can be found used on ABE Books.
Anyway, on to the strip at hand. Susie Sunshine was a bubble-brained flapper, just another in a seemingly endless flow that seemed to issue from the syndicates in the mid-20s. This one started sometime in 1927 (specific date unknown because very little of the Graphic survives on microfilm), and ended December 14 1931.
Earl Hurd created the strip, and exhibited a heretofore unseen ability to draw curvaceous beauties. Hurd's comic strip heyday was in the teens, when he did the Sunday Brick Bodkin's Pa for the New York Herald, and several daily-style strips, most prominently Trials of Editor Mouse, for the affiliated Evening Telegram. He seems to have left the comic strip field in the mid-teens (did I read somewhere that he got into the animation game?), but came back over a decade later to plumb the bottom of the syndication barrel at the Graphic.
For reasons unknown, Hurd left the strip in mid 1930, and it was taken over by Al Zere, who took a swing at a whole lot of syndicated strips over his long career. Zere, too, didn't stick, and in 1931 the strip was taken over by Dick Richards.
In 1931 the history gets a bit murky, because at some point the Graphic Syndicate lost the strip to the World Feature Service (syndication arm of the New York World). This change seemed to happen on 8/24. However, the World was in the midst of its death throes at the time, and the Graphic continued to run the strip until the end of 1931 - whether it was running reprints or new material I don't know. In any case, Dick Richards renamed the strip as The Boomers at the start of 1932, and the strip continued with United Features (which took over all the World's syndication).
The title changed again, to The Doodle Family, in April 1934, and Ben Batsford took over the strip. Shortly thereafter, the strip changed titles again, this time to Frankie Doodle, and this final (I hope) incarnation lasted through sometime in 1938 (my last samples are from August of that year).
Now I must admit that I have not taken a good enough read of all these different versions to see if there is any thread of a plot or characters that follows through the whole history, so it's impossible for me to say whether we have one long-running strip or as many as four entirely different strips. Has anyone read enough of these to venture an opinion?
[Update 1/12/2011: Just figured out that Susie Sunshine began in May 1927, and was initially syndicated by King Features. The Graphic seems to have taken over the syndication late that year or maybe early the next.]
Pardon if you're joking - but yes, Hurd is rather famous in the animation game, he invented the animation cell, and patented it on December 19, 1914. Up to the start of computer animation, that is how animation was done for the next 90 years.
Hurd worked on his own work 1915-1916, worked for J. R. Bray 1915-1919, Paul and John Terry around 1919, Bray 1921-1922, His own studio "Hurd Productions" in 1922-1925, back to Bray in 1925-1926, - returning to animation in the 1930s, dates unknown for Ub Iwerks,1934-41 for Disney (worked on Snow white, released 1937 Fantasia released 1940, Mickey Mouse, Pluto).
Nope, not joking at all. Got my hands full trying to be the comic strip expert; leave the other stuff to those with the brain cells to spare. Thanks for the Hurd resume!
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Conquest of the Air
Blogging once again took a back-seat to that bugaboo, real life, this week. My dad has been experiencing chest pains for the last few months, and finally went in to see a doctor last week. He was diagnosed as having plaque in the veins around his heart, and the cure was to put in some stints via arthroscopic surgery. That procedure was attempted on Friday with no success, then again on Saturday when the doctor poked a hole in the vein while trying to get his instrument through the plaque. That led to open-heart surgery yesterday. Dad is now the proud owner of a double bypass, and is expected to fully recover. So what with the 40 mile commute to the hospital, blogging has once again had to take its rightful place somewhere well down on the priority list.
So today just a quickie. Here's a sample from Nick Afonsky's Conquest Of The Air, a historical series chronicling man's quest for flight. Flying was on everybody's mind in the 1920s, especially after Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight in May 1927. McClure Syndicate attempted to capitalize on it with this 48 part closed end series of strips. The original run seems to have been August 1 through September 24 1927, but McClure continued to sell the series at least as late as 1931.