Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Our Moving Pictures

The name T.E. Powers is often invoked with snickers these days; cartooning fans say his style was childish and I've even heard it said that he was the world's worst cartoonist. I am a vigorous dissenter on that score. I think Powers was a fabulous stylist. Yes, one of his several styles was intentionally naive, and yes, he did use stick figures on occasion (on his famed Joys and Glooms characters). One of these days I've got to put together a post or two showing some of his gorgeous work from the 1900's though -- his clean-line style of that era will, I'm confident, stop his detractors in mid-derision.

Powers rarely invaded the Sunday color section of the Hearst papers, where he was employed doing a daily comic strip for two decades. Powers did, however, create filler strips for the Sunday section when called on to do it. Most of his Sunday contributions were not seen in New York. They were produced specifically to send out to client papers to fill in when a half-page ad ran in the New York American.

Our Moving Pictures is an exception to the rule -- it ran in the New York American from April 10 to August 14 1910. In this series Powers riffs on silent films by doing pantomime strips. It is interesting to note that later "movie strips" like Minute Movies et al., even though they were in the days of silent films, talked up a storm. What's with that? Powers is the only one who got it right! Hmmph.


This one panel has more skill and pure, natural motion in it than practically anything I can think of. I mean, does ANYONE these days really appreciate how difficult it is to draw ordinary people doing ordinary things??? Great choice for a sample. Thanks Allan.
Apologies ... I meant, "This one PAGE ..."
I like the style, too, but what's that on the woman's head?
I assumed they were bobbypins.
I've seen lots worse art than this in old strips. I agree with Mr. Sleestak: the page shows a nice appreciation of everyday motion.

The silent movie theme reminds me of George Carlson's "movies" in Judge. His too were silent. Funny, until you pointed it out, it never occurred to me that the talkies hit the comics long before they did the movie houses.
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