Tuesday, January 03, 2017

 

Obscurity of the Day: Let's Explore Your Mind (part 2)

[Yesterday we covered Let's Explore Your Mind through its first two artists, Raymond Flanagan and Jack Hamm. ]

Jack Hamm art on Let's Explore Your Mind


When Jack Hamm took over art chores in 1940, he made the drawings for Let's Explore Your Mind a bit more overtly sexy, which turned out to be a great evolution, especially when World War II began. Our military swelled with millions of young fellows who were looking for a little sex-appeal anywhere they could find it, and they were delighted to find a little more cheesecake in their daily paper. The war years were very good to the feature, which continued to add new clients.

Jack Hamm left the feature on November 18 1944, and the art was now unsigned. However, I did manage to find a single isolated example from shortly after Hamm's departure that was signed RF -- presumably Raymond Flanagan. Although his style had loosened a bit since he left in 1940, I'm still reasonably confident that Flanagan's second stint on the daily lasted for quite awhile.

Because the feature was doing so well, Dille decided to try selling a color Sunday version of the feature that could run in comics sections. This was a bold move, because the feature was definitely aimed at adults, and running it in the traditional domain of the kiddies was definitely not a slam-dunk with its sometimes mature subject matter.



Unsigned Let's Explore Your Mind Sundays

The Sunday color version debuted on January 14 1945 in a small but respectable number of papers. Some papers ran it in the Sunday funnies, others made room in their Sunday color magazine sections. Oddly enough, despite the heavy emphasis on the art in this version, it was unsigned and would remain so (with a few notable exceptions) until 1963. There are definitely several different hands at work over those years, but my belief is that Raymond Flanagan was probably the first artist on the Sundays, perhaps giving way to others by the 1950s.

Having pretty substantial runs of the 1950s Sundays, I was able to pull a few rabbits out my hat, though. In late 1953, the regular artist must have been having deadline trouble, and I have found three Sundays that are signed:

Ray Chatton signed art on December 27 1953

Rick Yager initialed art on October 4 (pictured) and December 6 1953

I'm sure you'll agree that neither Yager or Chatton was the regular artist on the Sunday, as the above examples have widely varying art styles from the norm. Yager even created his own masthead for some reason!

I've heard it said that Yager was responsible for the art on Let's Explore Your Mind in the late 40s-early 50s, but I dispute that -- the Sundays do not look to me like his fill-ins at all. Maybe he did some work on the dailies, though. Looking at some 1950 dailies, I think I can see traces here and there, but not nearly enough to make a positive ID. And I do see examples that really don't look like his work, at least to my unpracticed eye.

Ray Chatton daily art


The problem of unsigned art was finally corrected on the daily when Ray Chatton took over as the artist on October 15 1951. He brought to the daily a heightened sense of style, drawing glamorous high-fashion beauties instead of the cheesecake of previous hands. Unfortunately, his tenure ended on October 29 1955, and the daily once again reverted to its unsigned status.

When Chatton leaves the style on the daily changes, and the art style on the Sunday seems to follow suit. This new style proved so interesting to Ger Appeldoorn that he wrote several posts about it on The Fabulous Fifties, and has made a tentative ID to a cartoonist by the name of Richard Doxsee. Since Alberto Becattini seems to go along with Ger's ID, I'd say that between those two titans of art-spotting we have a pretty good chance at a dead ringer.

In 1957 another change came to Let's Explore Your Mind when Albert Edward Wiggam passed away. Although the feature was no longer as popular as it had been in the 1930s and 40s, Dille was still doing well enough with it that he signed up a new author -- or as it turned out, authors -- to take over. On May 20 1957, the husband and wife team of Sylvanus and Evelyn Duvall took over. This was a serious academic  power-couple; Sylvanus was a professor of religion and sociology at George Williams College, while Evelyn had a PhD in human development and was the author or co-author of some twenty books. Although with such credentials one might have expected the feature to take a very serious turn, the Duvalls smartly stuck with the formula that had worked so well since 1932. Not only did the formula remain the same, but they went on recycling the same popular and provocative questions that Wiggam had already answered dozens of times over already.

Unsigned Sunday from 1960 - art by Doxsee?

Alberto Becattini cites an unsigned stint on the feature by Len Dworkins circa 1962-63, but very soon after that the feature was finally once more signed, and this time it would stick. As of  April 1 1963 on the daily, and May 26 on the Sunday, both were now be done by the able brush of Bill Lignante, journeyman cartoonist who had never been given the opportunity to sign his work on a newspaper feature before. Unfortunately by the time Lignante took over, the daily feature was bowing to the pressures to save newspaper space, and the art was now just a small vignette. This effectively killed one of the big draws for the feature, and the client list thereby suffered greatly.

Bill Lignante art on Let's Explore Your Mind

The Sunday version, which seemed to me a more likely candidate to survive, succumbed to a lack of clients sometime in 1969, and the daily, now just a shadow of its former attractive self, turned out the lights on January 23 1971.

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Comments:
I remember seeing the last mini-version in the San Jose Mercury when I was a kid; this would have been mid-sixties at the latest. Don't remember it touching on sex; I'm sure it would have left a stronger impression if it had.
 
Art Wood has 5 original drawings from this feature from 1962 and 1963 which he received from Val Heinz. Just cataloging them now (it will be a while before they make it into the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

Sara W. Duke
Curator, Popular & Applied Graphic Art
Prints & Photographs Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4730

sduk@loc.gov
 
Very interesting Sara! Could I get the release dates on these so I can see what style was being used? Is it safe to say that Heinz was the artist, or did he have the art of others in his personal collection?

Thanks, Allan
 
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