Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: The Camera Fiend

Kodak's phenomenally popular Brownie camera was introduced in 1900, and all of a sudden we became a nation of shutterbugs. And one of the wonderful properties of newspaper comics, then and now, is that they comment with such immediacy on all the latest fads and fashions. The social history angle of newspaper comics is one of the aspects that, after all these years immersed in them, keeps them endlessly fascinating to me.

And today our lens into the past focuses on the camera itself. In 1902 Albert Bloch, a green kid drawing Sunday strips for the St. Louis Star, turned his attention to the new fad and came up with a comic strip about a guy who takes 'shot-snaps' (!) with his Brownie. The concept was novel enough that he could title the strip simply The Camera Fiend. Now the gags aren't very funny, and the art is painful to look at, but isn't it neat to see Albert's perspective on this amazing new product that was taking the world by storm? And how precious is it that the term 'snapshot' seems not to have yet taken hold to the point that Bloch apparently misremembered the slang -- or is it that he's making a (bad) gag?  Hard to say...

Thanks to Cole Johnson, who supplies us with the entire two-strip run of this series. It ran on November 30 and December 7 1902.


Just got the book... great!I am going to use that a lot! I am specificly interested in crossover artists, artsts who did comic books as well as newspaper comic. And this way I can directly look for specific oddities. Who knew Mell Lazerus' Li'l Kids panel ran until 1965? Who knew Tom Sutton did a strip for the Stars and Stripes? Anyway, first quick update I see: my latest Willie Lumpkin is from May 6 (date strip). The whole last week is on my blog. Also I have never been able to find a Sunday before April 1960... I am using this comment section, since I ahven't got your email dress on hand, but feel free to remove it and answer directly when you want to.
Hi Ger --
Thanks for the later end date on Willie Lumpkin! I see no indication on your blog what paper you found that in -- I'll need that for the source reference.

As for the start of the Sunday, I have as early as January 1960 in my own collection.

Best, Allan
I'll be back to you when I finally get someone to do the Willie Lumpkin book. I'd love to see that earlier Sunday. The first months of the strip, it looks ss if Stan Lee was doing a rip-off/riff on Miss Peach; all characters standing in line in one panel, with the main character delivering the pay-off at the end. Even the try-out strip he and Dan DeCarlo did, about a corner street cop, seems to fit that format. I am curious how they approched the early Sunday strips when they were still doing the one panel dailies. As for the paper - I throw the clippings out when I post them, but a quick search at NewspaperArchive tells me it was the Salt Lake Tribune, as well as showing it also ran in the Syracuse Post Herald and the Winnipeg Free Press, all with the same suden cut-off.
The Syracuse New York Post-Standard and the Winnipeg Free Press ran Wilie Lumpkin as late as May 6, 1961. Those are both available on Newspaper Archives.
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