Saturday, August 02, 2008

 

Herriman Saturday


Two absolutely delightful cartoons on this Herriman Saturday, both published in the April 7 1907 Sunday edition of the Examiner. The first commemorates the Angels' opening day parade -- unfortunately they lost to Oakland 4 to 2, but thems the breaks. All sorts of local luminaries caricatured in this one, all captioned with prime Herriman lunacy.

The second, a half-pager comic strip from the Automobile section, reads like a storyboard from a Warner Brothers cartoon!

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Friday, August 01, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: Double Eagle & Company









Dick Kulpa has a very long and varied resume, and the first item of note on that list was his self-syndicated comic strip Double Eagle & Company. He created the daily strip for the Loves Park Post in 1975, then switched it to the Belvidere Daily Republican later that year. The strip was syndicated to at least one other paper under the banner of Artline Screen Printing and ended sometime in 1976.

The strip was about the obsessive love of teenager Francis Fink for his 1960 Chevy. The 70s were a car-mad decade for American teens, the last in which the low cost of beat-up old cars, insurance and gas made it easy for the average teen to own and maintain his own personal 2-ton best friend. Although I fell into the Detroit iron obsession a little later in the 80s, I can assure you that the saga of Francis Fink was true to life -- I felt exactly the same way about my 1957 Chevy Belair, which I named Rosinante, not to mention my 1968 Thunderbird, 1967 Mustang and 1970 Chevelle, all of which qualified as consuming passions over the years. I understand why this strip resonated with kids despite the sometimes awkward art and silly gags -- I would have been a fan myself if I'd been in Illinois in 1975.

Kulpa was too busy to stick with the strip long. In 1977 he was elected to the Loves Park City Council and later to the county board. He gained national publicity for occasionally donning super-hero tights and calling himself Alder-Man. In the 80s he did short stints on a pair of syndicated strips, Star Trek and Legend of Bruce Lee (the latter was uncredited). He also became involved with the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News.

Later Kulpa returned to syndicated strips on The Ghost Story Club, and then took over the Mad-imitator humor magazine Cracked in an unfortunate episode I imagine he'd like to put behind him. You can read more thorough bios of Kulpa on Wiki and at the Dick Kulpa Fun Club where you'll also find additional Double Eagle strips.

My Rosinante

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It's fascinating to hear that Dick Kulpa achieved "national publicity" when in fact he was all but unknown in his own town. Kulpa worked for a time as a graphic artist for the Testor Corp. in Rockford, Ill., which seems a natural since Testor makes model cars and everything that goes with them, and while I don't think I ever actually had a conversation with him, I spent my summers in the late 1970s working for Testor, when Kulpa was working in Testor's basement, where the graphics dept. was based back then. It wasn't until many years later that I was reminded that the Dick Kulpa who worked in the basement and drew the DOUBLE EAGLE comics was the same guy who took over CRACKED.
 
Hi Dave -
His stunting as "Alder-Man" may not have made an impression on you, but I remember seeing him featured on one of those "That's Incredible" type TV shows that proliferated for awhile back in the late 70s-early 80s. That would qualify as national publicity, no?

--Allan
 
I grew up across the street from the Kulpa family and was very close freinds. The Double-Eagle car was the biggest thing in our little Loves Park, IL neighborhood.
He also did a short strip for the post before the Double Eagle called the Barnaby Street Gang.
There were about 18 homes on our small Barnaby Dr. street. When we moved in there were 52 kids on that one street.
My last memory of the D-E was when the girl across the street from me dared me to put the Double Eagle in gear while it was parked in his drive. Showoff that I was, I obliged. I almost crapped my pants when the Double Eagle rolled out into the street and turned on it's own, coming within about 6 inches of hitting the car park in the street. I never admitted it to him, but he always knew, that if there was any hanky panky going on, I was probably not too far away. Sorry Rick.
Rick was always the studious one of the bunch, a hard worker and dedicated to his dream.
My third oldest brother still has the original first Duble Eagle comic strip that was published in the post. He also has the original drawing of the Barnaby Street Gang, in which I and a couple of my other brothers are in.
 
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Thursday, July 31, 2008

 

News of Yore: Tad's Four-Flushing Friends

A Pinochle Game That Ended on a Handball Court
By T. A. (Tad) Dorgan (Circulation, April 1923)

Back in 1910, when Jim Jeffries was training for his fight with Jack Johnson, the scene of battle was changed from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada, and the mob of boxers, trainers, war corres­pondents and others had to grab the rattlers for a long ride from Frisco.

It happened that I was in Jeff's car, and with him were Jim Corbett, Sam Berger, Joe Choynski, Eddie Leonard, the minstrel, Walter Kelly, the Virginia Judge, and a host of others.

Among the "others" was Billy Jacobs, who was writing stuff for a Frisco paper. I had known Bill in high school. He had been in my class and was noted as an athlete.

After our baggage was stored away, and we got on the caps and had lit the pills, Mr. Corbett suggested a four-handed game of pinochle. He said he and Walter Kelly would challenge any other pair in the car.

I accepted immediately, and knowing that Jacobs was a pip at the game, took him as my partner.

Corbett and Kelly got quite a lead on us in the first few hours, and, as the dough piled up in their favor, Jim would have the scorekeeper announce loudly just what we owed.

There was much laughter and razz as the train rattled along, and, try as we would, Jacobs and I could not break our run of bad luck.

"What do they owe us now, Sam?" Corbett would yell over to Sam Berger, who kept the score.

"Fourteen bucks apiece now, sir," Sam would pipe back, and Jeff and the mob would roar with glee.

Bill and I, of course, felt like a couple of hicks, but we took the abuse and kept on with the game.

Some time later our luck changed and we got even with them.

Berger then announced that the score was even and that we didn't owe the Kelly-Corbett team a cent.

This announcement was greeted with absolute silence. Corbett appeared as though he hadn't even heard it. He was extremely busy lamping his hand.

A bit later Bill and I got the jump on them and were in the lead. We had good hands. We made them and soon had the score so that it was in our favor to the extent of $8.00 apiece.

Eddie Leonard, who was looking on, yelled across to Berger: "Sam, how does the score stand now?" And Sam with a smile said; " Why, right now Corbett and Kelly owe Tad and Jacobs ten bucks apiece." Instead of cheers, there were just smiles around, and Corbett, looking over at Berger, said: "DON'T BE HOLLERING OUT THAT SCORE, Sam. We can't play cards if you fellows are all talking."

We played in silence after that, except when Kelly and Corbett would get to crab­bing about the cards.

The game broke up later on with Kelly and Corbett owing Bill and myself $12.50 each.

As the jack was not forthcoming imme­diately I said to Mr. Corbett: " Well, kid, how about settling up?"

Corbett raised his bushy eyebrows and, in the most innocent way, chirped: "Say, you didn't think we were REALLY PLAY­ING for MONEY, did you?"

Well, you could have knocked me for a goal with a corset lace.

Bill and I both howled and yelled, but it did no good.

Corbett finally made a proposition. It was this:

He said that he'd beat any man I men­tioned in a game of handball next day or pay me double in cash on the spot.

I knew that Jacobs was a curly wolf at that game and I accepted. When I told Corbett he was on I noticed that both he and Jacobs pulled a sneak on us and stayed away half an hour or so.

Everyone on the train heard about the big game, and next morning at 10 o'clock in Jeffries' handball court the game was played. It was the most exciting for me, I'm sure of that.

It was a see-saw game from start to finish, with hair-raising plays, wonderful stops, and a finish that none but P. T. Barnum could have thought out. Corbett won the game by one point, amid the cheers of the mob.

He shook hands with Jacobs, and then, after kidding with the mob, went over to Walter Kelly's cabin to clean up.

Half an hour later I went over to the cabin to tell Jim that I thought he had earned the $12.50. I wasn't a hard loser. A fellow hardly could be after seeing that thrilling game.

When I got near the cabin I heard voices and laughter. Then more laughter.

I walked inside, and there on a lounge were Corbett and Kelly as red as lobsters from laughing. Kelly was about to have a fit he had laughed so hard.

"Sit down," piped Corbett, as he stopped howling for a moment. "I've gotta tell you the joke, now that it's over."

I grabbed an old chair, took a load off my feet and listened to the story:

"You know, after you fellows won that money from us last night, I took your part­ner Jacobs aside and made a proposition to him. I said: "Bill, look here, I've got a good joke to play on Tad, and if you're with me I'll see that Kelly pays you the money he owes you.

"Now, you let me win that handball game, so that we'll skin Tad out of his money; then I'll get Walter to pay you, and we'll all give Tad the razz. Get me? Jacobs fell like a load of brick. He let me win that game and he double-crossed you. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

"Jacobs was in here a few moments ago looking for his money," continued Jim.

"I said to him: 'Billy, we fixed Tad up good, didn't we?' He laughed at me and said: ' Yes, it was a great joke, but where's my jack?'

"I said: 'YOUR JACK? Why, you didn't think I MEANT TO DOUBLE CROSS my partner Walter, did you?'

"'Why, no, Bill, I was only KIDDING.

"'I'd NEVER DOUBLE CROSS WALTER, no matter what YOU DID TO TAD! '"

Now I play my pinochle SINGLE HANDED.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Kerry Patch Triplets



As awful as The Kerry Patch Triplets is, it's got a pedigree. This is the very first continuing strip in the World Color Printing Sunday section, back when (as far as we know) it was not even syndicated but was produced for and only appeared in the St. Louis Star. The strip was by Melville, of whom I know nothing, and ran from November 12 1899 to April 8 1900. From tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.

Thanks very much to Cole Johnson who provided these rare samples of the strip.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

 

News of Yore: Murphy Tells Tales on his Fellow 'Comickers'


Some Inside Dope on a Few of My Fellow "Comickers"

By Jimmy Murphy (Circulation, April 1923)

You all know Billy DeBeck, the guy who draws "Barney Google" and his race horse Spark Plug.

Not long ago Billy breezed down to New Orleans to take in the races. The New Orleans paper that runs the Barney Google Strip played it up big, and Spark Plug was the talk of the town.

One evening while seated in a cafe with some friends, DeBeck was approached by some guy, who introduced himself as an owner of race horses. "I've heard a lot about your Spark Plug," pipes the stranger, "and I'm keen on taking a look at him."

"Sure," said DeBeck, it dawning on him that this bimbo imagined Spark Plug to be a real flesh and blood horse, "glad to let you see Sparky any time."

"Where do you keep your horse?" in­quired the stranger.

"Up at my hotel," answered DeBeck, naming the swellest joint in town.

"A horse in a hotel!" exclaimed the stranger, "surely you're joking."

"On the level," said Billy, "you come up to the hotel tomorrow and see for your­self."

Early the next morning DeBeck was awakened by a knock at the door. It was the stranger. "Well, I'm here to take a look at your horse," he said. "I asked the clerks at the desk and they said you really had a horse up here." DeBeck had put the clerks wise.

Billy and his visitor sat down and chatted a couple of minutes. Then DeBeck excused himself and went into an adjoin­ing room, where he backed himself up against the door and proceeded to kick the panels for all he was worth, yelling "Whoa! Whoa." He pulled a perfect imitation of a horse kick­ing against a barn door.


"I'm sorry," said DeBeck on re­turning into the room, where he had left his visitor, "but Sparky's kind of nervous this morning and can't receive callers."

Then Billy broke the news that Spark Plug is only a horse he draws in comic strips. The stranger admitting that he never looked at comics, swished out of the room and slammed the door after him. Billy, feeling ashamed of himself for letting the joke go so far, called the man back, treated him to a little "tea," and squared himself.

In 1904 Goldberg talked the San Francisco Chronicle into giving him a position as sport cartoonist. Being his first job, naturally, it was with considerable pride that Rube took his place in the art room alongside of about fifteen other artists.

The first two months, although he drew a cartoon every day, not one was printed.

One day there was a football game on across the Bay, and the City Editor, a guy named Ernest Simpson, commissioned Goldberg to cover the game and make car­toons of it. The City Editor was particu­larly interested in this game because his son was among the players.

It was Rube's golden opportunity. The Chronicle being a morning paper, he knew he had to have the cartoon in the engrav­ing room by 6 P.M. He figured the game wouldn't be over until 3:30 o'clock, and knew it would take at least thirty minutes to get back to the office. This left him the close margin of two hours or less to make his cartoon.

He carefully laid out his drawing mate­rial on his desk so as not to have to waste a single precious minute looking for things on his return from the game. He laid out pens, pencils, ink, erasers, and drawing paper, besides considerable scrap, that is photos and clippings of foot­ball players in various poses, from which he could copy action, uniforms, etc.

Promptly at 4 o'clock, Goldberg dashed back into the office from the game. No one was in the office - the boys all being out to lunch.

He raced to his desk and to his surprise the drawing material he had laid out had disappeared. His first impression was that someone had put everything inside his desk, but when he tried to pull the drawers out he nearly fainted. Every drawer was nailed up tight.

He frantically tried to pry them open, but without success. Finally, after he had managed to borrow a hammer, remove the nails and get to his drawing material, it was too late to finish his cartoon for the morning paper.

He felt he was ruined. He wanted re­venge. He got hold of a bag of nails and one by one he securely nailed up every drawer in every desk in the art room.

That night when he returned to the office he fully expected to be fired on the spot.

To his surprise, however, when he walked into the art room, al­though every man was at work, no one spoke or even looked up. He sat down at his desk, and just to be doing something, started mak­ing the cartoon of the game in which he included a drawing of the City Editor's son. When Goldbcrg finished the drawing he laid it on the City Editor's desk.

The following day, the cartoon appeared in the Chronicle, and from then on his work was printed every day.

And the gang in the art room left him alone from then on.

I could write many little yarns about Cliff Sterrett whose "Polly and Her Pals" is loved by comic fans the country over.

I might tell about his musical family - how his wife, his son Paul, his brother, big Paul, and himself all play different instru­ments and form a little family orchestra for their own amusement.

I could spring little wheezes about Cliff's funny little Minnesota line of lingo, or jabber about how his friends are always on pins and needles expecting any time to see his trousers drop, which, owing to the loose suspenders he wears, always seem to dangle at the danger point.


I didn't want any libel suit on my hands by springing some story about him on my own initiative, and not having seen Cliff's smiling face about the office in the last week I mailed him the following note:

Dear Cliff:- Don't forget to slip me data for a little story about yourself for pub­lication in Circulation, will you?

Jimmy Murphy

The following is the reply Sterrett sent me:

Garden City, N. Y.

Dear Jim:- The less people know about me the better they'll like me. I'd be a chump to let the flappers who write me know that I'm fat and forty, can't dance, tennis, or bridge; play a rotten game of golf, and swim like an old woman.

I have to stand on a chair to tie my son's dress tie, and my wife bosses me something terrible; but do not think I'd let the public know it? Not on your life. If you want snappy copy write something about some young squirt like Geo. Herriman. He's the Rodolph Valentine of the "Comickers."

"Folks don't care a hang if I was born in 1883, was graduated from kindergarten ten years later, and darn near got into high school in my eighteenth year.

You know that I've worked at every trade there is (including the Scandinavian) until Mr. Hearst took pity on me, but don't you dare breathe it to a soul, James Murphy.

If you must tell them something, tell 'em that I've got a kind heart, despise every known brand of cereal, wear no jewelry except suspenders, and never had a manicure in my life.

Yours truly,
Cliff Sterrett

Thomas Aloysius Dorgan is the full moniker of the gent whose drawings are signed TAD. There isn't anybody who hasn't enjoyed many laughs out of his "Indoor Sports " and other cartoons.

Tad's a guy who can paint pictures with a pen. Herriman said so. Tad's as much at home with boxing gloves on as he is with a pen in his hand. He swings a wicked right. Herriman said so, and he knows! Tad's a great spendthrift - throws his money away almost as recklessly as Harry Lauder - Herriman said so!

Anyway one day several years ago Damon Runyon borrowed sixty-five dollars cold cash from Tad, which he promised to repay the next day.

