Saturday, December 30, 2006
News of Yore: Strip Fusion
Artist "Loans" Character
There is a spirit of comradery among McNaught Syndicate artists as the following little incident we picked up at McNaught's New York office this week illustrates. Striebel and McEvoy, who do "Dixie Dugan" for McNaught had gotten their star character into a tight fix by making her the manager of a handsome chap who doesn't really want to be a boxer but through circumstances is considered one. And he doesn't know anything about the manly art. The problem was to get him a teacher.
McEvoy hit upon the idea of getting the comic strip world champion, "Joe Palooka," also drawn for McNaught by Ham Fisher, to teach Dixie's boy friend. Fisher obliged and the "Dixie Dugan" strips of Jan. 4-6 showed Palooka training Dixie's friend. In collaborating, Striebel drew his characters and indicated the action and Fisher put Palooka through his paces with his own pen. McEvoy, as always, wrote the dialogue.
In the little exchange of pleasantries during the incident, Ham Fisher said in the strip that "Joe and Knobby (were) drawn especially for my pals," while Striebel and McEvoy noted under their signatures in the last panel of the Jan. 6 strip: "Many thanks, Ham Fisher, for letting Joe help Dixie out of her predicament." Incidentally, we can't recall ever hearing of a stunt like this before. (Allan's note: it happened a lot in the 00s and 10s, but became frowned on after that.)
Editors Split on Fusion of 'Strips'
By Stephen J. Monchak
Last month McNaught Syndicate created an entirely new situation in the field of comics when Ham Fisher "farmed out" his character, "Joe Palooka," for three days to the continuity of "Dixie Dugan," drawn by Striebel and McEvoy. The Dixie Dugan strips of Jan. 4-6 showed Palooka (drawn in by Fisher) in a heroic role in the Striebel-McEvoy feature.
Was this unique action an interesting innovation or an unwarranted liberty on the part of the McNaught Syndicate which handles both strips, the February Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which organization showed keen interest in the transposition, asks?
The Pros and Cons
The Bulletin devotes a page to the views of its members and of that of Robert B. McNitt, McNaught editor, and because of the unusual nature of the symposium's subject, this column quotes some of the editors' comments. M. V. Atwood, associate editor, Gannett Newspapers, stated:
"Should Joe Palooka step out with Dixie Dugan? Search me! I didn't think newspapers would stand for radio commercialization of comic strip characters, which newspapers had developed. But they did. Some even seemed to think that the radio presentation was good promotion.
"If Dixie Dugan is in one paper in a city and Joe Palooka in a competing paper in the same city, which one loses? Which one benefits? I am no Solomon, only an editor."
Bingham Liked It
To Barry Bingham, publisher, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal and Times, McNaught's experiment "appealed ... as a pretty clever stunt." He would not mind seeing it carried a little further in the world of comic strips, he said, adding:
"It is nice to imagine what would 'happen to 'Little Orphan Annie,' for instance, if she were suddenly given the benefit of 'Popeye's' protection. In other words, I think it is a good thing for the comic strips to deviate a little from the accustomed pattern."
The Bulletin quoted H. R. Pinckard, Sunday editor, Huntington (W. Va.) Herald-Advertiser, as follows: "You horrify me. Dixie Dugan and Joe Palooka doing the same strip! I hope you're not teasing me! (What a lousy pun.)"
Dwight Young, editor-in-chief, Dayton (0.) Journal-Herald, in part, commented:
"Figured purely on a selfish basis I have no objection to a character from one of the comics that we use occasionally stepping into the continuity of another comic that we use. You will note that I stipulate 'comics that WE use."
"I think fads like this should be discouraged. If one of my opposition's comic characters should be introduced into one of the strips that we use I would kick and keep kicking until I got satisfaction - or I would cancel the strip."
As the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel carries neither of the McNaught strips in question, the incident under consideration had no personal concern for Arthur K. Remmell, managing editor, but he feels that in this case and others, syndicates take too great liberties.
Rebelling against what he termed the "rankest kind of practices" indulged in by "too many syndicates," Mr. Remmell told of his recent experience with a syndicate. A financial writer changed syndicates. Someone else wrote the column thereafter and although he cancelled the later column the syndicate insisted he pay for the service.
The syndicate favored the Fisher-Striebel-McEvoy collaboration, Mr. McNitt said, because it is McNaught's policy to pioneer new experiments with newspaper features. He said he did not know whether Palooka and Dixie would appear again in the same strip and that, with one exception, "the reactions we have received have been favorable, several editors having welcomed the innovation as an opportunity to promote their features."
Labels: News of Yore
Would love to see that!
An example is http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=ddB7do2jUx8C&dat=19400104&printsec=frontpage&hl=en but some of the panels are a little blurred.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Stripper's Guide Q & A
Allen, just a question. In your list of comic-strips, do you list comics that only run in alternative newsweeklies? Comics like "This Modern World," "Tom the Dancing Bug," and "Maakies."?Good question, and one I've wrestled with over the years. The quick answer is no. The Stripper's Guide scope and methodology statement says that I am only indexing comic strips and panels that appear in mainstream daily to weekly newspapers, those seeking a general readership. Alternative papers usually fail that definition on two fronts.
First, many of them report very little news (choosing to focus more on entertainment, reviews, etc) and that, as far as I'm concerned, disqualifies them as newspapers.
Second, many alternative newspapers are designed to serve a very specific segment of the community - gay papers, environmentalist papers, religious papers, and so on. This one's more of a slippery slope situation, because I do list features that run in black papers and the socialist newspaper Daily Worker. These particular papers, in my opinion, were truly newspapers, though, because they did seek to cover general news, though with a particular perspective in mind. Typically, though, your average alternative paper of today doesn't try to report general news but only stories specific to the community they serve.
But when you come right down to it, my reasons for not listing 'alternative' strips is simply that to do so would enlarge the scope of my project to the point where it would be utterly ridiculous. All major cities, and plenty of smaller ones, have alternative newspapers of one sort or another, and many run not just familiar standards like Matt Groening and Ruben Bolling, but also lots of local talent, material cadged from the Internet, and so on. To try to index all this material would be a superhuman task, and of very questionable interest considering that a lot of what would be indexed is very clearly amateur and casual work.
All that being said, I do actually list a few of the most famous 'alternative' comic strips in the index. I make it clear in the accompanying notes that this is to be considered bonus material, and that they really don't qualify. They are there in recognition of the fact that they are the most important of their genre.
Arnold Wagner writes:
I thought Stripper's Guide Index subscriptions were long gone until I stumbled upon a page offering them, which raises the question, are you still offering subscriptions? Since you never mention the subscriptions on the blog I've been hesitant to mention them, which seems a shame since it remains one of the best sources in existence. Let me know the current status so I can quit worrying!"One of" the best sources? Well, hmmph. I'll just ignore that qualifier. Anywho ... subscriptions haven't been available for a long time, and I swear I've deleted that page off the website before, and it just seems to keep coming back like a bad penny.
The deal was supposed to be that once I got through letter "Z" in the subscriptions, I'd put some finishing touches on the index and then offer it to publishers. Well, those finishing touches turned out to be huge quantities of additional research - comic strip history is like an onion - you can just keep peeling layers off and finding more. Since the subscription phase of the project I've nearly doubled the number of features documented - today the magic number stands at 6527.
So the subscription phase followed quickly by the publishing stage turned out to be a pipe dream, and research continues on today. However, I've made a new year's resolution that the Stripper's Guide index will definitely, positively, absolutely be peddled to publishers this year. And if it turns out that the publishing world has no use for my baby then the index will be self-published, preferably as an online database. You have my promise, then, that the Stripper's Guide Index will become generally available, in some form, before it's time to pop the bubbly to welcome in 2008.
And to D.D. Degg, who wrote with some very interesting data on Van Tine Features ... still looking over the source material you referenced, will respond when I get through it all.
This is not true, of course, especially for what concerns Allan’s Stripper Guide, which is neither “one of the best sources” nor “the best source” but “THE source” for everything one needs to know about newspaper comics strips.
So I do invite Allan to stop researching for a while (I know: it is like inviting a bird not to fly or a fish not to swim), and to dedicate himself to find a publisher, while preparing an Internet site for “Addenda and corrigenda” where to put the entries he’ll find in the meanwhile.
Please do it!
I’m sure you’ll find a publisher in the States; if – perish the thought - you will not, do not to forget old Europe (we decidedly DO like old American comics, and there are many mad publishers here!) At the very worst of the hypothesis, and before reverting to an (eech!) online database – consider
But I hope (no – I’m sure!) you won’t need it!
But wouldn't "Tom the Dancing Bug" count? It's syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate and it has run in few mainstream papers (I believe Washington Post ran it).
Or are those counted in the list of the "most famous" alternative strips?
I don't share your certainty that I'll find a publisher, but that's no excuse for not trying. I'll definitely give it my best shot. When I think of how big SG has gotten, I find it hard to believe that a publisher would be so mad as to devote, what, maybe a 3- or 4-volume set of books to the project. Yikes!
And to Charles, yes, Tom the Dancing Bug is an exception to the rule - I do list it, even though it also has yet another problem in that some might classify it as an editorial cartoon, another genre of cartooning that Stripper's Guide doesn't cover.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Anyway, no new post today, just wanted to apologize to all who have sent emails in the last week or so, or otherwise have outstanding business with me, that I haven't been ignoring you by choice but by necessity. I'll try to get back on track here in the next few days as my strength starts to return.
Allen, just a question. In your list of comic-strips, do you list comics that only runs in alternative newsweeklies? Comics like "This Modern World," "Tom the Dancing Bug," and "Maakies."
Monday, December 25, 2006
Merry Christmas from Stripper's Guide