Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Big Announcement
For immediate release
Allan Holtz, well-known in the comic strip fan community for his articles on comic strip history for magazines and books, and for his Stripper's Guide website, announces that his "Guide to U.S. Newspaper Comic Strips and Cartoon Panels" is now under contract to be published by University of Michigan Press. The book is a compendium of the vital statistics about comic strip and panel series that have appeared in American newspapers. A product of over twenty years of research, the books contains information on over 7,000 unique series from 1894 to present. For each feature the title and running dates are listed, along with dates for each artist, writer and syndicate involved. Alternate titles, format and frequency are detailed, along with a list of reprint books.
Unlike previous reference works on the subject, Holtz's Guide takes into consideration the vast amount of misinformation that has been published about newspaper strip history. Therefore he does not include any feature that he hasn't seen himself. "One of the reasons I started working on this book many years ago was that I got frustrated with those references. There were so many mistakes in them. It seemed like every time I looked something up there was no agreement between sources, and many times my own collection, small as it was at the time, would prove the information wrong or incomplete. The worst was when they'd write about some feature and then I'd find out that no such feature had ever actually run in newspapers."
Holtz's plan of attack, after first verifying that features did actually exist in newspapers, was to gather information from all the secondary sources he could find but then verify and correct the information based on primary sources. That meant twenty years of poring over newspapers on microfilm in addition to amassing a huge personal collection of newspaper comics. How much time did he spend in libraries? "There are librarians all across the country who recognize me on sight. My wife hasn't had a proper vacation in twenty years. Any time I have off from work becomes a trip to a library somewhere around the country with wife in tow as research assistant."
Holtz calls the Guide a community effort at heart. "I'd like to make it clear that this work is not the product of one guy. I could never have done it alone. Not only have I built my work on pioneering researchers of the past, I've been lucky to discover a community of dedicated and knowledgeable comic strip fans who selflessly gave time and effort to tracking down information on my behalf." Every piece of data contributed to the listings is credited to the researcher responsible, and Holtz also credits the newspapers and reference works in which each nugget of information was discovered.
The book includes not only mainstream features, but also local features and the products of the ethnic press. "I've done my best to leave no stone unturned, " says Holtz of the project. "I will never be able to call this reference absolutely complete. There are so many oddball newspapers out there, so many local and obscure features, that the well will never go dry.There are always new leads to track down and more papers to review."
So why publish now? "Besides finding a publisher crazy enough to take it on? Many years ago a fellow collector was looking over what I had documented so far -- at the time it was only a 'mere' couple thousand features. He asked how many features in all it might be possible to document. Wanting to impress him I threw out a crazy number -- 7,000. He was suitably impressed and I'd just set myself a very high bar to hurdle. And yet, twenty years later, I hit that crazy number. It's time."
Allan Holtz writes about newspaper comics in Hogan's Alley magazine, the NBM "Forever Nuts" series of classic strip reprint books, and his popular blog, Stripper's Guide (http://strippersguide.blogspot.com). He is a resident of Tavares, Florida.
The release date and price for the "Guide to U.S. Newspaper Comic Strips and Cartoon Panels" have not yet been set. The book is expected to be approximately 800 pages, and images of many of the features will be included on CDs or DVDs sleeved with the book. The title, which was long presumed to include Holtz's well-known "Stripper's Guide" moniker, has tentatively been neutered in deference to the sensitivities of library and school buyers.
I'd like to take this moment to thank all you wonderful folks for the invaluable help you've given me over the years. Like the press release says, I couldn't have done it without you. Two people must be singled out. Their thank yous cannot wait for the acknowledgements in the book:
Jeffrey Lindenblatt. Without your expertise and untiring research on New York newspapers this day would have taken years longer to get here. Not to mention your friendship, cheerleading and constant support. You're the best!
Nancy Goldstein. If you hadn't gone to bat for me with your publisher I have no doubt that my book proposal would still be sitting in slush piles. You are an outstanding scholar and an incredibly generous person.
So now what? Since I live near Orlando, it ain't a trip to Disneyworld. No, I'm taking my wife for a proper vacation, nowhere near any library. We're leaving Monday and we'll be out of touch for two weeks. So, you ask, what the heck are youl going to do without a blog post to read every day? Fear not! I have prepared a special treat for you.
For the next two weeks, Sundays excepted, we're going to have the Stripper's Guide Super-Quiz. Each weekday morning, assuming Blogger's auto-post function doesn't louse things up, you'll get five trivia questions about newspaper comics. They'll range in difficulty from medium tough right on up to mega-expert class, a selection from throughout the range each day. I've tried to pose questions that you can't just answer with a quick Google search. The answers to the week's questions will appear on Saturdays. There aren't any prizes other than bragging rights, so don't be shy. Shout out the answers by hitting the comment button on the posting. Be the first to post the right answer and feel smug all day long. There will be the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, love won and lost, wars fought and peace made.
All the best
Alfredo Castelli, Milan Italy
# posted by Blogger Nancy Goldstein : 7/26/2009 9:05 AM
Will there be fair use images in the book itself or only on the cd/dvd?
DD, the current plan is for the images to be on CD only. The cost of the book, which probably would have been 6+ volumes with printed images (at readable size), would have been astronomical and the production costs would have been through the roof.
I'll warn you that even with this cost-saving measure it won't be a cheap book. But be assured that I'm working with the publisher looking for ways to keep the cost down to something the average Joe and DD can afford.
Off on my vacation in mere hours now, see y'all in a couple weeks.
-Ray Bottorff Jr
- Jon Ingersoll
Friday, July 24, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: Buttons and Fatty
For years and years Buttons and Fatty was the marquee strip of the Brooklyn Eagle's children's section. When it made its bow on December 26 1909 it was just titled Buttons and it was a pretty nondescript feature about a sweet but inoffensively mischievous kid. In 1913 his buddy Fatty gained title billing as well.
Al Zere, who did a lot of features for the Eagle over the years, was at the helm until March 24 1918 when he went off to serve in World War I. The Eagle made a pretty big deal over his going, giving the kids regular updates on his tour of duty with Uncle Sam. The strip was handed over to Hal Merritt who kept up the franchise until December 15 of that year. When Merritt left the strip went on hiatus until Zere returned from Europe to a hero's welcome. He started rewarming his chair at the Eagle and the strip was revived on July 13 1919. But Zere must have been restless because he left again, this time without any fanfare. His last Buttons and Fatty strip ran December 5 1920.
A new cartoonist took over the following week, and Zere was quickly forgotten by the kids. M.E. Brady introduced long involved continuities into the strip (see the above for the tail-end of one) and the Eagle started having good luck syndicating the new more robust strip. Throughout the 20s and early 30s Buttons and Fatty was a popular adornment to the new Sunday kid sections that were becoming quite popular at papers around the country. Brady, who always signed himself "MEB", stuck with the strip for the rest of its life except for one short vacation in 1925 when fellow Eagle stalwart Phila Webb spelled him for a month (June 28 to July 26 1925).
The downfall of the strip came when it was reformatted at the beginning of 1933. For over 20 years the strip had been a tabloid page, a perfect fit for the kid sections that had sprung up at papers all over the country. On January 8 1933, though, the Eagle changed it to a full newspaper page and the feature immediately disappeared from all those client newspapers. Perhaps the Eagle gave up on the syndication business temporarily, or maybe they were too dense to provide a tabloid format to their clients, but in any case they drove a stake through the heart of that strip. The strip continued until June 17 1934, but it was a dead man walkin' for that last year and a half.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
News of Yore 1950: It's Howdy Doody Time!
UFS Signs 'Howdy Doody' Page
By Jane McMaster (E&P, 7/8/50)
TV's "Howdy Doody" has had about everything a little cowboy puppet could want. Friends (an estimated audience of 5,000,000
small and large fry see him five days a week); memorabilia; music; and regular trips to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus.
But this week United Feature Syndicate announced plans to win him more friends. A "Howdy Doody" Sunday page will be ready for newspapers in early fall.
Just to get the record straight on the "Howdy Doody" phenomenon, flourishing since 1947, we went to see Martin Stone of Martin Stone Associates. Mr. Stone, whose penthouse offices on 58th St. overlook Central Park, is co-owner with Bob Smith of the "Howdy Doody" TV show. He's co-producer (with Roger Muir of NBC) of the show and controls the licensing rights.
"I think this is significant because it's the first time a character originated on television has gone into the comic strip field," said Mr. Stone looking toward the end of his office decorated with embattled books. Another show of Mr. Stone's is "Author Meets the Critics."
The radio - video producer hastened to point out that he hadn't forgotten "Hopalong Cassidy," that other TV star. However, Hoppie was known in books, movies and radio long before he hit the home flickers. On the other hand, "HD," he said, is indubitably a TV baby.
"I'm not sure it won't be the beginning of a trend," commented Mr. Stone of TV-comic strip get-togethers. "The impact of TV on children, especially, but adults too, is fantastic.'
Mr. Stone said he'd been approached about a possible newspaper strip from time to time but he'd held off until he could develop one in his own office. The Sunday page, result of over a year's work, will carry the byline of "Chad" but will be the joint work of Chad Grothkopf, artist, and Milt Neil, writer. Both are members of Martin Stone Associates staff.
As an added fillip, the Stone office expects to do a bang-up promotion job in newspaper towns. "Howdy Doody," puppet friends and Actor Bob Smith will be on hand for personal appearances at launchings of the strip.
Labels: News of Yore
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: If It Weren't For Father
When I go on my research trips to various libraries around the country I'm always in a mad rush to get as much work done as possible in the short time I have. That means there's precious little time for reading the features I document for Stripper's Guide. That means I miss out on a lot of interesting discoveries like the one we have today in If It Weren't For Father. Sure, I documented it -- it ran in the New York Evening Journal from March 4 1909 to March 1 1910 and it was by Harold MacGill.
But what I would have learned had I taken the time to read a few episodes is that this strip is quite obviously the inspiration behind one of the most popular strips of the 20th century. I won't tell you which one because it will become painfully obvious when you read the samples. The very famous strip in question started just three years later, and whether you call it inspiration or a rip-off, you can bet the famous cartoonist in question was reading this strip since he was at the time working for Hearst's New York arch-rival, Joseph Pulitzer.
Luckily we have Cole Johnson around who actually reads these darn things and made this amazing discovery. Thanks again Cole!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
News of Yore 1950: News of Yore 1924
A Glance Back to 1924 In First E&P Directory
By Jane McMaster (E&P, 7/29/50)
Publication of the 25th annual Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directory's 68-page cross-indexing of 1,653 features prompts observation that feature quantity has about doubled in a quarter of a century.
The first syndicate directory was published Oct. 25, 1924 as 18 pages of a regular issue. (No directories were published in 1943 and 1944). It listed 900 features and some titles showed a charming reflection of current history.
The newfangled horseless carriage was enshrined in comic strips such as "Gas Buggies" and "Down the Road," by Beck; "Carrie and Her Car"; "Joe's Car," and "Gasoline Alley." The latter, by Frank King, is the only survivor of this group. [untrue -- Joe's Car continues as Joe Jinks]
Ullman Feature Service, which had several of the 14 other automobile features listed, proclaimed in an ad: "'That Motor Car of Yours' helps motorists with their parking, their driving and their tinkering." It "stimulates interest in the mid-week automobile page" and had no "bothersome diagrams and technical talk," according to the ad. Ullman said its four auto features were running in 200 newspapers.
Model-T readers (Ford's Model A wasn't introduced until 1927) were also to get a special aviation feature, courtesy of McClure and Chicago Tribune Newspaper Syndicate. It was the story of an around-the-world flight by U. S. Army aviators - a story at first denied newspapers by the Government.
With Lots of Love
"Love," the lead title word in only two 1950 syndicated features, was a word 1924 syndicate people didn't shy away from. "Love Letters of a Newspaper Man," "Love Gossip," "Love Immortalized in Song," "Luxury of Love" and "Love or Fame?" were some of the titles.
But in women-voting, Prohibition 1924, there were big names and talents too. Frederick Opper's broad political barbs were distributed by New York American Features, his "Happy Hooligan" strip by International Feature Service. Editorial cartoons with a gentler sting, by John T. McCutcheon, were offered by Chicago Tribune Newspaper Syndicate, J. N. "Ding" Darling was doing perceptive editorial cartoons for the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, and cartoonist Clare Briggs' effect on the language ("When a Feller Needs a Friend," "Ain't It a Grand and Glorious Feeling," etc.) made him the subject of a full-page ad.
John Held, Jr. was doing a comic, about a long-waisted Jazz Age cutie for United Feature Syndicate. Famed "Tad" (Thomas A. Dorgan) who was adept at spotting and humorously depicting phonies was turning out "Indoor Sports" for International Feature Service. Machine Age burlesquer Rube Goldberg was busy. "Little Nemo," by Winsor McCay, "The Gumps," "Bringing Up Father" and "Mutt arid Jeff" were going strong.
Column's Future Forecast
"Feature service of various sorts is new," Hallam Walker Davis wrote in a book, "The Column," which was published in 1926. "It has had the advantage of high-powered promotion. It is still riding on the crest of the first big wave its own splash sent out."
But Mr. Davis did think that in a decade or two the newspapers might be promoting their columns along with their comic strips. The World had started the ball rolling with billboard advertising of Heywood Broun's "It Seems to Me."
The McNaught Syndicate was sitting pretty with O. O. McIntyre, Will Rogers and Irvin S. Cobb on its list. The New York Herald Tribune offered Don Marquis and Franklin P. Adams rhymed satirically in "The Conning Tower" for the New York World Syndicate. "A Line o' Type Or Two," Bert Leston Taylor's verse column in the Chicago Tribune, was now being done by Richard Henry Little.
Other offerings: Humorous Sketches, by Damon Runyon; O.Henry Stories; Editorials by
Arthur Brisbane; Ring Lardner letter; "Rippling Rhymes," by Walt Mason; literary articles by R. L. Mencken.
The 1924 syndicate directory listed 17 radio features, an auction bridge column, but no Canasta.
Labels: News of Yore
Monday, July 20, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: Cwaking Cwacks with Cwack
This strip ranks pretty high in the pantheon of weirdly titled features, and amazingly all the spelling stayed consistent on it from week to week. Consistency in titles and character names was a common shortcoming of these short-run strips back in the day.
Cwaking Cwacks with Cwack was a delightfully dippy feature of the McClure preprint sections from May 28 to November 12 1911. The strip, when it was signed at all, bore the signature "Quack". My guess is that the strip is by Everrett Lowry.
Among barnyard strips, which tended to be numbingly dull productions, Cwaking was a wonderful exception. Our educated duck and his/her dimwitted donkey pal really knew how to pull off good comedy, as can be seen above. "I'm all killed inside"!
In the 1920s full four color printing expanded inside of the big city sections, though even the majors would often scrimp on one or two broadsheet sides. Only in the thirties did full color throughout become typical, though even then there were plenty of exceptions.
Sunday, July 19, 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:
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.
Labels: Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics