Saturday, December 16, 2006


News of Yore: Sculpture Cartoons

Photo-Model Cartoons First Made in Baltimore (1/27/40)
Jack Lambert Believed to Be First To Practice New Art . . . Appeared in Evening Sun September, 1938
By Harry S. Sherwood (E&P, 1/27/40)

Baltimore, Jan. 22-A Baltimore sculptor's fancy for modelling in clay, for his own amusement, scenes
from the life about him, has developed a new form of newspaper cartoon first used by the Baltimore Evening Sun in September, 1938, and now being used by other newspapers. Jack Lambert, pupil of Herman MacNiel, is the sculptor. While national magazines have occasionally used the method to produce cover designs and for illustration, Mr. Lambert is the first to apply it to cartoons, and it is believed that he was the first to use it in any form.

The new technique involves first the modeling of the figure, or figures, of the cartoon and then the photographing of the figures. Mr. Lambert first used it for a small Baltimore magazine about 12 years ago. In its present form, he says it represents a combining of the sculptor's art with the photographers, the latter being very important.

Picture Has Depth
One of the marks which distinguish the new form is the depth the picture appears to have as contrasted with the flatness of the ordinary newspaper cartoon.

Asked to explain the origin of the form, Mr. Lambert told Editor & Publisher of it as follows:

"For years I have had the habit of modeling scenes suggested by newspaper reading. I did such things in idle moments for my own amusement, usually destroying the thing as soon as it was finished. I remember one of my first was a group representing a Negro youth under arrest and waiting with the policeman at a call box, with the figures of lookers-on about them.

"Another group represented a criminal getting the third degree; the criminal himself with two hard-boiled detectives bending over him.

"For a time I got some fun out of these groups without thinking of putting them to any special use. Of course caricature figures and busts are very old. The French had done some of this work and such figures are exhibited in the Modern Museum in New York.

Magazine Used First
"After awhile it occured to me that such things might be photographed. I did one which was reproduced in a photograph by a small, local magazine. It was a polo player skidding to a quick stop. It seemed to go well. I did another at the time of the repeal of Prohibition, for an advertisement. It represented a man broadcasting the news.

"Then I offered the idea for the newspaper photogravure. I failed to arouse the editors' enthusiasm.

"Finally I submitted the idea to Philip M. Wagner, editor of the Evening Sun, for use in newspaper cartoons He liked it at once. He contributed much to the success of the first we printed and his advice has been very helpful since. The first figures I made to be used in a cartoon concerned the primary fight of United States Senator Millard E. Tydings in Maryland in 1938, when President Roosevelt threw his influence towards Tydings' opponent, David J. Lewis. I tried repeatedly to get a group of several figures and finally threw all my designs away. At the end of the primary, when Tydings was successful, the Evening Sun printed a cartoon from my model showing Tydings saying 'Bring on your purge.' That was the first. Numbers have been printed since.

Photography Important
"Sculpting the figures is only a part of the cartoon. The photographing of the figures after they have been modelled is very important. If the light is not made to fall on the figures exactly as it should, you get a clouded effect lacking the sharpness that is desirable.

"Robert F. Kniesche, a staff photographer of the Evening Sun, has contributed much to this phase of the work. After the use of the cartoons started we at times adapted the modelling to photography, modelling the figures in such a way that they would take the light advantageously. We think we can improve this aspect of the cartoon in the future and are still experimenting with it.

"The figures are usually modelled so that the figure, or the group, is about 18 inches wide by 15 inches high Familiar modelling clay is used. At first we put the modelled work up against a black background. We found that inclined to make the picture as it finally appeared dark and obscure. Often we model the background in clay as a part of the figure or group to get a clearer effect. The figures are modelled only on the side presented to the camera, the back being flat and unfinished. We have found that usually we get our best effects from heavy relief.

Takes About 6 Hours
"It takes me about six hours to model a group when no likeness of an individual is involved, about two hours longer when a well known man, say Chamberlain, the British prime minister, is involved.

"Sometimes an idea occurs to me and I submit it to Mr. Wagner for his suggestions. Sometimes the idea is Mr. Wagner's."

Mr. Lambert has lived and worked in Baltimore for 20 years. He was born in New York and studied at the National Academy of Design and at the Society of Beaux Arts. He has exhibited his work at the National Academy of Design, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
His friends say he has an extraodin-ary gift for fixing in clay the figures that appear on the streets of every American city, reproducing them with striking fidelity to life.

[Allan's note: actually Mr. Wagner is not the first to use sculpted three-dimensional 'cartoons' in newspapers. Helena Dayton-Smith, for one, was doing this same sort of material in the 1910s.]



QUERY: Cartoon character from the 1950s

There was a cartoon character in the 1950s who appeared in the Sunday comics and probably elsewhere. I remember him about the same time as Dagwood and L'il Abner. He could even be from one of those strips.

He was a fat guy who had a tricycle type rig that had a wooden house on the back over the back axle. It sort of looked like an out-house structure with a smoke stack, and he peddled it at great speed all over the place and it swayed back and forth. The only name that comes to mind is Hewey or Huey.

Any ideas??
Sounds to me like it might be Smokey Stover. He had a three-wheel motorycle/fire engine thingy.

Hello, Allan---The character in question must be JOE PALOOKA's sidekick, Humphrey. He drove the bicycle/shack mentioned.----Cole Johnson.
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Friday, December 15, 2006


Magazine Cover Comics: The Fortunes of Flossie

Here's a delightful continuing comic that appeared on the covers of Hearst's American Weekly Sunday magazine section in 1927. The poetry (which for some reason was pretty well the standard storytelling device on magazine covers) is by the ubiquitous Carolyn Wells, and the art is by Nell Brinkley. Brinkley is really at the height of her powers here on this series; her sometimes overly fussy drawing style is restrained and she lets the color do the job it's intended to do. I'm afraid that the scanning and reducing process has washed out the vivid and well-blended colors a bit - the central figure is truly breathtaking on the original.


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Thursday, December 14, 2006


Obscurity of the Day: Biograph Bill

Here's a World Color Printing strip that ran in their Sunday section from January 1 through April 9 1911. Biograph Bill was one of a legion of strips about the movie-making business, but a pretty early example of the genre. The strip was unsigned throughout its run, as were quite a few World Color strips during this period. I think the reason for much of it is that cartoonists otherwise gainfully employed for major syndicates turned out these strips on the side, perhaps in violation of their contracts. The art on Biograph Bill is profession though unremarkable, and I doubt that anyone could pin down the creator based on the style.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Obscurity of the Day: The College Chumps

Here's an early entry into what would become a popular genre for comic strips in the 1920s and 30s. The College Chumps follows the tanglings of a pair of college men who are endlessly competing with each other. The strip ran in the Philadelphia North American's comic section from 3/29 to 10/25/1908. It was signed by one George Henry, a gent with no other comic strip credits, but I suspect this just might have actually been Walter Bradford working under a pseudonym. Bradford was providing a lot of material to the North American, and it wasn't uncommon in those days for a paper to ask the artists to sign only one strip at a time so as not to make them look like a small-time outfit.


Hello, Allan----The actual artist on THE COLLEGE CHUMPS is (to my eyes, anyway), is Hy Gage. Look at the letters, shape of balloons, faces---no doubt to me. Perhaps he didn't want to rattle his long-time employers at the Philadelphia Press, whers he thumped out MRS. RUMMAGE. ----Cole Johnson.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


H.T. Webster Early Work

Being a big fan of H.T. Webster, I'm pleased to show off one of his earliest syndicated works. In 1903-04 Webbie contributed to the syndicated daily page of comics produced by the Chicago Daily News; mostly he did one-shots, like this one, but he did log in a few very short-lived series.

Although the gag in this strip is pretty thin, I think you'll agree that the artwork is very impressive for a 19-year old fledgling cartoonist. Who could have doubted his destiny as one of the greats of cartooning when he could produce material like this at such a young age.

According to Ron Goulart in Encyclopedia of American Comics, Webster produced sports cartoons out in Denver Colorado before he came back to Chicago looking for work. Has anyone seen any?

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Monday, December 11, 2006


Obscurity of the Day: Foolish Fred (+ a bonus!)

Charles W. Kahles' Foolish Fred was a short-lived series that ran in the C.J. Hirt-copyrighted version of the McClure Syndicate Sunday section. I think this series, which is perfectly serviceable, was a victim of Kahles' overwork. He was producing other Sunday strips for McClure, plus a lot of material for the New York World, and he was even producing yet more material for several of the Philadelphia papers around this time. Something had to give, and Foolish Fred, being a new addition to the Kahles oeuvre, was a logical candidate for being tossed. The series ran 9/25 - 11/6/1904.

Here's a bonus item, a Kahles Clarence The Cop from 1902:


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Sunday, December 10, 2006


Obscurity of the Day: The Affairs of Jane

Hello Americans, this is ersatz Paul Harvey ...

Murat Young was a stenographer and art student in Chicago in 1921 when he heard that the NEA syndicate in Cleveland was looking for a pretty girl strip, a new genre that would take off and practically define the newspaper cartooning of the 1920s. Murat wasted no time in working up The Affairs of Jane, and it was accepted by NEA, which offered Murat the less than princely wage of $22 per week to draw the strip.

Jane was a struggling actress in low-budget pictures, but she dreamed big, imagining herself one of the leading lights of the cinema. Vain, coquettish, and a bit crude, Jane may have been too realistic a flapper for the smalltown audience to which NEA catered. Murat was none too happy with his weekly paycheck, either, so there's no surprise that The Affairs of Jane was a short-lived strip. It began on Halloween in 1921, and ended on March 18 of the next year, a run of less than five months.

But Murat persevered, succeeding in placing another short-lived strip called Beautiful Bab, this one with the Bell Syndicate. That strip caught the eye of William Randolph Hearst, and when his eye is caught careers have a way of taking off. Murat was encouraged to submit a new strip to the Hearst organization, and eventually he succeeded with Dumb Dora. This was yet another flapper strip, and it did quite well in syndication. Perhaps it was helped out just a bit when Murat decided to drop his rather foreign sounding first name, going thereafter by a nickname.

Though Dumb Dora was doing well, Murat was the restless sort, and he developed one more strip. He stuck with his strength, pretty girls, and this strip, launched in 1930, became the most successful strip ever to appear in American newspapers. It was not an immediate success, though, until Murat had his flapper heroine get married to a bumbling fellow and settle down in marital bliss.

The girl's beau was Dagwood, and she, of course, was Blondie. And Murat, under the nickname Chic, became one of the most successful cartoonists of all time.

And that is the rest of the story. This is ersatz Paul Harvey ... good day!

EDIT 1/9/2018: As reported to me by Art Lortie, the actual start date of the strip is a week earlier, 10/24/1921. I had the start date based on the NEA archives at OSU, but apparently the first week of the strip had been pilfered from the books. That was a not too terribly uncommon occurrence with important and interesting strips like this.

Thank You for printing "The Affairs Of Jane" comic strip.I have heard of it before.I WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE REPRINTS OF IT!I think I saw one in a book about comic strips but i forget the title of the book.
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