Friday, September 01, 2006

 

Obscurity of the Day: Louie The Lawyer



Before Martin Branner hit the jackpot with Winnie Winkle, he did this short run daily for the Bell Syndicate. Louie The Lawyer was a fun strip but seems to have never caught on with newspaper editors - I've been searching for samples of the strip for years before finally finding some in the Cleveland Press. Finding them in that of all papers is a headscratcher in itself, since the Press was the home paper of the NEA syndicate. Someone at the Press must have been a big supporter of Louie to put him in the paper, bumping one of their own NEA strips.

Louie The Lawyer ran from July 14 1919 until sometime in 1920 (anyone have an end date?). The character was later revived as the star of Looie Blooie, the long-running topper strip to the Winnie Winkle Sunday page.

Is it just me or do Branner's male heads remind you of Carl Barks' dog characters from the Donald Duck comic books?

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

Yet Another from the Graphic


My, but I was a busy ol' scanning fool. Here is another New York Evening Graphic strip that was lurking about on my hard drive. The Kids In Our Block by Louis Ferstadt ran in 1926-27. Ferstadt was later a WPA muralist, and then in the 40s illustrated various features for comic books, mainly for Timely and Fox. This is his only known syndicated comic strip. I'd call the art style on this strip a blatant rip-off of Wally Bishop's Muggs And Skeeter, only it pre-dates it by two years!

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

 

One More from the Graphic


Oops, I had one more strip from the New York Evening Graphic in the batch I scanned. Here is Laff-O-Graphics, aka Laff's In The Day's News Dispatches, aka Laff-O-News. It ran 1927-1929, and was drawn by Ving Fuller. Ving (short for Irving, I assume) was quite the renaissance man, doing syndicated strips, editorial cartoons, magazine gags, even animation. In 1949 he started his own syndicate to distribute his cartoons, including his long-running strip Doc Syke, aka Litttle Doc. Would love more biographical info on this fascinating guy if anyone knows of any resources.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

Two from Ollie Harrington


Oliver Harrington was without a doubt the most important cartoonist to emerge from the American black press. In addition to being a fine cartoonist, he was a zealous political activist and outspoken critic of the American social and political systems. His is a tremendously interesting story, and I recommend you look for these books to learn more about him:

Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington by M. Thomas Inge
Why I Left America and Other Essays by Oliver Harrington

Both books are out of print and, last time I checked, rather expensive on the used market, but well worth the coin.

While his Dark Laughter panel (sometimes informally known by the name of the character Bootsie) is widely recognized for its trenchant observations, fewer remember his weekly comic strip Jive Gray. This strip, written and drawn in the Milton Caniff tradition, is full of adventurous derring-do and breathless prose, but with a black soldier as the hero the spectre of American racism is as much an enemy as the Nazis and the rest of the rogues gallery.

The strip is notoriously hard to follow because few papers printed it on a consistent basis (or even in proper order for that matter). Much like the blind men and the elephant, each historian who has taken a crack at researching Jive Gray comes away with a different history depending on the newspaper they use as their source.

In trying to pin down the basics on Jive Gray I have indexed its run in five different papers. My conclusion is that the strip began on October 18 1941, ran until April 19 1942 then went on hiatus (I believe Harrington at this point became a European war correspondent). On October 25 1942 the strip reappears, seemingly without missing a beat, and runs until June 16 1951. Now some of this run may well be reprints, a practice common in the black papers, but I believe I've pinned the dates down about as well as anyone is ever likely to do. The last and best step to be taken is to go through these papers making copies of the strips in an attempt to assemble a complete unbroken run of the story, a task I leave to others.

Our samples today are bothe from a 1947 issue of the Pittsburgh Courier.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

 

Obscurity of the Day: Fritz von Blitz the Kaiser's Hoodoo


Here we have one deliciously nasty anti-German strip from World War I. H.C. Greening revived his Percy the robot characters (earlier featured in Percy - Brains He Has Nix) for the New York Tribune on August 18 1918, just beating out the end of hostilities by a few months. Undaunted by the end of the war in November, Fritz Von Blitz The Kaiser's Hoodoo kept right on running until February 23 1919. After that Greening waved his own flag of truce and renamed the strip to Percy.

Although robot characters were not unknown in the comics of the day, Percy is one of a select few who got the star treatment in his own strip, and probably the only one to have his own long-running Sunday page.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Second Mrs. Mac

You wouldn't think that a comic strip could sustain itself for long on this plot. Mister Mac has remarried, and his second wife compares unfavorably with the first. That's it.

Harold MacGill created this oddball item for distribution through Associated Newspapers, with a copyright to J.G. Lloyd. The strip began on August 16 1915 and ran daily through March 11 1916, when MacGill gave it up to start, or rather restart, Percy and Ferdie, formerly titled The Hallroom Boys in its first run.

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