Saturday, May 19, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Unlucky Looie

Here's a strip by one of my personal favorite early cartooners, Roy W. Taylor. Roy was certainly no Winsor McCay, but he had a breezy big-foot style that complemented his slapstick gags. Taylor worked at so many different papers in so many cities in his checkered career that if I could interview just one cartoonist from the era, it would have to be him. I hesitate to admit it, but I once actually had a dream where this happened. Yeah, I know, that is really pathetic.

Taylor had a drinking problem, and it eventually killed him around 1916 (this info from a surviving relative). But when he was working, hoo-boy did he turn out a lot of material. Almost all of it easily qualifies for obscurity status today, with the possible exception of Yens Yensen Yanitor, which wasn't particular notable for anything other than that wild title -- it tends to stick in your head once you've heard it.

Taylor got a lot of mileage out of his Looie character. The first 'Looie' series was called Lucky Looie and it was done for the Chicago Daily News in 1903-04. Next came Unlucky Looie, and it ran in the New York Evening World for a very brief period in 1906. The final and longest running version was created for the Philadelphia North American. It appeared there from October 8 1911 to December 6 1914. The sample above is from this last version. Sadly, this incarnation of Unlucky Looie represents Taylor's last comic strip work, and it does show that his cartooning abilities were fading badly.

The North American's Unlucky Looie strips were reprinted in the World Color Printing Sunday sections of the late 'teens.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

 

News of Yore: Straight Arrow to Debut



New Bell Strip Has Rancher-Indian Hero

By Jane McMaster

"Straight Arrow," son of a Comanche Indian chief was reared by a Westerner named "Packey." When he came of age, he was a tall-and-handsome (naturally) rancher who called himself "Steve Adams."

But in Sundown Valley, not far from Broken Bow Ranch, was a secret cave known only to Steve and Packy. There, Steve kept Comanche garb and weapons and a golden stallion named "Fury." And when trou­ble brewed among the Indians, Steve would emerge from the cave as "Straight Arrow." Then, with a cry of "'Kaneewah, Fury!", he would be on his way to right wrongs.

Last week, the radio cry of "Kaneewah, Fury!" had caused such excitement among cereal-eating kiddies, it had found an­other medium. Already out of the cigar store and into the five-and-dime (the 20 odd novelties include Buffalo horns). National Biscuit Company's Indian would be in newspapers by the end of May, via Bell Syndicate. [ed - actually the strip debuted 6/19]

Bell gives a once over lightly to the cowboy hat of Steve Adams, which may be simply reminiscent to editors of other recent Western strips. (Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, et al.) The syndicate stresses this point instead: "Straight Arrow" will apparently be the only In­dian hero in present day news­paper comics.

As for the character's tieup with radio and comic books and novelties? "It has a pre-sold audience," says a Bell official. The character's lineage traces back to National Biscuit Com­pany, the owner, out of McCann-Erickson. Nabisco got the ad agency to create the character several years back, didn't use it until the fall of 1948 when a radio show on the West Coast got highly successful results. In February, 1949, Nabisco put "Straight Arrow" on the Mutual network, and it shot high the following October: it was among Nielsen's top 10 for day-time programs. A Mutual official, while admitting that month is unstable due to program change-overs, says this was the first time a children's program ever inched into the soap opera day­time stronghold for a top-ten spot. The rating held only briefly, but the show (Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m.) has continued at or among the top for kid programs, according to Nabisco.

Million Dollar Base
After pumping an estimated $1,000,000 into radio time for the show (and shredded wheat) by January, 1950, National Bis­cuit made a contract with Maga­zine Enterprises, New York, for comic books. Two have come out so far, a third is in the works and publication will switch from bi-monthly to monthly in June, according to Publisher Vincent Sullivan. He says, "The distributors keep asking for additional copies. Movies and TV are contem­plated.

The contract for the newspa­per strip is three-way covering Nabisco as owner of the charac­ter; Magazine Enterprises as producer of the strip; and Bell Syndicate, as the distributor.

John Belfi and Joe Certa, two experienced comic book artists who have been drawing bi­monthly "Durango Kid" comic books, will also draw the new adventure strip for the Enter­prises. They will work with En­terprises Editor Ray Krank and Enterprises Writer Gardner Fox. The strip will carry the ficti­tious name of Ray Gardner as by-line with smaller credits to Belfi and Certa.

And preparation of the action-packed strip will take plenty of action. A week's strips for newspapers will go through this approximate process: The En­terprises editor and writer will first make a plot synopsis. This goes to Nabisco, which will check to see that the character is maintained. Coming back to Enterprises, the plot is then broken down into more specific action. This material goes to the Bronx studio of Certa, who draws in the characters; then to Belfi, who lives two miles away in the Bronx, for pencilling in the background. Then, back to Enterprises for re-check, on to Nabisco for re-check, back to Belfi for inking. On to Bell for sending to newspapers.

Mr. Certa studied at the Art Students League in New York; drew a daily panel, "Private Will B. Wright" while in the Army for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch and the Phila­delphia Inquirer; and worked six and a half years on one of the best known syndicated strips. (He prefers to keep It unmentioned.) [ed - anyone know what it was?] Mr. Belfi picked up a lot of Indian lore when he was stationed with the Army in New Mexico; was assistant to Mike Roy on "The Saint" and has worked on Captain Marvel, Jr. and other comic books.

"Straight Arrow" starts as a daily only strip. But the Sun­day newspaper page is an early target.[ed - that target was missed, at least in this incarnation of the strip]

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Joe Certa ghosted JOE PALOOKA for six years.

Fortunato
 
Yes, but that was in the 50s wasn't it? He would be referring here to the 40s.

--Allan
 
No, he was a ghost both in early '40 and in late '50
--Fortunato
 
I knew John Belfi and his wife. John died in 1996. He was then living in the Poconos, Pennsylvania.

Anonymous : 7/6/2009
 
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Oh Augustus


Frank King's very first comic strip for the Chicago Tribune was Oh, Augustus. King seemed to come out of the box full-fledged -- this strip is as well-drawn and well-written as anything he'd come up with later in his illustrious career.

Poor Gus is a well-meaning husband who seems to be able to do no right. The plots mostly follow the sample above. Gus tries his darnedest to please his better half but invariably he makes a botch of it -- a situation ruefully familiar to all us ring-bearers. Although the strip seems like an effortless lark, dashed off under deadline, King's innate understanding of the human comedy is gloriously vibrant on this and other pages in the series. Looking at this early strip we can't help but see that King was destined for greatness.

Oh, Augustus ran from August 28 1910 to September 3 1911, long enough to milk all the humor out of the situation without the formula, at least in King's hands, becoming rote. In the meantime King was creating a number of other new series for the Trib's Sunday section, all of which we'll see here eventually.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

 

News of Yore: Allen Saunders Profiled


Soap Opera In Comics? Never, Says Saunders

By George A. Brandenburg, 1949

Chicago — As a comic scripter who doubles in brass with two syndicated strips — "Mary Worth" and "Steve Roper" — Allen Saunders likes his work, because he creates "such inter­esting people" and they get to be "awfully real" to him.

This talented Hoosier who has transplanted himself to Toledo, O., where he was once a newspaper writer, calls him­self a "frustrated dramatist," juggles two sets of adventure strip characters with the great­est of ease, and finds time, also, to serve as continuity editor for other Publishers Syndicate strips.

Differs with Caniff
Although a sincere admirer of Milton Caniff, creator of "Steve Canyon," Mr. Saunders does not agree with Milt's ter­minology, when he refers to ad­venture strips with a romantic appeal as "soap operas."

"I don't consider them soap operas," he said, referring to Mary Worth and Steve Roper. "I think our approach is entire­ly different."

Granting that any story is based on two primary human interest elements—romance and wrong-doing (crime or fighting the Hero), he pointed out that Mary Worth is built around romance or emotional conflict, while Steve Roper emphasizes adventure or physical conflict, with a common denominator of suspense.

"We differ from soap operas heard on the radio in that the latter are based on "infinitesi­mal progression,' " he asserted. "Soap operas unfold at a slow rate so that nobody can miss the story. They proceed at a snail's pace, with plenty of rep­etition to hold or build an audience.

"We don't feel that news­paper readers will hold still for a story that is told at as slow a pace as that of soap operas. We indicate what happened yesterday, show something hap­pening today, and indicate that something much more interest­ing is going to happen tomorrow."

Mr. Saunders is frank to ad­mit that in Mary Worth he strikes at the heart instead of the tear ducts. "We make a straight out-and-out emotional appeal," he said, adding they have to take into consideration that such adventure strips in newspapers have a large male readership.

Like Magazine Fiction
"The average radio soap opera doesn't hold much appeal to men," he remarked. "We try to do something comparable to slick paper magazine fiction."

Working with Alien Saund­ers are two artists — Ken Ernst, Chicago artist, who draws Mary Worth, and Elmer Woggon, former Toledo news­paper art director, who draws Steve Roper.

Mr. Saunders literally draws his stories in rough pencil lay­outs, sketching in his charac­ters and writing the dialogue as he goes. The roughs serve as "blueprints" for the artists who do the complete drawings. Working 250 miles apart, Ken and Allen use the long-distance telephone to straighten out complicated situations. They also hold monthly conferences on story episodes.

Scripter Saunders, incident­ally, uses what is known as the "revolving stage" technique. As a former "amateur" play­wright, he makes every episode different, every locale different, and every set of characters is different in each episode.

Mr. Saunders' background for his present writing efforts in­cludes cartooning, teaching French and writing detective stories. About 10 years ago, he took over the continuity writ­ing of Mary Worth.

The strip was originally in­troduced as "Apple Mary" with moderate success. Saunders and Ernst took Mary off the apple stand, streamlined her hairdo and wardrobe, and made her the friend of all sorts of inter­esting people.

Buried 'the Hatchet'
Mr. Saunders first collaborat­ed with Elmer Woggon, then art director of the Toledo (O.) Blade. They started with "Chief Wahoo," then buried the chief and his hatchet, and came forth with "Steve Roper," a crusading editor of a picture magazine.

Mr. Saunders was graduated from Wabash College in 1920, Phi Beta Kappa. He tried his hand as a professional cartoon­ist — a boyhood ambition — drawing "Miserable Moments," a gag cartoon that he now ad­mits was a "dead steal" from Webster's "Life's Darkest Mo­ments." The syndicate never sold enough newspapers on the panel to put it over, so he turned to teaching French at his Alma Mater.

For seven years, Mr. Saund­ers taught French, drew gag cartoons on the side for the Chicago Daily News and na­tional magazines, and wrote detective stories. Then he got himself a job as a feature writ­er on the old Toledo (O.) News-Bee, graduating to the "culture department" as theater and book editor, plus a daily humor column.

Elmer Woggon revived his in­terest in comic strips. He's been busy ever since, but he seems to thrive on continuity problems, such as selecting names for characters and accu­rate research. He's found that smart newspaper readers will trip him up if he isn't careful. He keeps two people busy on research.

Civic-Minded Citizen
For instance, sometime ago he received a clipping from a newspaper in which a boy read­er had written the editor to point out a defect in the Steve Roper strip. It seems that Allen and Elmer had introduced a frozen fountain pen into a scene to prevent the villain from "taking over" until Roper could arrive. Steve, in turn, fired a snowball, knocking the pen from the villain's hand. The boy reader pointed out that if it was cold enough for the ink to freeze in the fountain pen, it was too cold for Roper to make a snowball.

Civic-minded Saunders has served on the Toledo board of education, library board, is president of the council of so­cial agencies and mental hy­giene center. His oldest son, John, is a radio announcer.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Book-of-the-Month





Here's a real oddity that I've been researching for years. Starting around November 1942 the Book-of-the-Month Club and King Features teamed up for this feature which distilled the current Book-of-the-Month Club selection into a series of thirty comic strips. Each 'strip' was a sequence of two to four art panels with extensive text running underneath.

For those unfamiliar with the Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC for short), they were, and are, a mail order bookseller. When you join the club you get to pick a batch of hardcover books for a ridiculously low price (often a penny). In exchange for that you promise to buy a certain number of books from the club at prices that are a bit cheaper than if you purchased the books in a bookstore. Every month the club sends out a mailing describing the books available and you can pick anything from that list. The gotcha is that every month the club selects one book as the default selection, and if you don't send in a reply card saying you don't want that book, they'll ship it to you and you have to pay for it. The club is a good deal but if you're absent-minded and forget to send in those reply cards you'll end up owning a lot of books you don't necessarily want.

Getting back to today's obscurity, it was offered, presumably cheap or maybe even free, to newspapers as a marketing tool for the BOMC. I guess the idea was that you read the highly abbreviated form of the books in your daily paper and it might prompt you to join the club.

The idea seems counterproductive to me -- why pay for the book if you already know the story -- but it must have been a marginally effective tool because the series ran a surprisingly long time. The feature did not run in very many newspapers, and most of those that did seemed to tire of the feature quickly. Worse yet, a lot of newspapers ran the monthly stories late so that the tie-in with the BOMC current selection didn't really work as intended.

For the longest time I was convinced that the feature only made it into 1944, but then a few samples popped up from 1946, and yesterday's News of Yore bears out that the series was still running then. Unfortunately the series was never listed in the E&P yearbooks, so that excellent resource gives us no help. EDIT: Cole Johnson has determined that the series was still running in the Philadelphia Daily News in 1948! However, the two titles he's seen so far are for books that were first published in 1944, so they were apparently running things late. He definitely has a number of new 1947 titles, though, which have been added to the list.

Listed below are the series that I know about. I give only the years because as I mentioned earlier, many newspapers ran the series late and out of order. The names in parentheses are the artists. If anyone can supply more information about this series or newspapers that ran it I would really appreciate if you could let me know. [stories IDed by readers have been added in red -- thanks to all!!]

1942
The Seventh Cross (William Sharp)

1943
Look to the Mountain (John Fulton)
Guadalcanal Diary (I.B. Hazelton)
The Human Comedy (Nick Hoffer)
The Song of Bernadette (Harold Foster)
Combined Operations (William Sharp)
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (Don Komisarow)
Hungry Hill (Rodlow Willard)
Colonel Effingham's Raid (Creig Flessel)
You Can't Escape (R.F. Schabelitz)

Taps for Private Tussie (F.R. Gruger)
Into Occupied France and Out (William Sharp)

1944
Paris Underground (William Reusswig)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (William Meade Prince)
Good Night Sweet Prince (James Montgomery Flagg)
Duel In The Sun (F.R. Gruger)
Wingate's Raiders (L.H. Greenwood)
Tarawa (illustrator unknown)
The Case of the Crooked Candle (Stephen Grout)
Joseph the Provider (C.B. Falls)
The Lost Weekend (Charles Jackson)
Pastoral (J.A. Ernst)
The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde (Stephen Grout)
Betrayal from the East (William Sharp)

1945
Immortal Wife (F.R. Gruger)
Cass Timberlane (James Montgomery Flagg)
The Fountainhead (Frank Godwin)
Cluny Brown (Wallace Morgan)

1946
Britannia Mews (Jack Betts)
The King's General (George Tetzel)
This Side of Innocence (John H. Crosman)
The Foxes of Harrow (Lawrence Butcher)
The Salem Frigate (George Tetzel)
Antioch Actress (Neil O'Keeffe)
The Snake Pit (Frank Godwin)
Red Morning (Lawrence Butcher)
Barabbas (Lawrence Butcher)
Balzac (F.R. Gruger)

1947
Spoonhandle (Frank Godwin)
Toil of the Brave (Frank Godwin)
Mrs. Mike (John H. Crosman)
Home Port (George Tetzel)
Knock on any Door (John H. Crosman)
The Harder They Fall (Lawrence Butcher)

The Wild Sweet Witch (William Reusswig)

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Comments:
You missed at least one entry: the comic strip version of Ayn Rand’s "The Fountainhead". It ran in Hearst newspapers [including the Los Angeles Herald-Express], beginning 12/24/1945, for 30 installments. Reportedly it was carried by 55 [or 35, depending on the Rand bio] major newspapers in cities such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and San Francisco -- though I've never found one. Ms. Rand also wrote most of the adaptation and was sent samples of several artists’ works to select; she originally wanted Harold Foster, who was unavailable, and settled on Connie's / Rusty Riley's Godwin. These were collected into "The Illustrated Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand Institute in 1998.

-- Art Lortie
 
This reminds me of an illustrated story from the late forties I have always been curious bout. I think I saw some of the art in one of those original art catalogues - one panel illustrations by sf artist Cartier. They looked gorgeous. You know anything about those and how to go about finding them?
 
Hi Art -
I know I'm missing lots (after all, there should be 12 per year), thanks for the addition of one by the great Frank Godwin. I'm amazed that Rand was involved in the adaptation. I can just imagine the club coming to her asking if she could distill her magnum opus down to 30 short episodes. I wonder if many of the authors obliged? For that matter, maybe some would not allow the adaptations and there really aren't 12 per year! Questions, always more questions!

--Allan
 
Hi Ger -
I'm afraid that description doesn't ring any bells for me.

--Allan
 
This is great! Having heard of this series I always wanted to know more. Thank you.
Occasionally information about the individual adaptations pop up. Foster's Bernadette is probably the most famous.
One not on your list but I've heard of was Gene Fowler's "The Life and Times of John Barrymore". Supposedly appeared as part of the 1944 series and illustrated by James Montgomery Flagg.
 
Oops. Goodnight Sweet Prince is the John Barrymore story.
 
Ger Apeldoorn sez:
> one panel illustrations by sf artist Cartier.
> how to go about finding them?

To the best of my knowledge -- snd I hsve s lsrge checklidt of Cartier stuff -- he never did newspsper work. Jerry'ss Who's Who lists a handful of comic BOOK stories, but what you likely saw was any one of his numerous pulp and digest illos. Do a web search on "Edd Cartier"; lots of scans of his work out there. His son is also on the 'net, and there's a book out collecting some of his best stuff. - Art Lortie
 
The recent passing of Creig Flessel led me back to this post.
The Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail carried this feature from the beginning (November 30, 1942's The Seventh Cross) until very early 1945 (the last installment of The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde on January 6, 1945).
At five weeks per adaptation it came out to about 11 books a year. This is the list in the order that the Charleston Daily Mail printed them:
1942 - The Seventh Cross
1943 - Look to the Mountain
- Guadalcanal Diary
- The Human Comedy
- The Song of Bernadette
- Combined Operations
- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
- Hungry Hill
(art by Rodlow Willard)
- Col. Effingham's Raid
(art by Creig Flessel)
- You Can't Escape
(art by R. F. Schabelitz
- Taps for Private Tussie
- Paris Underground
[this started in 1943 and ended in 1944[
1944 - Paris Underground
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- Good Night, Sweet Prince
- Duel in the Sun
(art by F.R.Gruger)
- Wingate's Raiders
(art by L.H.Greenwood)
- Tarawa
(art by Robert Sherrod)
- The Case of the Crooked Candle
(art by Stephen Grout)
- Joseph the Provider
(art by C.B.Falls)
- The Lost Week-End
(art by Charles Jackson)
- Pastoral
(art by J.A.Ernst)
- The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde
(art by Stephen Grout)

At that point the Daily Mail stops running the series.
You may notice that two you listed are not among those on my list.
1943's Into Occupied France and Out and 1944's Betrayal From the East;
I have no explanation for those irregularities. Did King Features offer 12 a year in a system that could only print 11 a year?
 
Thanks DD! That really fleshes things out thru 1944. As for that 12 story problem, did the Charleston paper by chance run only 6 per week? I believe the strip was meant to run 7 days per week, which might explain why you get shortchanged with only 11 adaptations per year.

--Allan
 
Hi DD -
One small caveat to your listings -- on "Tarawa" Robert Sherrod was the author, presumably not also the illustrator.

--Allan
 
Right on both counts Allan.
The artist for Tarawa was William Reusswig.
And the Daily Mail ran the strip as a six day a week feature.
But that's how I took it that the feature was supposed to be presented. Five weeks, Monday through Saturday, daily only.
The Sunday before a book adaptation started the paper had a nice (usually) illustrated ad for what was beginning the next day.
It never occurred to me it was supposed to run as a monthly (and I'm not too sure about that yet).
I'm still favoring the five weeks/30 installments/Monday-Saturday/daily only format.
 
Flessel's passing led me here too... and I was very surprised to find a mention of Jack Betts here as well. I have been looking for an artist named Betts, who did some amazing work for Johnstone and Cushing. See my blog for samples. Anyway, today I came across Jack Betts as an illustrator in a 1949 issue of Collier's and here he is again. If you have anything on him, I'd love to know and use it for a further showing of his Peter Pest and Nestlé ads.
 
Only other thing I have on Betts is that he did some of the ad panels "The Ribbers" for Ten High Whiskey (better known for the Noel Sickles panels).

--Allan
 
Hey DD -
I favor the monthly scenario for two reasons. First, it is the Book of the MONTH Club after all. Second, my guess is that they would have wanted very much for the 'Sunday' installment to appear on the paper's book review page. Back in the day when papers actually had book reviews it was always on Sunday. What better place to advertise your service than to people reading book reviews?

That being said, I don't have any proof. I found most of the titles I cited in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette but my notes on that indexing have gone missing. I also have a few short runs of the feature from the Philadelphia Record, but they were running it 6 days a week. I'll let you know if I find any proof for my theory.

--Allan
 
There are some heavy hitters amongst these artists. R.F. Schabelitz, Wallace Morgan, and especially J. M. Flagg and F.R. Gruger were all Big Time Illustrators (though admittedly all were past the highest point of their popularity).

One wonders how well this gig paid.
 
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Monday, May 14, 2007

 

News of Yore: Labor Pains of a New Hearst Comic Strip


History Page Evolves From Hearst Memo

By Helen M. Staunton (1947)

Very few syndicate features are presented to the public exactly as they are first conceived, and frequently the changes and reasons therefore make a syndicate story more significant than the brief announcement:

King Features will launch a new Sunday page Jan. 12, titled "Dick's Adventures in Dreamland," scripted by Max Trell, drawn by Neil O'Keeffe, featuring events from American history. It will be a full page. Behind this announcement is a full year of exploration and experimentation and a lively correspondence between William Randolph Hearst Sr., and Ward Greene, KFS editor and general manager—the evolution of a feature completely developed by the syndicate.

In Process a Year
That evolution began with a letter dated Dec. 28, 1945, from Hearst to J. D. Gortatowsky, KFS president:

"I have had numerous suggestions for incorporating some American history of a vivid kind in the adventure strips of the comic section.

"The difficulty is to find something that will sufficiently interest the kids.

"It seems to me that some which told the youthful life of our American heroes and how they developed into great men and their great moments might be interesting.

"Perhaps a title, Trained by Fate, would be general enough.

"Take Paul Revere and show him as a boy making as much of his boyhood life as possible, and culminate, of course, with his ride.

"Take Betsy Ross for a heroine, or Barbara Frietchie, or Molly Pitcher for the girls.

"Of course, there are exciting enough incidents in the lives of our American heroes but the difficulty is to develop interest for the youngsters in their youthful lives . . ."

Initial Outline
On Jan. 3, 1946, Green replied: "We can produce something like this along the lines you indicate, making separate pages or half pages out of some interesting episode in the lives of Paul Revere, Betsy Ross and other heroes and heroines. Or we could devote a series of pages to Paul Revere and another series to Betsy Ross, etc.

"There is another way to do It, which is somewhat fantastic, but which I submit for your consideration. That is to devise a new comic, or use in one of our existing comics, a "dream" idea revolving around a boy we might call Dick.

"Dick or his equivalent, would go in his dream with Mad Anthony Wayne at the storming of Stony Point or with Decatur at Tripoli, or with Betsy Ross when she was making the flag or wherever we wanted to send him.

"The virtue of this notion, as I see it, would be to provide a constant character in the comic who would become known to the kids. While the character would be fictitious, the historic episodes would be authentic.

Depends on Artist
"I think a great deal of the success of such a feature, whether it employed a fantastic device or whether it was done 'straight,' would depend upon the artist ... I am enclosing some clip sheets ... which show the work of Edward A. Wilson … Another possibility is William Meade Prince. He drew that comic for us, "Aladdin Jr.' The drawing was good . . ."

Next a telegram from Hearst:

"The dream idea for the American history series is splendid. It gives continuity and personal interest and you can make more than one page of each series culminating in the main event. You are right about the importance of the artist. Someone like Harold Foster is needed. Do you think that Wilson's wood cut style would be good?"

Then a "Chief says" note for Greene: "I like this woodcut style of Edward Wilson's for American history series." But Wilson could not undertake the page and on Feb. 1 Greene sent a week's samples of Nell O'Keeffe's art for the current illustrated book of the month for KFS, "Captain from Castile"—"That series calls for different artists, gives us a way to try out artists," Greene noted to E & P.

Samples to WRH
By early in March, O'Keeffe was finishing some black and white drawings for the history page, and by April 12 Greene was sending samples of the series to Hearst with a letter:

"We employed the dream device, building the comic around a small boy and his father. 'Dick and His Dad' is written by Max Trell. The artist is Neil O'Keeffe.

