Saturday, July 12, 2014
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 11, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Hem and Haw
Alfred Frueh is quite well-known in the New York art scene as one of the premier caricaturists of the 20th century. Luckily for us stripper-types, he was not above penning some newspaper comics in the early portion of his art career. Though Frueh's newspaper work, like his later art, concentrates mainly on caricature, he also did several comic strip series, all of them for the New York World organization.
Hem and Haw, penned near the end of his association with the World, ran from June 13 1920 to February 6 1921. Though limited to a paltry quarter page and one washed out color on an inside page of the funnies section, Frueh's sinuously sexy, expressive line is nonetheless evident. His work seems ridiculously simple, at least until you try to duplicate it.
In 1925 the New Yorker snapped up Frueh as a regular in its pages, and that was about it for Frueh's dalliance with the newspapers.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Queenie
I'm a bit too young to be a member of the original Playboy-reading generation, but I did sneak peeks at my dad's collection often enough to be intimately familiar with the work of Phil Interlandi, who was a regular in their pages. Just Google "Phil Interlandi" and "Playboy" and select the Images option and you'll be treated to plenty of his bawdy (and beautifully drawn) cartoons.
Being in the know regarding Interlandi's deviant mind, the first time I saw the panel series Queenie, my reaction was, I imagine, similar to every Playboy reader's, "Oh my god, the newspaper's gone mad -- they're printing Playboy cartoons!!!!"
But no. While Phil's unmistakeable style is there, the nymphomaniacs and Casanovas are missing in action -- in fact the whole sexual revolution seems to have gotten a stiff dose of saltpeter. The cartooning style that is so inextricably associated in my mind with wanton women in all their nude, sex-hungry glory here is so chaste that I'm not sure the other characters have even noticed that Queenie is a buxom blonde in a mini-skirt.
Reader(s), I have a philosophical question for you. Let us take as our assumptions that
(1) I find Phil Interlandi's Playboy cartoons pretty darn funny
(2) I find his Queenie cartoons to be pallid, formulaic and a downright bore by comparison
The question is what can we draw as our conclusion from these two pieces of information. I see some possibilities:
(1) the Stripper is so emotionally stunted that he automatically finds anything to do with sex funny
(2) our society is so uncomfortable with sex that the humor mines therein are rich and practically bottomless, making it easy to make funny cartoons
(3) Phil Interlandi put a lot more work into his Playboy cartoons; after all, Hef paid very well
(4) Phil much preferred drawing sex cartoons, and the Queenie series were basically just a job that he'd gotten stuck with, and he put in the minimum of effort
I think the overarching question of whether cartoons about sex have a (figurative) leg up on 'straight' humor is an interesting one. We certainly hear of people looking down at comedians who "work blue", as if they don't really have to work very hard for laughs because of it. I imagine the same can be said about cartoons.
Sheesh. That was quite the digression. I need to get back on track. Here's are Queenie's vital statistics. She was first syndicated by King Features on April 11 1966, and her long but never particularly popular run came to an end on May 10 1986, a full two decades. The feature was daily-only, no Sunday was ever offered (which is a shame considering Phil's color work is delightful).
I have come to the conclusion that their best gags were reserved for the better paying magazines and their syndicated work was where the lesser (or rejected) gags ended up.
Mort Walker and Hank Ketcham quickly gave up their magazine work to concentrate on their strips/panels. Did that make their syndicated work better, or did their successful syndicated work enable them to give up gag cartoons?
While I agree with you that gag cartoonists generally slough off their weakest work on the newspapers, I can sympathize with them. When you are in business for yourself, having only one client will keep your stomach in knots and make it hard to sleep at night. I can imagine Interlandi keeping up Queenie as a hedge against a time when Playboy might say, "no more, thanks, been nice knowing you."
That being said, when cartoonists who have mega-successful newspaper series keep throwing additional features on the wall, apparently in some desire to have the whole darn comics page to themselves, I think it is very bad form, not to mention dilutive.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Biff and Bang
Western Newspaper Union would occasionally buy up old stock of a dead comic strip, and Biff and Bang seems to come under that heading. Some prowling around the interwebs has brought me a few little nuggets of information about Frederick H. Cumberworth, the author of these rather prosaic strips about a set of mischievous twins Seems he was a Kiwi originally, but spent a lot of time (1890s - 1930s) in Australia as a cartoonist. In the 30s he seems to have moved on to Great Britain, where he seems to have spent perhaps as little as a few years.
Where and for whom he originally produced the strip Biff and Bang (or whatever it was originally called) I cannot determine, but in the 1930s it was reprinted in a German publication under the heading "Funny stories of an Australian cartoonist".
I consider the term 'funny' being applied to these strips debatable. The pantomime form is a demanding one, though, so I suppose I owe Mr. Cumberworth a break since he was working with one funnybone tied behind his back.
Western Newspaper Union used the strip as one of its stable of weekly offerings from May 21 1942 to February 16 1944. Also worth mentioning is that the elusive Watkins Syndicate advertised a strip by Mr. Cumberworth in 1939 titled Buzz and Biff. My guess is that they were attempting to sell reprints of this same strip, just under a slightly different title.
Monday, July 07, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: W.C. Fields
In the early 1980s, when the L.A. Times Syndicate was busy throwing licensed properties against the comic strip wall (Dallas, Star Trek, The Legend of Bruce Lee and Star Wars), one that really got lost in the shuffle, even more obscure than the others, was W.C. Fields.
As you most likely already know, W.C. Fields was a great film comedian of Hollywood's golden age. He was an iconic misanthrope, and one who reveled in every known bad habit. Unfortunately, by the 1980s the W.C. Fields persona was no longer sharply defined in the public consciousness. While the classic images of Fields were still cultural touchstones, relatively few people had seen any of his movies.
While it is a shame that the general public had begun to lose touch with the W.C. Fields character, it is beyond ridiculous that the LA Times was willing to do a strip about the man, yet right from the beginning diluted the character into an almost unrecognizeably plain vanilla version of himself. If the syndicate was afraid to do a strip about a man who drinks to excess, hates children and kicks dogs, why in the world do a strip about W.C. Fields? It would be like licensing the Marx Brothers and deciding that the strip should have Harpo speak, drop Chico's accent and swap out Groucho's moustache for a nice beard.
The first team to tackle Fields-lite, starting on October 31 1982, consisted of artist Frank Smith, and Jim Smart. Smart is unknown to me, but Smith had proven his chops on Disney's Donald Duck newspaper comic strip. The art is fine, as you would expect, though Fields is made to look far too cuddly -- but the lackluster amiable gags are enough to make the ghost of Fields move to Philadelphia.
By July 1983 somebody had decided that something had to be done to, if not necessarily save the strip, at least rehabilitate the W.C. Fields image. On July 31, a new creative team took over. Gags were now credited to a member of W.C.'s own family, Ronald J. Fields. Ronald was very much involved in licensing of his grandfather's images, but was also a scholar, having published several books about his grandpa. While Ronald may not have necessarily inherited his grandfather's comedic gifts, at least his heart was in the right place. All of a sudden, Fields became rancorous, lethargic and half-lit -- just as he ought to be.
Throwing the baby out with the bath water, artist Frank Smith also exited, and was replaced by Fred Fredericks. Apparently Mandrake the Magician wasn't keeping Fredericks busy, so he tried his hand at this strip, probably knowing that the gig would be short-term.
And short term it certainly was. The latest I can find the W.C. Fields strip running is August 7 1983, meaning that if I have the right end date then the new team was active for a mere two weeks. However, all my dates cited in this article are for the Sunday strip -- it may be that the even rarer daily switched creators earlier and/or lasted longer. (Actually, I have yet to find a single example of the daily strip running anywhere -- it was advertised as available, but did it even exist?).
I have no doubt that there is more to the story of the W.C. Fields comic strip, and I've undoubtedly made assumptions that will turn out to be wrong. I'd certainly be delighted to hear from anyone who was involved in the strip, to get all the details right about this strange tale.
My first thought of W. C. and comic strips go to The Great Gusto and Big Chief Wahoo.
Followed by Larsen E. Pettifogger from The Wizard of Id.
Barnaby's Mr. O'Malley may have been closer to Fields in attitude, in not appearance, than the other two.
Surely there were more comic strip characters based on W. C. Fields.
The last daily I can find is 1983-Aug-18.
View some samples here!
Thanks for the info and the samples of the daily version. In what newspaper did you find these? Are you able to find a start date for the daily from that source? Is that Oct. 7 daily from a newspaper or original art -- looks like it might be the latter.
A word of caution when researching: All Smith&Smart dailies from 1983, actually display a "1982" copyright notice.
An article about Ron Fields from March of 1986 states; "There is also a Fields comic strip, for which the grandson has to dream up jokes." Could the strip have actually lasted till 1986?
Read the whole article here.
The lagging copyright years don't bother me, since the hand-written dates are consistent with 1983. Just goes to show that the LA Times didn't even care enough about the strip to send the artist new date slugs.
Regarding that 10/7/83 strip, I'm going to note that in the listing, but it could be that it was produced without any papers actually running it.
Thanks for sharing your research!
Sunday, July 06, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Labels: Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics