Saturday, January 24, 2009

 

Herriman Saturday

Thursday, June 20 1907 -- Herriman laments that California boxing fans will have to choose between two big bouts on Independence Day, the Bill Squires-Tommy Burns bout or the Jimmy Britt-Battling Nelson fight. As it later turned out the choice was made for them. The Britt-Nelson bout was rescheduled to July 31.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

 

News of Yore 1968: Privette Self-Syndicates



Brainy cartoonist offers ‘Mini-Boppers’
By Don Maley (E&P, 11/23/1968)

Many cartoonists have better- than-average education, some holding college degrees in a variety of subjects. The latest cartoonist to offer a strip goes them all one better, holding a Master’s Degree in Cartoon Humor awarded him by Boston University.

Although Harry K. Privette has had academic laurels heaped all over him he’s a bit shy in business arithmetic credits, a fact which makes him a natural candidate for entrance to the elite world of cartoondom for most cartoonists—despite their educations—need a computer to figure anything over three digits.

The balding artist with the Irish mug and French-sounding name was born and raised in North Carolina—but was educated in Latin America (he holds a B.A. degree from La Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City) and he’s a specialist in Yiddish humor.

As Privette tells it: “My counselor at Boston U. was Dr. David Manning White, an expert on the field of cartooning. He was then—and still is—a personal friend and was influential in getting my strip started.”

But the strip—”Mini-Boppers”—was a long time coming. “After graduation in 1956,” says Privette, “I entered Boston advertising as a copy writer. During that time I did free-lance cartooning for many publications. Later I went into the greeting card business, becoming Studio/Humor Editor for Rust Craft Greeting Cards of Dedham, Mass.”


Unlikely Specialty
Privette went on to learn both humor writing and cartooning. He picked up enough knowledge of the publishing field to start his own company, specializing in a line of die-cut studio cards called “Dollettes.”

Another Privette specialty is Jewish humor (“an acquired taste— like oysters”) and, he says, several studio card companies put out lines of Jewish gag cards that originated with him.

It was during his early days in the publishing field that the idea for “Mini-Boppers” developed. But gradually. “I felt,” explains Privette, “there was a place for such a modern, sophisticated, and truly humorous strip based on the somewhat exaggerated antics of the four year-old crowd. I didn’t have in mind another ‘Nancy’ character, nor one as psychologically-motivated as ‘Peanuts’ entourage. But rather, just a pleasant, warm and funny bunch of cute little creatures saying and doing funny little things. I discussed the idea with several editors, other cartoonists, and with Dr. White. They were all quite excited by the whole thing and liked the sample strips that I showed them. At the time I called the strip ‘The Mini-World of Mitzi,’ and used a slightly different cast of characters.” (his characters now appear to be a gaggle of little girls and a talking pussy cat.)

After re-naming the strip and having it self-syndicated Privette had a brochure made up showing samples of the feature “one that also includes a strong ‘sales pitch’ and a price list.”

“It was on this last point that I goofed,” he woefully admits.

“By some unfathomable way, by some crazy error, I let the wrong rate list get printed. The rates were way out of line— and I had already done a 1,000- plus mailing before I realized my mistake.”

“Even so,” he adds, “the response was amazing. I didn’t have any takers at the inflated rates (in many cases the prices were tripled), but quite a few people wrote in and expressed serious interest and asked if I hadn’t sent them the wrong price information.”

After correcting his unfunny goof, Privette signed up a half-dozen “charter members” for his six-a-week feature.

Meanwhile, back at Privette’s Boston Features Syndicate office (41 Eugenia St., Randolph, Mass. 02368), the cartoonist with the Master’s Degree is readying his cartoon strip for it’s shakedown cruise, while answering callers inquiring about his help wanted ad for a business manager who is familiar with newspaper syndicate operations—and rates.

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Well, it's not on your "Mystery Strip" list, so how long did "Mini-Boppers" last?
 
Latest I've been able to track down is July 1969.

--Allan
 
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

 

Obscurity of the Day: Otto Auto




Gene Ahern was proving to be a great catch for NEA in the second half of the 1910s. He not only produced very funny comics in copious quantities, he also did his own column and even helped out with spot cartoons.

But Gene hadn't yet hit his stride as a newspaper fixture. In 1919 in his strip Squirrel Food, which was a pretty close copy of the look and humor of Rube Goldberg's strip, he introduced a new character, Otto Auto, on February 28. Originally Otto was a sprite who inhabited the background of the strip. Otto's schtick was that he drove his car like a bat out of hell and wouldn't let anything or anyone slow him down.

Despite being relegated to the background, Otto quickly became the most popular feature of the strip. On July 20 Squirrel Food was renamed Otto Auto and the mad driver became the star of the show. Ahern made a daily game out of Otto's driving exploits, inviting readers to submit ideas for how to stop Otto's car. Every day Otto would encounter readers' traps and ambushes, and every day Otto would successfully avert them.

This period of the strip was, for my money, one of the funniest slapstick sequences ever committed to newsprint. I know I read an extended reprint of it somewhere but I'll be darned if I can remember where it was. Nemo? StripScene? Hopefully someone will remind us of where it appeared, and I heartily recommend you find a copy and enjoy it yourself.

All good things must come to an end, though. Ahern knew that trying to make Otto Auto a series endlessly plying this single joke was a mistake. So it came that Otto's car was finally stopped and the strip moved to a garage where Otto and his second banana Clem traded jibes as fumbling mechanics. Our samples today are from this era of the strip. Otto Auto continued in this vein until February 6 1921, when the strip was replaced by Crazy Quilt, another obescurity that we'll cover one of these days. It wouldn't be until later in 1921 that Ahern would make his most lasting contribution to newspaper cartooning in the form of the classic panel cartoon Our Boarding House.

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I think the publication you're remembering is Richard Marschall's Screw Ball Comics. It came our in 1985, and was sub-titled the first Nemo annual--and the last unfortunately. About 48 pages with some nice Nut Brothers, Smoky Stover, Rube Goldberg, Milt Gross, early Dr. Seuss. Probably still findable.

Tom Pendleton
 
Hi Tom -
Just checked, it's not in that publication.

--Allan
 
This comment is about two years too late, but I am just now seeing it. You might have been thinking of Nemo 25, which has a great article about Gene Ahern's early comic strips.
 
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

 

Celebration Time!

I'll stop happy-dancing and bouncing off the walls today only long enough to wish you a happy inauguration day. Here's a little video my wife Judy shot. The song was written by our pals Denton and Barb and the sing-along was at a campaign meeting last September. I'm the big galoot in the green t-shirt at the back of the room.


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Must you pollute an otherwise pleasant and intellectual topic as comic strip reseach with reports of your blind sheep ecstasies for the jug-eared blowhard?
You sound like a teenage girl with her first celebucrush.
 
I do love how the haters always undercut their relevance by not actually posting under a name - any name.
 
"Hater", as in the crime of "Hate Speech" I suppose? One cannot express opinions freely enough to use his name any more because he will be made to pay, as dearly as possible for it. You guys don't just disagree, you crush opposition. Paranoia? It's happened to two people I know- Their email is deluged, their bosses or professors are contacted, until punishment is meted out. Call it a form of "card check" or "Fairness Doctorine". No, you don't get my name. Rest assured though, many who appear to go along with the socialist agenda do so out of self-preservation, not conviction.
 
Seriously, how are we to even remotely prove to truth of the story you just told? It could have been made up. It is a perfect ruse too, since any attempt by me to question the validity of your story means you could paint my very act as proof of my socialist agenda to crush all your rights.

Come back in 4 years and let us see exactly how "socialist" we become. Wow, union protection from terrorizing bosses and health care for everyone, how horrible! I'll take my jug-eared pal over the dim-wit who just left any day.
 
I could not see your apparently positive post, sum'ting about plug-ins would not allow me to see, but the grass-roots majority are back , remembering what Jonathan Livingston Seagull said, practice kindness and love, , the Reagan-Bush police state is over, and the gull sees farthest , who flies highest, let's gather comix strip intelligence from each other , with no more fear and no more limits, let's keep working on love, anonymous, and Tiny Tim too....Woodrow, (nevadaobserver.com) drifterhotel cartoons
 
Well said, Roy and Woody. Hopefully once 43 has been gone awhile and Anon sees that the men in black aren't coming to take him away, he'll realize that maybe, just maybe, his fears were groundless. That they were planted in his mind by W, Cheney and their ilk in their bid to make us all behave like frightened sheep while they trod all over our liberties.

Now while Barack is busy trying to fix the mess they left, let's talk about comic strips again!

--Allan
 
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Monday, January 19, 2009

 

News of Yore 1968: Ver-r-r-y Interesting Comic Debuts


Down Gag Alley with Roy Doty
By Don Maley (E&P, 9/7/68)

Human cartooning machine Roy Doty recently confessed to being “New York’s number one streetwalker” and because of his midtown meanderings 250 lucky newspaper editors have received freebie copies of last week’s E&P—compliments of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate.

