Saturday, May 26, 2007


Obscurity of the Day: The Crime Octopus

The Crime Octopus, as you can read in the ad above, was a limited run strip written by none other than Walter Gibson, the creator of the Shadow. The strip was to tell the history of mob activity in the U.S. Apparently newspapers weren't too interested in a historical strip about mob activity, and the strip is exceedingly rare. The only paper that is known to have run it, and then I only know it from a promotional ad they ran, is the Detroit News. The ad says they would start printing the strip on April 15, 1951. Not having reviewed the microfilm of that paper, I don't know if they really did, or whether they printed the complete series.

Does anyone have a run of this strip?


This comic ran in the St. Petersburg Times. The #1 ran on April 24, 1951 ( and continued until May 21, 1951 (, with #28, the end. I believe all issues are available through Google News Archive, but some are very badly scanned (or preserved).
Wow, great catch Fram! I need to credit you for that find in my index, so if you could email your real name I'll make you (just barely) famous.

I've emailed it!
I too found it at the Washington Star and I am now clipping them for a complete run on my blog.
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Friday, May 25, 2007


Miscellany Day

Another busy day here in Holtz-land, so I'm going to do a miscellany post.

First, Giuseppe Scapigliati has contacted me asking for an ID on this original comic strip from 1915. I sheepishly had to admit that though it looks very familiar I just can't place it. Can you help him?

Second, in response to my plea, Aaron Neathery has posted five episodes of the Gasoline Alley radio program. Download them from here and enjoy!

Third, correspondent Philippe Gabillard and I have been discussing the comic strip Babe Bunting by Roy Williams. He tells me the interesting information that the strip was ghosted by Kemp Starrett in 1939-40. What neither of us can verify is the existence of an earlier, 'original' version of the strip, possibly titled Bebe Bunting, by Fanny Cory. E&P references it in their syndicate directory, and Ron Goulart writes about it as if he's seen it, yet I've never found a single example. I've indexed the Philadelphia Evening Ledger, its supposed home paper, and it just simply isn't there. Has anyone seen this phantom feature?

Fourth, I got this message about cartoonist Alfred "Pam" Brewerton from Michael Britt, who can be contacted at Can anyone help him out? :

Brewerton was not only a cartoonist but a photographer as well. In some research I'm doing on a documentary, he was part of the 1909 Good Roads Tour, sponsored by the Atlanta Journal and New York Herald. He took some pretty remarkable photos on the tour as well as created some pretty insightful cartoons of the motorists. If someone has any idea as to where any archives of his photography my exist, I would be greatly interested.

And finally, thanks to R.C. Harvey with whom I dined last night for a very enjoyable evening. I found out that he's never been to this blog, but he promises to visit soon. So I guess we'll have to stop saying nasty thing about him. RC's new biography of Milton Caniff titled Meanwhile... is coming off the presses even as we speak. I got a sneak preview last night and I can tell you that it is definitely a must read. Order now!!!!

The OSU have the BB strips from may 25 to september 7 1935 and says that are by Fanny Cory:
They're from the Blackbeard collection (there's a reference image too).
Maybe from the OSU you can obtain the truth (I hope).
In Italy the strip was published in 1937/38, but these strips don't seem (to me) by Fanny Cory, but very probably they're Williams' strips.
Hi Fortunato -
That would be Roy Williams' version. His strip started May 27 1935 (don't know where they came up with 5/25, maybe a promo strip?). The Cory version was advertised in 1934.
Hello, Allan---The original art you show looks like the work of E.W.Kemble to me.----Cole Johnson.
Hi Cole -
Yeah, I think you have something there. I could go along with a Kemble ID on that. I don't know of him doing newspaper work in 1915, though, and this doesn't really look like magazine work. Perhaps this is from the Bull Moose Movies series of 1912.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


News of Yore: Jackson Twins Debuts

Jeepers! Philology Helps in Teen Strip

By Jane McMaster, 1950

when an editor questioned the authenticity of teen-age chatter in "The Jackson Twins," new McNaught syndicate comic. Car­toonist Dick Brooks took the mat­ter to authorities. He got the teen­agers of the Westport, Conn. high school journalism class to take a look at his work.

They gave him a better than passing grade: they found little fault with the tone of the strip, thought the slang words for the first four weeks were 85% okay.

But the cartoonist's philological findings were rather startling in some cases:
You might have guessed that "Wallflower," that well worn term for unpopular misses, is pretty well done for. Modern teens would say: "She's strictly for the birds," or "She's a deadpan."
But "glamourpuss" seemed to Mr. Brooks a fairly sprightly han­dle. Teens didn't agree. They prefer: "She's a doll," "She's sharp," or "She's a queen." "He's a square" may sound more up-to-date to you than "He's a pill." But the Westport gang holds out for the medicinal over­tones.

And "Jeepers," an expression you might think comprises 50% of the average teen's vocabulary if you listen to radio much, is strictly for the birds, according to older teens. A 12, 13 or 14-year-old might say "Jeepers," but a 17-year-old probably wouldn't.

