Saturday, September 30, 2006
Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: The Comic Strip Jack Kirby
The Comic Strip Jack Kirby (ISBN 1-56685-028-2) is hot off the presses from Greg Theakston's Pure ImaginationPublishing. I've been eagerly awaiting this volume for, oh, about ten years now, since Greg told me he intended to publish a full book of Kirby's rare newspaper comic strips.
Theakston whet our appetites back in the late 80s with his Jack Kirby Treasury volume, and this book admittedly covers much the same ground. A lot of the editorial matter is repeated from there with some new stuff here and there. This is a disappointment for me, since I was hoping to learn more about Lincoln Features, the H.T. Elmo syndicate that employed Kirby in 1936-39. However, considering the paucity of information out there about the syndicate I can't hold this against Theakston.
This volume reprints quite a bit of Lincoln Features material, most of it from syndicate proofs in Kirby's own collection, so it looks great. The editorial cartoons, very few of which had been printed in the earlier book, are especially wonderful. I do have to take issue, however, with some of the material that Theakston represents as Kirby's work. While I am admittedly no expert in identifying art styles, I'm convinced that some material, and keep in mind that it was all signed with pseudonyms, is not Kirby but in fact the work of Elmo and others in his stable. For example, some of the Your Health Comes First panels, and all of the Laughs From The Days News are, in my opinion, the work of other hands. No matter, really, though, since I for one am certainly in the market to see any of the rare Lincoln strips.
The other problem with the Lincoln material, at least from this researcher's standpoint, is that being from proofs we don't know if it ever actually ran in any newspapers, and Theakston doesn't seem to have found any proof either, since the editorial matter is sometimes vague on that point. Of course we can enjoy such strips as Cyclone Burke and The Black Buccaneer no less for it.
In addition to the Lincoln Features material, we also get a run of Blue Beetle dailies from Fox Feature Syndicate. The book reprints the strip from the first, 1/8/40, through 3/9/40. The reproduction on some strips is excellent, others are pretty awful, and obviously from microfilm or really bad tearsheets. For some reason this run is followed with a reformatted run translated into French. Considering the awful scripting, reading the French version might be a good choice.
Finally we get what I gather is a complete reprinting of Kirby's Lightnin' and the Lone Rider strips. These most likely never made it into newspapers, though that was the initial intention, but ran in the Famous Funnies comic book. Kirby was definitely improving as a cartoonist by this time, and the art here is excellent. The material is well reproduced for the most part, but where Kirby applied tones it tends to turn into a muddy mess.
While the book is far from perfect, it is nevertheless an impressive collection of extremely rare material, and I can only hope that you'll purchase a copy. Send a signal to publishers that there is a market for something other than the seemingly endless reycling of Caniff and Herriman strips!
I am only sorry I couldn't get the additional Health panels to Greg before the book went to the printer (and that the quality of my micro-fiche copies is so poor). The later Health panels had a series called Health through the ages, which was great.
As for art identification, Greg told me once that he used the lettering as an indicator as well. All of Kirby's stuff has the horse-shoe shaped letter U.
Seems to me that the shape of a U is a pretty thin thread upon which to hang an art ID. I think even early in his career Kirby's style is recognizeable enough that I'd want something more definitive. These U's seem like pretty conventional lettering to me...
Fwiw, I have cleaned up a lot of microfilm material in my day and I think you did a creditable job with what you must have had to work with.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Buck O'Rue, Part 2
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Buck O'Rue, Part 1
Time to take a breather from the E&P material. I made a promise awhile back to some Paul Murry fans that I'd run a sequence of Buck O'Rue dailies. Frankly I think the writing on the strip is awful, so I could do without, but Murry's art, if you are a fan, is certainly up to his usual standard.
This short sequence of 13 strips concerns "Oaf Monday", a fine example of bad comic strip writing. Don't confuse your readers by stating that your hero is struggling through a Monday when they're reading the strips throughout the week. It jars the reader out of the story, and it's not necessary - why not call it Oaf Day? Problem solved.
Worse yet, the preceding two weeks to this sequence have Buck off-stage the entire time (hiding from a lonely-hearts club). Not a good idea to hide your main character that long on a strip that's just six months old.
Rest of the sequence to be posted tomorrow. Oh, and sorry about the image quality. The paper these are from did a pretty bad job of hacking the strip edges. They also failed to clean their presses regularly and some strips were impossible to clean up through the haze of ink smudges.
Details, details... It ran 1/15/51 through sometime in 1953. Syndicated by Lafave. Paul Murry fans would love an exact end date.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
E&P 1939: United Cartoonist Pics
Here's an ad that United Feature Syndicate ran in the E&P 1939 Syndicate Directory with pics of most of their cartoonists. This was on the back cover and has sustained some damage over the years as you can see. Note that poor Henry Formhals got the shaft on Joe Jinks - he wasn't allowed to sign the strip until a couple years later, so no pic for you Hank!
Labels: News of Yore
E&P 1939: Robert Edgren Obituary
Robert Edgren, Cartoonist, Dies on Coast
Famed Sports Editor, 65. Started with Hearst Newspapers
Robert W. Edgren, 65, sports editor and cartoonist, whose work was syndicated by Bell Syndicate in the U. S. and by the syndicate's Canadian representative, Dominion News Bureau, in Canada, died Sept. 9 at his home in Carmel, Calif., after a series of heart attacks.
Although best known in recent years for his syndicated column and cartoons, known as "Miracles of Sport," he was at one time a political cartoonist, and was court-martialed by Spanish authorities for drawings he sent from Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
Began on S. F. Examiner
Mr. Edgren began his newspaper career in San Francisco in 1895, when he joined the staff of the Examiner, the original W. R. Hearst newspaper. From the Examiner he was transferred to the old Evening Journal in New York and appointed political cartoonist. During his Spanish adventures, his drawings, "Sketches from Death," printed in the Journal and other Hearst papers, were chiefly war atrocities.
They were so extreme that Mr. Hearst wired the cartoonist: "Don't exaggerate so much." Angered, Mr. Edgren proceeded to collect 500 photographs to prove the accuracy of his work.
The pictures were subsequently displayed before Congress, and caused considerable excitement.
Was Independently Wealthy
He became associated with the old New York Evening World in 1904 as sports editor. In addition to a daily column and sports cartoon, he was executive editor in the sports section when that paper was the leading authority in the field of sports in America.
He returned to live in California after the World War, and built a home on the Monterey Peninsula. He was appointed to the California Boxing Commission by Governor Rolph, resigning in 1932 because of ill health.
Mr. Edgren was made independently wealthy by a kindness to a friend, to whom he loaned money before the World War to help his struggling leather goods business. When the war started, the cartoonist's friend repaid the loan with stock that tremendously increased in value.
Surviving are his wife, a son, Robert Durant Edgren, and three sisters. Funeral services were held Sept. 13 at Del Monte, Calif.
The cartoonist's son, who had been collaborating with him in recent years, will continue the feature, Bell Syndicate told E & P.
Labels: News of Yore
Monday, September 25, 2006
E&P 1939: Merrill Blosser Bio
NEA's "Freckles" Enters 25th Year With Blosser
At eight o'clock Wednesday morning, Sept. 25, Merrill Blosser, NEA service creator-cartoonist of "Freckles and his Friends," sat down to his drawing board and began working on his strip. He sketched until two that afternoon, covered his board and relaxed. It was his way of observing "Freckles" and himself entering their 25th year as a daily newspaper feature.
"Freckles" made his first appearance in strip form (he had appeared a few weeks earlier as a panel) on Sept. 20, 1915, and very few of the present-day readers would be able to recognize him. When he made his newspaper bow, "Freckles" was about six or seven years old. Now he is 17, a high school senior, and captain of the football team.
Blosser Is NEA "Old-Timer"
In point of service, Blosser is the "old-timer" among NEA Service comic artists, "Freckles" being the oldest NEA strip. Yet Blosser, in his middle forties, looks 10 years younger both in his appearance and outlook. Enthusiastic, he has the drive and love for fun of the high school youngsters he draws.
His chief hobby, he tells you, is "living." He likes to take moving pictures, to go to football games, to mingle with kids, go for long automobile drives, which he and his wife do several times a week.
He closes up shop every day at about two in the afternoon, which leaves him the rest of the day for recreation.
Because he is able to do this, Blosser is the envy of virtually every other comic artist of his acquaintance, not one of whom has been able to master the deadline bugaboo the way he has.
Has Licked Deadline Bugaboo
In nearly a quarter of a century of drawing for daily publication, Blosser never has permitted himself to get behind. He tells you that he realized early in his career that he would never have any fun, or peace of mind, unless he licked the deadline problem at the start by staying religiously ahead of his schedules.
