Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics
Magazine cartoonist Gahan Wilson, best known for his work in Playboy, branched out into the newspaper cartoon biz with the rather unimaginatively titled Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics feature. Marketed by the Iowa-based Register & Tribune Syndicate, the feature never caught on despite the obvious appeal of Wilson's wild artwork and off-kilter gags.
The feature began on March 3 1974 and succumbed on May 29 1977 (at least that's the last Sunday I have). When Wilson started the feature his pages included a mix of unrelated gags. About six months in, though, he switched over to having all the gags on a single subject.
Coming up with that many gags every week for the Sunday page in addition to his magazine work may have been a strain on Wilson but the end-product didn't seem to suffer. The Sunday page gags, while perhaps not all gems, had plenty of hits to compensate for the misses. As a bibliomaniac, my favorite of the Wilson Sunday pages is the first example shown here. The one with the giant book, especially, hits my funnybone.
There are lots of websites with interesting Gahan Wilson content, of which Wilson's own site is a good first stop. Here's one with a pretty decent bio, and here's an archived NPR interview with the cartoonist.
On a side note, Wilson's apparently all but forgotten National Lampoon cartoon series "Nuts" is, to me, by leaps and bounds Wilson's greatest work. It was collected in a long out of print book that is still available, though a bit pricey, on used book sites like ABE.
My reference shelf, always in reach while I'm doing research, has the following standard references:
Encyclopedia of American Comics, Ron Goulart
The Funnies, Ron Goulart
The Adventurous Decade, Ron Goulart
World Encyclopedia of Comics, Maurice Horn
World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, Maurice Horn
100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn
The Comics, Jerry Robinson
Comics And Their Creators, Martin Sheridan
The Comics, Coulton Waugh
A Century of Women Cartoonists, Trina Robbins
Women and the Comics, Robbins and Yronwode
The Compact History of the American Newspaper, Tebbell
American Journalism, Frank Luther Mott
Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, Dave Strickler
Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide
A History of Newspaper Syndicates in the United States, Elmo Scott Watson
King News, Moses Koenigsberg
.. and as soon as I get my copy, Here We Are Again by Alfredo Castelli.
None of these books is perfect (Horn's works especially have a lot of misinformation), but each is valuable.
I also keep a Cartoonist Profiles index handy, and my photocopied and bound E&P syndicate directories.
Of course I have hundreds more books that are used for reference, but these are the ones that are in constant use and, imho, should be owned by every serious researcher. Collectoras and fans can prune that list of some items, like the journalism and Watson books. Of course, my primary reference tool is my own Stripper's Guide Index, but that's not published yet.
In terms of collecting newspaper comics, there really isn't a book out that discusses the mechanics of it. I tried to address some of those issues in my series on storing a tearsheet collection here on the blog, but if you'd throw out some questions that you'd like answered about the subject I'll be happy to try and answer.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Can You Help With These Mystery Strips?
Tigers Fly Again
E&P, October 1946
If the first two weeks' continuity is a fair example, Bell Syndicate's new comic strip, "Flying Tigers", will have plenty of action, from street fights to intrigue to live tigers. Source of the material, chief character in the strip, and co-byliner is Capt. George (Pappy) Paxton, who was a member of one of the first groups to join the Flying Tigers, who served as a flight leader and member of Chennault's staff and who was shot down over the Burma Road in January 1942.
Charles Clarence Beck, a professional artist since the age of 15 and supervisor for three years of all comic magazine script preparation for the Anglo-American Publishing Co., is the artist. For 10 years he was a staff artist at Fawcett Publications, but for the past two years has headed with Peter Costanza a rapidly expanding art studio of their own. The strip is due for daily release soon.
A two-column weekly cartoon, "Oddities of Nature" is being offered by the A. S. Curtis Features Syndicate. The creator and author of this panel, Chuck Thorndike, has appeared in numerous newspapers in the United States and Canada and has written and illustrated 12 books. A veteran of both world wars, he had charge during the recent war of a department creating syndicated posters and visual materials.
Comic Strip Features Cute Baby Photos
By Helen M. Staunton (E&P, 12/14/46)
Because Constance Bannister was never satisfied to take only one picture of a baby but "had to take about 50 pictures," she originated a unique feature that has achieved considerable acceptance in daily newspapers and special use in Sunday roto sections--a photographed "comic strip" of incidents in babies' lives.
Her strips, syndicated by Consolidated News Features, consist of four pictures of one or two babies in action with imaginary baby monologues in balloons. The formula is deceptively simple: In each a baby deals with some object or faces some problem and reacts, while Miss Bannister dubs in some baby comments with an unexpected twist. Perhaps one baby is confronted with another baby who's yelling, tries to soothe it, then asks, "Hey, Mom, should I slug her?"
The trick, says the baby photographer, is "to get the expressions to say the words. I frequently have to take 50 or more shots. It's always very difficult to start out with a positive idea.
"We get the thought-and give it a little leeway." She has been trying to get a good football sequence for some time she told E & P, "but hasn't been able to get the babies to do it yet " Now when she manages those pictures, they'll have
to go in the file for next season.
A professional baby photographer - and so photogenic herself that many of the papers using the feature have played her picture alongside the other babies - Constance Bannister has been persuading babies to grab a toe, look interested, point, make faces, etc., for years for a wide variety of magazine covers.
Then her own interest in seeing babies in more than one pose convinced her that a feature showing babies in successive poses ought to capture wide readership. A number of newspapers agreed. The New York Sun runs "Baby Banters by Bannister" as a twice-weekly strip. Other newspapers use it stripwise or as a full page in Sunday rotos. The Milwaukee Journal, which belongs to this group, made a local feature out of it not so long ago by running a local man's imitation with his baby granddaughter underneath it.
Paul (not Peter) Hamerlinck wrote back to me to say the Flying Tigers strip was once mentioned in a 1960's interview, but never again. He reckons it was one of many newspaper tries that didn't eh... fly.
Personally I'd love to get into those syndicate drawers and get all newspaper try-outs out of their files. Especially from the late fifties when ever comic artist out of a job tried to get into the papers. Someone shoudl go out and try to interview the surviving editors...
I used to own two big boxes of CC Beck's files, containing all sorts of interesting stuff, but I never saw anything about Flying Tigers in there either.
As for interviewing syndicate editors, I think that's a fantastic idea. I'd definitely not be one to do it, though, as I'd want to grill them like they were hostile witnesses!
I traded all that stuff for a really great Boots and her Buddies and a couple Out Our Way originals.
Monday, February 05, 2007
News of Yore: Strip Continuity
By Helen M. Staunton (E&P, 1/25/47)
To the syndicate the carryover of comic strip fans from daily to Sunday or Sunday to daily is an important consideration, especially in these competitive days when one syndicate's sale is another syndicate's cancellation. Syndicate policy on handling continuity from daily to Sunday varies greatly, and each has good reasons for its conduct of the comic's plot.
McClure's "Superman" may swoop out of windows and bait bank robbers each weekday, aid a veteran in successive Saturday colored pages (huh?) and carry on a third episodic story Sundays. McNaught's "Joe Palooka" carries on two continuities, one along personal lines and the other not far from the prize ring. AP Newsfeatures' "Scorchy Smith" works hard at adventures during the week, but pauses Sunday for a timeless gag incident. The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate's "Dick Tracy" rushes madly about town or suffers under impending dooms during the week, but his problems come to a head Sundays.
Even the gag strips, which use little or no continuity, frequently change their characters for Sunday, but when they do the reason is the desire to appeal to younger readers. The diversity of syndicate practice is in the continuity comics, not in their humorous comics.
In the CT-NYNS list of comics "Dick Tracy" "Terry and the Pirates" and "Little Orphan Annie" of the continuity strips, use a single continuity for the whole week, but the "Gumps" and "Gasoline Alley" do not. The reason? Some artists have a flair for keeping a plot moving with the single and necessarily overlapping continuity, and some prefer to handle only a .single plot.
King Features - with a very few exceptions - does not coordinate daily and Sunday plots because so frequently the daily and Sunday comics are published by different newspapers and "because readers have become educated" to dual plots, according to Editor and General Manager Ward Greene. For good measure he threw in also the shipping problems in sending the daily and Sunday separately to foreign countries. "Steve Canyon," however, "Little Annie Rooney" and (recently and experimentally) "Buz Sawyer," have carried the one plot past the turn of the week. Other syndicates expressed their policies and reasons variously:
United Feature Syndicate- separate action preferred because daily and Sunday placed separately and "continuity of characters is more important as a tie-in than single plot."
McNaught - separate plots or action because the syndicate may sell dally and Sunday to different papers in same city and because artists, preparing Sunday pages eight or nine weeks in advance, find coordination difficult.
AP Newsfeatures - prefer daily continuity separate from Sunday action, but don't like a Sunday continuity to run more than three or four weeks and prefer it complete in one page because the "week's time lapse is too great" for a holdover of story interest.
Register & Tribune Syndicate - Single continuity is a pretty definite policy, arranged so that the Saturday story reads into the Sunday and also reads into the Monday strip, the Sunday action being an independent incident growing out of the main plot but not necessary to it and not requiring explanation.
Chicago Sun Syndicate - coordinated plot preferred, particularly on an adventure strip to avoid reader confusion and aid selling.
McClure - Separate plots for Superman, coordinated plot for ' Cynthia," using a side incident of main plot, because "Cynthia" is a true to life story and a double continuity would sacrifice authenticity.
NEA Service - No set policy. Four features have coordinated continuity and one, "Alley Oop" changed over to a single story some months ago.
George Matthew Adams Service - No coordination.
Labels: News of Yore
Especially when in that same paragraph it is Frank King who is one of those who do not have the flair.
His Sunday pages, independent of daily continuity, were works of art with a self-contained artistic continuity that must have taken hours longer to create than if he had simply continued the daily storyline.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Little Julius Sneezer
In one of World Color Printing's brief forays into the daily comic strip business, Little Julius Sneezer was produced from April 30 through at least September 1917. The art on the strip was pretty awful, in fact it bears strong indications that it was created mostly from pasted-up model sheet poses. Note the similarities of Little Julius' poses from strip to strip.
The gags, on the other hand, were often pretty snappy, using the latest slang and patter. In fact, in my reading of the strip I get a funny feeling that the cartoonist, a Mr. Baker, might well have been going to vaudeville houses and taking notes on the comedians. On strips 2 and 3 above try reading the patter supplying the voices of Groucho and Chico Marx. Not that these are necessarily Marx Brothers routines, but there were plenty of comedy teams at the time, I imagine, that would have been using this sort of off-the-wall stage patter.
Though Little Julius Sneezer had a relatively short run, World Color Printing really got their money's worth out of it. They continued to sell the strip in bulk lots to small papers for years, and also reused the strip in their Sunday children's activity pages from March 29 1925 to January 17 1926. Then the rights to the strip were sold to the International Cartoon Company, and these folks, the kings of the cheap reprint service, distributed plates of the strips to small papers for years. I have a sample of these plates and here is the label from the back that gives a snapshot of their business model:
EDIT: Alex Jay has since sleuthed out the identity of Mr. Baker. It is George M. Baker, but not the George Baker who created the long-running comic strip and comic book character Sad Sack.
Do you know any other comics that International Cartoon Company distributed?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Jim Ivey's Photo Album, Part Five
3745 Canterbury Ln #81
Bellingham WA 98225-1186
To be safe you might mention that you wish to start your sub with the first Ivey issue, but it is the current issue as this is written. And Snyder's publication is well worth the small price, as it features all sorts of really interesting material from all genres and phases of cartooning history. Highly recommended.
Labels: Jim Ivey's Photo Album
Friday, February 02, 2007
Jim Ivey's Photo Album, Part Four
Jim Ivey gets shafted on meeting Satchmo. Louis Armstrong visits the St. Petersburg Times in 1956 to be presented with an Ivey caricature, but Jim was on assignment at the state capital that day, so cartoonist Arnie Mossler presents the piece to the jazz legend.
Labels: Jim Ivey's Photo Album
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Jim Ivey's Photo Album, Part Three
Jim Ivey is interviewed on television in 1975. The wonders of pancake make-up...
Labels: Jim Ivey's Photo Album
Hope you'll be sharing more.....
Side note: Jim & i both worked at the old S.F. Examiner, albeit 25 years or so apart.
It was there (while on staff as an illustrator) that i first discovered his work, the impact of which lead to many an hour (& on the Examiner's dime naturally ;-) ) down in the paper's archives making copious copies of his caricatures & political cartoons so that i could develop a nice collection of them to admire & learn from.....