Thursday, February 26, 2009

 

Obscurity of the Day: Lancelot






Lancelot was introduced by the NEA syndicate on March 16 1970, back in the days when thoughtless, boorish husbands were apparently supposed to be funny. The newlyweds Lori and Lance are getting to know each others faults and foibles in the strip. Lance is an utter clod, while Lori is so in love that it barely registers. I can hardly imagine a more depressing strip -- most every episode I read only makes me wonder how long this is going to go on before Lori divorces this loser. Well, the divorce never came but the strip ended on April 29 1972. I figure about two years had to be all Lori could stand of this guy, and readers were happy to see them go. Would have been kind of interesting to actually see comic strip characters go through a divorce, though ... that would be a first! Maybe it would have started a trend -- Jiggs divorces Maggie for physical cruelty, Loweezy divorces Snuffy for lack of support -- hey, this starts to sound kind of interesting!

It's too bad that the strip had such a stinker of a hook, because the team of artist Paul Coker, Jr. and writer Frank Ridgeway were certainly capable of excellent work.

Ridgeway had been the gag-writer for Mister Abernathy, a King Features strip, since it began in 1957. Ridgeway took the pseudonym "Penn" to write Lancelot, presumably because King wouldn't have wanted him moonlighting for a second syndicate. Good thing, though, because it meant he never had to take any public credit for Lancelot.

Paul Coker, Jr., a superb cartoonist with an instantly recognizeable style, was already a Mad magazine veteran with a strong following. He was also well-known to anyone who watches TV Christmas specials -- Frosty The Snowman and other Rankin-Bass projects were blessed with his terrific character designs. His style was so widely copied in the 70s that it became cliché, hurting his later career. Like Adam West or Leonard Nimoy, he was a victim of his own popularity.

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Comments:
"His style was so widely copied in the 70s that it became cliché, hurting his later career."

He did have one more animation job, though.

In 2002 Cartoon Network had a short-lived series called "Robot Jones", which had a loose art-style similar to Coker's (I think it was even pointed out in the press release, although I don't remember).

Looking at the credits in one episode, I discovered that Paul actually did in fact work on the show as a character designer.
 
I remember this one debuting in the local paper complete with an article mentioning Coker's MAD-ties, which was probably the only reason I followed this strip being such a fan of that humor magazine at the time! This is probably going to be the only obscurity you'll mention on this blog that I ever read during its initial run!
 
Acoording to Who's Who Coker did another strip around the same time. I wouldn't mind seeing that one as well.
 
What strikes me as particularly unusual is that this strip, which debuted in 1970, depicted a married couple sleeping in separate beds. This is particularly jarring given the more-or-less modern appearance of the artwork. I realize that the comic pages are among the more conservative elements of the newspaper but I wouldn't have expected to see that in the 1970s.
 
Hi Ger -
Unfortunately I've never found "Horace and Buggy", the collaboration between Coker and Duck Edwing, running in any paper. Does anyone have tearsheets for this strip, or know a paper that ran it?

--Allan
 
Many people slept in separate beds in 1970. This wasn't a cinematic convention, it was a reflection of real life.
 
Glad you ask, Allan, but "Horace and Buggy". I don't know anything about that, but, I do know Coker and Ewing did a series of strips on bugs that was printed in Mad magazine in 1969. Maybe this might be the one you thinking of!
 
Given Bails' track record on newspaper credits, it wouldn't surprise me if "Horace and Buggy" was that Mad magazine series, mistakenly listed under newspaper credits. Or maybe Coker and Edwing shopped a Mad-inspired strip around to syndicates. However, the fact that Bails has it running smack dab in the middle of Lancelot's run makes me wonder.

--Allan
 
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