Monday, September 25, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: The Old Pueblo


In the modern era of newspaper comics a local strip, drawn for a particular newspaper, is very rarely run in the Sunday colour comics section. Why? Because the production of those sections is (for reasons I admittedly do not comprehend) usually farmed out to big companies like Eastern Color Printing and Greater Buffalo Press. When newspapers do that, I'm guessing, the logistics of having these companies insert custom material like a local strip is either costly or just impractical. (Anyone in the newspaper production biz care to weigh in on this?)

So in 1975, when the Arizona Star placed a historical epic strip titled The Old Pueblo on the cover of the Sunday comics section, that was a very unusual occurrence and one to be highly commended. The strip ran for 52 weekly installments, from January 5 to December 28, telling the history of Tucson from prehistoric times to the present. The creator was Johnny Bain, a Tucson history buff and cartoonist. 

Bain's strip unfortunately suffers from production problems, worst in the early episodes like those above. Colouring is a bit of a mess, and the art doesn't seem like it was quite production-ready. But credit to Bain and the Star, they stuck with it for the entire year's worth of strips, improving as they went along, and even issued the completed series in booklet form at its conclusion. 

Bain seems to have kept up his art career at least until the mid-80s when I lose track of him. However, as far as I know he never did another newspaper strip.


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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Little Nemo


Here's our next Little Nemo card. If the anonymous artist who created this is playing true to the strip, this must be a scene from 1906 I think -- Dr. Pill's very patriotic colour scheme later was changed to a palette of muted blues. 

Can you find the source panel? Or is our anonymous artist coming up with his own scene?


I think the artist tricked you by using Dr. Pill's 1906 colouring to make the card pop more. It is from Sept 1, 1907.
Good catch Brian, it's interesting that the artist is rather pointlessly slavish to the original panels in some ways, and yet in others he takes license -- like the arrangement of some of these characters.
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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Herriman One-Shots: December 29 1901


The early McClure comics sections often had an interior page devoted to gag cartoons, usually by a cadre of their regular artists. This page from December 29 1901 offers either one or two Herriman cartoons. The one in the upper left is definite, while the unsigned one in the middle has me scratching my head. The art looks very much like Herriman, but he seldom did anthropomorphic animal gags in these early days; what say you?

The others represented on this page are Hy Mayer (bottom two-panel), Mark Fenderson (left middle), and A.D. Reed (right 4-panel strip). The well drawn gag cartoon at the top middle is initialed W.L. That's not a McClure regular I can think of. Other possibilities that fit the initials are William H. Loomis (here's a sample of his work) and Will Lawler; the latter doesn't usually draw like this, so what do we think of Loomis as our mystery artist?


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Friday, September 22, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ric Estrada

Ric Estrada was born Ricardo Leon Estrada on February 26, 1928, in Havana, Cuba, according to an obituary in the Deseret News (Utah), May 7, 2009. The Utah Cemetery Inventory, at, said his parents were Jose Ignacio Florencio Estrada Y Cambon and Zilia Ascension Carbo. Profiles at Lambiek Comiclopedia, Norman Rockwell Museum, and Wikipedia said Estrada immigrated to the United States in 1947 with help from an uncle and Ernest Hemingway. A record of his arrival has not been found at 

Estrada attended the University of Havana, the Art Students League of New York, New York University, and the School of Visual Arts. The Landon School of Illustrating and Cartooning (2009) said Estrada was a student. 

The 1950 United States Census counted Estrada and his widow mother, Zilia, in Manhattan, New York City at the Oakdale Hotel, 36 West 35th Street. He was a commercial artist. 

On March 17, 1954, Estrada and his wife, Vera, sailed on the steamship Flandre bound for Le Havre, France. They returned to New York, aboard the steamship  Liberte, on May 13, 1954. Their address was 644 Riverside Drive, New York City. 

During the 1950s, Estrada produced art for a number of comic book publishers. His credits are at the Grand Comics Database. The Flash Gordon comic strip was drawn by many artists. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Alberto Becattini credited Estrada (who was ghosting for Dan Barry) for the daily pencils from November 10 to December 27, 1958 (“Derelict of the Skorpi War”); daily pencils from March 9 to 28, 1959 (“Lost Legion”); and daily inks from July 10 to 28, 1961 (“Titanic II”). 

In 1958 Estrada visited Cuba. He returned on September 28 at Miami, Florida. His New York address was 11 Waverly Place. 

Estrada was naturalized on July 27, 1959. 

On June 17, 1960, Estrada, Vera, and their five-year-old daughter, Zilia, arrived in Southampton, England. Ger Apeldoorn said Estrada worked in Germany for three years.