"We tried to show in one sample, the Francis Scott Key page, how an episode in history can be covered in a single page. We show in the other page the beginning of a sequence that might tell the entire career of Admiral Farragut in a series of pages. These two samples are made up in full page form. Please give me your wishes."

From Hearst Apr. 17: "I think the drawing of 'Dick and His Dad' is amazingly good. It is perfectly splendid. I am afraid, however, that similar beginning and conclusion of each page might give a deadly sameness to the series. Then again, does not that plan deprive the series of realism?

"Perhaps we could get the dream idea over by having only the conclusion in each page. I mean, do not show the boy going to sleep every time and then show him waking up, but let the waking up come as a termination to each page and let the beginning be the dream itself ...

"Can you develop anything out of the idea of having Dick the son of the keeper of the Liberty Statue in New York Harbor? I do not suggest this, as it would probably add further complications, but it might give a spiritual tie to all the dreams. The main thing, however, is to get more realism into the series by minimizing the dream and accentuating the historical story ..."

Avoiding Dull Lessons

From Greene Apr. 24 in the interests of "more realism" and "enough human interest" to avoid dull history lessons: "We do not have to show the dream at the beginning and end of every page. For example, the episode in the life of Admiral Farragut as a young midshipman should take not less than three pages to tell. We can start the dream in the first panel of Page 1 and not have Dick wake up until the last panel of Page 3 ...

"It might be an improvement to eliminate Dick's Dad entirely. It was my original feeling that the link between a boy and his father gave the comic a certain appeal to all parents and sons. But if we continue to call it 'Dick and His Dad,' we will have to keep the father in the picture pretty constantly, thus forcing us to use a good many sleeping and waking panels. If we simply call the comic something like 'Dreamer Dick', we would have more freedom ...

"Some device other than the dream might be used to put Dick into different historical scenes. A simple method would be to have him curl up with a history book in the first panel. We then see him living the story he is reading. Another way might be to make Dick a young American living in Revolutionary times. There would be plenty of material to carry such a page for years. I do not like this idea, however, because of the obvious limitations.”

Hearst to Greene July 29. "Do you think we should run the American history dream of the boy with Columbus for quite a long time—for seven months in fact, and perhaps through a year? ... If we find it is not a success of course we can brief it, but if it is a success it should be a long series. This applies not only to the life of Columbus, but to the other history incidents as well ..."

Then after correspondence on other allied matters, Greene to Hearst Nov. 1: "I am sending you two sample pages of "Dick's Adventures in Dreamland” which start a series about Christopher Columbus ..."

Hearst to Greene Nov. 9: "In January, I am told, we are going to 16 pages regularly on Puck, the Comic Weekly. That would be a good time to introduce the Columbus series, don't you think so?"

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Fascinating. Not all of the correspondence sounds realistic, but the mentioning of the changes along the way seems logical. This of course ties in with my interest in unproduced scripts. Some artists have saved their samples, but none have saved the correspondence with the syndicate in the fruitful or unfruitful development.

Take Jack Kirby, for instance. How did he 'develop' Sky Masters? What were the steps along the way? There probably was some sort of connection to is work on Johnny Reb. I'd love to know, but sadly those involved have probably gone.
 
Alan,

Does this Heritage original mean anything to you?

"Bare Facts" Soap Opera Daily Comic Strip Original Art, dated 5-16-62 (NEA, 1962). Here's a "mystery" soap opera strip from the sixties. With no title or artist name to go by, we couldn't pin down what the feature is. All we know is that it was distributed by NEA syndicate on 5-16-62, and features Mrs. Wayne. The image area measures 20" x 6", and the art is in Excellent condition.
 
That would be from the strip "The Story of Martha Wayne" by Wilson Scruggs. That date is from the last year of the strip.

--Allan
 
the Story of Sky Masters is well documented via the court documents!

I find interesting that Betsy Ross and Barbara Frietchie were the first thoughts for a history page.....
 
Hi Ger -
Some creators did indeed save the correspondence with their syndicates. I refer you to one of my favorite books, The Aviation Art of Russell Keaton, which offers a treasure trove of that material.

Also, I own some of the syndicate correspondence from the creation of Hook Slider, a short-lived baseball strip.

--Allan
 
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

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