Saturday, September 27, 2008

 

Herriman Saturday



This Saturday we bid adieu to the Mayor Harper On Tour series. Unfortunately the final strip (4/26/07) doesn't measure up to the rest of this delightful series, this coda obviously dashed off in a hurry.

After a short rest Herriman was put to work in earnest on the next big event in Los Angeles, a Shriner fiesta bringing fez-topped conventioneers from the four corners of the country. The Shriner's convention would be anticipated and commemorated by a flurry of Herrriman cartoons that will probably take us several Saturdays to work through. Today we have the cartoons of April 29 and May 1. The latter begins yet another previously undocumented Herriman series -- Preparations For Fiesta will run a scant three episodes.

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Shriner fiesta... Is that like the convention Laurel & Hardy snuck off to in 'Sons of the Desert'?
 
Hi Lyn -
Yes, exactly so! They all came to LA for some well-regulated drinking and carousing.

--Allan
 
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Friday, September 26, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: Crazy Charlie


H.E. Godwin's cartoons were a staple in Philadelphia in the oughts, but the vast majority of his work was in the form of one-shots, gag cartoons and spot illustrations. It was only in the period 1902-04 that he contributed Sunday series to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Of the half-dozen series he created, most lasted only a few months, and Crazy Charlie was no exception -- it ran from August 9 to December 13 1903.

I cannot hope to describe this series better than Cole Johnson did when he sent me the scans of this rarity -- he termed it "a sensitive, gentle treatment of the mentally challenged." He also pointed out that the plot is practically a dead ringer for Milt Gross' much later Count Screwloose.

A tip of my Napoleon bicorn to Cole for these samples.

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Milt Gross should sue Mr. Goldberg for such a blatant steal of his character, Count Screwloose from Toulouse.
 
Oops. This is why I shouldn't write posts at 8 in the morning. Tomorrow, Alex Raymond's classic Little Nemo!

--Allan
 
We are working on a post about H.E. Godwin's cartoons at an Ohio library. When we do run it, is it okay if we include a link to your post of Crazy Charlie cartoons? Thanks!
 
Sure.
 
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: Mrs. Bumps Boarding House


We've already discussed the McClure Syndicate's acquisition of the talented and popular Dwig when we covered Uncle Jim, Tad and Tim; here's the other strip Dwig did for their Sunday section.

Mrs. Bumps Boarding House was vintage Dwig, echoing the classic School Days half-page panels he'd previously done for the New York World. The new feature substituted a bunch of oddball boarding house residents for the classroom kids, but the philosophy was precisely the same. Dwig's busy panels were the sort of feature you couldn't appreciate in a quick glance. They took a good bit of study to decode all the activity and the Rube Golberg devices, and in those days newspaper readers were willing to spend some time on a Sunday morning drinking in all the subplots and machinations that intertwined on these precisely constructed panels.

Mrs. Bumps Boarding House began on January 12 1913, changed titles to Mrs. Bumps Cabaret on November 9 and ended on December 28.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: Batman
















The Batman character certainly holds the record for the number of newspaper series that featured him -- the Caped Crusader was syndicated in four separate series over the years, five if you count his supporting role in The World's Greatest Super-heroes.

Without a doubt the most obscure of these series was in 1953, but we'll cover that one some other day. Today we'll take a look at the last series to date. This one attempted to cash in on the 1989 Batman movie that starring that chinless wonder, Michael Keaton -- more suited to playing Andy Gump than Bruce Wayne imho. This series looked very promising when it debuted on November 6 1989 featuring the art of fan-favorite Batman artist Marshall Rogers. His moody, post-modern deco sensibilities were a perfect match for the Gothic Gotham featured in the movie. Writing was handled by Max Allan Collins, the popular Dick Tracy writer and novelist.

The combination of these two major talents was promising but short-lived. I don't know if the short-term pairing was by design or if these guys were disappointed in the lack of success of the strip, but both dropped out after less than three months, ending January 21 1990. The strip was then taken over by the much less exciting team of writer William Messner-Loebs, penciller Carmine Infantino (credited as 'Cinfa') and inker John Nyberg. The new team presented a much more standard-issue approach to the strip, now resembling some of the less inspired comic books featuring the character.

Creators Syndicate was doubtlessly hoping the strip would duplicate the success of The Amazing Spider-Man, one of the only adventure strips of any type that was still going strong by the 1990s. Alas it was not to be and this latest Batman series lost papers in droves after the creative change. The strip was put to rest on August 3 1991.

Our sampling above ends with that final strip of the series.

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Great stuff...I remember the hoopla when the strip started, then the disappointment when Infantino, clearly at the lower end of his career, took over.

Looking at the strips now, though, I sort of have a fondness for that funky Carmine touch!
 
Don't cry until you have seen some of the later sundays...
 
In several ways, I liked the course the plot took in this strip, following different lines than we were seeing in the comic books. One of those plotlines I enjoyed was the one you illustrate here, the physical unmasking of Batman/Bruce as the impetus for the psychological unmasking of Harvey Dent. A nice surprise for those of us who had seen the Two-Face story so many times.

But please, DC, PLEASE reprint the 1966 Batman strip!! Such a wonderful blending of the TV show camp and the fun of the mid- to late-sixties comic books. Such cool and quirky takes on the Bat-mythos, such as Poison Ivy leading a gang of Ivy League co-eds, the oh-so-British Batchap and Bobbin, Batgirl discovering the Batcave while Bruce Wayne was battling amnesia. There's also a great Man-Bat storyline, and I seem to remember both Aquaman and Green Arrow guesting. Please join me in begging DC to reprint this!
 
Surely the final months of the sixties (by then the early seventies) strip qualifies as more obscure. I've never even SEEN a sample strip! I've heard however that there are aliens and the Dynamic Duo out of costume and a bizarre attempot at finding a new direction for the strip.

Oh, and I second the notion that Infantino's stylized art looks kinda nice now although it was jarring at the time. If only that could have gotten Joe Giella to ink it but by then he was well into MARY WORTH.
 
Regarding the later part of the 1966 run, it certainly is extremely obscure, on a par with the 1953 series. I would be very interested to hear from readers who know of papers where it was running in that rare 1972-74 period. I heard that it was running in a Quebec paper, don't know which, but did it run in any US papers?

--Allan
 
I suspect that the last years of the 1960s Batman strip will never be reprinted. This (for those who dont know) was when DC lost control of the strip to the syndicate, who hired non-professionals to produce it. Those of us who saw some of this 'work" know how bad it is...
I cant recall; did it actually become Galaxio?
 
At least one story from the 1960s Batman strip was reprinted, in issues 4 and 5 of the Amazing World of DC Comics (DC's 1970s magazine/fanzine). One blog posted
the start of this reprint.

http://thearrowcave.blogspot.com/2008/08/spotlight-batman-comic-strip.html
 
Booksteve (above) with the help of Todd Hilmer has found a couple samples featuring the debut of Galexo.
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2009/09/galexo-found.html
 
I suspect that the last years of the 1960s Batman strip will never be reprinted.
 
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

 

News of Yore: Hershfeld Plays Second Fiddle to his Creation

From Circulation magazine, September 1922.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

 

Obscurity of the Day: Phil



In the realm of syndicated features they just don't get much more obscure than this. Phil was distributed by the CV Newspaper Service. Not familiar with that outfit? Not surprising. The CV stands for Cornelius Vanderbilt IV. Corny was the Bohemian descendant of the shipping and railroad tycoon, one of the richest men in America. He rejected his family's staunchly conservative values and struck out on his own as a newspaperman. He started a small chain of papers in the early 1920s, a group of liberal muckraking tabloids in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

The attractive tabloids were frozen out from newsstand and street corner distribution by the big players in those cities, and they barely managed to limp along for a few years. Vanderbilt had trouble securing the use of syndicated comics (he probably couldn't have afforded them anyway) so he created his own syndicate. The syndicate's features were offered generally, but I've never seen any of them appear outside the pages of Vanderbilt's own papers. Unfortunately the disdain for Vanderbilt's newspapers was even exhibited by libraries, and only his San Francisco paper even got microfilmed -- the papers are incredibly rare today and for all intents and purposes lost to history.

The lighthearted, goofball adventures of Phil were penned by Charles Gordon Saxton. All I could find out about Saxton beyond this credit is that he wrote the scripts for a few minor Hollywood films in the late 1920s and early '30s, and that he did one of our mystery strips in the 1950s, a phantom feature called Mr. Skootch.

In the San Francisco Daily Herald, Phil ran from December 10 1923 to February 9 1924. It may have lasted a bit longer in Vanderbilt's other papers.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


Order Jim Ivey's retrospective 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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