The New York Amsterdam News, July 1, 1967, named Estrada as one of four judges at the Hamilton Grange Annual Outdoor Art Exhibition. 
... Judges for the competition were: Miss Adele Glasgow of Market Place Gallery, Roy LaGrone Art Director of Pageant Magazine, Ric Estrada, instructor at Famous Artist[s] Schools and Mel Tapley, Amsterdam News cartoonist. ... 
Estrada was an art director for the Famous Artists School

New York, New York Marriage License Indexes, at, said Estrada and Loretta Renae Badura obtained, in 1970, Manhattan marriage license number 20754. They would have eight children. 

The Herald Statesman (Yonkers, New York), April 29, 1976, reported the upcoming program at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Scarsdale.
Mormons slate an open house
Two original productions will be featured at an open house entitled “Patriots, Prophets and Punch.” Friday, April 30, at 8 p.m. at the 

A humorous reading on “America’s Prophetic Destiny” will feature actors in the parts of Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin and Brigham Young. The work has been written by Ric Estrada of New Rochelle, a writer and cartoonist on the team which creates the Superman Family comic books, and Jim Larkin, an independent television producer. ...
The Tarrytown Daily News (New York), March 2, 1978, published Estrada’s illustration of his fantasy million-dollar donations. The article said in part
… To illustrate the situation, take the predicament of Ric Estrada of Tuckahoe, who in the past two weeks has been taken on a financial roller coaster ride by his local bank. Through the miracle of modern computer technology, the bank first made Estrada, a commercial artist, a pauper with a $30 million overdraft, and days later wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

… A teller at the bank examined his account and found he was $30 million overdrawn. The manager laughed and promised to rectify the error.

… Several days later, his wife, Loretta, went to the bank and received a statement showing they had a $30 million balance.

… But, Estrada remains unruffled by the entire affair. “It keeps changing from day to day,” he said. “But I’m sure they’ll get it worked out.”

Estrada was an instructor at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art

Heritage Auctions said Estrada ghosted for Fred Kida on The Amazing Spider-Man strip in 1983. 

At the 2000 San Diego Comic-Con International, Estrada received an Inkpot Award for outstanding achievement in the comic arts. 

Deseret News said Estrada worked 
in book illustration, advertising, political cartooning, comic books, and in animation as a storyboard director. Ric’s most rewarding professional assignment was illustrating the 1980 edition of The New Testament Stories published by the LDS Church. Ric wrote articles for Dance Magazine and Famous Artist’s Schools, screenplays, several novels (unpublished) and completed his personal memoir only months before his passing. 
Estrada passed away on May 1, 2009, in Provo, Utah. He was laid to rest at the Provo City Cemetery

Further Reading and Viewing
TwoMorrows, Alter Ego interview
The Fabulous Fifties
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999
More Heroes of the Comics (2016)
The Mormon Pioneer Songbook (1980)
A Motley Vision
News From ME
Filmfodder, Rest In Peace, Ric Estrada
Abeling St., Family Tree


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Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Selling It: Along The Milky Way


Today when you walk into a grocery store for a gallon of milk, and you're looking for just good old fashioned moo juice, you are generally greeted with the products of a single local dairy. Back in the day, though, there were often a cadre of smaller dairies competing for your business. Naturally these dairies advertised in your local paper, and sometimes they contracted with an ad agency that provided nice little eye-catchers like the panels above titled Along The Milky Way

I don't know which ad company sold Along The Milky Way, but they sure sold the heck out of it in the late 30s and 40s. The panels were drawn in a nice grease-pencil style by Gretchen Philips, who we met once before back in a 2007 post; she was the original artist on Style Smiles.

The earliest I can find Along The Milky Way appearing is in July 1939*, but according to a short article about Philips that ran in the Kearney Daily Hub (September 22 1939), she had been drawing the feature for two years by that point.

The panel seemed to be geared to approximately a weekly schedule, though of course once the backstock had built up the sky was the limit for an ambitious dairy. The last I see the panel being used is in 1948**, but that material could well have been years old by that time.  

There's an interesting postscript about this ad panel. Around March 1942 the panel gained a new subtitle, Dairy Tales, a new artist, a continuing cast of kids, and a very different style. Here's a sample:

The art was sometimes signed with a scrawl that looks like "Cobb", but my bet is that these panels are the work of Ferd Johnson, assistant/ghost on Moon Mullins. His fingerprints are all over that art. 

Why the panel got such an extreme makeover is anyone's guess, but it apparently didn't go down too well with many of the dairies buying the ads. Some dairies stopped running the panel and others used or re-used Gretchen Philips panels. The Dairy Tales version of the panel came and went like a flash -- the latest I can find it running is in May 1942.

* Source: Indiana Evening Gazette, Hanover Sun.

** Source: Palm Beach Post.


On Monday we had angry badgers. Today, it's Badger Milk! What did they do? Herd badgers around all day, and then line them up in their stalls in late afternoon, attach hoses to their little teats, and pump 'em dry? I wonder how the nutrition profile of badger milk compares with soy milk, almond milk, dandelion milk, kelp milk, and all the others which are available today. I hear that wolverine milk is the best, but the wolverine milkers get torn to shreds on a regular basis. You think angry badgers are bad — try getting on the wrong side of an angry wolverine!
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Monday, September 18, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Foolish Ferdinand


William F. Marriner's output was prodigious, and an amazingly high percentage of it was just like today's obscurity, Foolish Ferdinand; playful strips about kids getting up to relatively innocent shenanigans. Marriner's giant-headed kids are a breath of fresh air for comics sections in which the typical kid comic strip star was rotten to the core and more dangerous than an angry badger. 

For the Philadelphia Inquirer Marriner penned this long-running series, Foolish Ferdinand, off and on from December 29 1901 to February 21 1904. Sometimes a longer title was used, The Fortunes of Foolish Ferdinand, and the series was quite scattershot in its appearances as Marriner often turned out one-shots instead for that Sunday section.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.


How dangerous is an angry badger, really?
Good for you having something better to do with your time than watch honey badger videos:

Most fearless, badass animal on Earth.
Hello Allan-
Cole assumed the Inquirer might have started syndicating their material sometime in 1903, when they started putting things in regular size categories. Obviously the above sample would have only appeared in the Inky, but also at some time, Ferdinand would have been in client papers.
What are your thoughts on when they went national?
Mark, I haven't done any kind of study of that question, so I just took a perusal of my collection, which is practically bereft of early Inky material, syndicated or in the home paper. I assume that around Philly where you are those early sections are as common as cheese steak sandwiches. Anyhow, my earliest Inky strips appearing outside Philly are from 1905, and were syndicated to the Boston Herald at that time. But given the thinness of my collection on this issue, I wouldn't for a moment take that as being any kind of proof. Do you recall what papers ran the Inky stuff circa 1903? --- Allan
Actually I don't know of any- I might be right in assuming the St.Louis Globe-Democrat had it as early as 1904, The Los Angeles Herald in 1905, but I don't know if Cole had any actual incidents of syndication in 1903.

The last Inquirer offering that was a full page was 28 September 1902. Henceforth, to the day they closed the doors on the project, all Inky strips are the rigid,uniform half-pagers that they were always to be seen in for the next twenty-odd years.
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Sunday, September 17, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Rube Goldberg


Here's a real Grade-A, cream of the crop example of Rube Goldberg's Foolish Questions. These gags, which were also collected in book form, were issued as postcards by Samson Bros. as Series #213. The publisher seemed to pick the ones that got the postcard treatment more or less at random, and some are, I hate to say, kinda stinkers. But this is Goldberg going over the moon.


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Saturday, September 16, 2023


Herriman One-Shots: December 22 1901


Herriman gets a plum spot, the front page of the 1901 Christmas edition of the McClure comic section, and a full page to boot. Unfortunately I really don't think he did much to take advantage of it. The gag is pretty thin, and his drawing, though very energetic and wacky, is also pretty darn amateurish.  Eddie Eksergian's work comes to mind; I wonder if Herriman was an admirer of his?

Interesting that McClure, which had a few heavy-hitter artists on tap in this era, chose Herriman to supply this special holiday front page.


Are the "snakes" and the "fits" meant to suggest some hilarious delirium tremens?
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Friday, September 15, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Father's Day



Father's Day is one of the earliest newspaper strip entries (the first?) to feature divorced parents and their kids. While the strip was a flop, it seemed to open the floodgates of cartoonists taking a whack at the subject with their own features. Syndicates obviously felt it was a potentially lucrative niche because they have offered a goodly number of these strips over the years. The only problem is that none that I can think of had much success. Am I forgetting a succssful divorcee strip? 

You can certainly turn the sadness and pain of divorce involving kids into humour; after all, some definitions of comedy boil down to 'tragedy happening to someone else.'  But basing seven gags per week on this aspect of life seems to me like overkill. As a subplot to a strip with other gag-inducing aspects, sure, but Father's Day and its many followers seem to be a bit one-note.

But you have to give Father's Day some points for creativity. You might expect the first entry of the genre to offer a pretty vanilla version on the subject, but Father's Day has a decidedly odd take, offering us the rarity of a father who has custody of the kids. Odder still, dad is a struggling writer who is always broke, so he's living off the child support supplied by his ex-wife. This is all good comedy fodder, but at least to this reader just perusing a few weeks of this strip has me actively contemptuous of the strip's star for being such a pathetic drip loser.

Father's Day was created by the husband and wife team of Nancy and Mario Risso. Although unstated in the promos I've found, I'm assuming this wasn't the first time at the altar for them, otherwise, why pick this subject? Apparently Nancy was the artist, Mario the writer. Both are creditably done, with pretty good gags and breezy art emblematic of the era. As far as I know, this was the Risso's only foray into syndicated comics, but they also collaborated on a few books.

United Feature began distribution of the daily and Sunday strip on May 4 1981*, missing an obvious gimmick of having the strip start on Arbor Day. The strip did not sell well and came out of the gate with a modest client list. No doubt due to the repetitive subject matter, by the time the strip was retired on January 2 1983 finding a paper running it is like searching the mailbox for a child support check before the due date.

PS: If strip #2 has you scratching your noggin, here ya go ya young whippersnapper. Or ya forgetful old coot.


* Source: All dates from United Feature Syndicate internal records.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jon L. Blummer

Jon L. Blummer was born Jacob Lupu Blumer on May 14, 1904, in Hartford, Connecticut. His Blumer surname was recorded in the 1910, 1920 and 1930 United States Censuses. He changed his name in the early 1930s. 

The 1910 census said Blummer was the oldest of three children born to Louis and Regina, both Romanian natives. The family resided in Hartford, Connecticut. 

In the 1920 census the family added two more members and continued to live in Hartford on Ann Street. 

On October 14, 1927, Blummer married Dorothy Tonge in the Bronx. 

According to the 1930 census, Blummer was a newspaper artist. He and his wife made their home in Queens, New York at 2178 35th Street. 

Blummer studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He was in the class of 1933 but apparently did not graduate. He was pictured with his junior classmates in the 1932 Prattonia yearbook. 

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Air Conquests was drawn by Blummer and written by Frank Hawks. The Hearst strip ran from September 8, 1935 to April 5, 1936. For King Features Syndicate, Blummer drew the Lone Ranger Sundays from February 5 to March 5, 1939, and The Sea Hound, with writer Fran Striker, from October 2, 1944 to June 29, 1946. Blummer’s Hop Harrigan ran from May 11 to December 31, 1942, and was distributed by the George Matthew Adams Service. 

Blummer’s comic book debut may have been the cowboy character, Bill Quirt the Rambling Ranny, in the pulp magazine, Western Action Novels. A two-page story segment appeared in the January 1937 issue

Blummer contributed to Air Progress: Air Trails Annual for 1938 and many issues of Flying Aces: August 1938, March 1939, April 1939, May 1939, June 1939, July 1939, August 1939, October 1939, November 1939, December 1939, January 1940, February 1940, March 1940, April 1940, May 1940, and June 1940

The 1940 census counted freelance artist Blummer, his wife and son, Jon, in Queens at 4526 49 Street. 

Blummer supplemented his income with comic book work during the 1940s and early 1950s. 

On February 15, 1942, Jon Lester Blummer signed his World War II draft card. His address was 110-01 201st, St. Albans, New York. He was described as five feet nine inches, 165 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. 

The Blummer family had grown to five with the addition of two daughters, Clara and Hannah, in the 1950 census. They lived at 425 North Gulf View in Clearwater, Florida. Blummer was a commercial artist. 

Blummer passed away in October 1955, in Teaneck, Bergen, New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Death Index at He was laid to rest at George Washington Memorial Park

Further Reading
Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists


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Monday, September 11, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: The Sea Hound


What do you get when you offer a comic strip that adapts a not particularly popular radio series? Go to the head of the class if you guessed: a not particularly popular comic strip. 

The Sea Hound debuted on radio in mid-1942. The 15-minute daily kid's program offered a sea-going story about a crew of heroes who sail around Central and South American waters foiling Nazi plots. If this sounds a little beside the point to the war that was going on, it really wasn't. The United States was terrified that Germany would develop these close neighbouring countries into allies. The government's answer to this threat was the Good Neighbor Policy, part of which was a charm offensive to show how much the people of the U.S. loved and valued their neighbours to the south. 

The Good Neighbor Policy was waged in various avenues, but the most visible to Americans was the media -- movies and radio shows that presented Central and South America in a positive light were encouraged and funded through government agencies. One small tendril of the Good Neighbor Policy was the radio show The Sea Hound. It didn't so much matter whether kids actually liked it or not, it was introduced on the radio at least somewhat as a propaganda tool. 

The Sea Hound is a ketch that seems only to ply the waters of the Caribbean and South Atlantic for the purpose of hunting Nazis. At the helm is Captain Silver, ably assisted by his Chinese friend (servant?) Ku Kai, displaced cowboy Tex, and their dog Fletcha (literally a sea hound). A toy tie-in extravaganza that never panned out had the Sea Hound carrying a plane called the Sky Hound, and a powerboat, the Spray Hound.

While the radio show might have been created for less than the pure-hearted reason of entertaining the kiddies, the few shows I've listened to seemed genuinely exciting and well-written, if a little cheesy production-wise. The writing quality probably has a lot to do with Fran Striker, better known as the creator of The Lone Ranger, who also wrote scripts for this series. Striker could churn out good material at a tremendous rate, and though The Sea Hound was not his bread-and-butter, his touch seems evident. It probably has a lot to do with his involvement that the show managed to outlast the war and the Good Naighbor Policy, not going into drydock until 1951. 

In addition to his radio shows, Fran Striker also wrote The Lone Ranger comic strip for King Features. It is probably this connection that explains why The Sea Hound, not an obvious candidate for adaptation into a comic strip, was attempted. Striker was not only a good writer, he also was a whiz at reusing material, so as far as he was concerned those radio shows were ripe for adaptation to print -- a payday for him with little effort involved. 

King Features probably should have known better, but they gave it the go-ahead. The daily-only strip debuted on October 2 1944* with art provided by "Jon". This was Jon L. Blummer, who had worked on The Lone Ranger strip for a short stint in 1939 in addition to credits on Hop Harrigan and several other short-lived features in the 1930s. Despite having a very attractive style Blummer's art career was primarily spent providing material to pulps and comic books. He just never lucked into being associated with the right newspaper strip property to make this his career. Why on this strip he preferred not to take a proper credit is unknown; he certainly did excellent work on it. 

The high quality of the strip notwithstanding, King Features had practically no luck selling it. With a daily comics page already filled to overflowing with Nazi saboteurs getting their comeuppance, yet another strip plying the same waters was of practically no interest. There was also that slightly off-putting smell of Good Neighbor Policy propaganda that may have rankled editors. 

The Sea Hound comic strip limped along on a clientele mostly of Hearst-owned papers until June 29 1946**, when Captain Storm and crew literally sailed off into the sunset.

* Source: Indianapolis News (and by the way, the samples above are the first weeks of the strip).

** Source: San Antonio Light, courtesy of Jeffrey Lindenblatt.


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Sunday, September 10, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Gene Carr


Here's a 1907 Gene Carr postcard from the Rotograph Company; this one bears the inscrutable (not to mention almost faded to oblivion) number 241/6. 

One-o-cat (aka catball, one old cat, etc.) was a sort of simplified version of baseball. In fact, some claim that it is one of the precursors of that game, With just a pitcher, batter, catcher, and a fielder or two, it was simple enough to appeal to kids who played it just like you see -- on the street, with any old stick for a bat and whatever ball might be at hand. Or, in the case of Carr's game, a small loaf of French bread?!?!?


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Saturday, September 09, 2023


Herriman One-Shots: December 1 1901


In the early McClure Sunday comics sections it was fairly typical to include a half-page or more of single panel gag cartoons. Sometimes these were on a common theme, but in this case, from the section of December 1 1901, they are half miscellany, half Christmas gags.

Herriman gets off a pretty sly gag in the upper left corner, making you think a moment before getting the joke. Not a very nice gag for poor Tubbsy, but these were not the days when humour was strained through a very tight sieve of inoffensiveness. 

Along with the Herriman entry we have an interesting array of cartoons by other creators. In the middle top tier a gag by Hy Mayer that is quite impenetrable today to 99% of us, me included prior to a Googling session. In 1901 when most families outside of big cities had a horse, a double-ring was commonly understood to be a somewhat cruel gag bit. This type of bit made it pretty darn uncomfortable for a horse who didn't follow orders; evidently horses that pulled streetcars were notable for being a bit unwilling, hence the joke. 

At the upper right we have a cartoon by Frank Crane. In order to decode this one you need to know that New Orleans was pretty well known as a source of quality molasses. 

The lower tier has two gags by that master silhouette cartoonist, Jack K. Bryans. The one on the left can leave a lump in your throat if you are paying enough attention -- these poor slum kids want to believe in Santa, but are used to finding out he bypassed them each Christmas. But hope springs eternal.


I figured the gag with the horse meant that it only responded to the streetcar bell signaling it's about to start.
You may have that right. What doesn't really make sense with either explanation is why it is particularly a knife grinder involved.
Itinerant knife grinders with bells are a thing:
Ah! The veil is now completely lifted.
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Friday, September 08, 2023


Toppers: Know Your Navy, Know Your Merchant Marine, Know Your Sports


Our headline above says "Topper" but today we've got a feature (or rather, three of 'em) that sort of bend the definition. To me a topper is generally a separate strip or panel included with a feature that, when discarded, helps to allow a paper to run the feature in various different formats. Know Your Navy/Merchant Marine/Sports doesn't fit that definition because I know of no format for Mickey Finn in which it has the function of being a 'drop panel' to assist in reformatting. With Mickey Finn, if you run the Nippie topper, you also get Know Your Navy/Merchant Marine/Sports, and if you drop Nippie, that extra panel goes away with it. In other words, that panel has no particular function except to make Nippie a five panel strip instead of six. 

