Saturday, August 28, 2010

 

Herriman Saturday

Sunday, December 1 1907 -- Herriman once again gets national play in the Hearst magazine section. The editorial complains that the legal system is expertly efficient against common criminals, but that  government and big business openly get away with corruption, bribery and unfair practices with little threat from our legal system. The sentiment as true today as it was in 1907...

Unfortunately this page was badly printed and I was unable to do much restoration on some parts, specifically the wrist of the giant hand and the common criminal figure, both having been buried under a haze of stray ink.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Sallie Slick and her Surprising Aunt Amelia

I don't know what direct evidence there might be that Jean Mohr was a female (as opposed to a Frenchman), but she's long been accepted as such. If nothing else, her cartoons look like they're drawn by a woman -- a statement both factual, and I suppose, sexist. Women really seem to know how to draw attractive women, and Sallie certainly is quite the cutie.

Sallie Slick and her Surprising Aunt Amelia ran for one year in the Philadelphia North American, from May 4 1902 to April 26 1903. Mohr sort of takes the Foxy Grandpa concept of a surprisingly spry, wily oldster and sends it off on her own trajectory. The result is a delightful series, attractively drawn, with quite a few clever gags.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!

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Here are a couple more for your amusement, Allan:

http://www.stwallskull.com/blog/?p=747

http://www.stwallskull.com/blog/?p=748
 
What also makes it unusual is that a beautiful young woman is the recipient of bad luck and hospitalization! In almost all cases, especially with early comics, men were always the bad luck recipients, i.e., being arrested, getting a black eye, getting beat up, losing money, etc.
 
Aunt Amelia looks crazy!
 
Hello, Allan---Maybe our dilligent drawing detective friend Alex can finally find out just who or what Jean Mohr was. Put him on the case! And yes, I believe Aunt Amelia was crazy.-----Cole Johnson.
 
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Monday, August 23, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Dallas

Never once having watched the prime time soap opera Dallas, I can't speak to how well the comic strip version reflected the turgid drama of the TV series. What I can say is that if the comic strip was a true reflection of the series then I'm really glad I never got hooked on it.

The late 1970s and early 80s were a short renaissance for story strips, most of which were for licensed properties -- comic books, TV, movies, novels, even toy store racks were mined for newspaper strip properties. Dallas might seem like an odd choice for the comic strip treatment -- it is all talking heads after all -- but then Mary Worth and Judge Parker are much the same, and the TV series was a hit of monstrous proportions.

The LA Times-syndicated comic strip version of Dallas initially found a decent, if not spectacular, number of newspaper clients, but the subscriptions very quickly dwindled as the strip showed its colors. The art, especially, was all over the map. Though Ron Harris was the credited artist for the first year and a half, many ghosts and assistants were in evidence practically from the beginning, making the art look like a patchwork of different styles, few of them very good. The accurate representation of the stars' faces, crucial to reader identification, was sorely lacking. There seemed to be very little interest in blending the art styles of the various contributors, even on a single Sunday strip a bad art-spotter like me can spot multiple hands at work.

The strip began on February 1 1981, debuting in the middle of the TV show's third blockbuster season. The writing was by Jim Lawrence, who gamely stuck with the strip through the entire run, and art was credited to Ron Harris. According to Alberto Becattini, art helpers included Paul Chadwick (later of Concrete comic book fame), pencils in August and September 1981, Dennis Ellefson, Terry Robinson, Alan Munro and Bill Ziegler, art assists. Laurie Newell began assisting in 1982, getting a credit on one Sunday (7/25/82). Thomas Warkentin took over the art duties on the daily starting August 19 1982 but lasted only a month, until September 14. Padraic Shigetani took over the Sunday starting August 30, and added the daily after Warkentin's short run. Shigetani stuck with the strip into 1983, or possibly 1984, and then someone named Deryl Skelton finished the strip's run on November 24 1984.

By 1984 the fervor over the TV show had died down, and the strip's musical chair art had long ago made its client base dwindle to almost nothing. There were very few clients left to mourn the passing of the Dallas comic strip.

If anyone can supply more accurate and complete artist dates  for the latter years of the strip's run, I'd be much obliged.

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Not a pseudonym. Deryl Skelton.
 
Actually, the "patchwork" look was less the result of many hands than it was the result of being a real patchwork. Lorimar had approval over every panel, and their constant input meant whole weeks of strips were pasted over several changes deep. Other times someone in the Times Syndicate paste-up room would make alterations, though he drew ten times worse than I did. More than once I cobbled dailies from xeroxes of panels they'd already approved just to shut them up. Not that it always worked.

Your harsh comments about the likenesses sting, but they are accurate. No one is more aware than I of the shortcomings of my work on DALLAS, though I gave it everything I had at the time. The plain fact is that I was a newbie in way over my head, barely qualified for the job (though more so than the poor kid who got stuck with it after I left). I got the assignment because I was the only artist the Syndicate could find who was willing to work for the incredibly low rate they offered.

I don't pretend to excuse my failures on the strip. Still it's worth noting for completeness's sake that we received absolutely no help from Lorimar, only roadblocks. They supplied only a few headshots of the actors and forbid us from meeting speaking with, or photographing them. The comics editor and I were literally kicked off the lot when we went to check out the Ewing Ranch sets. Lorimar had given us permission to visit the set, but they didn't tell anyone we'd be there. They also forbade us from identifying ourselves. The TV people figured we were gate crashers.

The entire DALLAS debacle was run like a junior high school club. The stupid things that happened to me, which I probably deserved, pale beside the indignities heaped upon writer Jim Lawrence, a true pro of long standing who certainly didn't. I've never felt like recounting the whole story because I don't like to whine in print. However a couple of anecdotes may be found here:

http://smurfswacker.blogspot.com/2009/04/sight-unseen-4.html

and here:

http://smurfswacker.blogspot.com/2009/03/sight-unseen-2.html

Thanks for honoring me with an Obscurity of the Day, and rekindling fond memories of one of the lousiest times in my life.
 
Thanks DD for the ID of Skelton.

Ron, I knew you'd be seeing this so I'm relieved that you, first, took my unvarnished opinions with exceedingly good grace, and two, for your explanation that the seeming patchwork had more to do with studio and syndicate monkeying than the constant presence of other hands.

You say you don't like to whine, but your memories of working on this strip are invaluable to those of us out of the loop. I assumed the 'Dallas' folks would have been burying you in a blizzard of reference material, for instance. Nothing simpler, or more useful in a pinch, than a big batch of star photos to put on the ol' lightboard.

And of course the outsider tends to assume that an artist working on such a high profile property like Dallas or Star Trek was being paid a king's ransom. After all, both properties were huge cash cows. Obviously little of that milk ever reached you.

Fwiw, I think your work on Star Trek was more successful. But maybe that's partly because it wasn't all just talking heads. And your followers on Dallas didn't come in for criticism since I've seen so little of their work -- none of Skelton's in fact, I only know about that part of the run from Jeffrey Lindenblatt who found a late run of the strip in the Chicago Herald.

Ron, if you change your mind and would like to reminisce some more about your stints on these strips I for one would consider it valuable first-person documentation, certainly not bellyaching.

--Allan
 
Somewhere I recall reading a very funny magazine piece (might have been in Spy) by Kyle Baker about doing the comic book adaptation of the Dick Tracy movie. After several attempts and careful negotiations with Warren Beatty's "people", Baker came up with the exact idealized face they wanted. He basically pasted in that approved face throughout the book. When he flopped it for an opposite angle, the Beatty camp complained -- That was Warren's BAD side.
 
I didn't see Dallas here, but I was aware of its existence because one of the tabloids (the Globe?) ran it.
 
Yes, Henkster, the Globe ran DALLAS for about six months (the minimum contract period the syndicate would permit) and dropped it promptly after the contract expired.
 
Deryl Skelton has a few samples posted on his website at
http://www.skeltonartist.com/Dallas_Comic_Strip_Samples.html

I join Allan in imploring Ron to tell us more, either here or at his Words and Pictures blog.
Were the Star Trek people more accomodating with reference materials and more understanding of comic strip needs?
And certainly you had to get paid much better for that Jake Speed advertising strip, though it was only a week or two's work.
Between Dallas, Star Trek and Jake Speed you seem to have spent the 1980s drawing Hollywood people.
 
Living in NY all my life, I remember The New York Post carried DALLAS, though I do not know how long the strip lasted. I also believe I clipped the strips too. Yes, a humongous number of photos of all the characters would definitely have improved the overall look of the strip to give it a uniformity, though a lot of the likenesses I see here are pretty good, in my opinion.
 
While attending USC in the 1980s I helped run the Comics Club there. A fellow named Frank Balkin handled arranging guest speakers and one month got us David Seidman, who then ran the Ties Syndicate. His comment about the licensed strips (Dallas, Star Wars, Star Trek) is they always got a huge initial sale and then underwent a slow slide.
 
I doubt Ron Harris will ever see this but once I sent a copy of a Dallas Sunday to him via Tony Raiola thinking it might amuse him to see it after so many years, not realizing it was a painful memory and experience. Should he ever see this or hear of it I would like to apologize, hurting him was not my intention.
 
Alan Geez, thanks but no apologies necessary. Posting about Dallas and reading and responding to Allan's commentary pretty much got it out of my system. Thirty years is plenty of time to chew the same rag! Your thought in sending the Sunday is still appreciated. And any friend of
Tony is a pal o' mine. Cheers, Ron
 
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

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These are witty. Of course with Jim, we should expect no less.
 
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