Wednesday, July 14, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Hank and Knobs












Hank and Knobs was one of the longest-running and popular features of the Associated Newspapers co-op syndicate in their early years. Associated, as you may recall from other posts, was formed from a group of major newspapers in various cities, each of whom contributed their locally produced features into a pool that could be used by all the members.

Hank and Knobs was a contribution from the Boston Globe and cartoonist Joe Farren. Farren has a style that strip fans either love or hate -- I fall into the love camp. Some guys just know how to 'draw funny', and I find myself smiling at Farren's drawings even before I read the gag. I also like the heavy outlines around the figures, which seem to make them pop out of the page -- a trick Farren probably stole from Winsor McCay.

The strip is an obvious and outright rip-off of Mutt and Jeff, Bud Fisher's juggernaut of the weekday comics pages. In the teens there were plenty of cartoonists trying to ride those coattails, and few did it so successfully (or slavishly) as Farren.

Associated Newspapers features of the teens are notoriously hard to track, but luckily the Boston Globe ran this strip from start to finish without a hiccup, so I can report the 'official' running dates confidently as January 3 1911 through January 9 1916, an impressive five year run.

If you'd like to see some additional Hank and Knobs comics, visit the Barnacle Press website.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Graves, Inc.


Pat Brady hit major pay-dirt with his strip Rose Is Rose, which has now run for over a quarter century. But before that there was Graves, Inc., a strip that took a very different view of life than the ever-bubbly and positive Rose and family.

The star of the strip was Winston Graves, who runs a company in the best Ebenezer Scrooge tradition. He treats his terrorized employees like dirt, cheats his customers, and will stop at nothing to make a buck. Pretty typical boss, in other words. I find the strip hilarious and the Winston character a deliciously evil star, but newspaper editors by and large elected to take a pass on the strip. Given the over-the-top sunniness of Rose is Rose, I'm guessing that Brady was told that Graves, Inc. didn't succeed because it was too dark and negative (after all, that's why Dilbert was such a flop, right?). He really must have taken those reviews to heart when for his second syndication attempt he took such a complete 180 degree turn.

Rose is Rose fans might look at the art on this earlier strip and wonder if it can possibly be by the same Pat Brady. There seems to be no resemblance at all. Yet if you go back to early Rose is Rose, which started in 1984 (not 1994 as you'll see cited all over the web) you'll find a strip full of bulbous-headed, rather ugly people just like in this strip.

Graves, Inc. was distributed by the Register and Tribune Syndicate from October 6 1980 until sometime in 1983 (anyone know the exact end date?). If you'd like to see more of the feature, a reprint book, Graves Inc. Derides Again, was issued in 1988 by Caputo Publishing. It's available from several out-of-print booksellers, though the price is a bit on the heavy side.

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The only paper that I saw Graves, Inc. was the old Philadelphia Bulletin.
 
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Monday, July 12, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Has This Ever Happened to You?


V.F. Macom sure does sound like a pen name, but he (she?) actually did two different relatively long-running Sunday strips for the Philadelphia North American from 1913-15, and was even touted in a promotional ad at least once, so apparently it was a real name.The cartoonist, who was no great shakes by any means, never bothered to sign their second feature (Movie Mat) and often signed this one simply as Mac, so evidently there was no burning desire for fame.

Has This Ever Happened to You? was the first of the two and ran from November 16 1913 to December 6 1914. The subject matter, embarrassing moments, was already being plied by better cartoonists, so this entry really wasn't too memorable for any reason. But we'll give it a day of its own anyway!

Alfredo Castelli's Here We Are Again seems to be making the case that this series is actually a reprinting of a similarly titled World Color Printing series of 1905-07, but I may be misunderstanding the Italian, and if not I don't buy it.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!

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I believe V.F. Macom is Voorhees F. Macom who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1893, according to his World War I draft card. Voorhees was the oldest of two sons born to John and Mary; his father was born in New Jersey, and his mother was from Ireland. His brother George was born in New Jersey in 1899. The Macoms were living in Camden, New Jersey as recorded in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

In the 1910 Census, Voorhees' profession was a designer at a factory; the Macoms were still in Camden. His art training may have been in Philadelphia which was just across the Delaware River. Voorhees' comic strips for the Philadelphia North American were a stepping-stone into another lucrative industry.

On June 5, 1917 Voorhees filled out his World War I draft card. He was employed as an "illustrator and idea man" at the advertising agency N.W. Ayer. He commuted from Collingswood, New Jersey to Philadelphia where the agency was based.

By 1920 Voorhees was the head of the household; it is not known what happened to his father. Voorhees was still employed as an artist in advertising and resided in Collingswood.

In 1927, Voorhees was commissioned by the American Telephone and Telegraph
Company for an illustration; it was reprinted in the "Bell Laboratories Record". A Google Books search displayed the title and caption but not the illustration.

As an artist visualizes our workplace

This drawing by V.F. Macom based on photographs taken
in several of our laboratories, was an illustration for the
souvenir booklet prepared by the Information Department
of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and
presented to the Telephone Pioneers at their recent
convention in New York City.

In 1930 Voorhees was the sole caretaker of his mother; they lived in Palisade, New Jersey. In the book Advertising and Selling, Volume 15 (1930), Voorhees was associated with two New York ad agencies, Young & Rubicam and Pedler & Ryan; it appeared that he moved from the former to the latter or vice versa. In November 1935 the periodical, Tide, A Monthly Review of Advertising and Marketing, reported the following:

Resigned from Fletcher & Ellis: Arthur If. Munn, vice-
president and art director, and Voorhees F. Macom, a
member of the art staff; to open a studio in Manhattan.
Associated with them will be Marie Jacobi, heretofore
Fletcher & Ellis' art buyer.

On October 23, 1935, Voorhees' mother passed away. The April 18, 1937 New York Times reported in "Wills for Probate" that Voorhees was the executor of his mother's will. Later that year on December 19 the Times published a photo of Voorhees' new house with the caption:

New Jersey Residence with Studio Attached
Voorhees F. Macom, illustrator, had this house built to
order at 178 Engle Street, Tenafly, by Clinton Towers
Construction Company. Alexander Summer was the broker.

Voorhees's name is not in the Social Security Death Index; presumably he died in New Jersey.
 
Super detective work Alex!

Thanks, Allan
 
Hello, Allan--My two cents--The girl's outfit shown here clearly is from 1914, no way 1905. Besides, the North American was always awash in new product, no reason to revive a nine-year-old obscurity from a competitor. ---Cole Johnson.
 
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Hello, Alan and Alex.

Here Professor Pau from Barcelona, Spain.

My sincere congratulations for your posts rescuing the Macom art and bio!

For your own information, Macom also signed a large illustrated campaign for Budd Wheel Company (based also in Philadelphia), advertising the automobile Budd-Michelin Steel Disk Wheels, a technology compiting in 1920s against wood-artillery wheels and wire-wheels.

He illustrated near twenty entire single-page ads (two in double page version) printed in two inks (red and black) and published during 1926 in The Saturday Evening Post.

Best wishes from Barcelona mediterranean sea coasts, and sorry for my horrible english level!

Sincerely,
Professor Pau Medrano Bigas
 
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

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