Saturday, January 17, 2009

 

Herriman Saturday


Sunday, June 16 1907 -- Taken on its own, Herriman's cartoon doesn't yield well to interpretation; in fact he's more or less illustrating an editorial by the Examiner's sports guru, C. E. Van Loan. Van Loan was given to tortuous flights of hyperbole, and in today's editorial on boxing he takes the metaphor of crockery for stamina to heights, or depths, never before plumbed. Luckily the photocopy on which the cartoon appeared includes almost all of Van Loan's article, so here it is for your edification:

HAS DANE RETAINED STAMINA? IS ASKED

Question Will Not Be Answered Until Great Little Lightweight Again Enters Squared Circle

BY C.E.VAN LOAN

The pitcher which makes too many trips to the well gets chipped in time, and it does not make any difference how durable the pitcher is to begin with. Dresden china Is likely to go out of business the very first iourney. The old stone mug will make several round trips, but they both meet on the ash heap when all is over.

Constant dropping wears away the granite and a constant popping on the chin will get the toughest fighter that ever pushed his gnarled mitts into a padded glove. All of which brings us very naturally to the question now agitating the public mind:

Did that old black well at Goldfield chip a hole in Bat Nelson's jar, or didn't it?

Tom Sharkey was the proprietor of a very tough mug—and this goes both ways even if he sees it. He carried it to all sorts of wells all the way from Honolulu to Belfast, Ireland. He never shirked a chance to trot his stoneware out on the firing line and it was a nice mark and easy to hit. One night he went up against a man named Jeffries in San Francisco. The mug didn't break, but it lost a few chips here and there. Two years later Sharkey tried again at Coney Island and after the fight was over he had nothing left but the handle. He made a few trips to various wells after that but he carried nothing away. Jeffries put Sharkey's mug out of business. Kid Broad was another lad with a fine durable stamina jar. A Mexican person got a good crack at Broad's crockery one night in Butte and now the unbeaten boy with the harelip is chief booster for a rubberneck automobile. HIS jar went out of business and it never held water after

[missing from photocopy]

mending will make it the same again. The mischief is done when the flrst crack appears.

Young Corbett carried his pitcher to the well where the wealthy water sparkles. The Tiffany water ate the lining out of Rothwell's jar, and it was not long before all the second-raters were carrying away bits of crockery as souvenirs.

Eddie Hanlon once had a stein that nobody could dent. He was so proud of this fact that he carted it to every well he could find. Everybody had a crack at Hanlon's indestructible property. And one day the bottom dropped out. Fellow named Yonug Corbett did it, but there is a theory that Eddie's stein had been weakened by several bombardments.

At the present time there is a small well In the middle of the featherweight field entirely surrounded by bits of crockery of all kinds. Just how long Attell will remain in the business is a matter for conjecture.

Of late years Bat Nelson has been the wonder of the lightweight division. Of all the crockery his has been the toughest and most often assaulted. He won out in the endurance class and he won all by himself.

At Goldfield Nelson's jar went up against a fearful bumping. No other jar would have stood it so long. Ever since then Bat has been keeping his crockery under cover. Those who claim to have had peeps at it say that there is a hole In the bottom and that it will never hold the golden fluid again.

If this is true Nelson has gone the way of the world. The man was never born who could stand an unlimited amount ol slam-banging, and it is a significant fact that the tougher a man is the worse he breaks when he breaks at all.

If Nelson no longer has the stamina that enabled him to stand up and present his jaw to the star thumpers of the light weight division, he will be the softest mark in the business from now on. If his jar Is still intact lightweights will do

[missing from photocopy]

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Friday, January 16, 2009

 

Obscurity of the Day: Hans

In 1906 the powers that be at the Chicago Tribune evidently noticed the popularity in American newspapers of reprinting cartoons from European publications. Many, many papers ran them regularly in the 1890s-1910s. The cartoons were clipped from British, French and German humor magazines, translated as necessary and run in place of homegrown material.

Thing is, apparently the Trib folks didn't quite understand the dynamics of the popularity. It wasn't because these imported cartoons were particularly funny -- generally they weren't, especially after translation. It wasn't that they were well drawn -- generally they weren't, especially after suffering the indignity of being replated as 2nd or 3rd generation fuzzy, blotchy versions of the originals. It wasn't that newspaper readers even had any great craving for them -- in those days if you really wanted to read European cartoons you could get the imported magazines from any well-stocked newsstand.