Early the next morning Runyon breezed into the office and immediately started out to find Tad to repay the sixty-five bucks. But Tad hadn't shown up yet.


Ten o'clock drew around and no Tad in sight. Eleven o'clock, and still Tad failed to put in an appearance. Twelve o'clock came and Tad hadn't arrived, and when the clock struck one, well it was too much for Runyon. He picked up the phone and put in a call for Tad's home at Great Neck.

Mrs. Dorgan answered the telephone. "Hello, Mrs. Dorgan," says Runyon, "this is Damon talking. I want to extend my sincere condolences on the sudden demise of your husband."

"What ails you! Why, there's nothing the matter with my husband," was Mrs. Dorgan's reply, "he's right here in this room, drawing a cartoon!"

"You must be mistaken," said Runyon.

"Most certainly I'm not," retorted Mrs. Dorgan, "I'll let Tad talk to you."

"Oh, never mind," chirped Runyon. "You see I borrowed sixty-five dollars from Tad yesterday. I told him I'd pay him back today. I expected he'd be at the office at 5 A. M. to collect it, and when noon came and he hadn't shown up yet, naturally I thought he'd been in a railroad accident or something, and I feared for the worst. Goodbye."

[note: Circulation was a marketing magazine distributed by Hearst to newspaper editors. It was filled with articles praising the Hearst syndicated features but also featured interesting insider articles like the one above. Copies of this magazine are ridiculously rare, but comics fan and historian Rob Stolzer has managed to amass photostats of a number of issues and he was nice enough to make copies for me to share with you folks on the blog. We'll be featuring articles from Circulation on a semi-regular basis for awhile. Thanks Rob!]

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I love this! Thanks!
 
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Monday, July 28, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: Annie Oakley






In the horse opera mania of the 1950s surprisingly few of the 'classic' wild West characters were revived on the comics pages. The cowboy stars of the silver screen and tube generally seemed more marketable I suppose. One of the exceptions was the LA Mirror syndicate's Annie Oakley entry.

To be fair the Mirror took on the famed distaff sharpshooter only as sloppy seconds. Their Hopalong Cassidy strip, started in 1949, had switched over to King Features and they needed a replacement. I guess they were fresh out of celluloid cowboys at the moment so Annie got the nod, starting on April 2 1951. Doris Schroeder provided the story and Bill Ziegler handled the art chores on the strip. Unlike Hopalong, the replacement strip was only a daily.

Annie Oakley seemed to have a lot going for it. With the whole nation watching westerns in these early days of TV women were probably just as western-centric as their male counterparts, so this strip would seem to have been a welcome counterpoint to all the male-dominated westerns then being offered. The story, at least what I've been able to read of it, is well-handled, and Ziegler's angular and shadowy art lends a lot of atmosphere to the proceedings (although I have to wonder why the syndicate didn't choose an artist who could draw women with a little sex-appeal).

On the other hand I can see newspaper editors looking at their many western strip choices and making safer choices -- Hopalong, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry all had devoted kid audiences presumably ready to devour strips starring their heroes. Annie, on the other hand, wouldn't get the TV treatment until 1954.

Too bad for the strip that it was canceled before the TV show got on the air. It might have breathed a little life into its circulation. Unfortunately it sputtered out well before that. The strip is quite rare throughout its run and I've been able to trace it to at least April 1953. Since it was not listed in the 1953 E&P Syndicate Directory I'm assuming that the official end date was probably in or before August of that year. Can anyone supply a definite end date?

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It's a real shame that with the growth in comic strip reprints we haven't seen any reprints of the western strips that were popular in their day. Strips such as the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, King of the Royal Mounted, and others such as Annie Oakley here have just not seen reprint. Westerns defined their day and western comic strips were a part of that. Publishers, take note, some of these strips are now public domain, so getting rights won't be a problem. But please, lets have reprints of the westerns that were popular in their day.
 
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


Order Jim Ivey's new book Cartoons I Liked at Lulu.com or order direct from Ivey and get the book autographed with a free original sketch.

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Excellent post today, Jim. Any comments on "Bringing Up Father" and the changes it went through over the years?
 
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