The complimentary copies of E&P contained a four page color spread advertising Doty’s new comic strip “Laugh In” which is being distributed by CT-NYNS. Doty’s pavement pounding is confined to tri-weekly jogs “between 42nd Street and 52nd Street” where he seeks out ideas for the newly-launched seven-a-week strip. “We use 35 gags a week to keep the strip going. Times that by 52 weeks a year and you have to come up with between 1,600 to 1,700 ideas.” Doty walked by an East Side art gallery the other day and saw a replica of armless Venus de Milo—which was grist for Doty’s ha-ha mill. The gag:

Venus de Milo has dropped out of the Arms Race. “We try to keep all our gags current,” he says, adding, “but some are older than others.” (Bet that’s a new one on Michelangelo.)

“Laugh-In” has been signed by 38 major newspapers to date. According to CT-NYNS president Arthur Laro the strip “has been offered for only a month and editors from coast to coast have given it a warm reception. As a matter of fact they were delighted.” The E&P ad was the first general offer made after syndicate’s salesmen visited selected newspapers.

If the “Laugh-In” title sounds familiar it’s far from being coincidental. The strip borrows its name from the Rowan & Martin TV comedy series. “We arranged with the owners of the ‘Laugh-In’ TV Show to do this,” said Laro, “but the two are entirely separate. There’s no affiliation at all, Doty dreams up his own gags here on the East Coast and the Rowan and Martin people have nothing to do with it.” Martin Stone, an old friend of Doty’s got the original idea for the strip and asked him to do the operation, which Doty describes as a “McLuhan kind of comic strip which is unique in that it contains from 3 1/2 to seven gags a day.” Doty put together a representational package and Stone sold it to the syndicate.

Where Doty ever finds time to do his strip is one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe. His cartoons appear in Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens, Business Week, Holiday, Popular Science, Look and many others. He has illustrated over 25 books, including all the ones for Dear Abby, and has illustrated an upcoming humorous dog book which will be published in October by E. P. Dutton. He’s also done ad campaigns for Macy’s, Life, Time, American Express, Sports Illustrated and the Bowery Savings Bank. He’s had his own TV shows, both commercial and educational, and he’s done TV commercials for Eastman Kodak and Coca-Cola. He’s been a member of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. Although he’s ineligible for any company’s pension plan this bothers him not a whit. His greatest achievement? “My totally unblemished work record! I have never held a job in my life and intend to keep it that way.” (Sounds like he’s worked harder freelancing than any two dozen gainfully employed commercial artists have in their “big push” ad campaigns.)

“I’ve worked for every magazine except National Geographic,” says the youngish old pro, “and would someday like to do an illustrated piece for them on Midtown Manhattan Birds. I can see it now, done in the old Audubon Society style:

The Fifth Avenue Pigeon-toed Walker; the Grey Striped Commuter; the Times Square Swish and many more. I think I’ll use them in my strip.” (Doty gets ideas 18 hours a day. He sleeps only 6.)

Doty tests his strips on his four kids before giving them his final O.K. The kids, ages 18 to 6 “think the strip’s funny—but they say it grudgingly.”

Born on September 10, 1922, in Chicago, he was brought up in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended art school and Ohio State, and began an early association with the Columbus Dispatch—first as newsboy, then as cartoonist.

During the Second World War he served in the Army in the European Theatre of Operations, where his cartoons appeared in Yank and Stars and Stripes. While overseas, he freelanced on the side for the London Daily Mail.

Doty lives in an ultra-modern all glass house he built himself in Stamford, Conn., with his authoress wife Jean (Slaughter) and the four children, not to mention three dogs, three horses, six Siamese cats and a few dead pheasants who insist on trying to fly through the Doty home’s picture window. “We have pheasant a few times a year,” says Doty, “and don’t have to bother picking out buckshot from the birds.” His hobbies include expensive foreign sports cars, hi-fi, and bowling. He’s active in local school affairs and charitable drives.

[for more on the Laugh-In comic strip, see this January 2007 Obscurity of the Day post]

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I have a couple of sunday episodes myself, but I didn't know there were dailies. It suprises me that there we so many 'gag compilation' sunday strips. Not only the best known ones, like They'll Do It Every Time, but also some pretty obscure ones like Stees Sees and my personal favorite, the unjustly forgotten Channel Chuckles.
 
Can someone explain the "Tomorrow's News Today" gag in the sample strip? I thought I knew my American football history but I can't really understand where the joke is in that particular gag.
 
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Sunday, January 18, 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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You'd have been even more startled to find three in your mouth and one on the drawing board!
 
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