Thursday, April 04, 2019
This Week's Heritage Auction Offerings
First up we have this rare survivor, an original hand-lettered show card from one of Al Capp's infamous personal appearances at which he hurled invective at hippies, liberals and non-conformists. Whether you love the younger more liberal Al Capp or the older arch-conservative, this is quite an amazing souvenir of Al Capp's tumultuous life.
Next up we have a group of 8 original art panels from the 1920s Baby Mine series by Paul Pim. These are fun little cartoons, and show how Pim managed to cut his work load significantly through the use of stats (note that the bottom two pieces are the same except for some details). A neat bonus is panel #9 which has Pim's pencil lettered caption, but no art has yet been applied. Hey, try creating your own Baby Mine panel!
Here are five delightful color cartoons dedicated to summer seaside fun. At the top we have a Don Tobin gag cartoon, and believe me when I say that the watercolor work on this is just beyond description. This is definitely one you want hanging on the wall. When I lived in Florida this one was prominently displayed in my home.
The other four are about boating (evidently for some boat publication) and are signed "Landi", but Heritage and I agree that this can only be Frank Interlandi, here working under a highly transparent pseudonym.
Finally we have a classic piece of Puck magazine art by Frank Nankivell depicting in a series of vignettes our journey from childhood to second childhood. All of life boiled down into one gag. This is a very large piece and displays really well.
Labels: Heritage Auctions
Wednesday, April 03, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: What a View
Andrew Prendimano, an illustrator with a fun underground comix influenced style, began working for the Asbury Park (NJ) Press in the 1980s. In between his other art duties he penned a weekly strip titled What a View that began appearing on the Sunday op-ed page on October 19 1986. Prendimano showed a real gift for contemporary and personal comedy in a strip that really should have had syndicates sniffing around, but probably didn't.
Around April 1987 the Press started an experiment in which they added a Sunday-style comics section to their Wednesday editions. What a View was moved over to this venue, where it rubbed shoulders with an eclectic mix of comics, from Heathcliff to Zippy the Pinhead. The strip maintained its four-to-six panel stacked format after the transition.
Whatever the point was of the experimental Wednesday comics section (presumably to boost sales on Wednesdays), apparently it didn't succeed. The section was dumped at the end of 1988. Readers were polled about which of the Wednesday comics should be moved into the regular Sunday comics section, and What a View put up some respectable numbers. However, it was passed over in favor of a strip that had through-the-roof polling (I am not making this up) -- Marmaduke.
I really like What a View and hoped to get exact information on it, so I was delighted when the Asbury Park Press was added to newspapers.com. Delight soon turned to disappointment when I discovered the the Wednesday comics were never microfilmed. Aargh. The microfilmer hated all comics equally, too -- the Sunday comics were also considered too unimportant on which to waste a few inches of film.
Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Dillon
Steve Dickenson decided at an early age that he was destined to be a syndicated comic strip creator, and he began working toward that goal after he got out of the Navy in 1980. Many submissions later, he finally got a few syndicates interested in Dillon, a strip about a 6-year old kid. Tribune Media Services signed him and he worked with editor Evelyn Smith for over a year at turning the submission into a strip they were willing to solicit. In my opinion, what they came up with was way too self-consciously sassy, with kids behaving and talking in ways that serve only the gag, and are completely inappropriate and out of character for their ages. But this was still the '80s, and I guess you could get away with 'hip' kids written with that awful sitcom sensibility of the day (think Diff'rent Strokes, Family Ties, and all those dozens of others that TV watchers endured back then).
The daily and Sunday strip was supposedly picked up by about 70 papers according to a promotional article, and debuted on January 9 1989*. The strip didn't exhibit any particular growth during its run except that Dickenson's art improved along the way. The gags remained firmly dependent on that annoying precocious child syndrome. Dickenson and the syndicate finally gave up and the strip ended on June 28 1992**. That end date is for the Sunday; I believe the daily probably ended a few weeks earlier.
Steve Dickenson learned from his experience on Dillon (perhaps to not take the opinions of syndicate editors as gospel) and he tried again with Tar Pit, which I liked but didn't catch on. Finally he hit paydirt in 1999 teamed with Todd Clark on Lola, which is now embarking on its third decade in syndication, though Dickenson bowed out in 2008.
PS: Dickenson is credited with two more syndicated strips -- My Brother's Keeper and Retro Geek. Unfortunately I can only find either these appearing in newspaper reader's choice contests (which they apparently didn't win). Can anyone tell me of newspapers that ran these as regular features?
* Source: Des Moines Register
** Source: Tallahassee Democrat
And as a tryout in the Casper Star-Tribune in 2007:
Monday, April 01, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Skeets
As a young cartoonist right out of college in the 1920s, Dow Walling showed promise with several syndicated comics. The features' short lives had as much or more to do with their small distributors (Johnson Features, Editors Feature Service) as their own qualities. Then at the dawn of the 1930s, Walling landed at King Features where he was tried out as the artist on a new feature (Nutty News, written by Ed Roberts), which tanked. Then was tapped to take over the ailing panel cartoon, Room and Board*, which he worked on for eight months before being replaced.
Finally Walling hit paydirt, or at least a steady job, when he created the kid strip Skeets for the New York Herald Syndicate. It debuted on May 1 1932** as a Sunday only feature. Walling's creation, an unassuming pale facsimile of all the other kid strips, succeeded mostly in never making weaker readers hurt themselves due to too much uncontrolled laughter. The strip was never widely syndicated and never gained a daily version, but apparently made the syndicate and Walling happy enough to keep it going for almost two full decades, flying under the radar the whole time.
Despite his rather light work load, Walling apparently couldn't handle it on his own by the 1940s. Al Plastino says that he and Jack Sparling helped out on the strip***. Skeets was finally cancelled, last running on July 15 1951. No word on whether Walling voluntarily ended the feature or it was cancelled.
* The Room and Board title was later resurrected for Gene Ahern, when he jumped ship from NEA to bring a bald-faced copy of Our Boarding House to King.
** Source: start and end dates from Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on the New York Herald-Tribune.
** Source: Alter Ego #59.
As for killing off Room and Board (version one), He should not be blamed for it, he was good with the panel, but in what would seem a paranoid lack of faith in their cartoonists, the King Features/Central Press editors kept replacing the man behind the pen before they could get very far with it. The instability just didn't appeal to clients, and the feature only lasted four years. Walling was actually the second to last artist on it, the final one being Herman Thomas. I wrote a more in-depth peek at the panel here: