Thursday, August 07, 2008
News of Yore 1952: Napoleon Moves to the Coast
"Napoleon" Strip Moves To Mirror Syndicate
By Erwin Knoll (E&P, 9/20/52)
The "Napoleon and Uncle Elby" strip, one of the old-timers on newspaper comic pages, gets a new syndicate outlet next month. Mirror Enterprises Syndicate, Los Angeles, will handle distribution of the strip beginning with the daily release for Oct. 13 and the Sunday release for Oct. 19. Lafave Newspaper Features, Cleveland, has serviced the strip since its inception 20 years ago.
"Napoleon" nearly wound up on the scrap heap of dead newspaper features last year when its original creator, Clifford McBride, died. Subscribing editors, aware of the strip's distinctive art style and old-time flavor, saw little possibility of its continuation. But Margot McBride, the artist's widow, was determined not to let the strip die.
She hired Roger Armstrong, a former student and assistant of her husband's, to draw the strip, and herself took on the job of conceiving ideas, writing dialogue and supervising the art work. Together they maintain the style of Mr. McBride's old-time art and humor, despite the fact that Mrs. McBride is 29 and he 34.
As proof of their success Rex Barley, manager of MES, cites the fact that some papers which dropped the strip at the time of Mr. McBride's death have returned to the fold, while new ones have been added.
Labels: News of Yore
With the death of Jack Kamen, I was wondering if his (and George Thatcher's) comic strip "Inspector Dayton" ever appeared in newspapers.
I notice you don't have it in the Mystery Strips, but I haven't found anything to assure me that it actually ran in the papers.
refresh our memory how long did it run by Armstrong?
The feature was advertised one more time, in 1974, by Jerry Iger's Phoenix Features, obviously now offered in reprints.
Steven - Napoleon was put down in 1960. And I don't know if Clifford had himself a child bride or if Margot subscribed to the Jack Benny school of age reporting. From the grainy pic I'm gonna guess the latter.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Uncle Jim and Tad and Tim
Dwig created a page that featured today's obscurity, Uncle Jim and Tad and Tim, as a half page strip along with Mrs. Bump's Boarding House. The page debuted on January 12 1913. Apparently the presence of Dwig was not the draw that could save the McClure section because in the 1913-14 period the client list for the McClure section continued to dwindle.
My guess is that McClure might have been their own worst enemy in this period. It's pretty common to find papers switching to the McClure section only to switch again to another syndicate within a few weeks or months. Perhaps McClure's distribution system was unreliable, perhaps they couldn't compete with the pricing from other syndicates. Whatever it was, they seemed to be letting major paper clients slip through their fingers.
Uncle Jim and Tad and Tim is a deliciously pleasant trifle -- Jim and his two young nephews are like the Katzies on Prozac. The kids get into some minor mischief, or Jim plays a trick on the kids, but the action is so low key and the bonhomie of the characters so heartfelt that the overall impression is that the players just got together on a languorous Sunday afternoon to entertain us with some little tableau that they all cooked up together.
By 1914 Uncle Jim and Tad and Tim is appearing in so few papers and so irregularly and sporadically that it is all but impossible to tell when the last strip was offered. My best guess is an end date of September 13 1914 (found in the Atlanta Constitution). But they could have been running it late ... anyone have some corroborating data to share?
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
News of Yore: Goldberg on Editorial Cartooning
Seriously Speaking of Comic Artists
By R. L. (Rube) Goldberg (Circulation, April 1923)
Why have the present day comics superseded the old-fashioned political cartoons in public favor? By political cartoonists I mean the artists before the day of the inspired pens of Winsor McCay, Tom Powers, Opper, Harry Mayshy, Williams and the like.
I'm not sure that I know the answer, so I'll tell you all about it.
It was not an unusual thing, when I started in the newspaper game, for a kind friend to ask me with a look of pity in his eye and a sympathetic tremble in his voice, "Do you expect to go in for something serious and big and really worthwhile like political cartooning some day?" I was just an insignificant lowbrow drawing idiotic beings with putty noses and lumpy heads. The famous men of the day were dealing with national subjects in their cartoons. No newspaper cartoon was considered great unless it included one or all of the following symbols: the Republican elephant; the Democratic mule; Uncle Sam; the goddess of Justice; the earth; Father Time; George Washington; Abraham Lincoln; and the Dawn of a new Era.
The few comic artists whose daily cartoons were being published at that time were looked upon as youthful freaks who appealed to a low order of intelligence with their odd creations. The work seemed to have no definite purpose other than to give the heavy thinker a little relaxation by letting him see the results of the workings of a disordered brain. The comics were not believed to have any relation to human life as it really exists.
The comic artist was supposed to be developing himself with his pen so that some day he could draw a picture of the White House or something else that had a little sense to it. All his preparatory work in the comic line was a total loss.
Of course, there were great political cartoonists in those days. And there are a few today. But people were inclined to gauge the bigness of a man's work by the greatness of the symbols he employed rather than by the work itself and the idea in back of it all. A cartoonist could draw a picture of the President of the United States looking at Niagara Falls and call it "Why Not?" and people would say it's big stuff because he handled great subjects. A man who drew pictures of United States Senators was a greater cartoonist than a man who drew pictures of police judges.
As for the comic artist who drew pictures of people and things that had no fancy titles at all, he was just a plain nut.
If anyone tells you that the world hasn't gone ahead a little at least, just tell him he's talking through his brown fedora.
People have learned that the comic artist is not shooting at the moon. He is trying to hit something that is very near you — in fact somewhere inside of you near the heart. The seemingly small things that he centers his drawings around are really much bigger than the Republican elephant and the Democratic mule. They are as big as life itself. And they are much closer to the average man than any composite picture of the whole universe.
The newspaper readers seem to have gotten wise to some of the political bunk at least. They won't bother about a political cartoon now unless they know there is a good idea in back of it. You can show them a whole row of Uncle Sams and instead of saying, " Isn't it wonderful!" they will ask, "How do you play it?"
The comic man is out of the nut class because people now know that the symbols he uses are really the symbols of human nature. They are very definite and they strike home. They are the smallest and at the same time the biggest things we know. Why, once in a while, they even ask us to come to dinners and meetings and say something!
Don't think for a minute I'm trying to convey the idea that a comic artist is a man with a message. Heaven forbid! We'll leave that distinction to visiting statesmen from Europe.
But the home folks know what we are getting at and no one ever asks any more when we expect to branch out into something big like political cartooning.
I met three political cartoonists yesterday who were trying to get into the comic game.
[of course it turns out that Rube was making jokes on himself in this article since he eventually decided that he wanted to be an editorial cartoonist and forsook the comic strippers' fraternity]
Labels: News of Yore
Anything labeled "News of Yore" on my blog is a reprint of a vintage article so I make no claim to it.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Chaos
Chaos may have just been another in the parade of Far Side wannabes, but the feature and its creator have an interesting biography.
Brian Shuster claimed to have created Chaos in 1989, but the earliest evidence I can find for its existence is in 1994 when it was being offered by Daily Features Syndicate of Los Angeles. Although Editor & Publisher talked of it as if it were a real syndicate, complete with marketing manager spokesman, a little Google sleuthing revealed that the syndicate was actually based in a private home on a residential street in LA.
So presumably Shuster was self-syndicating his Far Side knockoff, a seven day a week feature in which the Sunday was little more than a color daily (see above). But Shuster had a knack for marketing. When Gary Larson announced that he was retiring his feature, Shuster started a marketing campaign guaranteed to both get him clients and infuriate Larson and his syndicate.
Shuster sent out a marketing piece to prospective clients in which a letter from Gary Larson himself said that Chaos was the feature that he endorsed for taking over his spot. Only problem was that the Larson who penned the letter was not the Gary Larson, just a guy Shuster picked out of the LA phone book.
Shuster claimed it was all meant as a light-hearted joke and nothing came of Universal's threats of a lawsuit. It did, however, seem to work like a charm. Shuster boasted in 1995 that he now had 220 client papers for his feature, an astounding number in the fractured marketplace looking for Far Side replacements.
With that number of papers taking his feature it was inevitable that the major syndicates would come calling, and King Features carried away the dubious prize of Chaos. Only problem was that Shuster seemed to already be losing interest in working on it himself. He later claimed that by this time he just wrote the gags and had several cartoonists drawing the panels. Note on the samples above the credit to "PanGaniBan".
King Features dropped the feature in 1996 after a very short run and Shuster went back to self-syndication. He was now more focused on the internet, though. Shuster started a site running his Chaos cartoons and also started some porno websites. Chaos finally ended in 1998, but the porn sites lived on. Facing a huge number of competitors in that market, Shuster realized that he needed to bring his mind for marketing to bear on the problem of gaining traffic.
Shuster was apparently a technical whiz as well as full of marketing savvy. Though few know his name, he was quite possibly the most hated man in America for several years because Brian Shuster has the distinction of having created the web pop-up ad. Though he failed to properly protect the idea and thus didn't become a zillionaire, few are interested in disputing the claim that he was the first to annoy millions of users with those incessantly appearing gimmicks.
The pop-up porn king eventually left all that behind him and is now running a virtual reality social networking site called utherverse.com.
You can read an interview with Shuster here: Porn's Prince of Pop-Ups Speaks.
Sunday, August 03, 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.
Labels: Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Saturday, August 02, 2008
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!
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
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.
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?
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.