Saturday, August 04, 2007

 

Herriman Saturday






On September 19th and 20th (the top two cartoons) we find Herriman back in form, producing some of his best editorial cartoons yet. The wall of cactus is an excellent cartoon not so much for the drawing but the idea. In 1906 as now, editorial cartoonists tend to fall into the habit of reusing the same old symbols over and over. For instance today we see Bush drawn as Alfred E. Neuman, Cheney as the devil far too often - certainly apt characterizations, but worn out from overuse. Here Herriman comes up with a wonderful symbol that calls on early California history to illustrate a current situation, really hitting home because the reader hasn't seen the symbolism used a million times over.

The second cartoon, on the other hand, uses very familiar symbols, the type Nast popularized thirty years before, but what a piece of art! Wonderfully detailed (note the octopus' scepter, for instance) and many different styles of crosshatching give the work tremendous depth and variety of texture. Wow! A real bravura performance.

The last two cartoons appeared on September 21st. A perfunctory set of caricatures from a county Democrat convention and another dog show cartoon. Herriman got stuck with the task of covering dog shows quite a bit -- you'll see more of these. The dog show cartoon may have redeeming qualities but the newspaper printed it so small that on microfilm it mostly turns to mud. I'll transcribe what I can make out of the text, starting clockwise from upper left.

Upper left:
Tag on dog 1: Anna gift
Tag 1 on dog 2: End (Eng?) clipper Dorothy
Tag 2 on Dog 2: illegible
Dog 2 says: "Don't you wish you had a little black nose like mine?"
Caption: Next year Anna will paint her nose a more somber hue

Upper middle:
Caption: South poet philosopher all the way from "Frisco" to compete

Upper right:
Man: "Looks like a blot"
Caption: Fred here judges a microscopic B and T (?)

Lower right:
Caption: S. O'Brien and a favorite

Center:
Tag on man and disembodied hand: J. W. Brooks
Caption: Oh yes James W. handed himself a few (prizes)

Lower left:
Tag on dog: 1st prize
Dog says: "I'd rather fight a rhinoceros"
Caption: Not afraid of lions and tigers but shrinking as a violet when a ribbon comes his way

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Friday, August 03, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Jet Scott


The New York Herald-Tribune was a great place to read excellent comic strips in the 1950s. Too bad their sales force seemed to have little luck in selling them to other newspapers. Among the delightful strips that appeared in the H-T and were thus doomed to obscurity was Jet Scott.

Writer Sheldon Stark proved his chops as the ghost writer on the Inspector Wade strip, and Jerry Robinson of course had a lot of comic book art under his belt. This proven combination came up with a story about a mysterious CIA operative who worked for the 'Scientifact' office as sort of a troubleshooter. The storylines flirted with science fiction, being set in the near future, but seemed to shy away from anything really exciting in that line. Mr. Scott was too busy with the standard 1950s era bugaboos of stolen nuclear secrets and uncovering double agents.

Stark's scripts were well-written though disappointingly conventional, but Robinson's work, especially on the Sundays, was excellent if perhaps a little cold-blooded. Seems to me Robinson was trying to straddle genres in the art style he adopted. Tempering his more vigorous comic book style, he tried to add more polish by emulating the Rex Morgan/Judge Parker school of soap opera art. The results bridge the gap from realism to surrealism.

Jet Scott debuted on September 28 1953 with a Sunday starting at the end of that first week. It lasted exactly two years, ending with the Sunday of September 25 1955 (the second Sunday reproduced above).

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Comments:
Hello, Allan-----It was quite striking how much of a sea-change occured at the Herald-Tribune about 1950. It went from the dullest line-up ever (Betty, Mr. and Mrs., Peter Rabbit, Skeets, etc.) to the dynamic collection of the 50's.These new strips didn't always live up to their potential, but, it was nice to see them trying. Too little, too late. ---Cole Johnson.
 
A dreary line-up I'll agree, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The art on Betty was superb!

--Allan
 
That would be circa 1948 -- again, the work of previously discussed HT comics editor Harold Straubing.
Jay Maeder
 
Alan,

Finally, mu most looke for strip from the fifties. Ever sinc e I saw a daily reprinted in Robinson's excellent history of comic strips (recently reprinted as well) I was curious about this one. When e-bay opened up the possibillities of collecting for out of US fans, I started looking for it but otheer than a couple of sunday, I never got a lot of them. The strip is very well drawn, but I have to add that the later sundays I have are not as good as these two... and the whole doesn't hold a candly (imo) to the work Robinson was doing from 1951 to roughly 1956 for Timely/Atlas. In this period he was also teaching comics to a new generation of artist. After breaking up his partnership with Mort Meskin, he worked on his own for the first time. His comic book work is similarely slick. In fact, the misture between comic book and comic strip styling you see here, is visible in his comic book work as well. If the stories are any good, I'd buy a collection at once. I hope someone will reprint ist sometime.
 
Reprinted they have been--just out from Dark Horse.
 
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Noodle the Poodle


We've seen J.C. Henderson on the blog before with a much later entry, Today's Hookup. I've always liked Henderson's style, proving that I'm a sucker for any cartoonist who develops his own signature lettering font.

Noodle the Poodle is Henderson's earliest known feature. I found it in the Boston Post, but I suspect that it was supplied to them by Associated Newspapers, a cooperative syndicate. It ran from July 24 1913 until sometime in 1914 (I'm not finished indexing the early Post yet). It's almost a true daily, missing only a day here or there, which is still a bit unusual in 1913. Henderson wisely decided to keep his style very simple in deference to the frequency. How some of these early daily guys produced a huge detailed 7-column strip every day is beyond me...

I can't help wondering if Pat Sullivan was a fan of the strip. Is it just me or might this strip have served as some small inspiration in the creation of Felix? Seems to me they have a similar feel.

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Comments:
Hello, Allan---The honors for creating Felix the Cat really go to Pat Sullivan's employee, Otto Mesmer. In 1919,Paramount ordered a cartoon from Sullivan's cartoon studio, and the assignment was given to Mesmer, and he thus fashioned a character which became Felix. Being only a hireling, Otto couldn't say anything when Sullivan took full credit when the cat became a star, and had his name alone on the films and the strips. ------Cole Johnson,
 
Hi Cole -
That's just me being contrary. Everybody makes a big deal over Messmer being somehow robbed of recognition; in business the guy who takes the financial chances and pays the bills is due his part. And its not as if Sullivan was by any stretch inept as a cartoonist and idea man, so I like to throw the ball back in his court on occasion.

--Allan
 
Hello. Allan---Unfortunately, there seems to be very little that survives that Pat Sullivan actually directed. (A couple of the Charlie Chaplin cartoons, and a 1919 one-shot called THE ORIGIN OF THE SHIMMY are all I've ever seen, still, funny stuff--). On the newspaper page, I've somehow missed seeing much 1914-15 McClure stuff, but if you say he was good, then he was good. [[[I always wondered if it was Sullivan that did the "top pictures" on Marriner's SAMBO.This somewhat crude artist also did occasional whole episodes,as well as some installments of POOR ROBINSON CRUSOE and even BUB-HE'S ALWAYS TO BLAME.]]] In John Canemaker's book, THE TWISTED TALE OF FELIX THE CAT, Pat Sullivan comes off pretty badly, a liar, a cheat, a rapist, a philanderer who drove his wife to suicide, a man totally removed from artistic input after FELIX made him wealthy, and died of syphillis. Pretty harsh! Of course, all he really had was the word of Mesmer for a lot. He said Sullivan rarely set foot in the studio! An easy case can be made for this--- after 1919, it's clearly Mesmer's distinctive, angular style in the studio's films, rather than Sullivan's plainer, rubbery looking work. MEOW!----Cole Johnson.
 
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: George Washington's Travels

Another in the long roll call of educational strips is George Washington's Travels. It is quite rarely seen, a condition not uncommon with historical strips (with the notable exception of Highlights of History, which was phenomenally popular in its day). This strip, though, richly deserves its obscurity because it is about as dry and dessicated as day old toast.

The author, James W. Brooks, seems to think he's writing a college term paper. There's not a hint of life in the narrative, a "story" that boils down to a litany of facts cribbed out of a reference book. The art by Calvin Fader does nothing to liven things up, which is a shame because Fader's usual bigfoot style is anything but stiff. But here, faced with illustrating a series of uninvolving factoids, Fader seems to be competing with Brooks to see whether art or text will bore the reader to death first.

Although the strip never carried a syndicate stamp, it was definitely distributed by Western Newspaper Union. The majority of the papers that ran the series were weeklies, and the ones I've found were WNU clients who rarely purchased material from other syndicates. Even if this were not the case, the strip gives its distributor away with that final filler panel, a WNU staple on all its strips.

Although distributed by WNU, the strip itself may have been originally commissioned by something called the American Highway Educational Bureau. This organization issued a reprint book of the complete series in 1932. Shockingly the book failed to make an appearance on any bestseller lists.

The strip ran for a total of sixty dreary episodes, and few client papers printed it to the end of the series. Most of the clients being weeklies, sixty weeks is an awfully long commitment for a feature that only a devoted Washington-phile would read past the third episode.

Papers printed the strip at various times, mostly in 1932. The copyrights on the strip, though, indicate that the series was probably first made available in 1930. Cole Johnson recently sent me a photocopy of a strip (the one pictured above as a matter of fact) that ran in 1931 in the Bristol (PA) Courier. This is also the first daily paper I've seen running the feature.

No definitive start and end dates can be given since the series ran at the whim of editors, but the Bristol paper so far has the earliest found run, which, if the paper printed the strip regularly, would have started around October 5th and ended December 12 1931.

Thanks Cole for sending the sample strip!

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Comments:
Hi,

I just stumbled across your website. I was searching for Calvin Fader online. He is my grandfather. My dad has tons of his comic strips at home. My father rarely talks about his work. I would be curious to pick your brain a litlle bit. I agree with you, I obviously have seen much of his work and this piece is a little stale.
Thank Kathy
kjtufts@yahoo.com
 
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Wanted - A Wife



Here's an interesting strip that ran in the Boston Post from May 15 through August 27 1913. It was created by H. Boyleston Dummer, a cartoonist who usually specialized in animals. He occasionally popped up in Boston newspapers (mainly the Post and the Monitor), and ended up making a small name for himself as a children's book author and illustrator.

Dummer was out of his element here, and though the strip was snappily drawn, it was turned over to the Post's sports cartoonist, who signed himself Scott, on May 26. I suspect that this might be R. J. Scott, who later went on to to do the long running Scott's Scrapbook, a Ripleys' clone. I have no proof of this, just a guess. I haven't been able to put my hands on any biographical material for R.J. Scott, so I'm at a loss there.

Scott continued the series ably, with a very different but excellent style, doing occasional strips in addition to his regular duties on the sports page.

Two more Dummer strips were printed in July, probably old stock, and then Scott did just a handful more of the series, petering out at the end of August.

PS - Sorry for the overly small images - Blogger compressed them on me. Don't shoot the messenger ... er ... poster.

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Comments:
Allan,

The timing might be right for R.J. Scott to have been the artist, but I've got a couple of things that might argue against it. First, the signature doesn't look like Scott's. Second, I'm pretty sure R.J. Scott worked for the Cleveland Leader during the 1910s and may have gone from there to the Central Press Association, also in Cleveland. (He was art editor there in 1930.) I'm trying to connect R.J. Scott to Roland J. Scott, a newspaper cartoonist in Anderson, Ind., Indianapolis, and Chicago during the early 1900s. I'm pretty sure they're the same cartoonist, but I don't have anything definitive. Also, I'm trying to find out what happened to R.J. Scott. He may have died in 1966. That's when Sally's Sallies and Scott's Scrapbook came to an end. Do you know anything about him? Thanks.