This sort of feature is certainly not unique to Mickey Finn -- Dick Tracy's Crimestopper's Texbook and Heathcliff's Kitty Korner come to mind. This type of feature probably deserves its own name, but what would that be? Lagniappe feature appeals to me, but I imagine that would send a lot of people scrambling for the dictionary. 

Anyway, since I lump this stuff in with toppers in my book, and I know of no industry term for it, let's call it a topper and plow on. 

Mickey Finn's main topper, Nippie - He's Often Wrong, ran with the Sunday strip from 1936 to 1946. For almost all of its life it was a three-panel single tier affair, but on November 14 1943* it was upgraded to two tiers and the Know Your Navy panel was added, offering weekly factoids about that division of the armed forces. Since this is during World War II, there's no mystery about its appeal. Why in particular Lank Leonard picked that service branch, however, is unknown. Perhaps he looked around at all the other strips that had military components and decided that the Navy could stand a little more of the spotlight. 

At the conclusion of the war Leonard decided to change the focus. He renamed the panel Know Your Merchant Marine on September 9 1945** and began covering that somewhat obscure public/private naval service. 

The Merchant Marine panels no doubt told readers much that they did not know, but Leonard tired of it quickly. On December 16** the panel was refocused again, this time under the title of Know Your Sports. Panels explaining sports rules offered little to fascinate readers and the feature was dropped entirely on April 21 1946***. Nippie reverted to a single-tier affair, but it too would be dropped just three months later. From then on the Sunday Mickey Finn offered no toppers.

* Source: Atlanta Constitution

** Source: New York Mirror

*** Source: St. Petersburg Times


Judging from this one example, I think Leonard would have been better off replacing the "Know Your Navy" panel with a panel where either Nippie or the cop said something funny to provide a punchline.
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Wednesday, September 06, 2023


Obscurities of the Day: Clown Alley and Longshots


Some newspaper features hope to become classics of the form, to be recalled with wistful nostalgia by nonagenarians and collected in sumptuous complete hardcover editions for collectors. Others are just -- quite literally -- created to take up space. 

Such was the inspiration between this pair of features, Clown Alley and Longshots. Somehow Universal Press Syndicate got together with the Philadelphia Inquirer on a redesign of their Sunday comics section, and it was noticed that on a page with four quarter-page strips, which by the 1980s were actually a little shy of a true quarter-page tall, that a thin slack space was left. Universal Press saw this as a skinny opportunity and went to Bill Hinds to create content (how I hate that term) to fill it up. Hinds came up with Clown Alley and Longshots, both a page wide but each less than two inches tall. Each offered a weekly gag shoehorned into the odd space. 

The Inquirer, rather than use their overly tall pages to run three quarters and one third-page comic feature, which would have incurred no additional cost to them, went along with this solution that put money into the pockets of Universal and Bill Hinds each week. That's what you get and that's what you deserve when you call in a consultant who has motives of their own. 

Not that there's anything really wrong with Hinds' panels -- they do a pretty admirable job of gagging up this weird space. And Hinds was probably happy for the opportunity since one of his existing features, According to Guinness, had just cancelled its daily panel. But when Universal offered these new features to other newspapers there were few if any takers. After all, how many papers are going to buy Sunday comics features for the technical convenience of their compositors? It was a solution to an obscure technical problem, one that already had alternative free solutions due to the wide range of Sunday comics formats provided by the syndicates.

Longshots and Clown Alley both debuted in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 21 1987 and ran there for over four years until July 28 1991, victims of the Inky's next section revamp.



Longshots makes me think of Jaffee's Tall Tales - only horizontal.
I remember the Guinness feature. I assumed it was either a paid ad or a filler for an unsold space.

As a kid I remember ads in the Sunday comics, sometimes but not always in comic form. Del Monte soda, for example, briefly had a parody superhero serial, Delbert Montague. Also remember strips like "Li'l Abner" being weirdly reconfigured to accommodate larger ads, which I now remember as tabloid page size dropped onto a broadsheet.

At some point Sunday comics ads faded away (although I recall writing sales materials for them at the Mercury News into the current century).
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Monday, September 04, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Charles Biro

Charles B. Biro was born on May 12, 1911 according to the Social Security Death Index. However, a 1952 Monthly Supplement to Who’s Who in America had the birth date May 11, 1911 which also appeared on Biro’s marriage license and World War II draft card. These two documents also had New York City as his birthplace. The middle initial B likely stood for Benedict, his mother’s maiden name. A pronunciation of Biro was given in the Writer’s Digest, March 1949: “pronounce Biro with a long I”. 

Biro has not been found in the 1915 New York state census and 1920 United States Census. Apparently he was in Europe during those censuses. On February 19, 1921, a passenger list recorded the departure of Biro and his parents from Le Havre, France. They arrived in Philadelphia on March 2. The list said his parents, Anton and Josephine, were of the Hebrew race, Czechoslovakian nationals who spoke German. Their last permanent residence was Wien, Austria, and they were in New York City from 1909 to 1914. The Monthly Supplement said Biro attended the New School in 1918. The year is questionable because Biro would have been seven years old and residing in Europe.

The 1925 New York State Census said the Biro family of five lived in Queens, New York at 148th Street and Grand Central Parkway. His father was a machinist and his older brothers, Michael and Louis, were a plumber and decorator. 

Biro attended Jamaica High School

In 1928 Biro contributed sports cartoons to the Long Island Daily Press (Jamaica, New York), according to the Monthly Supplement

The Long Island Daily Press, February 11, 1929, published a photograph of the staff of The Oracle, the school’s magazine. 

Biro in last row, sixth from left

The Long Island Daily Press, February 28, 1929, mentioned Biro’s art award.
Medal Winners
The winners of medals for last term’s advanced art classes have finally been selected.

The Alexander medal, for five [sic] draftsmanship in elementary representation, will be awarded to Charles Biro. Charles is continuing his art in high school, and will probably take up art seriously after graduating. ...

Biro was an assistant to the art editor on The Oracle, June 1929.

The 1930 census listed the Biros’ residence in Queens at 147-52 Grand Central Parkway. Biro’s Hungarian parents immigrated in 1898; his father was an engineer at a hotel. Biro’s brother Louis was an advertising artist. 

The Fleischer Studios website included Biro’s 1931 Christmas card (#67). The caption said he was an assistant animator from 1930 to 1932, and animator/director from 1932 to 1936. 

The Daily Star, (Long Island City, New York), September 9, 1932, said
Brooklyn Girl Betrothed to Queens Song Writer
Mr. and Mrs. Anton Biro, 147-02 Grand Central parkway, North Jamaica, announced the engagement of their eldest son, Mitchell [sic], to Miss Ceil Bayer [sic], daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.A. Bayer of Brooklyn, at a formal dinner.

Young Mr. Biro is a well-known song writer. Among the guests were Charles Biro, sketch artist for the Van Beuren Film Corporation of Manhattan, Mr. and Mrs. Lou Biro of Beechhurst, Miss Contia Biro of Brooklyn, Mr. and Mrs. Isadore Jacobwitz of Flushing-Hillcrest, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Luther of Brooklyn and Al Koenency of Brooklyn.

The Monthly Supplement did not mention Fleischer Studios and said Biro was an animator at Van Beuren Productions, R.К.О., from 1933 to 1936; animation director of Audio Productions, from 1936 to 1937; and the Hastings Studio in 1937. Biro’s art training included the Brooklyn Museum School of Art, 1932; Art Students League, 1934; and Grand Central School of Art, 1939.

Biro left animation to become art director at the Harry “A” Chesler Syndicate, from 1937 to 1938, and he drew the Foxy Grandpa comic strip originated by Carl E. Schultze. The cover (below) of Syndicate Features, December 15, 1937, featured a portrait of Schultze, Foxy Grandpa and Biro. It’s not known if the Biro strips were published. Around the same time he produced an unpublished strip, Goodbyland

Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

From the Chesler Syndicate, Biro went to the comic book publisher MLJ from 1938 to 1939.

In the late 1930s, Biro’s residence was an apartment building in Sunnyside, Queens at 41-08 43rd Street where he met his wife. On September 13, 1938, he married Cecila Frances Bishop

In the 1940 census, the couple lived in Sunnyside at 45-42 41st Road. He had four years of high school and his occupation was artist in the publishing industry. In 1939, he earned $700 and his wife $1,250. Biro continued work in the comic book industry: editor-in-chief of Comic House, Inc., from 1939 to 1940; editorial director and editor-in-chief of Gleason Publications, since 1945; and president of Biro-Wood Productions, since 1945. Some of his comic book credits are hereWho’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Biro’s wife did some writing for Gleason. 

On October 16, 1940, Biro signed his World War II draft card. His description was six feet two inches, 200 pounds, with blue eyes and blonde hair.

The Kingston Daily Freeman (New York), October 12, 1946, noted one of his visits: “Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hubbell had as their week-end guests Mr. and Mrs. Charles Biro. Mr. Biro is Mr. Hubbell’s editor.” 

A 1949 Manhattan, New York City directory listed Biro’s office at 114 East 32nd Street. 

Cartoonist Profiles #37, March 1978, published a photograph of cartoonists, including Biro, at The Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, in San Francisco, on November 12, 1949.

According to the 1950 census, self-employed cartoonist Biro, his wife and daughter, Denise, were Wilton, Connecticut residents. 

The New York Times, July 14, 1951, reported the Society of Amateur Chefs duck dinner at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, the organization’s headquarters; two brief excerpts:
Among the co-conspirators at the range with Mr. Melchior were cartoonists Ham Fisher of “Joe Palooka” fame and Charles Biro, who left the fate of Pee Wee, Scare Crow and the other “Little Wise Guys” in midair to don his starched chef’s cap and apron. The latter costume, gay with red and black inscriptions, was worn by members over their conservative business suits. It was designed by fellow member and assistant chef of the day, Russell Patterson, the illustrator….

Bill of fare for the evening (selected by Mr. Biro):
Anchovy twists
Mint juleps
Petite marmite
Wild duckling with sauce smitaine
Wild rice
Whole glazed cranberries
Mixed salad
French pancakes
Demi tasse
Biro and his brother, Michael, applied for a patent in 1952. Their patent appeared in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, December 28, 1954. 

During the month of October 1952, Stars and Stripes, September 21, 1952, reported that nine cartoonists were scheduled to visit American bases in Great Britain and France. They were “… Russell Patterson, the famed beautiful-girl illustrator (‘Mamie’); Dick Wingert (‘Hubert’), C.D. Russell (‘Pete the Tramp’), Bob Dunn (‘Just the Type’), all of King Features Syndicate; Al Posen (‘Sweeney and Son’), Bill Holman (‘Smoky Stover’ and ‘Nuts and Bolts’) and Gus Edson (‘The Gumps’), all of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate; Bob Montana (‘Archie’), McClure Newspaper Syndicate, and Charles Biro (comic books, ‘Dare Devil’ and ‘Peewee’).” Their Christmas greetings were published in the December 24, 1952, Stars and Stripes. Biro’s greeting is below.

The New York Times, October 1, 1953, noted Biro’s lease in the Steinway Building, 109 West 57th Street, in Manhattan. 

Biro produced an eight-page comic book about the State Training School for Boys at Warwick, New York. The school was established to help juvenile delinquents. The New York Times, April 17, 1954, reported the use of the comic book and printed two panels (below).

The 1956 Wilton directory said Biro had moved to New York. 

When Biro’s career in comics ended in the mid-1950s, he switched to advertising. 

Biro and Red Mohler aka Bill Mohler illustrated Pat, the Pilot for the Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company which produced My Weekly Reader. The earliest mention of Pat, the Pilot was in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Leaflets, Contributions to Newspapers or Periodicals, Etc. Maps, 1946, New Series, Volume 43. Biro was identified in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 15, Part 1, Number 1, Book and Pamphlets January–June 1961. 
Pat the pilot. Grade 6. Eleanor M. Johnson, editor-in-chief. Editorial board for the revised series, William E. Young & others. Illustrated by Charles Biro. (New Reading Skilltext series) Appl. author: Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc., employer for hire. © Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc., 12Jan61; A502070.
Currently at eBay

Biro and Mohler were identified in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 25, Part 1, Number 1, Section 1, Book and Pamphlets January–June 1971. (Mohler also drew Tom, the Reporter.)
Pat, the Pilot. Editorial review board: Murray Anderson, Millard H. Black, Evelyn B. Taylor & George R. Turner. Illustrated by Charles Biro & Bill Mohler. Columbus, Ohio, C.E. Merrill Pub. Co. 88 p. (Merrill reading Skilltext series) Based on the original Reading Skilltext series. NM revisions. © Charles E. Merrill Pub. Co.; 4Sep70; A228925.

Pat, the Pilot. Editorial review board: Murray Anderson, Millard H. Black, Evelyn B. Taylor & George R. Turner. Illustrated by Charles Biro & Bill Mohler. Teacher’s ed. Columbus, Ohio, C.E. Merrill Pub. Co. 88 p. (Merrill reading Skilltext series, grade 6) Based on the original Reading Skilltext series. NM revisions. © Charles E. Merrill Pub. Co.; 4Sep70; A228926.
From 1962 to 1972, Biro was an art director at NBC television. 

Alter Ego #73, October 2007, said Biro attended Phil Seuling’s 1968 International Convention of Comic Art. Martin L. Greim’s Comic Crusader Omnibus (2022) said Biro, Jim Steranko, Sal Trapani and Joe Orlando were judges of the costume contest. The same issue of Alter Ego also published Jim Amash’s interview with Biro’s daughters, Denise Ortell, Penny Gold, and Bonnie Biro. 

Biro passed away “of a heart attack March 4th [1972], while driving his car” according to Graphic Story World #6, July 1972. The Social Security Applications and Claims Index, at, said a claim was filed on March 16, 1972. Newsday, February 8, 1994, said Biro’s wife (born January 6, 1916) passed away on February 5, 1994. 

(An earlier profile was posted in 2013.) 

Further Reading
Uncle Charlie’s Fables #2, #3, #4, #5
The Comics Journal #245, August 2002, interview with Creig Flessel who recalled a couple of incidents regarding Biro
Comic Vine, photographs of Biro
Todd’s Blog, Charles Biro—Letterer


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