Saturday, September 25, 2010

 

Herriman Saturday


Tuesday, December 10 1907 -- Today Herriman inaugurates his first new series for the Examiner in over seven months. The opening of the Santa Anita track has Angelenos excited about horse-racing, and Herriman obliges with a series that follows in the footsteps of Clare Briggs' A. Piker Clerk and Bud Fisher's A. Mutt. Mister Proones the Plunger will run through December 26, but I'll only be showing this first episode on the blog since the series has been reprinted. To read the rest of the series I direct you to the Spec Productions/Bill Blackbeard reprint series available here. The reproduction of the strips is excellent and I highly recommend it.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Little Moments


Jerry Stewart may be one guy, or he might be two. On the comic strip side, he's a black cartoonist whose work appeared in papers like the Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro-American and others from the late 1940s to early 1970s. According to bios found on the web, he was also an editorial or staff cartoonist on the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel from 1936 to 1986.

While 'my' Jerry Stewart, the comic strip guy, definitely had the chops to do cartooning for mainstream newspapers I just can't see a black man being hired as a cartoonist on a 'white' newspaper in Indiana in 1936. Maybe I'm guilty of thinking too ill of Indianans of the time, but considering the state was a hotbed of KKK activity in those days I just don't see a newspaper having the balls to hire a black cartoonist. Hopefully I'm wrong.

In any case, today's obscurity was Jerry Stewart's last successful foray into newspaper cartooning, at least as far as I know from personal observation. He created Little Moments (at first advertised as Life's Little Moments), a gag panel without recurring characters, around 1961. For awhile it was marketed by Select Features, which was a very small syndicate that never really went anywhere. By 1963 Stewart seems to have been self-syndicating it, but to only one paper that I know of, the Chicago Defender. It appeared there on a more or less daily basis from 1963 to 1972. In 1971 Stewart signed on with Allied Features, another minor syndicate, to try to get the panel into additional papers. Apparently it didn't work and Stewart threw in the towel, because the feature disappeared from the Defender in 1972 and was not advertised for sale thereafter..

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Hi Allan,
I really love Jerry Stewart's drawing (and inking) style! Have there been any collections published of his newspaper works? What comic strip did he do besides "Little Moments". Beautiful stuff, thanks for posting it!
Mark Kausler
 
Hi Mark --
No reprint books as far as I know. I, too, like Stewart's style, reminds me a little bit of Walt Ditzen's work, of which I'm also a big fan.

--Allan
 
Allan,

Jerry Stewart was indeed a cartoonist for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He started work as a copy boy and the paper's first black employee on March 25, 1946. Three months later he was promoted to staff artist. From then until his retirement on May 30, 1986, he drew cartoons for the paper alongside Eugene Craig and William Sandeson. He also knew Nick Pouletsos (Nick Penn).

Stewart was born on May 18, 1923, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one-time home of Henry Jackson Lewis, believed to be the first black editorial cartoonist in the United States. I don't know anything about Stewart's early life, and I have wondered if he was the same Jerry Stewart who drew comic strips (including one called Scoopie) for black newspapers. Can you confirm this? I'd like to find out more about his cartooning for black newspapers. Anyway, Stewart died on October 29, 1995, in Fort Wayne and is buried in his adopted hometown.

Terence Hanley
 
Hi Terence --
Thanks for the info. Certainly the world became a very different place between 1936 and 1946, so I can go along with Stewart getting his position at the paper ten years later than reported elsewhere, after the war had softened attitudes a bit on race. That's why I love doing this blog -- unexpectedly finding out all sorts of great info that dispels all the misinformation rampant in reference books and on the web.

And yes, Jerry Stewart also did Scoopie and several other series. As much as I like to cover the features of the black papers, I rarely get a chance because good repro quality examples are VERY hard to come by. Old black papers are quite scarce, and the microfilmed papers are overall a terrible mess yielding few good quality examples. I tried scanning some material at the Library of Congress, but their rules made it impossible to get decent quality images.

--Allan
 
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Wandering Goat Bolivar


A late entry to the Boston Herald's third and final attempt at syndicating its own comic section, The Wandering Goat Bolivar ran from January 26 to August 9 (or August 30 in syndication) 1908.

