Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Wrangle Flats

No mere samples for you comics lovers today, here we have the entire run of Wrangle Flats -- all two of 'em.

This is the very first titled series by the great but often-maligned T.E. Powers. It appeared in the New York World (and in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as seen here) on October 14 and 21 1900. Powers was already an old hand at cartooning -- his work appeared in the pioneering Chicago Inter-Ocean way back in 1893.

Powers did some beautiful design work on these two pages, as usual he was ahead of his time. The middle section of the top strip, with panels combining into a cross-section of the apartment building, is particularly impressive. One didn't often see such avant-garde graphic flourishes on the comics pages of the day. The humor is also a cut above the norm, cosmopolitan and satirical when the typical fare was bratty kids, hayseed farmers and mush-mouthed racist stereotypes. Powers wrote for adults -- let the knee-biters look elsewhere for their weekly dose of slapstick.

Much thanks to Cole Johnson, scanner of today's obscurities.


Why was Powers "often-maligned"? I'm not terribly familiar with his work, but it's obviously several notches above what some other cartoonists were doing back in the day.
Perhaps "Maligned" in the sense that he was often disregarded, as his simplistic style got sloppier as time went on. Soon after this he went to work for Hearst, often doing the editorial on the back page of the evening papers in the chain. By the 30's these are pretty slapdash and often confusing in the point he tries to make.
Incidentally, the moving sidewalk at the Paris exposition that year was among the marvels that really caught the world's imagination, and probably inspired the cartoon above.
yours, GRIZEDO
Hi Hugo --
Some folks, obviously myopic, have been calling Powers the world's worst cartoonist for many years. One of them is the usually more perceptive Tom Heintjes, who takes pretty regular jabs at him in Hogan's Alley.

Thanks Allan, and Grizedo. I've got some issues of "Hogan's Alley," but I guess I haven't noticed (or just don't remember) the shots at Powers. Great mag, though.
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