The popularity of these cartoons boiled down to one thing -- money. Newspapers loved them because there were no royalties to be paid. Material from foreign publications was regularly and systematically plundered in those days without any payment to the original publishers or creators. Now if you were a newspaper publisher looking at your bottom line, would you hire on a cartoonist or get the (sort of) equivalent material practically free for the pittance of replating some clippings from a magazine that cost you all of a quarter? Don't want to mess with translations and replating? No problem. There were suppliers who would do the dirty work for you and supply printing plates all ready to go for a negligible price -- the syndicates that supplied the material did it cheap because their outlay on the creative end was a big fat zilch.

It's my belief that the popularity of reprinted Euro cartoons led the Chicago Tribune people to make the erroneous assumption that the public had some intense craving for this material. In response they sought out a group of German magazine cartoonists to supply them with most of the contents of their Sunday funnies section starting in 1906.

As best I can tell all the cartoonists submitted their material direct from their native Germany, though I've seen a few declarations to the contrary. The Teutons generally preferred to do one-shot strips, but most did also produce a few continuing series. Of course the best-known are Lyonel Feininger's Kin-Der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie's World. Today, though, we take a look at Hans, the only series done by Karl Pommerhanz. Pommerhanz, I read on Lambiek.net, was a longstanding regular at the humor magazine Fliegende Blätter. He occasionally was credited in the Trib as Kunstmaler ("Painter") Pommerhanz, and his home of Munich was always prominently mentioned.

The star of the strip was a bit of an enigma -- was he a tramp, a traveller, a gentleman, a thief, a ne'er-do-well? Tick off all the above because Pommerhanz seemed to have no concrete ideas on the subject. No matter, though, because the strips were pretty rudimentary offerings. The writing would have been more at home in an 1850s humor book, the art had a similarly antique feel. The story and pacing remind me of the proto-comics of Rudolphe Topffer more than the sort of offerings that looked at home in the pages of a 1900s American Sunday comics section.

Hans had a very short run, appearing from July 8 to August 19 1906 in the microfilm I reviewed. However, that comes with an asterisk because OSU in their Pommerhanz material have Hans strips they claim date as late as September 9. Two possible explanations occur to me -- first that their tearsheets came from another paper that printed the material late. This explanation is doubtful, though, because the Trib was singularly unsuccessful at syndicating their Sunday funnies at this time. Second, perhaps these Hans strips appeared on the reverse side of Feininger material which was all missing from the Tribune microfilm I reviewed (undoubtedly some miscreant had plundered the bound volumes for these valuable pages long before the microfilmers got to it). Only a trip to OSU to examine these pages will solve the mystery and I've added that little job to my vast 'to be researched' list.

The Tribune (or their readers) soon tired of the German Sunday funnies and all the Fritzes, Karlses and Hanses were gone by the end of 1907, the end of an interesting experiment in imported Sunday funnies.

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Hi Allan! Here's some help with your mystery: we have Hans pages that appeared in the Trib from June 17 through Dec 30, 1906.
 
Good night. I am stupid twice over. I did check in with your site when I was writing the post, since I know you cover Trib material well, but didn't find anything for Hans since I didn't search around for a link to 'Various Trib Germans'.

Okay, so you spoon-feed me where I need to go, and I'm looking over the Hans strips. I come upon the one I scanned for this post. Hmm .. obviously Thrillmer's screwed up because he lists that strip as being from 12/9/06 and I have nothing beyond my stated end date in the post. I go check my inventory, and sure enough, it is from 12/9/06. I really gotta stop writing these posts in the morning. Apparently two cups of coffee no longer is enough to kick my brain out of neutral.

Thanks Thrillmer.

--Allan
 
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

 

Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: The Misadventures of a Roving Cartoonist



The Misadventures of a Roving Cartoonist -- The Lone Ranger's Secret Sidekick


by Tom Gill with Tim Lasiuta
Five Star Publications, 2008
244 pages, 9.5" x 6.5" hardcover
$29.95
ISBN 978-1-58985021-7

The back of this book contains a 'comicography' for Tom Gill, page after page of art credits. Looking through that long list you can't help but wonder how this workhorse cartoonist had time for any adventures that didn't occur within a few feet of his drawing table. Obviously he was chained to the darn thing.