Consequently, he sets aside a certain period each day for drawing and planning and sticks to it as meticulously as though he were punching a time-clock in an office.
The NEA cartoonist was born in Nappanee, Ind., where he grew up in a small town community much like the Shadyside locale of "Freckles and His Friends." For the last dozen years or so he and his wife have lived in Los Angeles.
Blosser's daily strip now is used by more than 500 newspapers, while his Sunday page appears in 130, NEA says.
Note from Allan: actually Freckles and his Friends debuted on August 16, 1915.
Labels: News of Yore
You're not going to find in-depth bios in the standard references -- they just don't have room. But they're excellent jumping off spots. For instance, I see that he spent most of his later life in Pasadena. I'd check to see if he has any living relatives who could talk to you -- could very well be some still living there. Since he was working at the Plain Dealer in 1915 (again, from a standard reference) I might order up the microfilm of that paper to see if they did a profile on him when he graduated to doing Freckles (a long shot, but possible). You might also contact OSU to see if they can offer any help based on their vast collection. Have you checked to see if he left his papers to some library? And what about Henry Formhals' family? Maybe you can track down one of them.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
E&P 1939: Martin Branner Bio
Branner Enters 20th Year With "Winnie"
by Stephen J Monchak, 8/5/39
Martin Branner believes that modern married couples who work have very little time to devote to marriage. Because this condition prevails in a great many of the country's urban centers, he illustrates this phase of life in his comic strip "Winnie Winkle, the Breadwinner," which is syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate.
Instead of showing the irate wife bouncing a rolling pin off her husband's head (a type of comic dealing with married folks years ago), Mike (as he is known to his friends), tells the financial status, budget troubles, in-law interference and the other travail that enters the lives of young married folks.
125 Papers Take His Strip
And newspaper readers like it. This month, as he looks back on 19 years of successful strip characterization, satisfying results appear on the black side of the ledger. One note reads: The strip appears in 125 newspapers in America and Europe, with a circulation of more than eight and a half million.
On the eve of entering his 20th year of continuous employment with the syndicate, Mike, drawing on some of his own experiences, is illustrating what can be called a cartoon biography of himself and Mrs. Branner. Now 51, the cartoonist ran away and got married to a professional dancer, Edith Fabbrini, when he was 18 and she was 15.
He spent his next 15 years playing stock, musical comedy and vaudeville on the Keith Orpheum and Pantages circuits, and some lesser ones. They hit the Palace Theater on New York's Broadway the second week it opened and often after that. Their dancing act was called "Martin and Fabbrini."
The work was hard and the earnings little. Two shows a day was rapidly changing to three and more and bookings became scarce during and after the war. Between jobs, Mike resumed his drawing, interrupted when he got married. Shortly after the Armistice, he got an offer from the Bell Syndicate to do a daily cartoon called "Louie the Lawyer."
Capt. Patterson Named Strip
He accepted but earned so little that he went back to vaudeville, continuing with his comic, making deadlines in dressing rooms, hotel rooms and between train connections. When his contract ran out, he did a Sunday page called "Pete and Pinto" for the New York Sun and the old New York Herald. This comic ran 20 weeks and paved the way for his recognition by his present employers.
Shortly after the birth of the New York News in 1919, Captain Joseph M. Patterson, publisher, who closely supervises the syndicate's comic strips, was shopping around for a working girl comic. Mike made the grade with his samples of an average stenographer.
Captain Patterson gave the strip its title, the same it bears today. The News publisher has taken a keen interest in the Branner strip and recently suggested that Winnie and her husband, Will Wright, become dancers. Their marriage has been a series of hard-luck stories.
Mike started his present continuity of the Wrights several weeks ago and currently has them on the eve of their big chance to break into the professional dancing field. But it won't be easy going for the Wrights; it wasn't easy going for the Branners.
The dancer-cartoonist hasn't changed much through the years, his colleagues say, except for his greying hair and a slight bulge amidships. He still looks as if he could beat a pretty good toe tattoo on the boards. Devoted to his family, he spends his time away from the drawing board with Mrs. Branner and their two young sons, Bernard Donald, 16, and Robert Jay, 11. With them, his summers are passed boating and swimming in Connecticut.
Labels: News of Yore
I was just wondering whether you might be able to tell me the issue of Editor & Publisher in which it appeared.. and perhaps the page number? I would really appreciate it.