Saturday, November 09, 2013
Thursday, November 07, 2013
News of Yore: Ryan Walker
The New Adventures of Henry Dubb can be viewed here.
Walker’s life was examined in the Daily Worker, which also published his obituary. The 1850 U.S. Federal Census listed Walker’s mother, Dulcina, whose maiden name was Ryan.
Labels: News of Yore
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Obscurity of the Day: Fenton (plus Clyde)
Long before Wiley Miller became a comics page star with Non Sequitur, his first attempt at comic strip success was with Fenton, which debuted from Field Enterprises on March 7 1983. It was not a painless birth. Fenton had first been accepted by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, but they sat on the strip for almost a year before Miller gave up and took it elsewhere. Eventually Field Enterprises bit, but they also sat on it for a year before releasing it. When Field did finally get around to offering it, the sales were pretty good. Wiley says that by the end of the first year he had over a hundred papers, not a bad start at all.
The strip deserved success. It offered a fresh voice, good art, and consistently nail-on-the-head sardonic humor. The titular star of the strip is an assistant to the mayor of Cynical Falls, but his real job is to be the town curmudgeon, a business in which he excels. His foils include his grandson, the mayor and the mayor's daughter, and the local monks (!). The tone is in the same vein as Non Sequitur, but Miller ties his hands a bit with a regular cast, a problem he remedied in his next strip.
I don't know the circumstances which ended the strip, but there are a few obvious possibilities. Wiley may have canned the strip when he got his new gig drawing editorial cartoons for the San Francisco Examiner, or there may have been friction problems when Field Enterprises sold out to Rupert Murdoch, and then quickly turned around to North America Syndicate.
The latest I can attest Fenton to running is December 22 1985.
But wait, there's more!
As anyone who was there at the unveiling of Non Sequitur's vertical Sunday orientation can attest, Mr. Miller is not merely an excellent cartoonist; he's also a marketer and inventor -- sort of a Thomas Edison of the comics page. His ideas on how to snag new clients didn't begin with Non Sequitur, though. As you see in the Sunday above, Fenton had an ancillary panel feature starring a horse called Clyde. Since that panel is copyrighted and dated separately, it is my assumption that Miller wanted to try selling it separately (a great item to take the place of a quarter page strip's title panel, dontcha know). I have not actually seen it running separately, but knowing Wiley that's what he was up to. Clyde debuted as part of the Fenton Sunday on June 2 1985.
The marketing savvy doesn't even stop there -- Clyde the horse ties into another venture of Wiley's. At the time, he also had a little cottage industry going with his wife, who attended a lot of horse shows. They offered note cards at the shows featuring horse cartoons. You don't have to guess if the horse in those cartoons was a dead ringer for Clyde. That wily Wiley, always thinking!
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: A Jim Lange Scrapbook
by Robert Lange
Self-published, softcover, 100 pages, $15.95
How do you in good conscience write a negative review of a book written by a son about his dad? I know I sure don't want to be that jerk. But I think it only fair that prospective buyers be forewarned about what they are purchasing .
Based on the title of John Q: The Life and Times of Jim Lange, I assumed that I was purchasing a biography of the Daily Oklahoman editorial cartoonist. In fairness, when I ordered the book on Amazon, there was a 'Look Inside' feature that I didn't bother with. Who needs to see what the inside of a biography looks like?
Well, if I had taken the time, I would have seen that the book consists of short paragraphs on each alternating page, and a photo or cartoon on each facing page. Some of these short paragraphs (some are just a single sentence) comment in some way on the photo or the cartoon, or tell some tidbit about Lange. There is no biography here, just reminiscences plus some accolades written by Oklahoma notables.
If the book had been called an admiring son's memorial or a scrapbook, that would be much closer to the mark. To say the book tells the "life and times" of Lange is nonsense.
I also think the price is on the high side. A bunch of blurry black and white photos and a very small selection of cartoons (I count about twenty-five), and so little text that I could literally read the whole book while standing in a supermarket checkout line -- $16 seems out of line.
I commend Robert for wanting to memorialize his dad, but I think this book is the sort of thing to be shared with relatives and personal friends. It is not really a commercial product that would appeal to cartoon fans or those who fondly remember his work in the Oklahoman.
Labels: Stripper's Guide Bookshelf
Monday, November 04, 2013
Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: Russ Manning, Lord of the Jungle
Edgar Ric Burroughs' Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips Volume One: 1967-1969
IDW Publishing 2013
Hardcover, 285 pages, $49.99
Those of you who visit this site regularly know that I have very high (some would say nearly impossibly high) standards for adventure strips. I find 90% of them practically unreadable, usually because of simplistic storylines, less than stellar art, or bad pacing.
I must confess that for me much of Tarzan's seven plus decades in the newspaper falls into the unreadable category. When the art is good, and it often was, the storylines seldom hold my interest. That can be ascribed partially to Mr. Burroughs' creation itself, as opposed to shortcomings in the handling of the comic strip. The assumption that this white man, given the benefit of growing up in the jungle, naturally becomes the lord of the beasts and the native tribes (if they know what's good for them) is far more apt to make me giggle uncontrollably than to be swept away in the adventure. I have no desire to watch the insanity of manifest destiny and the white man's burden played out in the jungle or anywhere else. It certainly doesn't entertain me.
Now before Tarzan fans start screaming for my head, I do understand that there was plenty of lip service to the contrary. You can point out, and rightfully so, that many of the villains in the Tarzan strip are actually white guys, especially as we come into the more enlightened years of race relations. But sorry, to me the ugly writing is always on the wall.
And that's why I can say that I was thrilled to hear that IDW was going to reprint the Russ Manning years of Tarzan, as opposed to the earlier stuff. The Manning years come at a time when the jingoistic and paternalistic ideology of Burroughs was reaching a new low ebb. Manning, who also wrote the strip, goes out of his way to tell Tarzan stories that minimize the unsavory aspects of the Tarzan legend, and he even occasionally goes out of his way to point out that Tarzan is more like a governor of the jungle than a lord (both being ridiculous, of course, but hey, its an improvement).
I first encountered Manning's Tarzan work in those great 100-Page Super-Spectacular comic books DC comics issued in the early 1970s. I loved all the oddball (to my young eyes) material in those magazines, and absolutely fell in love with the Manning strips in the Tarzan issues. The art and stories blew me away then, and I'm happy to say that age has not dimmed my enjoyment of these stories, or lessened my admiratiion for Manning's incredible clean line artwork.
The only slight caveat, and its a point of interest only, is that I was surprised how obvious it is when Manning occasionally hits a deadline crunch. It is incredible how little it takes for Manning's work to become obviously and painfully inferior in those cases. A few lines in not quite the right place and you have laughably misshapen characters in anatomically impossible poses. But that just goes to show what a tightrope act Manning was attempting with his highly polished art, and how much care he usually devoted to this labor of love. What an artist!
In addition to three Sunday color stories and two long daily continuities, we get a delightful and informative foreword and introduction about Manning, telling the story behind the story. As for the reproduction, I don't even really need to mention that anymore, do I? If it is an IDW/Dean Mullaney production you can be assured of unsurpassed quality restoration and reproduction.
Labels: Stripper's Guide Bookshelf
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Labels: Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Echoing thanks to Jim and Allan.