Saturday, December 15, 2018

 

The First Christmas Toys Part 2




Part 2 of The First Christmas Toys, by Phil Pastoret and Don Baur.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

 

The First Christmas Toys, Introduction and Part 1



Wow, has another year passed already? I swear this one was only about four months long. Well, quick as it was, at the Holtz Household it was full of activity and mostly good stuff. I hope your year was likewise.

It is our tradition here at Stripper's Guide to present a Christmas strip series each year, and this year we're going to shine the light on NEA's offering for the year 1974. The strip was titled The First Christmas Toys. It was written by Phil Pastoret, whose main job at the syndicate was penning the adventures of Major Hoople in Our Boarding House. The art is by a fellow named Don Baur. His only comic strip credits that I know of are on four different NEA Christmas strips from 1974 to 1977. He was on staff with NEA, but I don't know what other work there was his responsibility.

Hope you enjoy The First Christmas Toys!

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Belle Strode


(The following profile is based on a brief description in the Kansas City Times (Missouri), October 14, 1891, which said “Belle Strode, well known here as an artist of ability”.)

Belle Strode was born in 1860 in Independence, Missouri. She was a month old and the youngest of seven siblings in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census which was enumerated June 4. Strode’s parents were Charles, a merchant, and Sarah.

The 1870 census recorded the Strode family in Independence. Strode’s father was a farmer.

Blue Springs, Missouri was the home of Strode, her parents and four siblings. Strode’s father continued to support the family as a farmer whose children were unemployed.

The Kansas City Times, (Missouri), August 26, 1887, said “Miss Belle Strode is in the city on a visit to friends. Miss Belle is on her way to Holden, Mo., where she expects to spend the winter teaching at the ladies’ college.”

Strode was listed in the Woman’s Art School of the 28th Annual Report of the Trustees of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, May 26, 1888. 


Strode’s marriage was reported in the Times, October 14, 1891 (below) and The Medical Standard, November 1891. 
Dr. J. Pinquard, formerly of this city, but now of Guthrie, Ok., and Miss Belle Strode, well known here as an artist of ability, were married at Newton, Kan., last week. They met there by appointment and after the marriage left for their future home in Guthrie.
Strode’s divorce suit was noted in the Kansas City Journal, January 29, 1898: “Belle S. Pinquard sued Joseph P. Pinquard yesterday for divorce, alleging that he had deserted her.”

Strode has not yet been found in the 1900 census.

The Butte Inter Mountain (Montana), April 29, 1903, said Strode, as Mrs. Belle Pinquard, was issued a teacher certificate and assigned to the third grade at Creek School.

According to the Missouri marriage record at Ancestry.com, Strode married Noah Smith in Kahoka, Missouri on May 26, 1904.

The 1910 census said Strode and Smith, 60, made their home in Muscatine, Iowa at 118 Fletcher Avenue.

Strode produced Lucinda and Buck Bee for World Color Printing. The strip ran from 1918 to 1919.

In the 1920 census the couple were residents of Eliza, Illinois. Strode’s husband was a farmer.

Muscatine was the couple’s home in the 1930 census. Their address was 103 Seventh Street and both were not working.

Smith passed away November 18, 1933 in Eliza, Illinois. He was laid to rest at Eliza Creek Cemetery.

The 1940 census said Strode lived alone in Muscatine at 103 Seventh Street. Her highest level of education was the eighth grade. Strode was listed in the 1943 and 1946 city directories at the same address.

Strode passed away in 1946 and was laid to rest next to her husband Noah Smith.


—Alex Jay

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

 

Obscurity of the Day: Lucinda and Buck Bee


This strip is about a spinster, Lucinda, who runs a boarding house. One of her boarders is Buck Bee,  an uncouth cowboy type. Lucinda has fallen for him, and fallen hard. Wackiness, of course, ensues as Lucinda pursues the thoroughly uninterested Mr. Bee. I initially thought that the characters might be intended as actual bees -- note the apparent antennae on Lucinda's head -- but I eventually found a strip in which Lucinda's hair curls are the butt of a joke.

Lucinda and Buck Bee ran on the World Color Printing weekly black-and-white kids page from about December 1918 to about June 1919*. The specific dates are uncertain because subscribing papers tended to play fast and loose with the publishing schedules for these pages. Alex Jay found a whole batch of them printed in the Elmira Telegram in May and June 1918, but they were apparently running a batch of samples sent out by WCP. Do sample strips, perhaps sent out well in advance of intended publication, count as original publication? Hmm. Gonna have to think about that one.

A good portion of the content of those World Color weekly black and white pages was old material bought by the syndicate to recycle, but I've been unable to find Lucinda and Buck Bee appearing anywhere earlier, so it seems like it may be an original.

 The strip is credited to Belle Strode, of whom I know nothing (but Alex Jay seems to have tracked her down; watch for tomorrow's Ink-Slinger Profile). Most of the material that World Color used on those weekly pages was second or third rate at best, but Lucinda and Buck Bee is actually pretty well written and drawn. Or maybe it just looks good in comparison to the rest of the page ...

* Sources: Taunton Gazette and Lincoln Journal-Star

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Sikela


John Joseph Sikela was born on December 1, 1906, in “Kosmalevecz”, Czechoslovakia. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Sikela’s birthplace was recorded on a passenger list which listed his first name as “Jan”.

Sikela and his mother, “Marie”, were passengers on the S.S. Manchuria which sailed from Antwerp, Belgium on December 25, 1920. They arrived in the port of New York City on January 6, 1921. Their final destination was 1309 Redman Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, where Sikela’s father lived.

In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Sikela was an advertising sign painter. He lived with his parents in Lakewood, Ohio at 12717 Plover Avenue.

The 1940 census was enumerated in April and recorded Sikela as a “cutter” at a paper box manufacturer. He continued to live with his parents in Lakewood on Plover Avenue.

Regarding Sikela’s art training, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Volume 2 (2006), said

While largely self-taught, he had taken a correspondence school art course during the 1930s. Answering a magazine ad from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Sikela joined Shuster’s Cleveland studio in 1940. Initially hired to draw backgrounds, Sikela was soon working on Superman comic-book stories. He would also illustrate several covers during his career…. 
In The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips (1994), Ron Goulart said Jerry Siegel’s and Joe Shuster’s Superman comic strip was handled by the McClure Syndicate.
The initial dailies look to be the work of Shuster himself, but a number of other artists drew the feature in the funnies. They included Paul Cassidy, Dennis Neville, John Sikela, and Wayne Boring. Boring would inherit the strip in the late 1940s when Siegel and Shuster were legally separated from their creation.
According to the Ohio, County Naturalization Records at Ancestry.com, Sikela became a naturalized citizen on March 13, 1942.

The Women’s Section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), October 4, 1942, listed some of the October brides including “…Mrs. John Sikela (Margaret Miller, 2156 Westbury Road, Lakewood)…”

The Department of Veterans Affairs Beneficiary Identification Records Locater Subsystem Death File said Sikela enlisted in the Army on December 8, 1942. A 1943 issue of Army Life and U.S. Army Recruiting News noted Sikela’s arrival: “John Sikela is the artist who has helped panel ‘Superman’ and other comics' characters.” The Sandusky Register (Ohio), March 24, 1998, said Sikela served in Europe in the Battle of the Bulge.

A military passenger list for the 745th Tank Battalion, Company J included Private Sikela. The group sailed aboard the S.S. George Washington from Marseille, France and arrived in New York City on October 26, 1945. Sikela’s file said he was discharged October 29, 1945.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Siegel and Shuster created Funnyman which ran from October 11, 1948 into Fall 1949. Ron Goulart’s Encyclopedia of American Comics said Sikela ghosted a good deal of Funnyman. Alberto Becattini said Gerald Altman and Dick Ayers assisted Shuster. The strip was produced for the Bell Syndicate. In Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators (2014), Robert C. Harvey said

In May 1948, Shuster was writing John Sikela, one of his Cleveland studio crew who was still in his Ohio hometown. The letter reveals a good deal about the working methods Shuster had evolved through the Superman years as demand for material increased. After asking if Sikela had “received the pencil roughs of the Funnyman dailies,” Shuster goes on: “I thought they might help with the initial layouts. . . . You can use your own judgment as to following my sketches—if you can visualize any scene differently, that's okay too. . . . We’ve been getting wonderful reactions on the strip thus far and expect it to receive a deluge of publicity.”
According to Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Sikela moved from the Superman comic book to Superboy.
Although he was involved with Superman at a very early point, Sikela is perhaps best remembered for his later work on Superboy, his style defining the look of the character form the late 1940s through the 1950s. Much of Sikela’s post-war efforts were as a penciller, and he would eventually pencil and ink his own material for Superboy until his departure in 1960.
The Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) July 17, 1976, reported the marriage of Sikela’s daughter and said “…The former Joan Theresa Sikela is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Sikela, 34443 Detroit Rd., Avon.”

Sikela’s wife passed away February 29, 1992. On March 23, 1998 Sikela passed away at New Life St. Joseph Hospice in Lorain, Ohio. Sikela’s death was announced in DC Comics’ June publications.


Further Reading and Viewing
Grand Comics Database
Superman Homepage
Who Drew Superman?
Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman
Heritage Auctions: Unpublished Superman pageFunnyman page


—Alex Jay

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Monday, December 10, 2018

 

Obscurity of the Day: Moco







Seems like if you are really serious about getting a syndicated comic strip into your curriculum vitae, go pantomime. If your art and gags aren't necessarily masterworks, that's okay because your potential audience is approximately 7.5 billion people, as opposed to the paltry hundreds of millions that you filter down to by using a particular language and marketing yourself only in your home country. If you can get someone to syndicate you to all those worldwide markets, you're practically guaranteed to find enough editors who like your stuff, or at least perceive you as good space filler for the money.

Moco was created by Danish cartoonists Jørgen Mogensen and Cosper Cornelius and sold in their home country as Alfredo. The strip was offered on the international market, and according to one website was running in over 100 papers at its high water mark. Of those supposedly 40 were in the U.S. The U.S. title, Moco, comes from combining the first two letters of each creator's family name. I do not know what the division of labor was on the strip. The two creators seem to have had very similar art styles based on the samples I've found online of their separate works.

In the U.S. the strip was offered by the Los Angeles Times-Mirror Syndicate starting on October 12 1959*. However, I have a few examples of the strip running as Alfredo in the Toledo Blade as early as 1956, so someone else was syndicating it earlier. Perhaps PIB, the Danish syndicate, was giving a whirl to syndicating it in the U.S.

Alfredo, or Moco, or Presto or Pepe as it was also known in some countries, concerned the misadventures of a mustachioed gent who seemed to gain a new profession every day. The only stable thing about his life is his wife, a strong-willed Maude-type. The visual gags almost always land well enough if not spectacularly. It's one of those strips that you happily glance at every day in the paper, but if it disappears after twenty years the next day you may struggle to remember what was in that space.

The LA Times Syndicate last advertised the strip in 1976, and the last paper I find running it in the U.S. is the El Paso Herald-Post, which ended it on November 19 1977. According to Lambiek, Morgenson dropped out of participation on the strip at some point and it was continued by Cornelius alone, but I don't know if that was before or after this point.

Moco continued until the mid- to late-1980s outside the U.S., and PIB advertised it in the U.S. in 1981 and 1982**, with no known takers.


* Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin and several other papers
** Source: Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directory

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