Tuesday, April 07, 2009


News of Yore 1980: Hagar Creator Interviewed

An Interview With Dik Browne
by Charlie Huisking (Sarasota Herald Tribune, May 11 1980)

Relaxing in the cool breeze on his porch, Browne speculated about the popularity of the not-so-noble viking he created: "Well, first of all, people are in a hurry today, so you need a strong character, someone who's easily identifiable. Now what catches the eye more quickly than a guy with horns? That's a quick-frozen viking. Drop him in hot water and there he is.

"Also, I'm a great believer in simplicity. I feel the most important part of our business is to communicate, so the simpler you can keep the strip the better. I have no complex messages to give in my strip. I don't want to change the world or launch the fourth crusade. I just want to amuse people now and then."

Those are the nuts-and-bolts reasons behind "Hagar's" success, but another that Browne didn't list is his own philosophy of humor, his keen understanding of what makes people laugh.

"My idol in comedy is Charlie Chaplin," Browne said. "What he did was universal. There was nothing 'in' about it. Don't you hate it when you're at a party and you have to know six of the people and three languages to understand the joke? Well, Chaplin never had that problem. He knew how to appeal to basic emotions, and that's why his films will last forever."

Another of Browne's favorites is Mark Twain, and he likes to quote Twain's line, "Everything human is pathetic; the secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow."

"Humor has always been a release for the hopeless and the oppressed," Browne said. "I don't think it's a coincidence that the comic strip, a uniquely American invention, started at the turn of the century during the great wave of immigration. Many of those immigrants had to endure great hardship, and in a nation of many languages the comic pages became a source of comfort as well as a means of communication. Many immigrants learned to read English through the comics. I think the strips simply grew out of what made people laugh and what made them cry."

Browne feels the American sense of humor is a "superior product." "We've always had a feel for the popular in America; we're not an elitist country. And I think that is wonderful because I believe in people and the tastes of people," he said.

He is careful to draw a distinction between humor and wit. "Humor is eternal," he says. "It's full of warmth and compasssion. Wit, by contrast, is more pointed, more aggressive. Oscar Wilde, for example, is a witty man, and I like him, but he's hard to warm up to on a cold night. Twain, on the other hand, is comfortable. He's like an old coat or a pair of good shoes. I guess you could say I'm in that mold. I try to bring a benign humor to my work."

The 63-year-old Browne, a kind and gentle bear of a man, certainly falls in the "good shoes" category. Soft-spoken, relaxed and always casually dressed, he wears his greying hair long and, like Hagar, he sports a beard that looks like a Brillo pad gone haywire.

The similarities between Browne and Hagar aren't just physical, either. "I suppose every comic strip is in some way autobiographical," Browne said. "Certainly you can only put in a strip what you yourself have. You're influenced by your own experiences, by your own assets and liabilities. For example, I try to stay away from violence in the strip, because that's not my nature. If it's there it is implied. And I can't make Hagar too mean or too much of a rascal, because I can't see myself acting that way."

A product of New York City, Browne attended Cooper Union Art School and had ambitions of becoming a sculptor. But his first job was as a copy boy on the old New York Journal, a Hearst paper. "What an exciting, colorful place that newsroom was," Browne said. "I still get nostalgic about it. It was right out of the movies, you know. The noise was incredible, and there was always a commotion. I remember that right in the center of the room there was a man of Mediterranean descent in his undershirt selling hot dogs. Many of the rewrite men had served in World War I and then lived in Paris for a while. There was a patina of glamour surrounding them. Now who wouldn't fall in love with a scene like that?"

Browne hoped for a career in journalism, but unfortunately, he says, "I had no talent. I'd get lost on the streets of New York, I couldn't spell, I had a short attention span, and I was too shy to ask people questions."

He served in the Army for four years, then became a highly regarded Madison Avenue advertising artist, creating, among other symbols, the Chiquita banana. In 1954 he teamed with Mort Walker and began drawing the "Hi and Lois" strip.

The motivation for starting "Hagar" in 1973 was a detached retina and other eye problems which, today, have left Browne almost legally blind. "I had made good money, but I wasn't prepared for any medical disaster, and I was concerned about my family's security," he said. "Hagar was the first idea I tried, and I got lucky."

Family has always been uppermost in Dik Browne's mind. He and Joan, married for 38 years, have two sons and an adopted Chinese daughter named Sally, who was recently married and is now living in Germany. "I'll show you the wedding picture," said Browne, returning with a framed photo of his daughter and his tuxedoed self. "We all have great times together. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a family that was good company. I'd go nuts, I think."

The cartoon business keeps the family close. Browne's sons, Chris and Bob, help with the drawing of "Hi and Lois," and both supply gags for "Hagar the Horrible." In addition, Chris is a frequent contributor to Playboy, National Lampoon and other magazines. Bob is also pursuing a career as a blues musician.

Both sons still live in Connecticut and mail their suggestions and "Hagar" gags to Florida regularly. They were in Sarasota for a visit at the time of our interview, and joined Browne on the porch for a chat.
Their relationship is a warm and kidding one. As the newspaper
photographer focused her camera on the trio, Browne urged his sons to "adopt a somewhat fawning pose. Kneeling at my feet would be nice."

"I've always wanted to have a 'cottage industry,' and I'm thrilled that it has worked out that way," Browne said. "We make a good team, and I think we learn from each other. Early on I had Hagar running off with maidens over his shoulder, and Chris made me realize that was a dumb cliche. It was old-fashioned and it wasn't funny."

Browne does rough sketches of his cartoons on tracing paper and turns them over to his wife and sons for rating. "They rate them from 1 to infinity. The closer to 1 the better. I caught my wife in a bad mood once and she gave me a 47, but when she really likes them she draws hearts and flowers on the corner of the paper," Browne said. "Their advice is invaluable to me. I think that's another big reason for the strip's success, that I'm blessed with good critics. You have to have a large ego to be a cartoonist, but you also need to have the common sense to put the ego aside when you have to."

Chris Browne says the success of "Hagar" changed his father in a positive way. "I think his whole personality opened up. After collaborating with Mort Walker for so long, he was finally free to cut loose. He let more of himself come to the surface.

"When he did that, dad became a hippy. He let his hair grow, and as Hagar's popularity grew, so did dad's beard. It kept pace neck and neck, or rather chin and chin."

Bob Browne said he has a great deal of admiration for his father's devotion to his work. "For him, work and life are all together, and without that devotion the permanancy and security that we have as a family wouldn't be there."

And yet, Browne says he's never been an ambitious man. "I'm not motivated by money. This will sound like St. Francis of Assisi, but I'm really not," he said. "I always wanted to be secure, and to leave something for my family. I guess that's been such a strong motivation because I came from a split family and I grew up in the Depression. That has colored my life. But I never wanted to play any power games. I like things simple."

Joan Browne is camera-shy and was busy in another part of the apartment during most of the interview, but just when Browne was asked about his views of the women's movement, she walked past carrying a load of laundry. "Oh my God, what timing," Browne laughed. "There's the vice-president and treasurer of our corporation, carrying the wash." "I also do windows," Mrs. Browne quipped.

Browne said he, like most men, has had his consciousness raised in the past decade. "You can't bring up a daughter and not become aware of women's problems," he said. "I don't think 'Hagar' is a chauvinistic strip. It deals with the battle of the sexes, but Helga (Hagar's long-suffering wife) more than holds her own.

"And I've tried to move away from the traditional husband-and-wife yelling scenes. I felt the characters weren't smiling enough. I try to show them having more fun, even when they're disagreeing."

Before concluding the interview, we walked into the small studio where Browne works on "Hagar" every morning. "I used to be an early riser, but now I'm enjoying staying in bed longer," he said. "Today I didn't get up until 9:30. But the work is going much better here than up north. I think it's because I've never lived in a place that's as comfortable as this.

"Notice how neat the studio is. Why, up north I work in a cellar that looks like the Black Hole of Calcutta. I apologize for the lack of clutter here. I know it doesn't make for good photographs.
Taped to the wall of the studio are crayon drawings done by neighborhood children. "There's quite a group that comes over to visit," Browne said. "We have great fun together."

Lying on his drawing table was a papier-mache viking helmet complete with horns that Bob Browne made for his father several years ago. "Bob is always impoverished, you know, so he's always making these fantastic presents. Now, this helmet doesn't fit as well as it used to. Either it has become warped, or my head has."

There are other presents in the room, too, including two small stained-glass Hagar figures hanging by the window. "Those are from a reader. He does wonderful work. Another fan sent me a Hagar strip she'd done in needlepoint, and someone else made a bas-relief belt. That people would take the time to do things like this, well that just overwhelms me. We get about 40 letters a week, and answer them all. The communication with readers is a wonderful sidelight to all of this."

Still, Browne couldn't resist a joke about his generous admirers. "I wonder where all these people were 40 years ago when I was starving," he grinned.

"When I was slaving away nobody would give me a nickel. Now I'm old and obese and everybody wants to take me out to dinner!"


I loved this article. Browne comes off as a bit less mischievous than he does in some of Mort Walker's stories, but there's a true warmth and an old-school love of what he was doing that is just all over this piece. These days there seems to be a disconnect with some of the younger breed of cartoonists - that sense of history, of love for the medium, etc. Thanks for finding this!
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Monday, April 06, 2009


News of Yore 1982: Comics Historian Bill Blackbeard Profiled

The Academy of Comic Art
By Jerry D. Lewis
(reprinted from The Press, Vol.7 #2, 1982)

The stars and producers of the play "Grease" gathered backstage at New York's Royale Theatre on December 8th, 1979 and celebrated wildly to mark the production's 3243rd performance. That established it as the longest running show in Broadway history.

True fans of comic strips, like San Francisco's Bill Blackbeard, jeer at that statistic.

"Hell," he says, "Blondie has been appearing in daily and Sunday papers since 193O. That's almost 20,000 performances, and it's still going strong. With a hundred million readers a day in more than 1,800 papers, Blondie makes author-artist Dean Young one of the best read writers in the world, a writer who produces a best-seller every day."

If the name Bill Blackbeard should be unfamiliar to you, he's a broad-shouldered, bespectacled Hoosier out of Lawrence, Indiana, who's spent the later part of his 55 years in California. As a free-lance writer back in 1967, he came up with an idea and sold it to Oxford University Press. The idea — to write a book on comic strips as an American contribution to art.

"I signed a contract with Oxford, but the first week I started to do research, I knew it was a lost cause," he says. "Not only had no previous research of any value ever been done, but almost every old book on early comic book history — and there were only five of them -was full of misinformation. You couldn't find any two sources that agreed with each other.

"I still haven't delivered that book to Oxford, but this is to give them proper warning. One of these years, I will get around to it."

Setting out to do original research on some of the first comic strips in 19th century newspapers - the first was Richard Felton Outcault's The Yellow Kid, which appeared in the N.Y. Sunday Journal in 1896 — Bill made a discovery which horrified him. Many files of back copies of big city newspapers were being copied onto microfilm, then destroyed.

"That saved space," Bill notes, "but it also meant those papers were gone so far as being reproduced for graphic purposes was concerned. You just can't do that kind of reproduction from microfilm."

Blackbeard then asked the libraries in various cities to give him the files of back newspapers. They found they were prohibited by ancient laws from giving the papers to an individual, or even from selling them to him. Bill got around that hurdle by establishing the Academy of Comic Art as a non-profit organization in his San Francisco home. The three story yellow Spanish stucco building sits at the corner of Ulloa Street and 3Oth Avenue in the Sunset District of the city. As you walk up the front steps, your eye is delighted by the nearby blue Pacific in one direction and the equally pleasant waters of the San Francisco Bay in another.

Once inside the door with its one-way mirror peephole, you are escorted by Blackbeard through a living room filled with loaded book shelves on every wall. You follow him down a crooked stairway leading to a dimly-lit, climate controlled basement. Here, you find a space a few feet square where Bill has his desk and a visitor's chair. The remaining space is occupied by bound volumes of old newspapers, piled so they divide the area into some 20 "rooms," with narrow aisles between them. The contents of each volume are cross-indexed in filing cabinets bursting with several hundred thousand three by five cards.

Bill also has stored 2.000 dime novels and 5,000 pulp magazines (Black Mask, Spicy Adventure, Crime Busters, etc.) from the 20's and 30's, along with more than 10.000 comic books.

From those sources unduplicated anywhere else, Bill reproduces material for ad agencies, editors and TV producers. Those fees help support the Academy. The remaining funds come from Bill's royalties on the 22 books he's edited for Hyperion Press. Those volumes include reproductions of such early day comic strips as Skippy, Barney Google, Thimble Theatre (Popeye) and Bringing Up Father.

Blackbeard also authored two recent books on comics. One, Sherlock Holmes In America, from Harry N. Abrams, the prestigious art book publisher, reproduces all comic strips depicting the famed Arthur Conan Doyle detective. The other book, The Great Comic Cats, published by Troubador Press of San Francisco, is likewise available this month at your local bookstore.

Get either or both of those tomes, plus a scattering of the earlier Hyperion editions if you want to savor the period comic strip experts like Blackbeard refer to as the Golden Age of Comics — the 20's and 30's.

"People too young to have been around in those years," Blackbeard tells you, "can't have any idea of how a top comic captured the attention of the country.

"The work of a top artist, like Segar's Thimble Theatre, for example, introduced characters and phrases which became part of the American language, Popeye's 'I yam what I yam, and tha's all I yam,' the offer of the All American moocher Wimpy 'I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today' were heard everywhere, and the names of two characters — Jeep and Goon — have entered the dictionary.

"It was easier in those days," Bill notes, "because everybody read the comics as regularly as they brushed their teeth. Even someone as aloof as Henry Ford. When Sandy vanished as part of the Little Orphan Annie narrative in 1933, he sent a wire to the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, pleading 'Please do all you can to help Annie find Sandy. We are all interested.'

"President Wilson, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso were devotees of George Herriman's Krazy Kat. Author William Faulkner relished Bringing Up Father and Mark Twain followed the exploits of Buster Brown.

"However, radio, then TV entered the competition for the public's entertainment hours. Then, too, the greatly increased cost of newsprint forced papers to cut the size of the strips. In the past, 16 and 24 page color-comic sections devoted complete pages to the work of a top cartoonist. Today, the strips are three and four to a page on Sundays. And the daily comics page, which once offered a stage for six to eight large-paneled strips, now flaunts two stacks of 15 to 2O comics.

"It's almost impossible to maintain any intelligent complexity of narrative or humor - and today's cartoonists rarely try — in daily strips of three tiny panels or in Sunday comics of six panels."

Blackbeard doesn't see the end of comic strips approaching, though.

"The pendulum swings both ways. Maybe we were paying too much attention to the comics in the old days. I guess it wasn't in the cards for a character like Popeye to continue forever to so captivate the American public that people in the 30's flocked to movie theatres to see Popeye cartoon shorts and walked out when they ended, without waiting for the feature film.

"Through the last couple decades, the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction, and except for a very few strips, like Peanuts, Blondie, and a couple others, people paid very little attention to the comics. Now the pendulum is moving again, and cartoon art is being more widely accepted. Some of Burne Hogarth's drawings of Tarzan, for example, were displayed in the Louvre."

We can and should all be thankful for one thing. Bill Blackbeard has earned our gratitude for recognizing the cultural value of this American contribution to art in time to save the best examples for future generations.

If you think that's too strong a statement, drop in some day at the Academy of Comic Art in San Francisco. Bill will be delighted to let you browse as long as you wish among the mountains of evidence — the lovingly collected files which include every comic strip published since 1896.


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Sunday, April 05, 2009


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

Allan's Note: I did relate this story (without the colorful barroom angle) in my introduction to NBM's The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff.

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.


Earlier I linked to a court case about this, I don't think I linked to this 1921 Appeals case of Fisher v. Star Co.
From the Michigan Law Review via Google Books:
or http://tinyurl.com/co85dj
and the same case, in more detail, from The Northeastern Reporter via Google Books:
or http://tinyurl.com/d6jmd8
Great stuff DD! Have your peerless Googling superpowers had any luck in tracking down the Katzies case? Or even better, the Mr. Peewee case of 1903?

The Northeastern Reporter article is a pretty dry slog, but did you catch that bit at the end where a judge called comics "the nonsense produced by the brain for the diversion of the idle"? I love it!

Haven't been able to dig up anything worthwhile about The Katzies, Buster and Tige, or any others.
I'm wondering why the courts specifically ordered Hearst not to do any copy of Mutt and Jeff, but there were multiple copies of The Katz Kids that seemed safe from lawyers.
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Saturday, April 04, 2009


Herriman Saturday

Sunday, July 21 1907 -- Herriman contributes a huge cartoon on city folk who get the urge to go out in the woods to blow away some wildlife.

Monday, July 22 1907 -- Herriman spends a day deep sea fishing with the Southern California Rod and Reel Club. In the accompanying story it is mentioned that the club members had a casting competition. Sherman Baker, that fellow caricatured on the right end, won the contest by casting an unbelievable 198 feet. I don't know much about fishing, but that sure sounds incredible to me. According to the article, the cast was one-handed and used a 2.5 ounce sinker.


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Friday, April 03, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Old Black Joe

Maybe some obscurities are better left unearthed, but for better or worse here we have Old Black Joe. If not for all the racist trappings this would be a delightful strip. The gag is strong, Joe is a funny fellow, his song is snappy, and the art is crude yet exuberant.

Old Black Joe ran in the World Color Printing Sunday sections starting on December 1 1907. It ran semi-regularly until April 26 1908, then disappeared for a long time before two final episodes appeared on November 22 1908 and February 7 1909. Alfredo Castelli has the series running in 1910 in Here We Are Again, but I've not seen it in the 1910 WCP sections.

The creator of Old Black Joe signed himself only "Williamson", and sometimes didn't bother signing at all. There were at least three Williamsons working in newspaper comics in the first quarter of the century, but I don't know which if any of them this might be. Frank M. Williamson had a vaguely similar style (if you call utter primitivism a style), but I wouldn't bet a nickel on that guess being right.


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Thursday, April 02, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Barnyard Club

The Barnyard Club is one of those features that, if we were to be able to unlock its secrets, might be very revealing of the early comic strip business. It was summer 1898, and R.F. Outcault was in the process of moving back and forth between Pulitzer's New York World and Hearst's New York Journal. Somehow in the middle of all this Outcault created a pair of features that, as far as we know, ran only in the Philadelphia Inquirer. We've covered this subject before when we talked about The Country School, and at the time mentioned the existence of a second series by Outcault. Well, here it is, once more courtesy of Cole Johnson.

The Barnyard Club ran July 17 to November 6 1898. An odd side-note (or maybe its crucial -- who knows?) is that J.B. Lowitz produced a Sunday panel by the same name for the New York World earlier that year.



Pepe by Will, Holly Wood by Jack King, Milford, Pam by Gus Jekel, Life Wirh A Wife, Merton Musty by Dick Moores, Sleepy Holler by Jerry Hathcock, Animal Antics by Bob Dalton, Sidetrack by Dick Shaw... have you got anything on these weekly comics? And what's the animation connection?
Hi Ger -
That's quite a find you made! No, I certainly had never heard of any of these features, but I jumped onto newspaperarchive to see if I could find the strips you were talking about. Sure enough, a whole page of funnies running in the Redwood Journal-Press-Dispatch starting 4/10/50.

I could find no syndicate stamps, but I do have one clue as to the origin of this bunch of weirdies. Dick Moores, Gil Turner, Ray Patin, Jerry Hathcock and Dick Shaw were Disney employees at this time. Seems we have a whole page of funnies produced by moonlighting Mouse House folks!

Can anybody out there shed any light on this???


Which is exactly what I found (or ran across, actually). I have downloaded the whole run since, which doesn't quite make it to the end of the year. I sort of expected a Mouse group initiative, but don't know of it was confined to the one paper. There is a small change in the runup later.
And eh... wasn't Jack King an animator as well?
There is also a Tom Ray involved... and there is an animator called Tom Ray (old enough to have been in WWII) who has his own website. Could it be the same and could we ask him? I'll go after this, if you like.
Hi Ger -
As I've proved many times on this blog, I'm no expert on animation people. Other than Dick Moores, the only way I found out about the rest of these guys was doing Googling. By all means, please see if you can make contract with this Tom Ray fellow.

I checked Cartoonist Profiles #30 that has a bio of Moores. Turns out in 1950 Moores and Tom Boyd had a start-up business called Tele-Comics doing TV animation. It says they had 43 cartoonists working for them. Maybe they tried to syndicate this weekly comics offering as a sideline?

I also wanted to check my E&P files. Unfortunately I don't seem to have the bound volume for January-March 1950, but I do have April-June 1950 and I found no mention of the venture there.But the announcement would be more likely to be in the volume I'm missing.

I'm also going to try contacting Alberto Becattini, the ultimate Disney expert, to see if he can shed any light on this.

Newspaperarchive crapped out on me after November 8 1950 -- were you able to go farther with that paper?


Nothing after Nov 8 for me either. I did find mention of something called NBC Comics, which was a television program featuring 'animated comics'. The four titles mentioned were all not on this comics page (and in fact, I have found them nowhere). From the Ceda Raids Gazette, April 15 1951: This comes from Don Dewar, former lawyer and film studio executive, who now heads Tele-comics, Inc., one of the few firms making cartoons for television. Dewar and two partners - Jack Boyd, formerly with Walt Disney and Dick Moores, veteran newspaper cartoonist. (...) The 15-minute program was devoted to the adventures of three heroes: Danny March, private eye; Boxer Kid Champion and Rocketman Space Barton.
The comics page did continue after Nov 8.
Keep on looking. :)
Just grabbed a page from march 1951 with a slightly different line up. Bob Karp doing "The Middles" and "Merton" is now signed by "James".
Thanks for sharing your find with us Ger!
Hi Joakim --
When I say newspaperarchive crapped out on me, I mean literally. The dates were listed, but when I tried to show them the site freaked out. If you're having better luck, any chance of telling me dates and page numbers so I don't keep hitting those errors?

The page began on April 19, 1950 (There's a notice about it on the first page that day.) and the last I've seen is from May 1951. But there might be more.
They all appeared in the Wednesday edition.
The Newspaperarchive didn't work properly for me either so I searched for "Sleepy Holler", "Gil Turner" etc instead and got direct links to the right pages. :)
When The American Way by Tom Ray is ot on the comics page, it is on another page (maybe because of it's political anti-red content). It continues after most strips have stopped. So there probably was a gradual fade-out of strips, while other weekly strips were added. In july 1951 I have Indian Summer by John Zima, which according to your I-list was from an outfit called Atlas. In August it was drawn by Jay Ganschow, who also delivered Heavy Hannah (also from Atlas, as per your H-list attributed to a John Haslemo). He also did Famous first, which is not on your missing list, so it's still open if Ganschow was part of the crew or someone attached to the paper. But why would he take over two Atlas strips?
Alberto Becattini sent me quite a bit of information regarding this mystery. Following is from several emails:

"Yes, as far as I know most of these people were working at Disney during the early 1950s. And I do think that they were also part of Moores and Boyd's moonlighting Tele-Comics (aka NBC Comics) crew.

Notice that some of them were writers, but they could obviously do storyboards.

Will - Should be James Will - animator. I have him at Disney in the 1940s, but perhaps he was there even later

Mitchell should be Dave Mitchell - story-man at TV Art Productions
Late 1940s

Jack King - Longtime Disney animator/director, was there from 1936-48

Gil Turner - Warner Bros. and MGM animator, comic-book writer/artist
at Western Publishing

Gustave (Gus) Jekel - Disney animator in the 1950s

Dick Moores - Disney comic-strip artist, 1942-56

Gerald (Jerry) Hathcock - Disney animator, 1940-58

Bob Dalton - Might be Cal Dalton, animation writer at Disney in the
early 1950s

Ray Patin - Disney animator 1937-41, story-man 1946-47. Ran his own studio later on.

Dick Shaw - Disney animation and comic-strip writer, 1941-46/1951-53

Thomas (Tom) Ray - I have him at Warner Bros. in 1957-63 and later at Chuck Jones/MGM, but I guess he was at Disney prior to that. And yes, he is still active and has his own website.