TH
 
Hi TH -
I checked my files and didn't find anything on Roland Scott, so I'm afraid I'm no help there.

I have to disagree with one point -- the signatures of this Scott and R.J. are stylistically pretty exact matches.

Both Sally's Sallies and Scott's Scrapbook seemed to have expired on 7/1/67.

--Allan
 
Roland J Scott was my great-grandfather. He wrote both Sally's Sallies and Scott's Scrapbook. I grew up in the house that he built with my great-grandmother. He died in 1968. If you'd like more information let me know and I can find out for you.
 
Hi Allie -
We're certainly very interested in any information you can impart. As said above, our biographical info on Scott is practically non-existent, which is very odd for someone who had such a long and successful career. Do you have a birth date? Work history (especially before Scott's Scrapbook)? Any idea why there seems to be a dearth of info about him?

--Allan
 
Hi Allan, sorry for the delay I tried to post this a couple days ago but I must have done something wrong.
R.J. Scott was born September 1, 1886 in Indianapolis, Indiana to John Scott (of Scottish decent) and Elizabeth Buzzy (of German decent) He died in Scottsdale, AZ on April 4 1968.
He was married to his first wife, Minnie Laird, on or about 1912. He had one son, Laird Scott. R.J. lived in Cleveland Ohio, New York City, and Long Island. He moved to Tempe, AZ in the 1930's where Minnie's brother was mayor of Tempe for about 20 years.
There is a reference in Jerry Robinson's book The Comics to a panel cartoon called "Did you know?" by R.J. Scott. (dad thinks this may have been a precursor to Scott's Scrapbook?)
Dad believes he also did some political cartoons during WWI and is looking for some examples.
Scott's last contracts were through King and dad has a call out to them to see if they know of any other works.
As to the dearth of info about him, Syracuse University asked him to write his life history for the art department. However, he died before he was able to complete the project. I'll let you know if I find out any more information. If you have any other questions I'll do my best to find answers.
Allie
 
Hi Allie -
Thanks so much for the info! Yes, "Did You Know?" was the original title of "Scott's Scrapbook" -- it ran under that title from 1931-33, but some newspapers used the title much longer because they didn't bother to change the masthead for the panel.

So it sounds like R.J. didn't spend any time in Boston. I guess the Scott on "Wanted-A Wife" is someone else. Those signatures sure do seem to match up tho!

Besides Scott's Scrapbook and Sally's Sallies, the only other series I know of done by R.J. Scott are a few short-run biography strips he did for Central Press - Edison, Lon Chaney and Max Schmeling were profiled. I'll post samples of those one of these days.

--Allan
 
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Monday, July 30, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte



Starting back to regular posts, we'll begin with a simple one. Simple because I know little about it. In June 1927 the Hearst flagship New York American printed this biographical series adapted from the book by journalist Ida Tarbell. King Features advertised this strip in E&P as part of its series of educational strips, a series that included Dickens novels, biographies, philosophy (great visuals on that subject!) and others that were undoubtedly skipped by most newspaper readers.

Unfortunately I don't know how long this series ran, nor who contributed the artwork. Anyone have more info?

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Comments:
Hello, Allan---Glad to have you back! This "Napoleon" strip looks to me to be drawn by Paul Frehm---What do you think?-Cole Johnson.
 
Hi Cole -
Suppose it could be. I haven't seen Frehm's work in awhile, but I don't recall much about it. Besides ghosting Believe It or Not, I only have him doing short stints on Chip Collins and Ted Towers, not much on which to base an opinion.

--Allan
 
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

Like a bad penny, the Stripper's Guide blog turns up once again. Bride and I had a delightful vacation, though I must warn you all to NEVER fly Spirit Airlines unless cost is your one and only consideration. Our return trip that should have taken about four hours turned into a 40-hour odyssey of standing in interminable lines, missing connections, and dealing with surly untrained airline personnel. Never again.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program ...

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You're back, and Jim Ivey's Sundays are back and life is good!
 
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