But adventure he did. Before Gill's recent passing he put together a memoir of sorts, an account that dwells mostly on his overseas tours to visit armed forces bases where he put on chalk talk shows for the troops. The stories of those trips are delightful, frank and wittily told. Gill had a knack for getting into interesting scrapes on these trips. He gets pinned in a car wreck, marooned in a blizzard, stuck in an air transport that runs out of gas and goes into a vertical dive. Some adventures aren't of the life-threatening variety, like the hilarious story of his encounter with a masseuse in Japan who is intent on selling him a 'happy ending'.

Although Tom Gill was primarily a comic book artist and therefore seemingly beyond the purview of the Stripper's Guide blog, he did have a syndicated strip for a few years ("Flower Potts" for the New York Herald-Tribune) and he discusses this experience along with a chapter about his days on the art staff at the New York Daily News. Also of interest to the newspaper comic strip fan are the capsule bios in the back of the book that provide background on the cartoonists Gill encounters in the rest of the book. Some of these are surprisingly informative with some insider information that I'd not encountered before.

Gill apparently wrote the chapters of this book over a long period and for different audiences, and certain episodes are repeated. Tim Lasiuta, who put the material together for publication, really should have done some editing to tighten it up. Instead he seems to have taken the tack that Gill's essays are sacrosanct; unfortunate but not that big a deal. Also in the minus column is the section of photos and Gill drawings -- the photos are badly reproduced and the original art is a miscellany of material that does not represent so much Gill's best work as what happened to be conveniently at hand when the book was being readied for publication.

These few problems aside, this is a delightful book that will make for a pleasant evening of reading by the fire on one of these cold winter nights. Being in Florida, I read it on a chaise longue basking in the sun, but we can't all be that lucky.

You can order this book at Amazon.com and give Stripper's Guide a little kickback on the purchase by clicking through on the Amazon 'recommended books' widget in the left siidebar of this blog page (you may have to scroll down a-ways).

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Thanks Allan.

Yes, we did largely leave Tom's writing alone. He passed away before the book deal was signed and his sight was shot so we kep true to his manuscript with some spelling and corrections. The stories no one could verify details and as a result, we used what we had.

It was fun to write and even better to see in print. This was his tribute and life for his grandkids.

As for the art. We used the best we could. Comic book art is tough to find from the books Tom worked on. And, I have only ever seen 1 example of original flower Potts art. His photos were scanned by Trish and we did not get to do justice to them.

Enjoy the read.
 
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

 

Obscurity of the Day: Suburban Cowgirls


Suburban Cowgirls should have been a bigger hit than it was. Positioned in the chick-strip genre about halfway between the vapidities of Cathy and the outright snarkiness of Sylvia, Suburban Cowgirls should have been eminently appealing to the vast middle-aged female audience.

The strip stars Max, an attractive frizzy-haired thirty-something with two kids and a job as a radio personality at WMOM, "the radio station that rocks the hand that rocks the cradle." She and her co-stars fight all the typical day-to-day battles waged in suburbia -- raising kids, juggling work with family, making ends meet. Suburban Cowgirls hits all the right notes to appeal to the same crowd that made Baby Blues a runaway hit while featuring slightly edgier and layered characters who make more of an impression.

The strip was created by Janet Alfieri, writer, and Ed Colley, artist, for the small Memorial Press Group newspaper chain in Massachusetts; it first appeared on Thanksgiving Day 1987. Once the pair had gotten their feet wet in the chain's few papers they submitted their strip to syndicates and were picked up by Tribune Media Services. The strip went national on October 1 1990 as a daily and Sunday strip.

The strip looked like it was taking off quite well; it was picked up immediately by some big papers, and book collections were published in 1992 and 1993. For reasons unknown the strip could never seem to reach the next level, though, and the client list didn't seem to grow. Finally sometime in 1999 the feature was put out to pasture. Alfieri continued as a newspaper writer and Colley as an editorial cartoonist for the paper chain at which Suburban Cowgirls was created.

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Suburban Cowgirls ran from 1990 to 1998 in the Cincinnati Post. It was discontinued that year.
 
Hi Henkster -
My 1999 end date is based on Colley's self-written bio in "Attack of the Political Cartoonists". There he states that the strip ran until 1999. I don't have samples even from '98 so I'm just going off of what he says. The strip certainmly did seem to drop off in popularity in those last years. Anyone got a definitive end date to share?

--Allan
 
I went into the Google archive and found out that I posted on Nov. 20, 1998 that the Post would discontinue Suburban Cowgirls the following day (the Post's replacement was Rose is Rose, which they foolishly got rid of in 2003).

THe Post kept on running the strip even though they dropped Funky Winkerbean and FoxTrot (because the editor didn't want to see the word HELL in a comic strip)
during SG's Post run. It would have been interesting to see how much interest Lisa's cancer story would have gotten here had Funky remained.
 
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

 

Excerpts from Louis Sobol's "The Longest Street"

I'm going to save you the price of a book today. I purchased a copy of Louis Sobol's memoir The Longest Street (1968, Crown Publishing) because the author began his career as a Broadway columnist at the wild and woolly New York Evening Graphic. Always hungry for any information about the goings-on at that paper, I was disappointed with my investment in the book since Sobol devotes very little space to the subject.

I did, however, find a few interesting passages about cartoonists and I figured I'd save you from reading a 450 page book yourself in order to ferret out these little gems.

The Sad Declining Years of Carl Schultze
"In an earlier book of mine, Some Days Were Happy, I dwelt briefly on a long-forgotten cartoonist, Carl E. Schultze. Now I'd like to present the complete story.

Back in April of 1935, I ran a line to the effect that Schultze, creator of the highly popular comic strip "Foxy Grandpa" which was originated in the New York Herald at the turn of the century and then moved on to the New York American and other Hearst papers, was reported eking out a meager living drawing posters for YMCAs.
Two days later came a letter from Schultze, confessing that for more than a year he had lodged at the Twenty-third Street YMCA turning out cards and posters for the branch. "But," he added, "things look brighter now, and I'm planning to modernize the old character and give him new life in book form."

In the same mail arrived a note from Karl T. Marx, Secretary of the German-American Conference Relief Committee, advising that the veteran cartoonist had applied at the office for help and been assigned to interview applicants for jobs.

I was filled with melancholy over the plight of an artist who in his day ranked with the top-drawer cartoonists—as readers of my generation certainly should recall—for many of us had been ardent fans of the genial, philosophical character Schultze had created.

A week later, another note arrived from Schultze. "Your 'Voice of Broadway' certainly started something. The latest is the Associated Press which came in here yesterday with a fine hurray—pictures and everything. From the quiet tranquil life, I have suddenly found myself in a whirlwind of activity—a sort of dust storm—but gold dust. Even if none gathers down around me, I've certainly got the old works tuned up and am happily on my way. Anyway I have known for quite a few years past the things most worthwhile in life and haven't a single kick to register. Life can always be good—it's silly to mind the bumps."

And, indeed, feature stories appeared in several of the Man­hattan newspapers, detailing his earlier career, praising his ac­ceptance of his current obscurity and financial distress. He was sixty-nine then.

I lost contact with the fine, cheerful old gentleman until one day in January of 1939, while I was on the Coast, accumulated mail was forwarded to me, and among the items was a postcard from Schultze with a brief little message. "A smile from Foxy Grandpa. So nice to be alive with nice people who are alive. So happy days." It was signed with a drawing of Foxy Grandpa— and then Schultze's own signature.

The card was dated January 12. It reached me January 19, the very day that the newspaper carried the news of the artist's death of a heart attack at the age of seventy-two. According to the obituaries, the once dominant and high-earning cartoonist had been subsisting for a year or so on a $95-a-month job as an illustra­tor in the reading materials project of the WPA."
George Luks a Pariah among Cartoonists?
This passage includes several factoids worthy of a raised eyebrow.
"The Artists & Writers Club, as its label indicates, was origin­ally organized to gather certain members of the literary and art sets for occasional dinners and chatter, though often outsiders were admitted to our esoteric clan. Usually, we congregated in the up­stairs dining room of "21."

Sports columnist Grantland Rice, one of the original organ­izers, was president. After his death, cartoonist Rube Goldberg succeeded him. Goldberg usually was the master of ceremonies at our gatherings.

An account of just one meeting may convey some idea of what took place at these sessions. This one took place on December 7, 1944, and, of course, since December 7 was a memorable date in our history, there were solemn toasts to our fighting lads.

Then we turned to lighter subjects. Artist James Montgomery Flagg revealed his minor problems when he began painting that famous and much-discussed mural of the Dempsey-Willard fight that was to be hung in Jack Dempsey's restaurant.

"I didn't even know how sensitive some folks could be," he lamented. "Why, this fight was held back in 1919, and I painted in some folks who never were at that fight simply because Jack thought they were important and should be included. Do you know something? Some of them, and I'm not kidding, actually squawked because they didn't like the seats I put them in! And my friend Damon Runyon told me he wasn't too sure he even liked the people I put next to him in that painting."

Producer John Golden was another speaker. He discussed old-time chaps who drew and wrote and got together occasionally for fun and light imbibing. Among those he mentioned was that cartoonist genius, Dick Outcault, who had created the popular cartoon, "Yellow Kid." He said Outcault hadn't originally intended that the "kid" should be yellow, but there was a slight mishap in the coloring process. Golden confessed that it was he who used to write the balloon captions for the cartoon. "I got more of a kick out of them," he insisted, "Than when I wrote 'Poor Butterfly' years later."

"Well, William Randolph Hearst came along and coaxed Outcault to bring 'Yellow Kid' over to the Journal. Whereupon Joe Pulitzer, irked by this theft of one of his artists, had a certain newcomer imitate the strip, and for quite a while we had two 'Yellow Kids' running. Everybody in the business considered this highly unethical, and in fact many of the boys stopped talking to the young imitator artist.

"The years passed, and I became a producer. One day my secretary came in and said there was a man outside to see me, and, of course, as you must guess, it was the ostracized cartoonist. By this time, I wasn't as peeved with him as I had been in those earlier days, so I told the girl to show him in.

"He said: 'Look here, John Golden, you don't have to be so high-hat with me. I don't do any silly cartoons anymore. I move around with the best of them. I paint kings and queens, and I get more for a single painting than I did for a whole year's cartooning. So don't be so stuck up with me. I'm just as important as you are.'"

Golden went on to tell us that indeed the fellow had become as important as he claimed. He was George B. Luks whose paint­ings were hung in national museums around the world, and whom James Huneker once described as "a Puck, a Caliban, a Falstaff, a tornado."

A Rare Photo

"A rare photo when Healy's on Broadway was a popular rendezvous. This gathering was a "welcome back to freedom" for Hype Igoe, famed Hearst sports columnist who had been jailed for some minor infraction of the law. Among the assembly: bottom row, starting with the fourth from the left, we spot Wilson Mizner, noted raconteur oft profiled man-about-town of the twenties; then "Tad" (T. A. Dorgan), famed Hearst sports cartoonist, Hype Igoe, composer Irving Berlin, cartoonist Tom McNamara ("Us Boys"), also cartoonists Walter Hoban, Hal Coffman, Cliff Sterett ("Polly and Her Pals"). In the row above, we lead off with Victor Watson, Hearst editor who com­mitted suicide, then third from left, cartoonist Winsor McCay ("Nemo" and "Lady Bountiful"). Fifth from right, cartoonist Jimmy Swinnerton, and third from right, cartoonist humorist Harry Hershfield.

Healy's has long joined the Tombs of Broadway—and for that matter Hype Igoe has passed on. And so have most of those in this gay assembly, although Hershfield and Berlin long beyond the threescore-and-ten mark remain very much alive and active."
Not mentioned in Sobol's caption are 'Stanley' (blurry, on the left edge) who might have been cartoonist Lee Stanley of "The Old Home Town" and "Duke" Wellington who I'm guessing is Charles H. Wellington of "Pa's Son-In-Law", Can you identify any others?

Comments:
Stanley is Stanley Ketchel Middle Weight Champion of the world.
 
All of these-- but especially the Luks account-- are really relevant to my dissertation research. Any chance you have page numbers for any of these?
 
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Monday, January 12, 2009

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Adventures of Percy and Willie



The Adventures of Percy and Willie was a weak offering that ran in the Los Angeles Examiner on a handful of dates from July 29 to August 16 1909. Our heroes were a pair of ne'er-do-wells from L.A. who sojourn out to the back country looking for work.

The strip was signed by Dan Leno, who like Herriman at the same paper, was a jack of all cartooning trades producing editorials, spots and sports cartoons. Leno didn't have nearly the skill of Herriman, though, and his tenure at the Examiner seems to have been limited to the spring and summer of 1909.

Although it's perfectly possible that Dan Leno was the cartoonist's real name, I wonder if it was a pseudonym. There was a highly regarding British comedian by that same name, famous enough to have a comic weekly named in his honor on that side of the pond. He'd died a few years earlier, so perhaps a young British transplant might have taken his name as a good-luck pseudonym when entering the entertainment ranks.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


Jim Ivey's new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from Lulu.com for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey's career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on Lulu.com or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

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It takes a certain personality to be a freelancer. I know I wasn't cut out to be one.
 
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