Thursday, March 06, 2008
News of Yore: Manning Creates Cartoon Mural
Cartoonists Came First— So Manning's Mural Says
The first newspapermen were cartoonists, period.
Some members of the craft might be inclined to argue the truth of that flat statement by Reg Manning, McNaught Syndicate editorial cartoonist whose work is distributed to more than 125 newspapers, but he's willing to take on all comers to convince the doubting Thomases.
In a monumental mural now adorning the walls of the Phoenix Press Club, the Pulitzer prize winner for cartooning in 1951 has documented his pet theory that prehistoric man carved news pictures on rocks long before he learned to write squibs for the Paleolithic Pioneer Press.
Therefore, reasons Mr. Manning, the first newspaperman was not a writer but a cartoonist.
To date only club members and a few visiting firemen, such as the aviation and travel writers who flocked to Phoenix early this year for "quickie vacations" as guests of the local chamber of commerce, have seen Mr. Manning's masterpiece of newspaper humor depicting the first news stories of mankind tapped out on stone.
All visitors to the press club in the Hotel Westward Ho have been wowed by the mural. Because it has a potentially wide appeal to all newspapermen who might be curious to know how their profession started thousands of years ago, Editor & Publisher has obtained permission to reproduce one section of the mural and the key to the primitive petroglyphs portraying the first news stories of the stone age - and how they were covered by the first cartoonists.
All told, 81 news stories and newspaper situations are depicted. Four months were required to complete the mural at Mr. Manning's home, in between his weekly stint of six cartoons for the McNaught list and a local one for the Arizona Republic. Reg dreamed up all the situations and gags in the mural and its key.
Originally nine feet long, as executed in tempera, the mural was enlarged and reproduced in exact color and detail on three walls of the club dining room by Art McFair, a Phoenix artist. It was completed a year ago.
Mr. Manning, whose cartoons have appeared in the Republic for a quarter of a century, evolved his theory about the origin of the newspaper business while roaming about Arizona's canyons, studying cavemen's pictures he found carved on the walls. He sums up his theory this way: Arizona's first news reporters were cartoonists, whose first editions, tapped out on stone, may be seen in the files of a thousand canyon walls. Depicted at the left of the mural (see cut) is one of the first newsmen.
"Arizona's original broadcaster who came ages before the microphone is portrayed at the right extremity of the mural (not reproduced here). He is the Town Crier of the Pueblos. In the Hopi villages of northern Arizona, town criers still announce news daily, as they have for centuries past.
"The primitive petroglyphs shown present paleolithic picturization of peoples and plights, philosophy and phrases, peculiar to press and radio, as our prehistoric predecessor might have pictured them."
Thus does Mr. Manning, with a thousand canyons to back up his theory, stand pat on his statement that the first newspapermen were cartoonists, as shown in his mural. Other sections not reproduced here depict the original comic strip, the first "love nest" story, members of the world's first press club gathered around the bar and "the first political column (grapevine and a little bull)." His favorite of favorites among the cave characters he created is "proofreader catching arrers." It shows the first proofreader on earth catching arrows flying in his direction.
If any newsmen are unconvinced about Reg's theory, let them come to Phoenix to see his pictorial evidence of the world's first scoops achieved by the primitive cartoonists. If they're still unconvinced, then Reg's ready to eat the biggest cactus Arizona can produce.
Symbolism in one section of Phoenix Press Club mural:
1. Man bites dog.
2. The only two kinds of birds you meet in this business: (A) The bird who wants to get his name in the paper; (B) The bird who wants to keep it out.
3. Which came first, (A) the thunderchicken, or (B) the egg?
4. The very first news story-Weather; (a) lightning, (b) clouds, (c) rain.
5. A usually reliable source-the horse's mouth.
6. The stone axe-a weapon so horrible it was going to end war.
7. The Original Big Story.
8. A reporter and his by-line.
9. Cut line.
10. Off the record.
12. "Don't quote me, but..."
13. X marks the spot.
14. Eternal triangle story.
15. Headline, with three sub-heads.
16. Increase in circulation.
19. The M.E., who else?
20. Newshawk. This symbolism is really deep stuff . . . note the nose for news, looking at both sides of the question . . . note the target he frequently is ... note equipment for leg work . . . note also he hasn't sprouted wings.
21. The spear-a weapon so horrible it was going to end war.
22. "Here I am on my first real assignment. Imagine ME, a rough, tough, glamorous reporter." 23. "Why wasn't my story in the paper?"
24. Evolution of punctuation: The Question Mark, (A) Woman has always been a puzzle to man, so she was first depicted in the center of a maze, with man, below, amazed. (B) Later and lazier artisans simplified the picture. (C) In this form the mark is used today.
25. Evolution of punctuation: The Exclamation Point.
26. Follow up.
28. The bow 'n' arrow - a weapon so horrible it was going to end war.
29. Dotted line indicates where the body fell. or was pushed.
[Anyone know if this mural still adorns the Phoenix Press Club? - Allan]
Labels: News of Yore
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