Trend Away from Cuteness
Westport teenagers and others at Bridgeport and Norwalk high schools passed up "Corny" for "Crummy," and "Buzz me" for "Give me a ring." They suggested "Momps" might be a little too cute an appellation for mother. In fact, Mr. Brooks thought he detected a trend away from cute, gimmicky talk.

The Westport cartoonist has made some changes as a direct re­sult of the teen advice; but he hasn't followed suggestions blind­ly. He's a crotchety old antiquari­an of a little over 30, and some­times thinks he knows best.

Mr. Brooks also had to veto some advice from real-life Toni twins, Jane and Janet Leigh of Port Chester, N. Y. who were on hand at the syndicate the other day for some promotion pictures. Some of the strip action involved jealousy between Jan and Jill Jackson, the teen age twins. ("Tweens," Mr. Brooks calls them.) The Leighs say identical twins wouldn't be jealous of each other—one wouldn't mind if the other went out with her beau, etc.

"But heck, I've got to have com­petition for story purposes," says Mr. Brooks.

The Leighs, who appeared in the Toni ads and went on an ex­tensive Toni tour, have been val­uable in giving other pointers, however. And it seems they're a special type of twins that just hap­pens in one out of four sets of identical twins. They're mirror twins: the right side of one's face matches the left side of the other's face.

Mr. Brooks, besides being an avid researcher on tweens, seems to have gotten his daily and Sun­day comic off to a good begin­ning. It first appeared Nov. 27, and several large-city newspapers used it.

Mr. Brooks studied sculpture, life drawing, landscape painting before he taught himself cartoon­ing evenings. He sold his first newspaper feature—a weekly half page drawing summing up the local news in cartoons—to the late Boston Evening Transcript in 1940.

While serving in the Navy in WWII, he drew and wrote a book "Elmer Squee," the saga of a timid little Naval recruit. He served for a year as Bob Mon­tana's assistant on "Archie," McClure's teen-age comic.

He believes he's unique in hav­ing a strip about identical twins who are girls. (Several boy-and-girl twin sets are in comics). And the Westport cartoonist has a goal of not patronizing his teen-age subjects. In fact, he has a healthy respect for the age group: "You've got to be on your toes to get up in front of them to talk," he says with a bit of awe in his voice.


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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Quickie Post Today

I'm ludicrously busy today so no time for a proper post. Here's an ad for Dick Calkins' rare Zackie Wack strip, I'll talk about Zackie some other time.

Also, it has been pointed out to me that the last two posts did not include a "Post A Comment" link. This is not my doing -- Blogger is screwing up somehow. Considering that Blogger added a few features over the last couple days I'm not surprised -- free software = untested software. This post today will tell me more about the problem. The last two posts were saved as drafts, while I'm composing this one and posting directly. We'll see if there's any difference.

Allan here .. apparently that DOES have something to do with it since the comment option is showing up on this post. I'll just not save my posts as drafts for awhile I guess.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Info Request: Herbert Kruckman

Daniel Vuillermin, a PhD student at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, is writing a biography of artist Herbert Kruckman. He is requesting that you contact him with any information you can share on Kruckman or related subjects. You can contact him at

Vuillermin contributes the following brief bio of Kruckman. The gallery of Kruckman works are all from him with the exception of the two Happy Hunch comic strips, which are the only samples I have from this rare strip (sorry for the horrid condition):

Herbert (Herb) Kruckman (1904-98) was a New York-born cartoonist, illustrator, artist and author. Kruckman’s early comics include Gimpel Beinish for Warheit (1925) and Happy Hunch (1926) for the New York Evening Graphic, a strip about a rich young boxer named Clarence. [ed - our admittedly very limited samples don't seem to bear this out as the subject]

When Kruckman was 10 years old he worked as an office boy in the Sun Building on Nassau Street and studied under the cartoonist Jeff Travers. Later, he was an associate of Milt Gross and Gus Edson. After his time at the Graphic (Kruckman was fired by the art editor, Ryan Walker, for bursting a paper bag in the office), he studied under Boardman Robinson at the Art Students League. During the 1930s and 1940s, Kruckman became a frequent contributor to several left wing magazines including New Masses, The Hat Worker and Art Front, as well as mainstream media magazines and newspapers including New Republic, PM, New York Times and Post.

Following World War II, Kruckman became active in Jewish children’s education, creating the strip Joey and his People that was featured in the newspaper World Over for more than 40 years. As an artist, Kruckman worked as part of the WPA, regularly exhibiting throughout the 1930s and 1940s at the ACA Gallery, and he was part of the New York Group that featured such artists as Alice Neel, Jacob Kainen, Louis Nisonoff, Herman Rose, Max Schnitzler and Jules Halfant.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: Cartoon America

Cartoon America - Comic Art in the Library of Congress
Edited by Harry Katz
Abrams, 2006 ISBN 0-8109-5490-7

Coffee-table art books are a breed apart. Their imposing size and weight gives them an aura of scholarship and authority. Yet when we actually sit down to read one we typically find that they're like a fancy box of chocolates -- a whole lot of lace and ribbon and darn little chocolate. This new book from the Library of Congress is definitely all about the lace. Yes, there are some tasty chocolates to be had inside, but if you buy the book with the idea of expanding your knowledge of cartooning history you'll likely be disappointed.

The book is a whopper, weighing in at four pounds and running over 300 oversize pages. It contains nearly forty essays and a bumper crop of illustrations. The reproduction is sumptuous and the subjects impressive. There are quite a few page turning "wow!" moments, like page 44 where we find the original woodblock to the Thomas Nast masterpiece "Let Us Prey". Much of the artwork comes from Art Wood's huge collection, a collection sold to the LC by Wood after years of trying to make a go of his own museum. In fact, Harry Katz in his introduction tells us that the book is essentially a celebratory exercise tied to the procurement of the collection.

Despite the ample illustration count, one problem does pop up frequently. In a number of essays a particular piece is discussed at length, yet it is not reproduced in the book, or it is reproduced but many pages past the discussion. It gives the impression that the book producers may have chosen some of the images without reviewing the essays or were just plain sloppy. It happens enough that it gets downright annoying. And the producers really put their foot in it in one case. Lynn Johnston contributes an essay on the writing of her strip, an essay in which she goes on at length over her need to be original and to develop her unique voice. Unfortunately it's impossible to read this essay with a straight face when the facing page treats us to an enormous blow-up of a single For Better or For Worse panel that is a direct swipe of a classic Dennis the Menace gag. In Johnston's defense the panel shown was originally a drop panel from a Sunday page, and few would quibble about her using a quick swipe to get that mostly unseen panel out of the way. But I can only imagine how stricken with embarrassment she must have been when she saw the book.

Notwithstanding the cover art, which features a gallery of newspaper comic strip characters, the book does actually take a good stab at covering all facets of cartooning, but few of the essays hold any outstanding interest for the serious comics fan. There are far too many of the inevitable eulogies for classic comic strips (Krazy Kat, Peanuts, etc.), editorial cartoonists (Herblock) and magazine cartoonists (Hirschfeld, Saul Steinberg). On the other hand there are a few gems. Ron Tyler's essay on Mexican cartoonist José Posada is a high point. So is John Canemaker on a few particularly interesting animation items at the LC. Edward Sorel attempts to rehabilitate Clare Briggs, a cartoonist who for some reason seems to have fallen out of favor with cartoon fans over the last few decades. On the (unintentional) lighter side, editor Harry Katz has taken an interview with Pat Oliphant and cobbled it into an essay in which Oliphant comes across as if he was muttering into a tape recorder late at night after far too many cocktails.

One essay deserves special mention. Alan Fern, formerly chief of the LC's prints and photographs division, pens "Cartoon Connoisseurship: What Makes a Great Cartoon Great?". In the essay Fern, a fellow who should certainly know better given his background, makes the utterly bizarre case that a cartoon's greatness can only be properly judged by examining the original art. He points out, correctly, that when art is reproduced fine details can be lost, and the printing process itself can add to or subtract from the effectiveness of the art. Right you are, Mr. Fern, but that's the whole point. A cartoonist drawing for reproduction is only great if he is a master of his or her medium. To an artist making art specifically for reproduction, the original is entirely incidental. That's why so few cartoonists bother to keep all their originals. The reproduction is the thing, and a professional cartoonist cannot be judged on the quality of their originals. The success or failure of a work of art can only be fairly judged in its final form; and for a cartoonist that form is on the newspaper or magazine page. Is an Escher print to be ignored in favor of examining the linoleum tiles from which it was created? Would Fern judge the quality of a film by reading the script and examining the storyboards? Of course not. Artists who are incapable of handling the medium are failures, artists who understand and bend the medium to their will can achieve greatness.

I have the funny feeling that Alan Fern's essay is, at heart, an apologia for the Library of Congress. Does it not seem just a trifle odd, really, that a library collects original artwork? Isn't that more the purview of art museums? I can see having a few archived for the benefit of the occasional display, but does it really make sense for the LC to archive thousands upon thousands of pieces of original art, the vast bulk of which will never be seen again after being carefully filed away for some vaguely defined reference need? An art museum is in the business of putting great art on display; a library has no such mission. The library's job is to archive materials of value to researchers. Yet the LC routinely pulps most of the books they receive (supposedly retained for copyright purposes, if nothing else, but they in fact retain very few), and has consigned the vast bulk of their invaluable bound newspapers holdings to the dumpster in favor of blurry and incomplete microfilm "equivalents". Much of this is done with the excuse that the LC simply doesn't have the room to store all this material. Yet apparently they do have room for a vast collection of original art. I'm probably overreaching my abilities as an armchair psychologist here, but is it possible that Fern, who has likely been ordered to prune the holding of his own LC department over the years, has come up with this nonsensical philosophy that values only the original in order to soothe a bruised conscience over the material he has been forced to consign to the trashbin?

Is Cartoon America worth 50 bucks? No, not really. But as with most coffee table books it will probably end up in the remainder bin of your local Books-a-Million in short order. At a reduced price the book is certainly a joy for the lovely pictures if nothing else.


Sunday, May 20, 2007


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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