Saturday, August 23, 2008
No Posts For A Little While
Tropical storm Fay didn't hit us very hard at all, but intermittent power outages zapped the power supply on the computer I use as a holding area for all the Stripper's Guide material. The computer was on a UPS but apparently it had exceeded its useful lifetime for power surges.
I pulled the computer apart to replace the power supply and it turned out to have sort of an oddball one -- I always keep a spare, but my spare doesn't fit this silly HP machine. So there's either a trip to Orlando in my future or a mail order. It's rare to find anyone who sells power supplies locally anymore now that so few people are capable of maintaining their own machines. Newbies!
Fay dumped about 10" of rain on us (so far; it's still raining). In Florida the oak, sweet gum and cypress trees love to soak up all that moisture, but they get a mite greedy and they end up with overly heavy limbs that break off in the wind. So now I have tree limbs all over the yard that have to be cut up and dealt with. So don't worry about me -- I'll not be sitting on my laurels while the computer is dead.
Stripper's Guide posts will resume soon.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The Mysterious Master - C.E. Toles (?)
What you see above is the only reproducible sample I've been able to come up with for one of the greatest yet most mysterious and obscure cartoonists I've ever encountered. Even his name is a mystery -- is it C.E. Toles? T.E. Coles? Something else? From his signature you really can't tell for sure. Ohio State University's index of Bill Blackbeard's collection gives the name as C.E. Toles, but I don't know if that's based on anything more than a guess.
I first encountered this cartoonist's work in the early sections of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but chances are that his work there was reprinted from the New York Journal. Work by Toles is found in the pages of that Hearst paper in the late 1890s -- the sample above was from 1898 -- and he, as did many cartoonists of the times, specialized in one-shot work. And what work it was! Look at the tremendous but seemingly effortless perspective work above and keep in mind that this piece I'm reproducing is chosen only because it's the only one I have in hardcopy. Practically everything Toles did was a masterwork of this caliber or even greater!
The only series I know for certain he did was The Reverend Fiddle D.D. which ran for three months in the New York Journal in 1898. A later series titled The Reverend O. Shaw Fiddle D.D. ran in the Philadelphia Press for three months in 1901, but I haven't been able to compare the two side by side to determine if they are actually two separate series or if the Press version is just reprints with a longer title.
According to OSU's database Toles also did a lot of work for the New York Herald in 1896. Alfredo Castelli's Here We Are Again adds to our tiny knowledgebase with the information that he was doing editorial cartoons at the Washington Post in 1894. He also cites another series, Miss High Kick, in the New York Herald in 1896 but the info is pretty sketchy (not to mention in Italian). Here's a very minor effort, a spot cartoon, by our man Toles on Yesterday's Papers.
So who the heck was this guy, and what did he do with the rest of his life? Surely a cartoonist of his caliber didn't switch professions and spend the rest of his existence as a butcher! I know only of his work from 1894-1901 -- does anyone know anything more about the man or his work?
EDIT: Sara Duke at the Library of Congress has solved the mystery! The fellow's name is T.E. Coles, as evidenced by a byline in an 1895 issue of the Comic Sketch Club. This appearance further tells us that Coles was being syndicated by the International Syndicate of Baltimore at that time (Comic Sketch Club was the 'periodical' containing the weekly press proofs of their syndicate offerings).
Thank you Sara!!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
News of Yore 1922: H.H. Knerr Bloviates
The Katzenjammers' Secret
By Helen Lawson (Circulation, September 1922)
I asked H. H. Knerr, the man who draws the Katzenjammer Kids, to reveal the secret of the enduring charm and popularity of the famous comic.
"You ask me," said H. H. Knerr, "what is the secret of the popularity of the Katzenjammer Kids."
"Exactly," I said. " I ask you—what is the secret of the perpetual popularity of the Katzenjammer Kids?"
Presently H. H. Knerr said:
"I imagine the Kids preserve their appeal from year to year because they express to childhood the dreams that childhood feeds upon, and to maturity the dreams that were cherished in childhood but never came true because the dreams of childhood never do come true.
"As boys we set ourselves some goal or mark of achievement. As men we progress toward that goal, or some other one, limiting ourselves to three meals and a place to sleep until we step across a line some day and taste the thrill of achievement. And just a little later than that we recognize what we have achieved—three meals a day and a place to sleep. The food may be of a little better quality and the couch perhaps more deeply tufted and more yielding, but will be about the only measurable difference.
"Let my own case—since I know most about it—illustrate the point I am trying in illustrate.
"I wanted to be an aeronaut, or aviator as the term is now. Behold me shackled to a drawing board making pictures of the Katzenjammer Kids instead of up in the clouds, soaring at heights where strange birds fly and losing all sense of motion as you do when you journey through the air.
"Perhaps I am better able to draw childhood effectively because my own, in the respect at all events of desiring to become an airman, persisted long into manhood and desisted only in the face of overwhelming discouragement.
"My first experience as an aerialist was on a roof, a hipped affair, such as you still see in cities where families live in houses instead of in three or four rooms nailed together and rented at three times their value as apartments. The roof was next to my father's home, with a galvanized iron gutter at each of its eaves to catch the rain. It was fine fun to sit at the peak of the hip and slide down the slate roof, catching with my heels on the gutter. I really had two chances before falling the thirty feet to the ground. If I missed with my heels, as I sometimes did, I could catch with my hands, which I always did. I never fell. but I was compelled to stop this childish prank by parental authority. Grown people are always interfering with the amusement of children.
"Then I transferred my talents to the dumbwaiter. I would pull myself up to the top of the house and turn loose, thus securing a swift ride to the bottom of the shaft accompanied by a terrific bump. Again my parents became nervous and I was forced to desist. Then I got a glider. It was great.
"We young chaps in Philadelphia had some of the first gliders in the country. They were big planes, without motors, which were attached by ropes to automobiles. We would swing into them, using our bodies to balance the planes, and fly like kites when the automobiles speeded up. The trick was to keep from turning over.
"The gliders were followed by balloons. Those were days of real sport. Once the crew I trained with reached an altitude of 13,000 feet by the simple process of throwing overboard too much sand by mistake.
"Ballooning, gliding and all the rest of it ended when I came to New York to draw the Katzenjammer Kids, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming of the old life.
"The world is full of men like me. Citizens in a settled way of life who at one time wanted to be something romantic—policemen, firemen, sailors, taxi drivers or even an iceman. And how many boys do you think there are today who are dreaming the dream of themselves at the window of an engine cab, eyes on the track ahead, one hand on the throttle of a monster locomotive and the other on the air brake controller, master of a trainful of precious lives while the giant engine plunges through the blackness of the night.
"The secret then of the hold on human hearts of the Katzenjammer Kids lies with all the fat men who want to be thin and the thin ones who want to put on weight. I have no doubt that many a burglar dreams of the sermons he could preach if he only had the education to enter a pulpit, and probably many a harassed clergyman believes in his heart that he would have made the most efficient safe blower in the world if it hadn't been for the conscience that tied his hands.
"In other words only the cold necessity of three meals a day and a place to lay our heads down, has prevented the phenomenon of a world filled to overflowing with overgrown Katzenjammer Kids."
Labels: News of Yore
mystery about a Mike Hammer Sunday page, perhaps you have the answer
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Our Neighbors
Burt Thomas was the editorial cartoonist for the Detroit News from 1912 to 1951, and he produced a long-running syndicated Sunday strip, Mr. Straphanger, for them. As far as I knew until recently that was the only strip that the Detroit News ever syndicated.
I also had no idea that Thomas did any other strips, but then came across a small cache of Our Neighbors offered on eBay awhile ago, and further determined that this strip was also syndicated. Our Neighbors started on May 31 1915 and ran until at least July of that year (the dates of my samples). For all I know it ran much longer, a question I'll be attempting to answer, along with a thousand or so others, when I next visit the Library of Congress.
Burt Thomas was, at least by informal account of one cartoonist who met him, a consummate jerk whose very family couldn't stand him. I don't know about that, but gawd the man could draw. Fellow cartoonists may look upon the samples above and despair that they will most likely never learn to spot their blacks with such drama as Thomas.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Dick Clark's Rock, Roll and Remember
Dick Clark's media empire decided to try extending itself to the Sunday comics with Dick Clark's Rock, Roll and Remember. The strip, which was actually a sequence of unrelated individual panels, traded in trivia and factoids about rock-n-rollers of the 50s-70s. The title was cribbed from Clark's biography and syndicated radio show of the same name.
The feature might have done well if it had been available about a decade and a half earlier in the midst of the 50s nostalgia boom, but the strip's debut on September 25 1994 was met with anything but a rousing round of applause from newspaper editors, even the fogiest of whom knew darn well that this craze had been tapped out.
The feature was crafted by good hands. It was written by Fred Bronson, the Chart Beat columnist for Billboard magazine who has an encyclopedic knowledge of rock music history. It was drawn by Don Sherwood, whose lovely clear line style has, unfortunately, graced an awful lot of short-run stinker strips over the years. This one wouldn't change his luck.
The strip was credited to Olive Enterprises, a Dick Clark company that handled his endorsements, but was actually distributed by the Chicago Sun-Times, which had otherwise gotten out of the strip distribution business in 1984 when Field Enterprises was sold off to the Darth Vader of newspapers, Rupert Murdoch. The strip lasted well into 1995 but I haven't found a definitive end date, and the 1995 E&P directory claims there was also a daily version which I have yet to locate.
Sunday, August 17, 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
I remember trying to look up Yardley, to see if there were any collections of his works...couldn't find any, but I did see references that he did work on election broadcasts by the Sun's TV station in the 50s. Caricatures, perhaps?
All of Jim's books come with a faint cigar smell. I have some that I got in his shop over 30 years ago and when I open them up, it's like a time machine.
Another of the great things about spending time with Jim [besides the cigar smoke -- which never bothered me] was his great stories. I am so glad that Alan is giving Jim a forum and that Jim is using it to full effect.
I am already looking forward to next Sunday!
- Craig Zablo
I assume Jim meant Richard rather than Ralph since Ralph was retired (and perhaps dead) by that time. Considering I'm having trouble keeping the two Yardleys straight just to write this message I think Jim's error fifty years after the event is eminently forgivable. I didn't catch the error in Jim's toon even after looking up in my files which was which to respond to your initial question!