Saturday, September 21, 2013

 

Herriman Saturday

Saturday, April 25 1908 -- The Great White Fleet leaves Southern California, trailing a contrastingly sky-darkening plume of coal smoke.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

 

Sci-Friday starring Adam Chase

Adam Chase (c) renewed 2013 by Russ Morgan. All rights reserved.

Adam Chase strip #39, originally published February 26 1967. For background on the strip and creator, refer to this post.

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I'm impressed the story is taking turns I didn't anticipate.
 
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

 

Obscurity of the Day: Arnold




Depending on who you ask, Kevin McCormick's Arnold is either an under-appreciated classic or unreadable drivel. There doesn't seem to be much room for opinions in the middle ground. The strip, which debuted on December 13 1982, stars an intelligent, hyper, pugnacious and vociferous kid named Arnold. I'd place him somewhere in the 11-13 year old range, purely as a guess. He stars in the strip along with a limited cast -- his buddy Tommy and his teacher Mr. Lester are generaly the only other characters depicted.

McCormick's schtick in the strip is that Arnold is a potent combination of out of control, imaginative, and extremely well-spoken. So when he gets excited, angry, annoyed, or just about anything else, the usual result is a rant. Arnold's rants are pretty darn epic in scope and originality. When Arnold isn't ranting, he finds no shortage of other reasons to hold forth, and so the strip is often a sea of word balloons. Which is not at all a bad thing, because McCormick's cartooning ability is ... well, let's call it a great example of the naive school, shall we?

Although a cult hit, Arnold never really took off in the mainstream. According to McCormick the strip topped out with 56 client papers, and he says that in newspaper reader polls his strip tended to get about as many votes for 'worst strip' as for 'best'.

What I remember most about Arnold (it ran in a paper I saw frequently) is that the printing of the Sundays was truly awful. The word balloon text always seemed to be washed out and full of printing losses, and the coloring was a sickening miasma. Having since then clipped Arnold Sundays from various other Sunday papers, I find that this was not a circumstance limited to my paper, but seemed to be the norm. I don't know why Arnold was universally badly printed, but I think that may go some way to explain its lack of success. For the record, I had to look through about a hundred Sundays in order to find these four you see above, as almost all of my samples were so badly printed that they were beyond redemption, not worth scanning.

Field Newspapers was the original syndicate, which during the run of Arnold changed to News America Syndicate, and then North America Syndicate. After a little over a year with the final syndicate, Arnold was cancelled on April 9 1988 April 16 1988, after a 5+ year run.

Arnold is Kevin McCormick's only syndicated comic strip credit. In a 2008 interview with Charles Brubaker* he said that he had also ghost written a comic strip for awhile, though unfortunately he didn't name the feature. As of the interview date, he was  a pastor and administrator for a church school.

* To see the interview, you may have to keep the page from completely loading -- if I let the page load completely, I am redirected to Brubaker's homepage.

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Arnold dailies run a week longer than that, to 16 April 1988. In the denouement to the series, Tommy calls Arnold on the phone, only to be told he has been carried away by a giant bird. Tommy asks, "What'll I do now?" only to be offered a cold "Goodbye, Tommy."
We don't know who the voice might be.
 
It was an inconsistent strip, but I recall laughing out loud more than a few times. If memory serves, Arnold's run ins with the Lunch Lady were usually a treat-- though a bit gross at times.
 
Thanks for the correction Mark!

--Allan
 
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

 

Obscurity of the Day: Duffy



It may be unfair to label Bruce Hammond's Duffy as an obscurity. The strip lasted almost a decade and a half, at its most popular was claimed to be running in 90+ newspapers, even got the reprint book treatment once. On the other hand, it is a strip that certainly did seem to fly under the radar for much of its existence.

The strip debuted as a Sunday and daily feature on November 16 1981. The setting was a business office, and the main character, Duffy, was a disheveled middle-management paper-pusher type. His comic foils include Jessica James, a ladder-climbing junior exec, Naomi, a nuts-and-berries secretary, Miles Van Smoot, an air-headed executive, and the boss, W.G., who is heard but never seen.

With most of the gags about office politics, technology, and upper management, you could think of this as a precursor to Dilbert, but I think that would be off-base. Duffy owed a little more, I think, to the style and gags of Jeff MacNelly's Shoe. Take off the bird wings, and move the Treetops Tattler gang into a generic office setting, and you get close to the feel of Duffy.

Although Duffy fared well out of the gate, by the late 1980s it seems to have disappeared from most of the 90+ papers that had run it in its best days. As an office-based strip, perhaps On The Fastrack, which debuted in 1984, siphoned off some clients, and certainly in the early 90s Dilbert was killing off the market for all other workplace humor comics.

Hammond and Universal Press Syndicate finally pulled the plug on Duffy sometime in 1996, by which time my impression is that its client list was very, very short.

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Duffy will be forever known as the comic that replaced Cincinnati's own Judge Parker in the E------r on March 29, 1982.

As you have seen in the Cincinnati Post Comic Strip Index Retro, the Post got rid of Rex Morgan MD in 1994. The comic that replaced it? Dilbert.
 
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

 

Obscurity (and Great Novel) of the Day: The Nebbishes


Herb Gardner is best known as a successful playwright, with credits including I'm Not Rappaport and A Thousand Clowns. But before his successful career in the theatre he was already, as they say, kind of a big deal. He'd started acting at age 12, was a prize-winning sculptor at 14, won a TV script contest at 20, and had a novel published at age 23.

His initial big success was with a cartoon character. Gardner produced a slobby little character called the Nebbish, and it was picked up for marketing on, as Gardner said, "just about every white surface except surgical masks." Among the most famous of the Nebbish pieces was of a pair of them depicted with their feet up, one saying to the other, "Next week we've got to get organized."

The Nebbishes were a successful novelty brand in the mid- and late-1950s, and Gardner parleyed that popularity into a Sunday-only comic strip series distributed by McNaught Syndicate (not, as is claimed elsewhere, the Chicago Tribune, though the strip did run in that paper). The series began on January 4 1959, and never really caught on all that well. Supposedly the strip ran in as many as sixty newspapers, but that was probably not bringing in the kind of money that Gardner was becoming used to in his other endeavors. He stuck with the series for two years, and retired it on January 29 1961.

When I was researching this strip, I found that Gardner's only published novel, A Piece of the Action, is actually a thinly veiled chronicle of his own introduction to the world of character merchandising. In the novel the Nebbishes are instead called Slobs, but otherwise everything seems relatively autobiographical. Not only is the novel fascinating for its look into the odd world of gift merchandising, it is a coming of age story for Lou Gracie, Gardner's doppelganger. Gracie is a typically confused young artist, struggling with the competing ideas of art and commerce. Having created the original Slob on a whim, he knows that he has a great character, certainly good for commercial production of some kind. He's aimless though, and nothing comes of it until purely by luck he falls into the orbit of a marketing guru. The sharp businessman manipulates the inexperienced kid into giving up control of his creation in exchange for the prospects of money, power and women. But the kid is no fool -- he knows exactly what is happening. The core of the novel deals with the question of how much control an artist should give up in exchange for security and power. An interesting question, and dealt with in a real page-turner of a novel. I highly recommend it, especially to any of you who are commercial artists. I confidently predict that you'll gobble this one up.

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Hi Allan,
I posted the first Nebbishes Sunday pages from the St. Louis Post Dispatch on my blog here: http://itsthecat.com/blog/?p=4043
If you read the next two posts after that, I reprint all the Nebbishes I saved from the Post. Thanks for this interesting post on Herb Garndner and the book he wrote.
Mark Kausler
 
Is it just me or is the figure art on The Nebbishes appear to be a huge influence on Bob Cordray's Smidgens (with a dash of Hanna-Barbera as well)
 
Completely agree, Andy. I think Herb Gardner might have had basis for a lawsuit there!

--Allan
 
Gardner brought the Nebbishes back for a King Features Sunday 1 panel only series. It ran from 14 March 1982 to 13 March 1983.
All show the slovenly Nebbish characters with a typically hopeless or pathetic captions like "I haven't had a good idea since 1957" or "Don't blame me if we lose".
They almost look like they were comic greeting card art.

 
More Sundays on my blog as well. Mark, I'll link to yors if you'll link to mine. Heck, I'll link to yours anyway.
 
Hi Makr -- Wow, that revival series is news to me. Any chance you could provide a scan or two?

Best, Allan
 
Many years ago my wife and I discovered a Nebbish ashtray. It show many Nebbishes running from left to right, with many large arrows pointing in that direction. In the center was one Nebbish walking from right to left, and underneath is his comment: "Nobody tell me what to do". Not too long ago we inadvertently broke the ashtray. I would appreciate it very much if somebody knows how/where we could find either the ashtray, or just a picture of that particular cartoon.

Thank you.

oldetimer
saberman99@yahoo.com
 
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Monday, September 16, 2013

 

Obscurity of the Day: Honeybunch's Hubby






Charlie Payne was a real workhorse cartoonist. Although he doesn't have a laundry list of titles to his credit, that's only because he tended to stick with a series once he started it, and he didn't jump around from syndicate to syndicate much. On the other hand, the problem with him, which would show up more and more in his work as time went on, is that he saved time by eliminating 'frills' from his cartoons -- unimportant stuff like backgrounds. You can already see in these samples of Honeybunch's Hubby from 1910 that by the third sample he has dispensed with niceties like floors, walls, decor ... When Payne really gets going on this kick his characters float around in the panels as if they all live in interstellar space.

Anyway, Honeybunch's Hubby, which was originally titled Mr. Mush when it debuted on November 27 1909, is about either a philandering scumbag of a husband, or a poor wronged wretch of a husband. Take your pick, as hubby's role changes depending on Payne's gag of the day. The consistency is in Honeybunch's domineering role, which gradually lessens a bit as the series goes on -- notice that the relative sizes of the two are more equalized by the third sample, from about a year into the series.

Honeybunch's Hubby ran as a weekday offering in the Evening World until March 30 1911, basically being replaced by the very long-running S'Matter, Pop. But that was far from the end for these characters.

By the 1920s, Payne had settled into a comfortable routine, producing S'Matter Pop as a daily and Sunday series for Bell Syndicate. But when Bell jumped on the topper bandwagon in 1931, Payne did something rather strange.

He brought the old strip back, but not as a topper. On April 19 1931, he inexplicably reduced his bread-and-butter strip, S'Matter Pop, to a Sunday topper, with Honeybunch's Hubby as the main feature. The experiment went on for about eight months before Payne pulled another switch, and Honeybunch's Hubby became the topper (albeit a large one that seemingly was also offered on its own) and S'Matter Pop became the main strip again. The status quo held until the Sunday S'Matter Pop was cancelled. The latest I can find the Sunday running is July 22 1934, but Bell advertised both main strip and topper until 1937, so perhaps there is a longer run lurking out there somewhere. Has anyone seen it past my end date?


Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!


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Hello, Allan--Notice the "guest appearance" of Harry Palmer's BABBLING BESS in the first example.
 
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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