Thursday, June 23, 2016
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Milt Story
Information about Milton “Milt” Story is scarce. So far the best source on Story’s life was found in Mel Heimer’s nationally syndicated column, My New York. The column was published in several newspapers including the Lewiston Evening Journal (Maine), August 16, 1956.
Back in the early ’40s, a pleasant young man from Los Angeles blew into town and went to work at the world’s largest syndicate, King Features. His name was Milt Story and I remember him because we had daily wars to see who could wear the noisiest clothes. Freud might have had a name for it, but we had a lot of fun, although I grow pale and shaky now when I remember some of the checks and plaids that decorated us.Heimer was the author of the 1946 book, Famous Artists and Writers of King Features Syndicate. His death was reported in a 1971 issue of Editor & Publisher.
Story was an artist and a pretty good one; his aim in life was to draw a successful comic strip. A lot of other talented young men have the same aim. It’s one of the roughest competitive fields in America and when you get KFS to syndicate your cartoons, you have it made. Milt never came up with the King-sized strip.
“So,” he told me today, “I went back to California after five years and, like a brash young man, started my own syndicate, Los Angeles Famous Features Syndicate—or, abbreviated, LAFFS. I guess it was silly, because I had no business sense; all I ever wanted people to do was put me in a corner and let me draw.”
Laffs made out fairly well, but presently Milt got a chance to go east again as art director of a cartoon company. For five years he worked there, but in the back of his mind, of course, was the never-ending dream—a comic strip of his own.
“I didn’t care if, two days after the papers were published, fishmongers were wrapping my strip around three pounds of mackerel,” Milt said. “It was what I wanted.” Next he worked awhile with another cartoonist. He dreamed up a strip which he called Jeepers, dealing comically with life in Merrie Englande. “I put everything I had into it,” he said wistfully, “and I thought it was great. Well, it got into the papers, but it hardly set the world on fire.”
About this time, Story met Reynold Goodman, an Englewood, N. J., manufacturer who deals in plastic acetate. Supermarkets, auto dealers, etc., use millions of Goodman’s glossy, colorful signs. Casually one day, Milt said to Goodman, “Listen, why don’t you produce some sort of dopey, absurd signs, like, THIMK? Never can tell, it might go over in a modest way.”
Well—what I am here to tell you today is that Goodman hired Story as his creative merchandising director. Milt invented something called “Silly Signs,” a cereal firm bought nine million of them to give away as premiums in boxes of cornflakes—and before you could say Blondie, our boy had a tiger by the tail.
“Silly Signs” mushroomed into the biggest manufacturing gadget of the year. Fan mail poured in on Milt from San Diego to Alaska, and soon they were being sold for six for a quarter, Simon and Schuster [sic] put them on 110,000 newsstands. Mitch Miller got Art Carney to record The Silly Signs Song—and Milt Story became a millionaire. Theoretically, anyway; After taxes, he had enough to pay off the mortgage.
“This,” Milt told me, shaking his head, “is something I knocked off virtually on my knee in half an hour. A dozen stupid signs—and whooey, everybody wants them.
"I spend 20 years of my life aiming at becoming a good comic-strip artist—and overnight I become more of a financial success than I probably ever could dream of becoming as a strip artist.
“It couldn’t happen anywhere else than this wonderful country—but tell me this. How does a man adjust to hitting the jackpot—when it’s the wrong jackpot?"
I patted has arm sympathetically and watched him go out the door, sad and dejected. He was on his way to the bank.
Mel Heimer, television editor and columnist for King Features Syndicate, died February 8 at St. Luke’s Hospital, New York City, after a long illness.In Heimer’s column, it seems Story may have been a California native. As a Los Angeles resident, Story may have worked for one of the animation studios. He has not been found in the census or military records. I think Story may have changed his name* as Kin Platt did; Platt’s birth name was Milton Platkin.
Born in West Hoboken, N.J., Heimer began his career as a newspaperman at the age of 14 as a suburban correspondent for the Mount Vernon Daily Argus. He attended New York University on a scholarship and continued his career at the Westchester newspapers. He moved to the New York World-Telegram as a rewrite man and feature writer. After four years there, he joined King Features and in 1947 he began writing his Broadway column, “My New York.” Continuing that, he also took over as television editor in 1967, writing the weekly feature, “TV Cameos.”
Heimer free-lanced as a short story writer. He has written 14 books on a variety of subjects. His last book, “The Cannibal,” will be published this spring.
After four years there, he joined King Features and in 1947 he began writing his Broadway column, "My New York
Heimer mentioned Story’s syndicate LAFFS. According to Editor and Publisher, in a 1948 issue, Sunny Cal was a LAFFS panel picked up by some California newspapers.
The California Chamber of Commerce should be very happy. Milt Story, formerly with King Features in New York, has organized his own Los Angeles Famous Feature Syndicate and put it in business with his gag panel, “Sunny Cal.” Cal’s a “strictly from California kid,” says Story, as the state’s life and background provide the gag materials which could be why the panel starts with a list of California papers.Around 1949 Story returned to the east coast. Heimer said Story was an art director for a cartoon company. That company may have been the comic book publisher Toby. Story did a few stories and advertisements that appeared in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner.
The patent filing revealed Story’s residence in Orange, New Jersey.
According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Story produced the comic strip, Jeepers, which ran from June 6, 1954 to April 10, 1955, in the New York Herald-Tribune.
Fair warning to parents: The Kellogg Company is packing what it calls “silly signs” in its Pep and Sugar Pops. The signs—“Cheer up, everything’s gonna be awful,” “What! You still here?” “The early worm gets the bird” and similar expressions of nonsense—were created by Goodren Products of Englewood, N.J. for premium use. Goodren manufactures what it calls Goodstix, a self-adhering transparent plastic sign, and its premium division, headed by Milt Story, cartoonist, put together cartoon and sign in a five-color three-by-five-inch clear plastic to fit easily into cereal boxes. Considerable promotion will be put behind the offer of the novelty. (Cereal will be included in the boxes carrying the signs.)There was a Silly Sign trademark here. A photograph of Story surrounded by his Silly Signs is here.
Story saw a future in plastics. Here are the 1956 copyright entries for Goodren’s Eggheads.
Big Chief Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46496.More copyright entries for Story appeared in 1957, such as:
Egghead the clown, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46497.
Harmony Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46495.
Long John Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46500.
Punchy Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46498.
Touchdown Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46499.
Big Chief Do-Um Nuthin’. [Worried face of Indian boy]. Goodren Products. (Tricky titles) © Milt Story; 16Nov56; K48140.Story produced some cereal comics in 1963: Cap’n Crunch and the Fountain of Youth and Cap’n Crunch and the Picture Pirates.
Big shot. [Man being shot out of cannon] Goodren Products Corp. (Funny fotos) © Milt Story; 26Dec56; K48118.
Foreign flags. Goodren Products Corp. © Milt Story. Belgium. © 15D«c56; K49245. Cuba. © 15Dec56; K49244. Iceland. © 15Dec56; K49246. Turkey. © 15Dec56; K49247
General nuisance. [Boy wearing general’s hat with paint & brushes] Goodren products. (Tricky titles) © Milt Story; 16Nov56; K48135
Here’s another patent for Story in a 1973 issue of Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office.
956,613. Decorite Campaign Kits. Milton Story. SN 392,351. Pub. 1-16-73. Filed 5-17-71. 956,614.Phone and address directories, at Ancestry.com, have a “Milton Story” residing at 232 Knickerbocker Avenue in Hillsdale, New Jersey, from 1993 to 2002.
An obituary for Story has not been found. The Social Security Death Index has a “Milton Story” from Hillsdale, New Jersey, who was born September 25, 1914 and passed away July 21, 2002. Story’s Social Security number was issued in California.
• This profile was written a few weeks ago. Yesterday’s Jeepers post had a comment from Larry Rippee and Molly Rea who wrote, “Milt Story was also Milton Schwartz. There was a piece on him by Christopher Boyko in Comic Book Marketplace in 2004.”
An artistic Milton Schwartz was found in the censuses. The 1920 census recorded Ohio native Schwartz as the oldest of two sons born to Samuel and Rosa, both Austrian emigrants. Schwartz’s father owned a shoe repair shop. They resided in Cincinnati, Ohio, at 4159 Witler Street.
They were residents of Los Angeles, California in the 1930 census. Their home was at 326 61st Street. In the 1940 census, the Schwartz’s remained in Los Angeles but at a different address, 131 East 66 Street. Schwartz was a commercial artist.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
So fun story - Milt was my grandfather. He had two daughters, my mom and aunt. My aunt has no children and I am an only child. We randomly found this post on him through a google search. We are quite honored and thankful that you've chosen to publish a piece about him. There is a lot more to his history as a cartoonist/comic-strip artist that you have here. If you'd ever like learn more, feel free to reach out. Thanks again for writing about him.