Wednesday, March 30, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: Jasper Jooks

'Me-tooism' in comic strips may have reached its modern nadir in Jess 'Baldy' Benton's Jasper Jooks. Introduced by the New York Post Syndicate on April 19 1948, the strip was an utterly slavish copy of Al Capp's Li'l Abner. Practically the only nod to originality is that the residents of Appleknock Territory wear Revolutionary War attire rather than the hillbilly rags fashionable in Dogpatch.

It's a shame, too, because copying Al Capp is no small feat. Baldy Benton had both the art and writing style nailed down, an indication that he surely could have done justice to a more original concept. My hope is that Benton didn't create Jasper Jooks of his own volition, but was directed to copy Li'l Abner by the Post Syndicate. Perhaps the syndicate had the idea that because Capp's phenomenally successful strip was only available in one paper per territory that a knock-off could find a home at all those other papers that missed out on the strip.

If that was the thinking then the syndicate was wrong. Jasper Jooks didn't make it into a lot of papers and seems to have expired just shy of a one-year contract, on March 26 1949.

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This is amazing. It makes all those Dick Tracy ripoffs look like 100% original material. He even follows Capp's lettering quirks ("--I'm thinking this--").

But as you say, hints of a capable artist with a personal style peek out, especially from the backgrounds. Did "Baldy" do any other strips?
 
Part 1

Jess 'Baldy' Benton was born on May 9, 1911 according to the Social Security Death Index (his first name spelled as Jesse). Census information on him has not yet been found. As recorded in the U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Benton enlisted on April 17, 1941. He was a Vermont native, single, with four years of high school education, and a commercial artist.

"Jasper Jooks", was covered in Editor & Publisher, Volume 81, 1948 (Google Books search).

Blue Laws, Comic Art Join in 'Jasper Jooks'
By Helen M. Staunton

BLUE LAWS and a territory of New England which never progressed
beyond Revolutionary customs and clothes furnish setting for the new
New York Post Syndicate comic strip "Jasper Jooks," by Baldy Benton.

"Slightly weird," Benton grants of the strip, "But I believe that these
weird things have been enormously successful. Look at 'Berkeley
Square' and 'Brigadoon'," he told E&P.

More than the idea of "Jasper Jooks" is weird. Benton's art with its
grotesque features, accent on action and wealth of detail is, he agrees,
in the comic tradition. Several years an artist and writer for the Bridgeport
(Conn.) Herald and two years in Hollywood, Benton got the idea for his
strip, he said, when he was doing a feature story on blue laws. The idea
stuck with him through a couple of years comics apprenticeship at
Fawcett Publications and "four years, nine months and 29 days in the
Army." Benton has had about 100 short stories published.
 
Part 2

"Jasper Jooks," as the strip narrates, was a twin who stayed in the
Appleknock Territory when his brother went to Boston to be an actor.
What with getting put in the stocks, observing curfew and obeying the
laws of Judge Haz Bean, the strip's characters provide action in the
comic and escapist vein. "It has seemed to me that there are some
people who would have rather lived in some other time," explained
Benton mildly. NYP will release the comic April 19.

View his comic book credits at the Grand Comics Database, www.comics.org/credit/name/jess%20benton/sort/alpha. According to the Social Security Death Index, Benton passed away on July 31, 1991; his last known residence was Fanwood, New Jersey.
 
I rather like the nod to John Gunther's "Inside..." series.
 
Is Allen on vacation?
 
This is exactly what happened one year ago. It must have something to do with the anniversary.The blog will come back.
 
Last year Strippers guide returned on april 12, and now it is after that date.
Please Allan, what is going on?
 
The Gooch feature in the American Armed Forces Features is by Benton, as you noted in your post about that. The sample I could find on ebay shows a remarkable resemblance to a filler strip in one of Sterling's books (I believe The Informer), which I first attributed to Howard Nostrand...
 
The last date I have found is 3-30, published on April1 in the Philadelphia paper Daily notes (a five times a week paper, with a double strip once a week). Another Philadelphia paper has 3-28 on April 1, also the last occurance. So whatever the deal was, they both stopped April 1 in midstory.
 
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: Alpha, Omega and their Sister Sue



If I was that goose, I'd go on strike. Obviously the star of the show in Alpha, Omega and their Sister Sue, he gets bottom billing! What's up with that?

Alpha, Omega and their Sister Sue was contributed by Paul West to the New York World Sunday section for just a handful of episodes, from March 9 to 30 1902 (the examples above lack only the premier episode). In the past I've described West's art as repellant. I wonder if someone back then made the same comment to him, because in this strip he's really done an excellent job of toning down the frightful Halloween-mask faces I so associate with him -- the artwork here is actually quite charming.

We just covered the quasi-official Sunbonnet Sue strip recently, and oddly enough, here she pops up again, though by a cartoonist not normally associated with her. West doesn't seem to have been fully on board with the philosophy of not showing her face, though.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!

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What's with that bag of ... sand? he keeps carrying around?
 
I assume it's goose feed, but I hadn't noticed how pervasive it was in these strips until you pointed it out!
 
Part 1

Paul West was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 26, 1871, according to his passport application. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census he was the oldest of four children born to Paul, a lawyer, and Fannie; his middle initial was C. They lived in Boston at 778 Broadway.

In 1900, West was married to Jennie, since 1895. With two children, they lived in Yonkers, New York at 41 Caryl Avenue. He gave his occupation as newspaper.

In the 1910 census, the Wests lived in New York City, Manhattan, at 610 West 111th Street. His occupation was an editor at a newspaper. On April 24, 1918, he sailed to France for Red Cross duty. He died in Paris in October 1918. On October 26, the New York Times reported his passing.

Paul West Disappears.

His Cap Found on a Paris Bridge–Message Hints of Suicide.

Paris, Oct. 25.–Paul West, a New York writer, who came to France as a
Red Cross worker, has disappeared. His cap was found on a Paris bridge.
With it were two cards. One was addressed to Captain R.T. Townsend,
and on the other was written in French:

"When this is found I shall be dead."

West's health has been bad, and he was to have sailed for America this
week.
 
Part 2 (Paul West Disappears continued)

Paul West, well-known as journalist, playwright, and author, was born in
Boston, Mass., Jan. 26, 1871, and was graduated from the Peekskill
Military Academy, Peekskill, N.Y., in 1888. In July, 1895, he was married
to Miss Jane V. Carrigan of Cambridge, Mass., and she and a daughter
and a son survive, the latter being a member of the crew of a yacht
engaged in submarine patrol in European waters. The family formerly lived
at 817 West End Avenue, but Mr. West sublet his apartment before he left
for Europe last Summer and Mrs. West and daughter are said to be living
at East FIftieth Street.

Mr. West was engaged on Boston newspapers for several years, and
came to New York as a member of the editorial staff of The New York
Sunday World in 1898, remaining in this position until 1911.

Mr. West was the writer of "The Man From China," "The Pearl and the
Pumpkin," "The Love Waltz," "At the Waldorf," "Birdland," "The
Twentieth Century," "The Song Shop," "The Red Petticoat," and other
musical comedies, besides adapting and collaborating on many others.
He was also the writer of more than 300 published songs, and more than
100 motion pictures plays, including "War," "Crooky," (for Frank Daniels.)
"The Victim," and "The Wrong Girl." His books included "Short Letters of
a Small Boy," "The Innocent Murderers," (collaborating with William
Johnson.) "The Widow Wise," "Bill," "In Our School," and "Dime Novels
of an Office Boy."
 
Part 3

On October 30, the New York Times published this follow-up article:

Paul West's Body Found.

Discovered in Seine in Paris, Near Where He Left Note

Paris, Oct. 29.–The body of Paul West of New York, who came to France
to work for the American Red Cross and who disappeared last week, was
found yesterday in the River Seine. The Paris edition of The New York
Herald says the body was found close to the bridge where he left his cap
with a note, and which was found after his disappearance. The body had
lodged beneath a barge, and was fully dressed in the Red Cross uniform
and overcoat.

Mr. West, who was a writer and playwright, had been in poor health.

The Reno Evenving Gazette published this follow-up article on January 15, 1919:

Grave of Red Cross Worker Is Decorated

Paris, Jan. 15.–American newspapermen went to the American Red
Cross cemetery this afternoon and placed a wreath on the grave of Paul
West, well known New York writer and Red Cross worker. The flower
covered grave was photographed and copies will be sent to his late
home.

Paul West died in Paris after his return from the Western front where
he had engaged in war work and at one time narrowly escaped death
when a shell from a big German gun exploded near him. He suffered
from shell shock as a result.
 
At one point Paul West ran the World comic art department, according to Herriman. I can't find much else on him besides what is posted here.
 
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Monday, March 28, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: When You Were a Boy


Jack Callahan hit the New York Evening World like a hurricane in the mid-teens, churning out a what seemed like a practically endless variety of strips and panel series. Here's one of his efforts, When You Were a Boy. H.T. Webster and Clare Briggs paved the way with their well-received nostalgic reminiscences about boyhood, and plenty of other cartoonists followed suit with their own interpretations. Callahan's, I think, has to be classified on the mediocre side. The powers that be must have liked it, though, because it ran almost a full year, from April 7 1916 to February 3 1917. In addition to appearing in the Evening World it was also syndicated through Pulitzer's Press Publishing company.

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Part 1

John Thomas "Jack" Callahan was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 14, 1888. Nothing is known about his art training. He was employed at the New York World newspaper. When the crossword puzzle was invented in 1913, Callahan was involved. On February 27, 1938, the Seattle Daily Times (Washington) published the article, The Cross-Words Puzzle's Twenty-Fifth Birthday, which explained his role.

...The drawing of the first diagram was assigned to Jack Callahan, then
a cub artist, now known as the creator of the famous come strip, "Home,
Sweet Home," and was printed merely as miscellany—a curiosity to
help the page.

Callahan's diagram drawing can be viewed at, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossword. Some of his early strips and panels include: Life's Little "Ifs" (1915-1916), When You Were a Boy (April 7, 1916 to February 3, 1917), Big Moments in Little Lives (1916), Bonehead Bill (1916), Flivvers (September 21, 1916 to February 2, 1917), Over Here (1918), and Cinderella Suze (1918).

He signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917; his occupation was "Artist/Free Lance Comic Artist". His description was "5 4/12, Slender", "Eyes/Hair: Blue/Brown".

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Callahan lived with his parents, James and Millie, in Brooklyn at 299 State Street. His occupation was artist for a newspaper. Some of his strips, from this decade, include Hon and Dearie (previously titled as Over There, then later retitled as The Piffle Family in 1922), Freddie the Sheik (1924-1928), and Clarabelle's Cousin (1928-1930). On January 2, 1926 the New York Times reported Callahan's marriage.

Jack Callahan, comic artist of the New York American, and Helen Carr,
who used to dive from the roof of the Hippodrome in the spectacle "Happy
Days," were married Wednesday afternoon at Borough Hall, Brooklyn.
They had known each other since childhood….
 
Part 2

…He told only a few intimate friends of his wedding until yesterday, when
the news was made more generally known through announcement cards
of his own design bearing the inscription, "Ringing in the New Year," and
showing the bride and bridegroom standing together inside a gigantic
wedding ring. The couple are living at present at the Hotel Pennsylvania,
where Mr. Callahan has resided for several years.

The couple was profiled in The Dearborn Independent on September 3, 1927. The first page can be viewed at Google Books; Google this line, And She Is Blind By Paul Payton Farrington; next, on the left column,
click on More, then click on Books.

In the 1930 census the Callahans lived in North Hempstead, New York at the Belgrave Square Apartments on Brompton Road. His occupation was an artist working in publishing; his strips included Dizzie's Eating House (1930) and Home, Sweet Home (1935-1940).

Callahan signed his World War II draft card on April 26, 1942; he and his wife lived in Brooklyn at 1775 75th Street. His said his occupation was "Business for self—Artist". During the second half of the 40s, he found work in the comic book industry; some of his credits can be found at the Grand Comic Book Database, www.comics.org/credit/name/jack%20callahan/sort/alpha/

Callahan passed away on August 24, 1954. His death was reported in the New York Times on August 26.

Jack Callahan Is Dead

Newspaper Comic Strip Artist Succumbs on Tennis Court

Jack Callahan, newspaper comics strip artist, whose work appeared in
The New York American for many years until 1940, died Tuesday
afternoon of a heart attack while playing tennis near his home, 1771
Seventy-fifth Street, Brooklyn. His age was 65.

Mr. Callahan was best known for his comic strips, "Hon and Dearie,"
"Freddie the Sheik," and "Calamity Jane." In 1926, he married Helen
Carr, the girl who did the sensational dive from the roof of the New
York Hippodrome in "Happy Days" and "Cheer Up." She is the only
immediate survivor.

According to U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006, he was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
 
Hi
I thought that Jack Callahan's Dizzy's eating house was In the Sunday paper 4/22/1928 I have this strip from the paper. But I have not looked at it lately. I will have to take it out and look to see if they have it on it. Thank you for all of this information.
Crystalsky
 
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

For those outside Florida, this is our new 'tea party' governor, Rick Scott. One of his first official acts was to turn down over $2 billion dollars in federal grant money for building a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa. Although his stated reason was that he was worried about possible cost overruns that would have to come out of the state's pocket, the real reason is much more likely that the Republican governor did not want to endear Floridians to our Democrat president for all those jobs that would have been created.

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Think of all the drug testing profits he gave up for that project! Surely a sign of true conviction! (Will he be our first recall?)
 
Do you think everything really comes down to sophomoric political games?
In a tax overburdened state like Florida, why would we take on a new, out of the blue boondoggle like this? The gov wisely said no because the huge price tag that Floridians will pay in the years or decades ahead will far exceed the chump change or the supposed jobs and revenues the feds offer as bait.
Maybe you and people like you have vast amounts of cash you itch to spend. Why not get together and build your own speed train? Don't let a little thing like never hoping to make a nickle get in the way. In the mean time, stop trying to force us to bleed our hard earned assets for more needless government pork projects, be they Democratic or Republican- we're hurting out here.
 
Tax overburdened? Floridians enjoy some of the lowest tax rates in the country, between no income tax, relatively low property taxes and average sales taxes. Where do you get your information?

If we're "hurting out here" then turning up your nose at 24,000 jobs seems like a mighty strange way to cure the problem.

Is the high-speed rail a great project? No, not in my opinion. But the federal government has already budgeted the money, and now it will go to some other similarly porky project in another state. It's not like the chastened fed is now going to put that $2B toward paying down the debt. Refusing it 'on principle' is an utterly meaningless gesture that only allowed other states to belly up to the bar at our expense.

As for the rail project costing us money in the long run, that's a straw man argument. The legislature merely has to be proactive and write legislation such that the rail line can be shut down lock stock and barrel if it fails to pay for itself. This option was even suggested by federal officials.

--Allan
 
You are turning a forum for comics and history into another outlet for leftist politics. How low. Let it alone. Take your arrogant contempt for taxpayers, along with the feebly drawn sunday cartoonist to the huffington post.
 
This is certainly not a political blog, I just attempted to explain a cartoon that many outside Florida might not understand. You made a comment that severely distorted the facts of the matter. I was fair enough to answer your message civilly, pointing out factual errors in your post, rather than delete your message. Such a shame that you can't be civil as well. Easier to hurl invective and insults rather than present your viewpoint and defend it.
 
I enjoy political cartoons that take on all [Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Party] and why not? It's the sign of an intelligent mind when one can hear/read something that he/she doesn't agree with and can remain civil.

And to call Jim's art feeble is just plain silly. There ain't nothin' feeble about Jim.
 
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