Saturday, January 06, 2007
News of Yore: 1940 Raeburn Van Buren Profile
By Stephen J. Monchak
There's room for real art in the newspaper syndicate comic strip field and within the next few years many of America's top-notch magazine illustrators will be drawing for the nation's newspaper readers.
"The only reason there aren't more of them doing strips today is that they haven't a story idea. Here's a chance for some smart newspaper men to cash in by writing strip continuity for these artists."
Meet Raeburn Van Buren
That's Raeburn Van Buren talking. Up until the summer of 1937 he was one of the nation's leading magazine illustrators and his work for more than two decades graced the pages of the leading slick paper magazines. But he tossed that work aside to draw a strip. Why?
"I felt I was getting into a rut; I needed a change, a shot in the arm. I wanted to do something different," he explains.
That's one way of putting it. But the truth is, he told this column in an interview in his comfortable home in Great Neck, Long Island, last week, he wanted to prove to himself (and to his doubting colleagues) that a strip could tell its own story primarily by illustrations.
He did. His "Abbie an' Slats" appears in 150 newspapers from coast-to-coast daily and Sunday through United Feature Syndicate distribution.
His Success Formula
The formula? Clever blending of caricature with drama both in story and art, Mr. Van Buren feels. His girls are beauties, as are his landscapes and his authentic American characters click with newspaper readers. Fan mail attests to that. But there still are some illustrators who view strip art as the illegitimate child of the art family, Mr. Van Buren, who is a member of long standing of the illustrious American Society of Illustrators, agrees.
"There's some basis to that view, of course," he said, naming a few strips he said he felt had "awful art." He mentioned a few others which most people in the business agree sell because of the sheer beauty of their drawing.
"It's like those beautifully drawn things that we will see more and more of when some of the magazine illusators hit on a story that'll click," he remarked. Mr. Van Buren writes his own continuity. (Allan's note: no he didn't)
In his strip, as in his illustrations before, Mr. Van Buren's theme is the homespun. Replete with blueberry pies, country lanes and the rural life, it is aimed at the good, average American burgher. Mr. Van Buren has stopped magazine illustrating entirely. The only other work coming from his drawing board these days is an advertising comic strip called "Old Judge Robbins." This he does for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. A color feature, it appears in many of the country's Sunday comic sections.
Recently a Hollywood producer saw film possibilities in "Abbie an' Slats." His plan was to star Bobby Breen as
"Slats." The project was dropped after a few meetings, Mr. Van Buren said, because the child star was "hard to handle."
Mr. Van Buren attributes whatever success he's had to the early teachings of Harry Wood, veteran art editor of the Kansas City Star. Mr. Van Buren got his first regular art job on the Star.
Newspapers Best Training
"I think a newspaper job under a capable boss is the best training an artist can find anywhere," he said. He doesn't think much of art schools. They don't teach the student to depend on himself, he holds.
"I know students who have been going to art school for 10 years," he continued. "They've no initiative. They do the same thing over and over again. There's nothing distinctive about the work they turn out."
Mr. Van Buren first used a drawing board in the sports department of the old Kansas City Journal, now the Journal-Post, as a spare time employee. He sold a drawing to the old Life humor magazine and then went on to New York fired with ambition.
He free-lanced successfully there but traded his artist's smock for the uniform when the U. S. entered the World War, serving with the 107th Regiment of the 27th Division.
He married Fern Rengo, a girl from "back home," after the war, later bought the home he now owns in Great Neck and is the very proud father of a 14-year-old son. He works in a little studio in the garage "seven days a week." His work day is from nine in the morning to 4:30 p.m. or thereabouts. "By that time, all drawn out, I stagger back into the house," he remarked. He's got two hobbies, tennis and fishing.
Labels: News of Yore
Do you happen to have the full citation for this article in Editor and Publisher? I have: Stephen J. Monchak, “Van Buren Talks About Illustrators, Comic Art,” Editor & Publisher Magazine, 1940," but need the page number...
Thanks for any help!
Friday, January 05, 2007
News of Yore: Short Items from E&P
It was King Features Syndicate night Feb. 19 on Dr. Harry Hagen's "True or False" quiz over the NBC network with men cartoonists pitted against women writers for the first prize of $25. Out of the melee, which was featured by some stiff posers, emerged George (Bringing Up Father) McManus, captain of the men's team, as winner, having answered all questions put to him correctly.
Runner up was Prunella Wood, fashion and woman's page editor. Those who dropped by the wayside included Jimmy Hatlo, Lyman Young, Al Raymond, Cliff Sterrett, Dorothy Kilgallen, captain of the women's team, Alice Hughes, Ida Jean Kain, Delight Dixon and Lois Miller. (Allan's note: anyone know if the tape of this program exists?)
Jiggs Visits With FDR
Jiggs, of George McManus' comic strip, "Bringing Up Father," owned and distributed by King Features Syndicate, visits the White House and talks with President Roosevelt in the daily strips of Jan. 18-19, KFS informed the column this week. Necessary approval from the White House was obtained. The two releases are incidents in the Jiggs family's most recent tour for Father's health. In the Jan 18 release, Jiggs wanders off by himself to the White House grounds, stopping in front of the mansion to say: "By golly, now that I'm here, I wonder if he'll see me?"
FDR in Strip in 1938
The next day's strip pictures President Roosevelt at the door saying goodbye to Jiggs, who is beaming. "Call again, Jiggs," the President says. "Glad to see you anytime." Jiggs waves his hat and replies:"Thank you, President Roosevelt. If Maggie could only see me now. WOW!"
McManus, a comic artist for 40 years, has never before brought a President of the U. S. into one of his comic strips. He has been drawing "Bringing Up Father" since Jan. 2, 1913. Previously, he originated and drew "The Newlyweds and Their Baby," "Panhandle Pete" and "Let George Do It."
He began his newspaper career on the old St. Louis Republic in 1899, going to the New York World in 1905. He joined the New York American, now the Journal-American, in 1912. His feature appears in more than 500 newspapers and in 27 languages, according to KFS.
The only other instance this column knows of a U. S. President appearing in a comic strip was in June, 1938, when Ham Fisher, who does "Joe Palooka" for McNaught Syndicate, had Knobby Walsh, Palooka's manager, visit with FDR.
Labels: News of Yore
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Pluribus
The 1976 bicentennial was such a big deal that a number of strips were created with that event in mind. The early bird, by far, in this race to market the 200th birthday of the country was Pluribus by Bill Rechin. And 'bird' is apt, because the strip's titular star was a bald eagle.
Pluribus started on July 5 1971, giving it a five year (!) lead time on the bicentennial. And though Bill Rechin later on proved he could come up with syndication gold with Crock, this effort didn't fare nearly as well in spite of a good concept and execution. Syndicated by the Artists & Writers Syndicate, a syndicate I know nothing about, the marketing apparently just wasn't there and the strip ran in few papers.
The syndicate even tried to add a Sunday page (a risky and expensive proposition for a small outfit). The earliest Sunday I've found is 9/19/71, but it might have started earlier (anyone?).
The strip lasted until sometime in 1973, but I don't know the exact date (again, sounding like a broken record, anyone?). One has to wonder if Nixon's national disgrace put such a damper on national spirit that a strip trading on patriotism just didn't fit with the times.
The samples shown above are the first four strips in the run, plus a special intro strip that ran on July 3rd.
Allen, can you post "Out of Bounds"? It was another strip from the "Crock" team Rechin and Wilder.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
News of Yore: 1940 Short Items from E&P
As a result of a mutually agreeable arrangement just concluded between Richard H. Waldo, editor, McClure Newspaper Syndicate, and Charles V. McAdam, president, McNaught Syndicate, the well-known daily panel "All In a Lifetime" by Frank Beck will be handled exclusively by McNaught starting Jan. 8, McNaught and McClure Syndicates jointly announced this week.
Cartoonist Beck, whose specialty is portraying dogs, will also produce for McNaught a new daily and Sunday comic strip entitled "Bo," the joint announcement also said. The title character is a typical, everyday dog. The feature will have both pathos and humor in its continuity.
The first release date for the strip is Jan. 22 and "Bo" will appear then in the Washington (D. C.) Star, Pittsburgh Press, Indianapolis Star, Cincinnati Times-Star, and others.
National Signs New Strip
Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, novelists, have signed a contract with National Newspaper Service, Chicago, to write an adventure strip entitled "Speed Spaulding." Forty-six newspapers have already contracted for the new feature, according to John Dille, president of the syndicate. Commenting upon the new adventure strip, Mr. Dille stated:
"The day when entertainment value can be the sole factor of appeal is gone. The important new note in adventure strip development is the inclusion of educational material without the sacrifice of entertainment value. Every reader of 'Speed Spaulding' will get, along with a highly interesting story, important educational material in astronomy, geology, psychology, though it will wear no such formidable labels."
Dog Strip’s Debut
"Scotty the Wonder Dog", a new adventure comic strip, will make its national debut as a daily feature on March 25 through the Matz Feature Syndicate, Reading, Pa., Ralph S. Matz, sales manager, announced this week. The new strip is drawn by Larson and Reed. (Allan's note: has anyone a sample of this strip? Anyone know if Matz was associated with a Reading newspaper?)
Labels: News of Yore
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Happy New Year from Uncle Mun
Monday, January 01, 2007
Grosse Pointe Comics
First up is an advertising panel called You Can Learn To Fly (sample in paper of 4/24/41). Newspapers receive all sorts of free material like this from various commercial concerns, and most larger papers just pitch it straight into the circular file. Features like this try to be entertaining while slyly (or not so slyly) also getting a commercial message across. Many small weekly newspapers, those without a budget for purchasing comics and other graphically interesting matter, will run this material as a space filler or to lighten up an otherwise type-heavy page. It's a symbiotic relationship -- the paper gets free filler material, the advertiser gets free newspaper space.
The You Can Learn To Fly series, ostensibly from something called the Flying League of America, is a series of panel cartoons whose aim is to get readers interested in taking flying lessons. It might have been supplied by a light aircraft company, or an association of airfields, or something of that sort. With these types of features it can sometimes be hard to tell.
D.D. points out that one of the panels in this series appears to have a Kirby drawing (the Amelia Earhart head, in the 5/8/41 issue). I agree, and I'd make a guess that it was appropriated from one of Kirby's Facts You Never Knew panels from back in his Lincoln Features days. All of the cartoons in the series seem to be similarly swiped from various sources.
On the same page as many of the You Can Learn To Fly panels you'll also find the panel Mickie Says (sample in the 5/1/41 issue). This was another freebie item, but I do know just where these come from. The Western Newspaper Union newspaper syndicate sent batches of these out free to small papers as an encouragement to take their service (the Review was during this time purchasing their editorial cartoons from WNU). The panel is a spin-off from their weekly Mickie The Printer's Devil comic strip. The comic strip was long dead by 1941, but the panels lived on as a freebie from the syndicate.
Another interesting freebie is Scrappy Sayings (sample in 7/15/37 issue). This panel was meant to advertise the Columbia Features Scrappy cartoon series. But rather than paying for space, they coopted the character in a series of cute panel cartoons. I've seen these running in small papers mostly in 1935, these ones from 1937 could indicate a much longer series (doubtful given the numbering on the panels), or that the Review had these filed away for later use.
One more freebie, this one pretty bald-faced about what they were advertising, is Ex Libris by William Sharp (sample in 7/18/46 issue). This series is by the same artist who did many of the Book-of-the-Month comic strip series (itself a facinating series, with appearances by many excellent cartoonists and illustrators), and, of course, serves as free advertising for the Book-of-the-Month Club.
Getting away from the advertising freebies, we have a bit of a head-scratcher in the historical comic strip series called Michigan and the Old Northwest. This ran from October 4 1945 to July 25 1946 in the Review. The writer, Luke Scheer, also wrote several similar historical series for the Toledo News-Bee, and the cartoonist is the great George Scarbo (here not so great in this hastily drawn feature) who was one of the workhorses for the NEA newspaper syndicate. Milo Quaife, credited here as editor, was a historian of some note.
There are no copyrights on this strip, but Scarbo's participation and the familiar NEA typefaces used make it likely that this was one of NEA's closed-end features, a semi-regular perk provided by the syndicate to its subscribers. I have not previously seen this strip, but the NEA archives at OSU are quite incomplete on these closed-end strips, so it may be one they missed. I notice no other NEA material in the Review, so perhaps this strip was also sent out by NEA as a free promotion to get papers to subscribe to their service.
I saved the best for last. In 1937 the Review took the plunge and ran a full page of comics. They really scraped the bottom of the barrel when they contracted with Van Tine Features to supply their full page of comic strips and panel cartoons. This was a tiny little syndicate, known to have distributed their full page of weekly comics circa 1935-37. I know nothing about them except that they were pretty spectacularly unsuccessful at selling their material. They never advertised in Editor & Publisher, so I don't even know where they were based. The ever-elusive Lincoln Features is practically ubiquitous by comparison.
That Van Tine was bottom of the barrel doesn't mean they were completely without redeeming value. They offered Gene Carr's panel cartoon Here 'n There, a bittersweet social commentary item that continues his classic Just Humans theme from the 1920s. They had Rumpus by Art Helfant, certainly one of the best unsung graphic stylists of the comics page, and they had a strip titled Baron Munchausen by Fred Nordley. This is Nordley's only comic strip as far as I know, and I've never heard of the guy, but my goodness he really has an appealing clean line style.
On the other hand, there's also the awful Bozo And The Baron by Larry Antonette, a pantomime strip that is spectacularly unfunny, and a Chuck Thorndike production called Follies Of The Great that shows that not only can't Chuck cartoon worth a darn, he can't do caricatures either. Ray Hoppman, a perennial dweller in the bullpens of cheapo syndicates, contributes the all too aptly titled Don't Be Like That.
One interesting strip is titled Kitty Kelly and Nellie Shannon. Credited to "Ro", it's the only strip in the lot that uses coninuity, a dangerous thing for a syndicate that was probably selling its pages in batches. The style has all the earmarks of being drawn by a female cartoonist, and the style seems familiar somehow. Perhaps someone who is a more adept art spotter can make an educated guess about the identitiy of the cartoonist.
The Van Tine Features page appears from the beginning of 1937 through June 17. It probably was running in 1936, too, but those papers are, for some reason, inaccessible on the website. Hopefully they'll fix things one of these days and we'll get to see more of Van Tine.
Much thanks to D.D. Degg for unearthing this batch of rare items. If anyone else knows of out of the way spots on the 'net where we can review newspaper archives, for goodness sake don't keep it a secret!
Do you suppose that this was one of those papers that Henry Ford created to "educate" workers?
Recently as of Dec. 2004, Grosse Pointe News has been running a comic called "Grosse Pointe Dogs."
Pocketbook of Knowledge was an odd one. It was obviously a freebie, and a very popular one at that (I've seen it in dozens of papers) but the panel is very good at hiding its purpose. I don't know if it was government issue (sort of reads that way) or something from the banking industry or better business bureau or something. It seems to be touting U.S. commerce in general.
And to Charles, I gave up looking at the News way before then -- good catch. Grosse Pointe Dogs has a website http://gpdogs.keenspace.com
so I guess they are still semi-active. I'll shoot off an email to them.
By the way, if you can tell me how to turn these long URLs in handy, readerfriendly, clickable links in my comments, I'll be more tahn happy to use those in the future.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
More Fox Features Marketing
Fox Names Albright (E&P, 1/27/40)
Victor S. Fox, president, Fox Feature Syndicate, New York, announced this week the appointment of H. W. Albright, formerly mid-Western manager for Western Newspaper Union, as manager of the Western division of FFS, with offices in Kansas City, Mo.
Mr. Albright will handle the sale and production for the Fox process color comic page weekly and all other FFS features, Mr. Fox said. He also announced that Mr. Albright and himself have completed arrangements with Orville S. McPherson, publisher, Kansas City (Mo.) Journal, to print the process color comic section for the Western territory in Kansas City, thus furnishing faster service to newspapers.
New Daily Strip (E&P, 2/3/40)
Fox Feature Syndicate announced this week that one of its Sunday features, "Rex Dexter of Mars," will be offered in daily strip form in five and six column sizes March 4. Author of the feature is Dick Briefer, who studied at the Art Students' League, New York, and who is now an art teacher in the Thomas Jefferson high school, New York.
February 10, 1940
February 24, 1940
March 9, 1940
March 30, 1940