Saturday, June 09, 2012
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, June 08, 2012
Obscurity of the Day: The Little Red School-House
Yesterday we discussed Dwig's School Days, a tremendously original, exciting and raucous panel series about the goings-on at a country schoolhouse. To better show you why I so admire Dwig's series, I thought it might be helpful to show you a similar series by another creator, so you can judge side by side.
I don't mean to pick on C.W. Kahles, but his 1901 series, The Little Red School-House, is terrible by comparison. First there's the technically proficient but stilted art. Compare it with Dwig's work, which is all about movement and energy. Looking at Dwig's artwork is like being on a Coney Island rollercoaster -- Kahles is more like sitting in a stuffy British drawing-room. For all the activity going on in Kahles' panels, it all feels like a tableau vivant, with all the characters holding their breath and not moving a muscle. Dwig's work has your eye restlessly flitting about, trying to catch all the action as if the scene were going to change before your eyes.
Then there's the activities being depicted. Although very similar, in Kahles' version the mayhem and shouting all seem forced. Somehow he manages to make the kids actually look like they're uncomfortable saying their lines. The enforced merriment ("I think I'll bust laffin'") hits the reader with a resounding thud. Worse, Kahles doesn't give his reader any credit for seeing what's going on -- for instance, do we need an animal on the sidelines telling us "Just see how they're throwin' it into the poor teacher?" Thud.
Meanwhile Dwig is dancing around, using wordplay like a rapier and letting his kids joyfully go and do what seems to come natural -- even though it is often more far-fetched than Kahles' activities. Though Dwig's kids represent the same standard characters used over and over in these series (the bookworm, the bully, the tattletale, etc.), his kids seem somehow real. Maybe its because their features aren't generic; Kahles' kids all basically have the same model face.
Kahles doesn't really deserve this drubbing, though, I hasten to point out. Many cartoonists did these schoolhouse features, and few if any of them can even hold a candle to Dwig's work. The Little Red School-House was a mere blip on Kahles' radar, produced in amongst lots of other series, and probably given little thought -- it was just a feature to fill up a space and was not meant to immortalize his name. The series ran in the New York World from September 15 to November 3 1901, not even completing a school term, so obviously Kahles didn't have his heart in it.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans, and I hope he doesn't take personally this flogging of Kahles, one of his faves!
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Obscurity of the Day: School Days
School Days, a weekday panel series that only ran from April 3 to September 18 1909 in the New York Evening World, represents an enormous burst of creativity from Clare Victor Dwiggins, putting in place a cast of characters and motifs he'd return to over and over. We have the overall motif of boisterous country school kids, the Ophelia character and her equally famous slate, Pip Gint the mischievous prankster, and other cast members who'd be used over and over. In addition, Dwig threw in the interesting motif of rope and pulley pranking (perhaps inspiring Rube Goldberg?), another idea he'd revisit in other series.
This hugely funny series rewards readers who are willing to pause far longer than usual on their cartoon fare. If what they say is true, that the average cartoon or comic strip today has all of 5 seconds to make its point, the School Days panels are so far beyond the pale that they can hardly be considered the same species. If you spend less than a couple minutes perusing each of the cartoons above, I can practically guarantee you've missed something.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Ink-Slinger Profiles: Billy Ireland
In the 1900 census Ireland was a cartoonist and the middle son. The family remained in Chillicothe but at another address, 174 South Paint Street. His father and older brother were a wholesale merchants. According to the New York Times, May 30, 1935, he married Florence Sayre of Marion, Indiana, in 1906. The Sunday full-page version of The Passing Show began on February 9, 1908.
In 1910 the couple lived in Columbus, Ohio at 316 Linwood Avenue. He was a newspaper cartoonist. The Washington Herald (District of Columbia), October 24, 1914, published O.O. McIntyre's column which included a piece about Ireland.
Billy Ireland, the cartoonist, has been in New York taking in a few of the new shows and loafing with the newspaper boys along the Great White Way hangouts. Ireland has a summer home outside of Columbus, and has a neighbor who has the habit of feigning deafness when he wants to avoid answering an awkward question. Ireland went over to him and said: "I'd like to borrow your cart this morning for an hour or so. Mine is having a spring mended."
"You'll have to speak louder," the old farmer answered, I don't hear very well, and I don't like to lend my cart, anyhow."
A World War I draft card for Ireland has not been found. The 1920 census recorded him in Columbus at 264 Woodland Avenue. The couple had two daughters. His occupation was a newspaper cartoonist.
…William A. ("Billy") Ireland, cartoonist of the Columbus Dispatch, got the opportunity a few days ago to draw a two-headed snake from a natural model.
Ireland devotes considerable of his pen and ink space to depicting freaks of nature that are found in the gardens, fields, and forests of Ohio. He draws triple-eared corn; mangoes, potatoes and other vegetables shaped like animals and persons; and all kinds of poly-formed herbs, but the two-headed snake opened up a new field in his experience.
His father passed away June 22, 1926 according to The Times Recorder (Ohio). The Newark Advocate (Ohio) reported Robert F. Wolfe, publisher of the Columbus Dispatch and Ohio State Journal, fell from The Dispatch roof to his death, after visiting Ireland a few minutes earlier. Wolfe had not been feeling well for several days. Ireland was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral service for Wolfe.
Evidently, he was a train enthusiast. In 1928 several newspapers, including the Newark Advocate, announced his upcoming February 17 ride in the cab of a railroad engine from Columbus to Indianapolis. Sadly, less than two months later, his mother passed away on April 11 in Chillicothe. The Canton Repository (Ohio), November 16, 1928, covered the ceremony, in Newark, Ohio, where Ireland and John T. McCutheon planted trees in an arboretum.
The family remained the same size and at the same address in 1930. Newspaper cartoonist was his occupation. Ireland passed away May 29, 1935, according to the Canton Repository article of the same day.
Columbus, May 29.—William "Billy" Ireland, 55, widely known cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch and a member of that newspaper's staff for 36 years, was found dead in bed today. He was believed to have suffered a heart attack.
Mr. Ireland, whose cartoons frequently appeared in magazines, was born in Chillicothe. He started to work for the Chillicothe Daily News in 1897 and later worked for the Chillicothe News-Advertiser.
For many years he has drawn "The Passing Show" in the Sunday Dispatch. During his career, Mr. Ireland rejected many offers to go to New York to work.
The next day the Repository published the following:
Columbus, May 29.—W.A. (Billy) Ireland, genial cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch, died unexpectedly at his home today. He was 55.
His sketches, which were reproduced in numerous newspapers and magazines, brought him nationwide renown.
As the "janitor" of a full page in the Sunday Dispatch, Mr. Ireland gave full play to his unusual humor. He signed the page with a shamrock and drew a remarkable resemblance of his own stocky, white haired figure, as the "janitor" of the page, known as "The Passing Show."
His annual "gypsy tours" to various parts of the nation were illustrated in detail in the page. Born in Chillicothe, he often brought persons from that city into his drawings. Always he gave emphasis to his love of the out-of-doors.
The suddenness of his death shocked the community. He had been in his usual haunts early in the week, joking and discussing fishing trips with friends.
Consequently, funeral arrangements were uncertain.
City and state officials expressed amazement when informed of Mr. Ireland's sudden death. Tribute was paid to him by Mayor Henry W. Worley, Bishop James J. Hartley, and L.W. St. John, athletic director of Ohio State University, among others.
Born in Chillicothe, Jan. 8, 1880, Mr. Ireland launched upon his career as an artist as a schoolboy, making chalk plate sketches. With the exception of a short period in Chillicothe, his entire professional career as a cartoonist and newspaper artist was given to the Dispatch here.
An optimist and a humorist, Mr. Ireland inserted his very spirit into his drawings, especially "The Passing Show," where items of human interest dominated.
His Passing Show characters "Jerry and the Judge" were as real to his readers as though they lived in the flesh. He was intensely proud of his country and his state. Many of his cartoons pictured "Old Man Ohio"—an embodiment of what he felt represented the Buckeye state's best citizenship.
Mr. Ireland played just as hard as he worked. His vacation trips were devoted to gathering ideas for "The Passing Show." The Atlantic coast fishing villages knew him, as did the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. His summer home was on Cape Cod. Golf was his hobby, with motoring, fishing and camping close seconds.
Mr. Ireland was a member of the Scioto Country club here; the Columbus Athletic club and the Elks. He was a Mason and a Rotarian. He was a member of the St. Paul's Episcopal church.
The widow, Mrs. Florence Sayre Ireland, and two daughters, Ruth and Betty, survive.
Mrs. Ireland found the cartoonist dead in bed late this morning. He had died during the night of heart disease from which he had suffered minor attacks for some time.
He had been connected with the Dispatch for 36 years, rejecting repeated offers to go to other newspapers
On May 31, the Repository said Ireland's body was taken to Chillicothe for burial. Ireland's last Passing Show was published on June 2, 1935; it was continued by Harry Keys. The Toledo Blade (Ohio), November 8, 1941, reported Ireland's name was added to the Ohio journalism hall of fame at Ohio State University.
Ireland was mentor to several cartoonists including Milton Caniff, Noel Sickles, and Dudley Fisher. Frank Spangler got his start by substituting for Ireland. Columbus Dispatch cartoonist Ray Evans paid tribute to Ireland.
The Portsmouth Daily Times, September 26, 1984, published "State To Honor Artist" which said:
Gov. Richard Celeste and Lt. Gov. Myrl Shoemaker are to dedicate a shelter house at Great Seal Park today in honor of Billy Ireland, a cartoonist who sketched his vision of the park shortly before he died in 1936 [sic].
The park offers visitors a view of the hills and pasture that are pictured on the state seal.
The comics collection at Ohio State University was renamed the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in 2009. The original art for a few of his editorial cartoons is at Heritage Auctions.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
OSU published an oversized collection a couple years ago, and it can still be found at http://cartoons.osu.edu/?q=publications/billy-ireland
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Obscurity of the Day: Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger
However, this post is not about that strip. As obscure as the Mike Hammer strip is, I've got a yet more obscure one for you today. We have Mike Danger, which was Spillane's return to newspaper comics over forty years later. An outfit called Big Entertainment, which seems to have been a well-funded media company, decided to get into the comics business in 1994. Under the name Tekno-Comix, they gathered together a group of famous names to associate with comic book series. Besides Spillane, they got Leonard Nimoy, Anne McCaffrey, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov and others to lend their monikers, if not necessarily their talents, to comic book series.
The comic book series, however, would not begin until mid-1995. In 1994, though, on September 18 to be exact, Mike Danger made his debut as a newspaper strip. It is the only Tekno comic to get the newspaper treatment, and I've only found it in the Asbury Park Press Why the Asbury Park Press? A little sleuthing uncovered that the newspaper was some sort of a partner or investor in Big Entertainment.
Spillane's series was titled Mike Danger, a name which had long ago been considered for an early comic book version of the detective who eventually became Mike Hammer. The new series, though, put a different spin on the hard-bitten detective genre. In this version, the grizzled detective starts out in a typical enough story, but after ten weeks of Sunday strips he gets locked into a cryo-chamber and wakes up in the year 2052. The 'fish out of water' motif was the brainchild of Max Allan Collins, who penned the series.
I asked Collins for his recollections about the strip. As to why the comic book series was preceded by a newspaper strip, he said "the purpose of it, I believe, was to have a comics property out there to show generally the direction the comic book company would go in." Collins also recalled that the series was not limited to the Asbury Park Press -- "my memory is that we were in a couple of papers, maybe three, at least at first. But I can't guarantee it." As to Spillane's involvement, Collins said, "Mickey and I devised Mike Danger in a brainstorming session. Out of that session came the notion of using the Mike Danger character but in a s-f format. I proposed time travel, and the politically incorrect Danger landing in a politically correct time. It was a productive session. After that Mickey's role was strictly to promote the comic book -- he did lots of TV and radio -- and I did all the writing."
The comic strip series featured work by different artists than the later comic book series. The newspaper strip sported excellent art, originally by Keith Giffen on pencils and Mike Barreiro on inks, then Giffen was replaced by Joe Station starting with the October 23 episode.
My run of the strip only goes through the end of 1994, but I'm reasonably sure that it did continue into 1995. Unfortunately I don't know how far into 1995, but my guess is that if this was strictly a marketing tool for the comic book, it probably would have wound up its run sometime around mid-year when the comic book series hit the stands (the first issue was dated September 1995).
Monday, June 04, 2012
Ink-Slinger Profiles: Tarpé Mills
June Tarpé Mills was born in New York City on February 25, 1912. Her birth year was determined by examining the 1930 United States Federal Census, which was enumerated in April and recorded her age as 18. Trina Robbins used the same year in her profile of Mills for the book, Womanthology. The birth month and day was on a 1947 passenger list at Ancestry.com, although the birth year was recorded as 1918. She has not been found in the 1920 census.
In the 1930 census, Mills was the youngest, at age 18, of three children born to Margaret, a widow who was a hairdresser at a beauty salon. The census recorded her occupation as artist model in the artist industry. Her older siblings, Thomas, 23, and Margaret, 19, had the Tarpey surname. They lived in Brooklyn, New York at 970 St. Marks Avenue. At age fifteen, their mother married John J. Tarpey around 1907. Some time after daughter Margaret's birth, they divorced. The father, who remarried, had custody of the children, according to the 1910 and 1920 censuses. Some time between 1920 and 1930, Margaret's children from her first marriage joined her household.
The elder Margaret remarried to Mills, whose first name is not known, and they had June. His fate is not known. In the 1930 census, the name recorded was "June T. Mills", so it appeared she used the Tarpey name but changed the spelling to Tarpé.
In The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), Maurice Horn wrote: "One of the few female cartoonists successful in the action genre, Tarpe Mills started Black Fury (soon to be changed to Miss Fury) on April 6, 1941, as a Sunday feature for the Bell Syndicate."
The New York Post, April 6, 1942, profiled Mills in the article, "Meet the Real Miss Fury—It's All Done With Mirrors" by James Aronson.
...Tarpe Mills, Erasmus Hall High graduate, said that she literally stumbled into cartooning. She posed for portrait painters, photographers and sculptors to pay her way through Pratt Institute. She studied sculpture and was told that she showed promise; but the market for birdbaths was pretty dry, so she went into animated cartooning.
Among other things she created a few cat characters which were used in a series of pictures, and finally, she said, "I was carried out of the joint with a nervous breakdown." It was back to posing and free-lance drawing.
"Then," she said, "a foot injury kept me out of circulation and I started a serial called "Daredevil Barry Finn" for one of the children's comic books. I hated to drop Barry, so I went into the business whole hog and turned out such hair-raising thrillers as "The Purple Zombie," "Devil's Dust" and "The Cat Man."
Miss Mills dropped her first name (she won't say what it was) because it was too feminine.
"It would have been a major let-down to the kids if they found out that the author of such virile and awesome characters was a gal." she said.
Miss Mills said she writes "Miss Fury" to provide amusement for kids and grownups alike. "Fashions, a hint of romance and human interest for the adults. Fantasy and action for the youngsters."
She admitted she doesn't know where she got her inspiration except that she was one of the imaginative kids "who hang around the house reading books instead of running around outside playing hop-scotch."
Who poses for the girl characters in "Miss Fury," she was asked.
"It's all done with mirrors," she said. "I find it simpler to sketch from a mirror than to have a model and explain just what the character should be doing."
According to the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Periodicals, Part 2, Periodicals, 1943, New Series, Volume 38, Number 3, Mills owned the copyright to the Miss Fury comic book.
Mills passed away in December 1988, according to an issue of Witty World. Her obituary has not been found and she is not in the Social Security Death Index. Who's Who of American Comic Books 1918–1999 has an overview of her career. Her comic book credits are at the Grand Comics Database. Heritage Auctions has the original art for strips of Black Fury and Miss Fury [Allan's note: which appear to be dailies, though the strip was Sunday only!]. Trina Robbins has written extensively about Mills in A Century of Women Cartoonists (1993), The Great Women Superheroes (1996) and Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944-1949 (2011).
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles