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.
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.
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?