Saturday, March 10, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Just Humans
Gene Carr's resume is so long that I won't go into here. Suffice to say that he was among the most prolific of newspaper cartoonists if not always one of the most original. He specialized in Sunday strips in the 00s and 10s, turning out among a multitude of others some titles that are still at least vaguely remembered today, like Lady Bountiful and The Bad Dream That Made Bill a Better Boy. In about 1921 he took over the New York World's high class panel series Metropolitan Movies (marketed outside New York as Everyday Movies), and there seemed to find his muse.
In the hands of its previous creators, Metropolitan Movies had established itself as a humor cartoon with a streak of social commentary. No one familiar with Carr's newspaper work would have expected him to be able to continue this unique voice. Continue it he did though, and with a mastery that makes me wonder how he could have been wasting his time with lesser material all those years before.
For reasons unknown Carr left the World in 1924 and started working for the McClure Syndicate where in 1925 he created Just Humans, essentially a continuation of Metropolitan Movies. Carr by this time had honed his skills as a social commentator even further, and Just Humans was, if I may be so bold, a masterpiece. On a daily basis Carr was peeling away the layers of our society to show the human condition in all its foible and frailty. The grease pencil artwork fit the often dark mood perfectly, and Carr's pithy captions spoke volumes.
The feature, handicapped as it was by McClure's weak syndication, appeared in few papers and the panel was put to rest around 1929 (and was quite possibly in reprints even by then). Carr went on to become a magazine gag cartoonist but never recaptured, or at least was never able to sell, cartoons with the power and artistry that was exhibited in Just Humans.
my personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, March 09, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: The Captain's Gig
Virgil Partch, legendary magazine gag cartoonist famed for his outlandish drawings and offbeat gags was feeling the pinch as the magazine markets began to implode in the early 60s. As did many magazine cartoonists, he tried to make the jump over to newspaper work. His first feature, Big George, was a moderately successful series that survived his death in 1984. Some say he was so far ahead on the feature that the syndicate was able to continue it for five years just by printing his submission backlog, others claim that it was taken over by ghosts.
Big George was positively tame by VIPs standards, and perhaps this little-known strip, The Captain's Gig, was Partch's attempt to try a feature that came at least a little bit closer to his natural mode of humor. On the other hand, maybe The Captain's Gig was simply born out of boredom -- if Partch was maintaining himself five years ahead on Big George maybe he just had some free time on his hands.
In any case, The Captain's Gig was, unfortunately, still not the material that had made VIP famous in the 1950s. The strip starred a pair of sailors who were sometimes stranded on a desert island, sometimes not. The gags did attempt to be a little more 'out there' than Big George's, but either VIP had lost his touch for bizarre humor, or the syndicate kept him too much in check.
The Captain's Gig ran as a daily and Sunday strip starting on March 13 1977 and ended sometime in 1979* after showing no particular signs of catching on with editors or the public.
PS - Sorry about the colors in the top strip. I got a little carried away playing with the Photoshop tools and ended up recoloring most of the strip.
* EDIT 11/26/17: Ben Ferron reports a likely end date in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of 12/1/79. Thanks Ben!
Thursday, March 08, 2007
News of Yore: Cy Hungerford Profiled
Cy Pens Best Cartoons At Tick of Deadline
Pittsburgh, Pa.—In his entire life Cartoonist Cy Hungerford has never had to work regular hours. No one in his 40 or so years of graphically satirizing the news has ever asked Cy to come in at a certain time of the day or stay until a certain time. He's been pretty much on his own. Yet, the biggest ogre in his easy-going life is the clock. The art deadline at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where Cy has been a veritable institution for more than 20 years, is 4 p.m.
Does Cy come ripping in at 8 a.m. and roll up his sleeves and whip out a cartoon? Far from it. Cy ambles in with bear-like gait around noon, carefully takes off his coat—never his hat—sits down and squares off for his daily race with the clock. It ends in a dead heat every day.
"This job would be a cinch if the ideas came easily," he says gloomily, for he's lightning fast with the brush and pen.
The truth of the matter is that Cy is one of those peculiar people who work best under pressure. That late afternoon in 1945 when the death of President Roosevelt was announced, Cy was moving into his new home. He carefully put down a Dresden China figure to answer a call from the office. In 45 minutes from the time Cy received the call in his home, the Roosevelt death cartoon, reprinted throughout the nation, was in the hands of the engraver.
Without ever attending an editorial conference, Cy turns out cartoons consistent with the policy of the Post-Gazette. The only person who looks at Cy's daily contribution before it goes to the engraver, is the copy boy who dashes up the steps to the third-floor with it. The independence which has marked his life, also carries over to his working habits and he admits that he has used only about a dozen suggestions in the approximately 20,000 cartoons he has turned out. "I don't say that it isn't good to use suggestions. though," he adds. One of his closest friends was the late and talented Sports Editor Havey Boyle who every week or so would come to Cy with a sheet of paper upon which was drawn a rough sketch. "Say, here's a good idea for a cartoon," Havey would say with sober mien. Havey's sketch was always the same one—it showed two hands grasped across the ocean. With equal solemnity, Cy would receive it and swear acknowledgement that it was the best idea he'd ever seen.
Success and recognition have had little or no effect on Cy. He's still "in" to everyone. As a result he takes a pretty steady ear-beating from the crackpots who wander in.
He has kept no records of the honors he received, although the Post-Gazette files show he won the National Headliner Award in 1946 for "consistently outstanding editorial cartoons." Washington & Jefferson College awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts. The Chamber of Commerce cited him for "distinguished service." Accolades are all right, Cy admits, but his greatest concern is turning out a daily cartoon. A recent survey showed that 81% of the readers of the Post-Gazette scrutinized his work daily.
Cyrus Cotton Hungerford was born on a small farm in Manilla, Ind., the only child of Florence J. Gotten and Addison J. Hungerford. Shortly after Cy's birth, the senior Hungerford became a salesman of farming equipment and moved his family to Parkersburg, W. Va. For some unknown reason, Cy began copying cartoons from the New York papers and was encouraged by his family and friends. Before he was 12 Cy was delivering newspapers and haunting the office of the Parkersburg Sentinel for a chance to do cartooning. His first published cartoon was inspired by a typhus epidemic, pictured Death floating down the river.
"Original, that," Cy says with a chuckle. He received a dollar for that job and soon was publishing two or three cartoons a week.
He drew directly on chalk-coated steel plates from which he cast his own lead plate. It was through using that old medium that Cy developed his un-embellished, strong-line style which has become his trademark.
When he was offered $4 a picture, Cy swung over to a news sheet which called itself, appropriately enough, the Social Rebel. Only 13 years old, Cy was portraying corruption in the penitentiary and other such subjects. One cartoon clearly libeled a prominent banker and Cy was excused from school one day to appear before a grand jury session. Taking into consideration his years, the judge let Cy off with a lecture on libel and the responsibilities of genius.
Later, he worked on the Wheeling (W. Va.) Register and then came to the old Pittsburgh Sun. The very first cartoon he drew for the Sun was reprinted in the New York Times.
He was a busy man in those days. In addition to his daily political cartoon, he turned out a syndicated strip "Snoodles" for about five years during the twenties. [actually he started it in 1913 -- Allan]
Cy is so amiable and easy-going that he immediately disarms people, a fact that has resulted in some amazing experiences in his three trips abroad. In 1937, Cy, with Paul Block, Jr., went to England then in a fizz over the king's coronation. While thousands of Americans were running around London looking desperately for some way to get in on the activities, Cy inadvertently found the situation as easy as walking through Central Park.
"Someone told me that outsiders could see the horses in the Royal stables at Buckingham Palace on certain days, so I went around to see them," Cy recalled. There he happened to become a chum of John Pugh, the Royals Coachman. Out of a clear blue sky, Pugh gave Cy two servant tickets to the Coronation Court.
Cy's bald head is never uncovered. He began wearing his hat in the city room after he fell asleep one night and a prankster painted a smiling face on his hairless head. Cy was the only one who couldn't see the point.
Labels: News of Yore
I found there was no Wikipedia article about Hungerford so I've written it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_Cotton_%22Cy%22_Hungerford
It would be good if someone could add an example of his work to the page. Keep up the great work, Allan.
Does anyone know the extent of the Carnegie collection or how to find it?
republished by the pittsbergh post gizete.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Nate Collier on Cartooning
Collier began writing a monthly column for Guy Lockwood's Art & Life magazine, a curious amalgam of art instruction, philosophy essays and nude photos, in 1924. His column covered cartooning news, advice to amateurs, and right in line with Lockwood's oddball vision, philosophical essays.
Reproduced below is one of his first columns, a particularly interesting one as he's slamming Cartoons magazine for publishing swiped material. I think Collier's columns are fascinating, but I realize some of it can be a little esoteric for the typical comic strip fan. If you folks would like to see more of Collier's Art & Life columns please post a comment below on the post. If I don't hear a reaction I'll assume this material isn't of interest and I'll not publish more of them.
Oh, and a reminder that you need to click on the images once or twice to see them at proper readable size.
He was interested in the Collier family history, but died before he could complete the project.
I treasure his drawings of his parents' and grandparents' farms in Stephenson County, Illinois.
About a decade ago, I found a copy of the Illiterate Digest at Perkins Library of Duke University.
Now, so much more is available on the Internet because of people like you. Thank you so very much (and hope nobody cares that I've "lifted" as many pictures as possible for inclusion in the family history.
(The Post claims it does not own the image, FYI.)
Any help would be immensely appreciated!
Monday, March 05, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Sammy and Sue and Slobbery Slam
Here's a delightful little obscurity from the pages of the Philadelphia Record. Sammy and Sue and Slobbery Slam was a wild and fantasmagorical romp through the imagination of the great Wally Wallgren. Wallgren is best known for his trench cartoons of World War I, published in Stars & Stripes and collected in a few reprint books that I heartily recommend. As a veteran of the Great War, and a favorite among his fellow GIs, Wallgren made a career out of depicting their joys and travails in the pages of the American Legion magazine. Right before he vanished from the radar he managed to get a strip syndicated, called Hoosegow Herman, which followed the adventures of an incorrigible doughboy. Wallgren was reportedly having problems with the bottle, and the short-lived feature was his last work of which I'm aware.
Sammy and Sue and Slobbery Slam came at the dawn of his career, before he ended up in France's trenches. It ran on the weekly Sunday humor page of the Record from April 4 through July 4 1915, and it was a revival, of sorts, of an earlier Bud Counihan series titled Sammy and Sue. Whereas Counihan's feature was an unmemorable kid strip, Wallgren ratcheted up the fantasy element and created a minor (okay, REALLY minor) classic. I only wish I had more of these to show, but the microfilm wasn't feeling cooperative in my photocopying efforts.
Are you sure you can't find any more? I would love to see some more! Great find.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Dolly Dimple
Beekman's strip was very well-drawn, obviously inspired by the likes of Violet Moore Higgins. On the other hand, the writing, much like a lot of the 'girl' strips, was a bit sappy. The strip seemed to be popular, often appearing on the cover of the North American's tabloid comic section (the NA was the first newspaper to print a true comics tabloid section, a format that would take off in popularity in the 20s and 30s). The strip lasted until the end of the North American's run of producing homegrown comics, and was later reprinted in the World Color Printing Sundays of 1920. World Color Printing purchased most of the North American's strip inventory and Dolly Dimple ended up being among the last of their material that WCP reprinted.
Dan Beekman has no other comic strip credits that I've been able to uncover. Some researchers have called him 'von Beekman', and I followed that convention until I saw enough examples of the strip that seem to be clearly signed 'Dan', not 'von'.
A really odd credit problem is that the North American printed an ad touting its Sunday strips on March 13 1915 and there they credited someone named Roy Griffith with the strip, a name that never appeared on them. Was this an uncredited writer or simply an error? I dunno.