You can view more complete profiles and credits for these artists at my website:

I then asked Alberto if he recalled reading any quotes from these guys regarding the newspaper venture:

"No, Allan, I don't remember anybody mentioning these strips. The only information I have concerns the strip The Middles, which was written by Bob Karp (longtime Donald Duck newspaper strip writer), and drawn by
his brother Lynn Karp (Disney animator and then comic-book artist at Western and Fawcett). This strip is said to have appeared in Australian
papers as late as 1955, having started in 1944 according to some
sources and in 1950 according to others.

This is all very interesting, and I look forward to knowing more. I'll be looking at the blog in case somebody comes up with more insights.

Anyway, the best way to know something is to get in touch with Tom Ray who is, as far as I know, the only surviving artists among all these."

I responded, regarding The Middles:

"It was distributed by Consolidated News Features. According to Paul Leiffer, start date is 4/13/44 (I have samples from '44, so the 1950 start date is definitely bogus). I have a note that the strip may initially have been a daily, but I haven't checked through my files to figure out why I said that. The feature was also distributed as part of the Western Newspaper Union package. The strip was advertised in E&P through 1955."

More from Alberto:

Looking more carefully at the Milford Muddle strip in the PDF page you sent, I can see that it was drawn by Jack Bradbury (Disney animator 1936-41, then Warner Bros. animator 1942-44). I have no doubt about this. Lettering on the strip is by Melvin "Tubby" Millar, a Warner Bros. story man.

What I gather from this is that these strips were not coming from the Tele-Comics staff, but more probably from the Sangor Studios staff. This was an outfit led in California by animator Jim Davis, producing funny-animal comic-book stories for such publishers as ACG/Creston, Better/Standard and DC/National from 1944-52. Davis employed about 70 moonlighting story-men and animators. Evidently at a certain point Davis & Co. decided that they would also try their hands at newspaper
strips. Of course this is just an educated guess, but 90% of the people involved here were also part of the Sangor Studios freelance crew."

Thanks Alberto!!
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Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Lesson The Bible Teaches

Good thing there's no commandment against being a copycat. Or is that covered under the coveting clauses? The Lesson The Bible Teaches seems to have been created to compete with the surprise 1954 success of John Lehti's Sunday bible strip, Tales From The Great Book.

The creators of this feature completely missed the reason for Lehti's success. Lehti's feature, at least within the confines of Bible stories, was full of action, whereas The Lesson The Bible Teaches was utterly static, a series of talking head panels with enough yada-yada to make most Sunday funnies readers pass right by to find Pogo and Peanuts.

The Lesson The Bible Teaches made its pilgrimage into the Sunday comics section on September 25 1955 (a year and a half after Tales From The Great Book debuted). It was distributed by Hall Syndicate and was "by permission of the International Council of Religious Education." A Google of this organization results in a list of very long dry PDF documents. Turns out this researcher isn't committed to the project to the extent of reading them to find out what this council was all about.

The author of the strip, R. Paul Caudill, was a preacher, missionary and writer. You'll find a capsule bio and photo of him on this Wake Forest Alumni News page.

If there is a bright spot in this strip, it's the well-drawn art. Despite being hampered by scripts full of talking heads and long soliloquies, artist Ralph Keenon managed to make the strip look attractive, though perhaps a little stiff. I can find no information or other credits for this Keenon fellow. Is it my imagination or does Keenon's art look an awful lot like the work of Jay Disbrow?

Unlike Lehti's livelier competition, The Lesson The Bible Teaches was a flop, and deservedly so. The latest strip I've been able to find is from November 1956, and I assume it didn't last much longer than that. Anyone know a definite end date?


There was another in this genre, in 1948 the sunday Des Moines Register ran a thing called Jack and Judy in Bibleland. Two modern American Sunday school children return to the ancient holy land and see for themselves selected biblical events take place.
Hi Anon -
That was another Bible strip with nice art by a relative unknown (William E. Fay). For some reason those religious strips usually have excellent art.

Allan, I don't know if it was true in every case, but apparently Catholic-oriented "Treasure Chest" comic books paid very well back in the day, providing work for Reed Crandall, Joe Sinnott, Murphy Anderson, etc. On the Protestant side of the divide there was David C. Cook's adaptation of Bible stories, with fantastic art by Will Eisner alumnus Andre LeBlanc. But this was for comic books, which I know is somewhat off topic.
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