I admit to not knowing enough about Central American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar to quite understand why the goat is named after him, or why, for that matter, the goat wears a crown. Hopefully an astute reader can fill in the implications of the title and the character.

What I can say is that this is Hal Coffman's first known comic strip series, and ran a few years before he became a fixture in the Hearst newspapers. Coffman was a jack of all trades with Hearst, supplying large Sunday editorial cartoons (spelling McCay), weekday news and social cartoons, story illustrations, sports cartoons, you name it. Coffman had a long career, at least into the 1940s, but he was never particularly comfortable with series comic strips. The few he did were short-lived.

The pleasantly cartoony style Coffman exhibits here bears little resemblance to his later work, which is more detailed and realistic.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.

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I am researching Hal Coffman for a book on his editorial cartoons. I am interested in any biographical info on Mr. Coffman you have and information on his work in comics. I have found a few references to him being an early innovator in the genre but nothing mentions why. Any help or info would be appreciated.
left_handed@sbcglobal.net
Mark A. Nobles
 
Hi Mark --
Offhand I can't think of anything all that innovative about Hal Coffman's work. But then again, since I focus on strips, maybe there is something about his other work that I'm missing.

--Allan
 
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: The G-Man


One of the more elusive of the many Dick Tracy-wannabes that popped up in the 1930s, The G-Man was syndicated by King Features, essentially in competition with their own other entry, Secret Agent X-9. According to one writer this strip was meant to appeal to younger readers than the Dashiell Hammett production, a dubious marketing slant.

The strip featured FBI agent Jimmie Crawford, a fresh faced kid who got involved in solving murders, kidnappings, all sorts of ... er ... appropriate reading for the younger set. He was often joined by his kid brother who conveniently showed up anytime a criminal needed a human shield or a bargaining chip.

The art was by the usually excellent Lou Hanlon, but Lou either didn't have the feel for this material or wasn't well-enough paid to invest a lot of effort. In The G-Man all the figures seem to be statues, there's never any real feel of motion in even the most supposedly thrilling action scenes. Scripts were by George Clarke (not Clark as almost every reference has it) -- Clarke, I seem to recall reading somewhere, was a syndicate manager of some sort (don't quote me on that, I may well be misremembering). If the art was a bit sloppy, the writing was a thousand times worse. Well, don't take my word for it, read the dailies above. You're going to be absolutely certain that there are strips missing in that sequence, but there aren't. Somebody must have told Clarke that the key to a successful adventure strip was fast slam-bang action. He therefore made every word balloon sound like a tabloid newspaper headline and never paused for even a single panel's worth of exposition or background. There's no pacing or build-up to climax -- every single panel seems to scream as if it was a climax in itself. The story requires that readers fill in their own plot holes from strip to strip, apparently presuming that readers must already know all these stories from gangster movies anyway (not such a  leap, I suppose).

The daily and Sunday feature is said to have debuted in Hearst's New York Mirror plus a few client papers sometime in 1935 but I've not yet found any appearances earlier than February 1936. Many references claim that the strip ran until 1940, but that seems to be based on a misreading of the E&P listings -- the last year it was available in the U.S. was 1937, and I think its listing was offering reprints after that. My last Sunday is September 26 1937. Does anyone know of earlier or later examples?

The Sunday strip, which I've never seen in anything other than a tabloid format, gained a topper strip called G-Boys in 1937 sometime between May and August but it was dropped quickly -- it last appeared on September 5 of that year.

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Allan:
The G-Man! was published here in Italy during the mid-thirties, and the first daily I have is dated June 21, 1935. Strangely enough, it's a Friday, so the strip might have started even earlier.
It was a daily/Sunday continuity, although I don't know when the Sunday page actually began. The first I have seen is dated Jan. 26, 1936.
A curious note: In the Oct. 28 and 29, 1935 dailies, a police commissioner who is a dead ringer for Dick Tracy appears along with Jim Crawford. Since he only appears in these two strips, someone at Hearst must have told Hanlon not to use it anymore, fearing that The Chicago Tribune might sue them.

Best,
Alberto
 
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

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