Saturday, January 27, 2007

 

The Yellow Kid Blues

We all know the old tale, first spun by Moses Koenigsberg, that the Yellow Kid was originally colored yellow in order for pressmen to have a large space in which to test troublesome yellow ink. We also know that the story is almost certainly just that, a story. Two facts indicate that the story is false; first, that newspapers were printing yellows with no apparent problem before the advent of the Kid; and second, because the kid was initially colored blue, not yellow at all.

But most stories do have a grain of truth about them, and I wonder if I might just have stumbled across that grain. Below you will find an article from the June 1893 issue of American Pressman, in which a correspondent is complaining that they are having trouble with blue ink. The problem described is exactly that described by Koenigsberg, just not the color he claimed. And the date is telling, because this is just the time when the New York World was starting to print in color (albeit long before the Yellow Kid would make his appearance).

Did the World's early troubles with blue ink somehow get mixed up with the story of the initially blue Kid, and ended up combined as a single, somewhat mangled, tall tale? No way to tell, but interesting nevertheless.

Working Colors on Each Other
(American Pressman, June 1893)

How to work a job in two, three or four colors, on top of each other, and keep the colors true, so that there shall be no amalgamation, is a problem that has so often puzzled pressmen.

We have before us an anxious inquiry from one who has a large cut on the press in three colors—certain shades of yellow, red and blue. He worked his yellow first, after striking his key-form; then he put on his red and ran that off. These two colors seemed to go all right, and to "stay put" but when he got on his blue the trouble showed itself, and he found he was stumped because, as he says himself, "the impression showed up with a fatty or mottled look, especially after it had lain for some time; and the color wasn't true, wasn't what was wanted."

The remedy is an easy one. Have your sheets thoroughly dusted over with powdered magnesia, in the same way as you use bronze powder, and you will find the trouble disappear, for the reason that the inks will be prevented from amalgamating.

This is precisely the same treatment as you would give either a black or colored form, whether cut or type, on top of which you had to print in gold bronze—powder it with magnesia dust. By this means you can print anything that goes on a press on top of a dozen colors.

The secret of the trouble of working colors on top of each other is that the oil of the fresh ink softens the oil of the ink that has already been worked, and which is supposed to be dry. There is life in oil, as there is life in water (though neither has affinity for the other, yet both work in many respects in the same way). As soon as the under ink is set free by its fellow, the fresh ink, both begin to caper about and spread and run together, and of course they carry with them the coloring matter they hold, which now also partially released, breaks up into particles and presents the "fatty or mottled look" which our correspondent complains of.

Blue is a hard color to work sometimes, even alone, as many pressmen have experienced, especially with type of heavy face or cuts with solid surfaces. If the operator would stop to consider, he would find that there is grease somewhere, on his rollers, on his form, or on his distributing plate. Blue ink of all kinds, and certain blues more than others, rebel against the slightest suspicion of foreign grease, and instantly show their dislike for the stranger by assuming a mottled or spotted character. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty from dirt and everything else that injures. Keep everything clean.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Go-Go



Here's a delightful little strip, one of many that have tried to give a starring role to a cop over the years. Few of these ended up being particularly successful, I guess because of the public's ambivalent feelings toward the profession. I must admit that since I got a ticket yesterday in a speed trap in Ridgeway South Carolina my admiration for the profession is at a lower ebb right now.

Go-Go was syndicated by the International Syndicate of Baltimore, a syndicate whose only real comic strip success in papers came with the long-running Scoop The Cub Reporter back in the teens. The syndicate's real bread-and-butter product was their one-column 'he said-she said' gag cartoons, which they supplied in bulk to newspapers. These fell out of favor in the twenties, though, so International tried a number of strips, most of which never really got anywhere.

Go-Go was well drawn and many of the gags hit, but yet the strip never got going. It ran in 1924 (sorry, I don't know specific start and end dates) in very few papers. The strip was signed by someone named Gibbs.

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I was surprised to find that there was a cop strip in the late fifties by Gil Fox, which I quite liked.
 
I like these. Would like a couple more. charlie
 
I love that last panel with the hat flying off! --Pete
 
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Beatrice and her Kid Brother Bill

M.T. "Penny" Ross essentially ripped himself off with Beatrice and her Kid Brother Bill, a strip that is really just Mamma's Angel Child with boys instead of girls, and an older sister instead of a mother. And yes, they are boys, though they're rather androgynous looking. Ross took less time on the art of this strip -- where Mamma's Angel Child was always graphically innovative, this strip, though drawn exceedingly well, wasn't one to make your eyes pop out like Ross' bread-and-butter strip.

What's amazing about Ross, to me anyway, is that he was able to get away with cartooning in, if I may be excused for being impolitic, a flamboyantly feminine manner. It's no surprise that many fans have assumed that 'Penny' was a woman. We're talking 1910s Chicago here, not San Francisco today, so I have to wonder how he got along with the rest of the boys in the bullpen. Do I give the folks of those long ago days less credit for openmindedness than they deserve?

Beatrice and her Brother Bill ran from January 11 through May 31 1914, syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.

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I'm trying to find out more biographical information on M.T. "Penny" Ross. Can anyone point me in the right direction? His connections with Disney & Outcault is of great interest.

Thanks, Kelly
nomial32@charter.net
 
Hi Kelly --
I've known of people who said they were researching Ross (paper doll folks more than comic strip people) but considering that most of them were still laboring under the belief that he was a woman I can't imagine that they'd have much useful information to share with you.

I know I've come across a few contemporary articles about Ross, but I checked my files and there's nothing there. That means that they currently languish in my mammoth "to be filed" stacks, all but inaccessible.

Regarding the Outcault connection, I've heard Ross named among the multitude that supposedly ghosted Buster Brown at the Herald after RFO left. Do I believe it? Nope. I find no evidence that Ross ever worked in New York; as far as I know he was strictly a Chicago boy.

A Disney connection? That's a new one on me. You'd be much better off enlisting Disney experts for an opinion on that. You might try asking Alberto Becattini.

Best, Allan
 
Marion T. Ross died July 6 1937. This was reported in the NY Times and the Chicago Tribune of July 7 (both pay-per-view).
 
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: So It Seems



So It Seems looks and reads like nothing so much as a Mad magazine feature. Perhaps if it had appeared in Mad, rather than the daily comics page, we'd still be reading endless reprints of it, like The Lighter Side Of. As it is, the feature may not have even completed its first year. So It Seems was initially credited to Lou Cameron when its run started on March 3, 1952, but was signed by Sy Grudko starting on September 15 of that year. The feature lasted until at least February 1953, but not much longer (anyone have an end date?).

The paper from which these samples were taken continued displaying the Lou Cameron credit after 9/13, but I'm assuming that they just failed to update their boilerplate text.

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This one is very unique and clever!!

May we see more some day??
 
I agree with John! The date makes it even more special. This form of satire (statement plus samples), now so well known from Feldstein's Mad (Kurtzman never used this style, except in his own earlier Varsity series) was not widely seen anywhere before Mad. Although I have researched a lot of humor magazines from the thirties and fifties and have found many styles of satire that have influenced both Feldstein and Kurtzman, 'statement lus samples' was not a regular staple and I really have to bend the definition to actually find even a few.

The Cameron/Grudko connection makes it even more interesting to comic fans. Was there a period they worked togetehr on it? Do the styles match?
 
Hi Ger -
Your comment would seem to indicate that you're familiar with Cameron and Grudko. I've never heard of these guys - were they known outside of strips, maybe in comic books?

As to art styles, I only say the transition on microfilm, and don't recall seeing much of a change.

--Allan
 
I see your answer a bit late, but Lou Cameron and Sy Grudko were comic book artists indeed. Camron ahs quite a healthy career and reputation in B-books and in factt, the reason I am revisiting this, is Roy thomas is doing something on him in an upcoming issue of Alter Ego and wanted some samples. I had forgotten te Grudko connection. Here's what Doc V. says about him on Atlas Tales: He started in the Timely bullpen in 1947 and pencilled until the staff was let go. He was not a top of the line artist by
any means but another of the grunts who churned out product to keep the
books filled. He does have wonderful stories of his bullpen days though,
and that's what's important to me. A very nice man. His debut for Timely
was a 2-page Human Torch filler he pencilled and inked as a try-out for Stan
Lee. He says it was printed somewhere but I'm not positive. There is a 2-
page filler in a late (last?) issue of the golden-age Torch run. I've never
seen it though.

Doc V
 
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Artful Arty

Albert Levering was a very well-respected illustrator and cartoonist. His work appeared regularly in Puck, Harper's Weekly and other high visibility venues. He only did two newspaper comic strip series, though, and Artful Arty and Alec Smart was by far the more successful (but, yes, it's still very much an obscurity). Levering did a year's worth of the strip for the Philadelphia Press, which never really succeeded particularly well in syndicating their Sunday section.

The strip ran from 10/15/1905 to 10/14/1906. I sat down to read a strip or two before writing this post so that I could summarize the plot. Well, I ended up reading all that I have on hand, a half-dozen or so, and honestly I'm still not sure what exactly the theme was supposed to be. Either I'm pretty dense or Levering just didn't have his heart in this half-baked strip. I don't understand the rummaging angle, which recurs, in particular.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Bashful Bob

Here's a strip that came and went, well, like a whizzer. Bashful Bob (aka Schooldays of Bashful Bob) ran from May 31 to June 28 1908 in the Philadelphia North American syndicated Sunday comic section.

The strip was by a fellow who signed himself P.S. Tyre. I don't know that you could call him a good cartoonist, but he certainly did have a style about him. I really like how he labels the wind in this strip. Not so crazy about the way he couldn't seem to fit his dialogue in the word balloons. This is the only series I know of by Tyre. I might think it was a pseudonym, but the signature is way too studied to be just a nom de plume -- no one would put that much design thought into being anonymous, right?

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Philip Scott Tyre?
 
Could be, I suppose. Who he??

--Allan
 
From archinform.net:
* July 14, 1881 Wilmington
† August 1937, 25 Philadelphia (at his home)
American architect and painter.
Tyre studied under Anshutz and Poore at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was a member of the Union League, Philadelphia Art Club, American Federation of Arts, Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and an associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

From me: Apparently more known as an architect than a painter.
 
Sounds like you've hit the bullseye, DD. Thanks for the info. I doff my hat to your Googling prowess!

--Allan
 
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

 

An Augustus L. Jansson Cornucopia

After I made my post on A.L. Jansson's Odd Folks With Odd Ways (here) I was contacted by a fellow named Fred Anwari who is a huge fan of the artist's work. He sent me a batch of photos of some of the very cool Jansson items he's collected and very kindly allowed me to share them with you. Some very cool stuff, too -- that Jansson fellow really got around. Fred asks me to tell you that he and his wife Barb would be happy to correspond with other Jansson enthusiasts, and especially anyone who knows of additional Jansson items or, even better, has any for sale. You can email them at anwari@earthlink.net. Thanks Fred and Barb!


















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