Saturday, February 24, 2007
News of Yore: Eddie McBride on Syndication
By Eddie McBride
Cartoonist, Art Manager, N. Y. Herald Tribune Syndicate, Member A.A.C.C. Advisory Board
Reprinted from Cartoons & Movies magazine, May 1925 (p.20-22)
All cartoonists who have passed thru the formative and lean period feel a sense of responsibility to the youngster who would make good, but it is unfortunate that so few of them are ready to take the advice we pass along to them out of the fullness of bitter experience. They would have a fuller appreciation of what we tell them if they would stop to realize that possibly 75,000,000 of the population of the United States decided at some period in life that he or she would be a cartoonist, a very successful cartoonist in fact - and there are less than fifty outstanding cartoonists in the country today. Hardly a day passes that I do not cheerfully make an effort to set seven or eight youngsters on the right road, but very rarely do they heed my advice.
They call at my office in the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, exhibit their drawings, and, I am sure, many of them go away offended when I tell them very frankly that they lack ability for cartooning.
Sometimes I see the possibility of development in amateur work. When the man with a new idea appears or even a new angle of an old idea, it's the business of the syndicate manager to gather him into his particular fold and do it as quickly as possible.
Readers of Cartoons magazine are familiar with the recent case of a young man who reached the New York canyons with an idea and a new and fetching technique. The first syndicate office in which he showed his stuff wouldn't allow him out of the place until he had signed a contract - and a very good one. Any of the live syndicates would have done the identical thing.
A cartoonist's work must sell itself or it has no market value. This particular young man had the goods. Within forty-eight hours after he signed his contract, the syndicate had sold his stuff to a great New York newspaper, operating a very successful and progressive syndicate of its own.
The point I wish to make is that the market is always open - a generous market, for the goods that sell themselves. Once the strip or the cartoon is launched, it must build up its own audience; if it fails to do that, it is hopeless from the viewpoint of the syndicate.
Strips must make money before we can pay for them. The usual contract system now provides for a guarantee and a 50-50 basis on everything over a certain amount. One organization has inserted a clause in its contract providing for registration, in the name of the syndicate of the strip name in the United States Patent office, the result being rather disastrous to the worker who wishes to withdraw from the employment, as his brain-child continues with his boss.
These things, however, deal more generally with the man who has arrived. To youngsters who have talent, I have only to say: You must work - you must accept council and advice - enrollment in a good school will help. Above all, work in the art department of some newspaper. This is the apprenticeship you must serve, cheerfully and hopefully, if you would succeed. At the start of my own career it took some time to decide whether I should become a jockey, a violinist, a trick bicycle rider or a cartoonist. After winning the cover design prize at school in my native St. Louis for the Louisiana Purchase Essay Book to be exhibited at the 1904 World's Fair, I decided to study art. At the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, where I studied, I discovered that every member of the class wanted to be a newspaper artist. Acting on this provocation, I quit the class and got a job at $4.00 a week on the St. Louis Republic, taking private instruction from Paul F. Berdanier, the famous St. Louis illustrator, in the evenings.
The Republic job consisted in helping the benday man, filing pictures, making borders, and carrying the photographer's tripods to the baseball park. (I suppose I lacked the proper experience to carry the cameras.) They were lean days but they meant a lot in making whatever success I have had.
The time came when I began to make one-column sport comics - three columns followed and finally the day arrived when the chief ordered me to make a seven-column sport comic every day.
The national Republican and Democratic Conventions in 1908 and 1912 found me active in the political cartoon field. The "hound pup'" with which I signed my cartoons during the Champ Clark Campaign for the Presidency attained national size as the campaign "Houn' Dawg."
My "Col. Bugg" and "Mayor Wise" ran for three years in St. Louis. I came to the New York field with the Evening World in 1913, where I created "You Gotta Do It" and "Putting It Over." Went to the New York Evening Sun in 1915 as art manager, handling the work of the late Robert Carter, Larry Semon (now of movie fame) and MacGill and his "Hallroom Boys."
For the past seven years I have been art manager of the New York Tribune Syndicate, headed by Harry Staton and embracing Clare Briggs, C. A. Voight, J. N. Darling, Winsor McCay, Gene Byrnes, C. H. Wellington, Crawford Young, Harrison Cady, Bill Holman and Ted Brown.
The nature of my position has necessitated my keeping in touch with every advance in the fields of engraving, color work, photography and all newspaper reproduction process. I have been helped in keeping the wolf from the door by making most of the sport comics used by A. G. Spalding, the sporting goods man, during the past eight years. My hobbies are music, books, newspapers and airplaning.
(Allan's note: Eddie's strips at the NY World were all short-running, the longest lasted just four months. His work at the St. Louis Republic (Colonel Bugg and Mayor Wise) I have not been able to document.)
Labels: News of Yore
Any guess as to the cartoonist held hostage until he signed a contract?
McBride makes it sound unusual that a syndicate would copyright a work in their name, but I thought that, with maybe John Wheeler excepted, was standard operating procedure?
As for copyrights, I agree that it seems to have been pretty standard practice. I kinda wonder if McBride was misinformed and it was more that the H-T was more liberal than usual in that regard.
Mark - I don't have any of Semon's Sun work -- Jeffrey Lindenblatt indexed that paper and didn't report any continuing series by him. Perhaps he just did miscellaneous gag stuff for them. I do have samples of his extensive work for the Evening Telegram, though, and it will pop up as an obscurity one of these days. Be prepared, though, whatever his abilities on film, Semon was not much of a cartoonist.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Hot-Foot Willie
The feature ran from July 10 to September 18 1904, with Driscoll taking over the reins on August 21.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Tar Pit
Here's one that might have succeeded if it had more of a chance. Steve Dickenson's Tar Pit features the gag-a-day adventures of a group of cavemen. The strip started out slow, with more misses than hits in the jokes, but Dickenson improved over time and after a few months the strip really began to click, delivering good gags on more days than not. I'm guessing that the King Features salespeople gave up on the strip after the cold reception that newspaper editors were bound to give the early material.
The strip began (at least in the Milwaukee Journal) on June 14 1993 and ended sometime in 1994. A Sunday was advertised, but I have no samples to prove that it did run. Does anyone have better information to share?
Steve Dickenson fared better with Lola, which began in 1999 and is still running.
EDIT: Have now found a Sunday.
Scroll down until you see Farley's post.
I have no idea how reliable this website is, but it says Jerry Craft did some gags as well.
You might know Jerry as the creator of "Mama's Boyz," which is syndicated by King Features as part of its "Weekly Service" package.
Thanks for the info.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Cinderella Peggy
Harold MacGill offered Cinderella Peggy through the then new Newspaper Feature Service, which was yet another of the Hearst syndicates. It ran May 24 to November 29 1914.
At this time the NFS Sunday section had a so-so line-up, with That Son-In-Law of Pa's and Dimples usually getting the covers of the section, with occasional appearances by Louis Wain's beautifully drawn cat pages, plus obscurities like Cinderella Peggy on the insides.
Cinderella Peggy really wasn't a bad strip, but MacGill was just using the title as a disguise to once again recycle his Percy and Ferdie characters. As usual, MacGill's weakness for overlong dialogue was the strip's problem. The sample strip above, believe it or not, is one where he showed unusual restraint in that department. Perhaps in 1914 the newspaper reading public was more accepting of strips heavy with overstuffed word balloons, but to this reader's eye it seems like I'm making a long-term commitment when I dive into one of these strips.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Midge and Madge
Monday, February 19, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Br'er Rabbit
The strip was distributed by the McClure Syndicate, but it often appeared outside their own preprinted comic sections, meaning it was sold as a standalone feature. Some papers replaced an existing strip from their regular syndicate to fit it into the comics section, others put the feature on the back cover of their Sunday magazine section.
The artwork on the strip was by J.M. Conde, who was already well-known for his delightful illustrations in the original Uncle Remus books. His work on this series was expressive and evocative of the spirit of the tales -- obviously he didn't consider the Sunday comics version of the Uncle Remus tales to be beneath him, as he gave it all he had.
The series ran until October 7, a total of 16 episodes. Each episode had a separate title, but usually Br'er Rabbit, Harris' most famous character, was highlighted. Some comic strip historians prefer to call the strip Uncle Remus Stories, but I've not seen samples where that was used as a running title.
Apparently the strip was well-received because I have found it being reprinted in 1910 and again in 1913. I should say that I'm reasonably certain they're reprints -- I haven't actually compared the various runs side by side.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Lois Lane Revisited
Back in January there was a bit of excitement on the CSC newsgroup regarding the rare Lois Lane Girl Reporter topper strip to Superman. At the time I only had the three low-res scans supplied by Pete Maresca (shown in this blog post). However, in going through some of my files I rediscovered a stack of lovely color copies that had been sent to me years ago by Tony Seger. Though the copies are great some of the source material was in bad shape, but after all the hubbub among the Superman collectors over this rare series I thought I better share these additional examples. I did a lot of cleaning work on some of these, others I left pretty much in their raw condition.
If you're keeping score, between the two blog posts I've now shown eleven of the twelve known episodes.
The never-ending battle to find one more Sman strip, program, or comic.
Makes my day.
It is the dream of most bloggers to get paid for their work, but this blog presents the problem that I'm publishing the copyrighted work of others. If I was being paid, they should be paid. As it is, I provide just a taste of each feature (covered legally by fair use rules I believe) and don't make money off of it, so presumably the rampaging lawyer hordes will leave me alone.
Even if there weren't the spectre of legalities hanging over it, I would feel a moral obligation to pay the creators and/or syndicates if I was to reprint their work in volume. Being in the software business, I'm acutely aware that the whole system breaks down when consumers (whether software or comic strip) convince themselves that they aren't hurting anyone by stealing product. They are.
All that being said, if you see something on the blog and you want to see more of it, I do sell tearsheets. Feel free to inquire.
Althrough the credits is by "Jerry & Joe" (At least you know whose they meant, as does DC every month), the artwork may looks like from Wayne Boring (By the look of Clark's face in one strip).