Saturday, June 23, 2007


Herriman Saturday

It's back to politics on this Herriman Saturday. The above cartoons were printed in the LA Examiner on September 6th and 7th 1906. The subject of the cartoons is California's Republican convention, where a fellow by the name of Gillett, apparently seen as yet another tool of the Southern Pacific Railroad, was nominated for the Governor race. I'll hope for the indulgence of our historically knowledgeable readers for further explanations.


Nothing particularly notheworthy to add to what Allan wrote. Anyway --

CARTOON 1- The Santa Cruz Republican Convention was the biggest State convention ever held in California. The town hotels were full, hence the gags with people sleeping in crowded tents.
Judge J W McKinley, Attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad from LA, was the chairman for the convention. No idea of whom “The Little Fat Person” is (maybe lawyer Edward Russel Young, associated with McKinley).
Congressman James N “Jim” Gillett (1860-1937) , a representetive of “The Machine” (see “Herriman Saturday” for JUN 2) from Eureka, Humboldt County, was candidate for Governor and won the ballot at the first round (591 vs 233 votes) against imcumbent Governor George Pardee (the man on the chair at the center of the image) and J. O. Hayes (see below). Gillet was inaugurated Governor on 1907 JAN 8; Warren Porter was elected as Lt. Governator
Jay Orles “Black” Hayes from San Jose was the publisher of the “San Jose Mercury and Herald”; his brother Everis Anson “Red” Hayes was US Representative for California. I don’t know the reason of the “Black” and “Red” nicknames, but I suppose (and may be totally wrong) that they were due to their countenance: big black beard and blushy cheeks (see cartoon).
A strong group of San Francisco delegates came to the convention, most pro-Machine but against Gillett. Between them, Billy Bell”, the “Gutter Bos” of SF, Mayor Eugene Smidt. The latter was the puppet of Abraham Ruef, “America’s most erudite city boss” ( (“How well the puppets dance today”), a cunning politician involved in many scandals. Eventually, when at the Convention things begun to go bad for the San Francisco group, Ruef, backed by W. F. Herrin (see below), jumped in the band wagon and took Gillet’s side in exchange for the Waterfront Patronage in SF.
No idea about the top-hatted “German Count” (can’t read the tag), and I can’t understand the meaning of the Parker gag.

CARTOON 2 - William F Herrin was the head of the political bureau of the Southern Pacific, and we have already made the acquaintance with Walter Parker and Ruef.
see also
Best from Alfredo
Yup, Alfredo, you hardly had anything to add ;-)

The top image I had some trouble with, hadn't gotten the copy exposure quite right, so the quality isn't up to snuff. However, the tag on the German count contains only a squiggle - no text at all. Kinda strange.

Thanks again for the historical interpretation ... no fair giving away the election results, tho!

Allan: Thanks for more Herriman. I can only add a small correction to Alfredo's thorough statement: the last name of Ruef's puppet mayor of San Francisco was spelled Schmitz. Eugene Schmitz was president of the Musician's Union. Ruef picked him as the candidate of the Union Labor Party because he was a good-looking, popular figure. I hope I'm not jumping the gun by mentioning that Ruef wound up in San Quentin, convicted of bribery. Schmitz was acquitted at his second trial for bribery.

And people say that politics are bad nowadays.

Joe Thompson ;0)
(from Alfredo again) - A possible clue to the "German Count"’s identity. In 1904 William Mulhendorf , a smartly dressed man from LA, posed as “Count Von Hoffman of Baden Baden, Germany", and succeeded in staying at the best hotel in Pasadena, lavishly spending, drinking champagne, etc, and trying to pay with bogus checks. He was arrested, got a suspended sentence, then escaped. There is a slight possibility that his feat was still remembered after two years, and a swindler in a convention crowded with swindlers searching for hotels “may” fit.
In my former posting I forgot about Grove Johnson (1841-1926) from Sacramento, the man at the right of the cartoon. He was a pro-Machine Republican, member of the State Assembly. At the Convention, he strongly promoted a Japanese Exclusion Act. I don’t know if the “Keeping the dew of his shrubbery” caption is an American slang of which I ignore the meaning, or has something to do with the fact that non-naturalized Japanese “issei” (first-generation immigrates) were beginning to control large areas of farmland, or both.
Search “Grove L Johnson” and “Japanese Exclusion” on Google for more info.
Best - Alfredo
"Keeping the dew off the shrubbery" = "Keeping his whiskers dry"; no deep meaning intended there, I think.

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Friday, June 22, 2007


Nate Collier on Cartooning Courses

From a 1927 issue of Art & Life, here's Nate Collier commenting on the very popular mail order cartooning courses of the day:

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Thursday, June 21, 2007


Obscurity of the Day: Marcus the Boarding House Goat

In response to several requests, here's a comic strip by Larry Semon. Semon was a comedian in silent films, and you can read an extended bio and appreciation of him here, here and here (the bio is in three parts), his IMDB filmography here, and an extensive research site here.

I won't presume to talk about his film career (haven't seen a single one of his movies, sorry to say), but I'll venture that he was a much greater artistic success on the screen than in the funny papers. Despite the hype that some movie historians give to his cartooning career, Semon was never more than an itinerant penman in the newspaper field. His first comic strip series was for the Philadelphia Record in 1908, then he switched over to the North American in 1909-10, then on to New York for stints at the Evening Telegram (1910-12) and finished up with a brief appearance at the New York World.

Marcus the Boarding House Goat was his only World series, and if it represents the apex of his cartooning career, the mountain surely wasn't Himalayan in scale. The strip ran about once a week from December 24 1912 to March 29 1913.

As a cartoonist he made a darn fine movie actor, if ya get my drift.

PS - this post also a tip of the tam for film and comics historian Cole Johnson, who today forsook email and favored me with a marathon phone gabfest. Did we really talk for three hours? Geez, what a couple of hens we are. Seriously though, it was a terrific pleasure to talk with someone who so perfectly mirrors my lunatic fascination with all the minutiae of newspaper cartooning. What a bit of nirvana to be able to pow-wow about the vagaries of WNU, Associated Editors, Roger Bean, C. Toles, Eddie Eks etc etc with a kindred spirit.


Hello Allan---It was great fun chewin' the rope with you yesterday, discussing the relevant, burning issues of the day, like who ghosted HAIRBREADTH HARRY for four weeks in 1931. Larry Semon is one of the forgotten delights of silent comedy. The wildest sight gags, and the most incredible destruction mark the funniest of Semon's films. (The havoc involved got so expensive, it contributed to his home studio's going under!)Anyhow, He hung up his pen when he entered the film industry in 1915, (-Except for some minor drawings to promote his comedies-) but started a daily series for Bell in 1924, called "LARRY", using himself as the main character. (How many strips were about the artist?) I think Semon's earlier style was slick, but this last series was quite slapdash and whacked out quickly. Semon had a mental breakdown in 1925, which kept him off the screen for two years, so it couldn't have lasted very far into that year. Another silent comic, Harry Langdon, has often been said to have been a cartoonist, but what and when I'd like to know. Yours to a cinder, Cole Johnson.
Allan: Thank you for posting an example of Larry Semon's work. You're right, it's nothing special.

This site has some quicktime clips from his movies:

They are rather small on the screen, but they give you an idea.

Unfortunately, his most widely available movie is the bad 1925 feature version of "The Wizard of Oz". Larry was the scarecrow and Oliver Hardy was the Tin Man. Very little of Baum's story survived.

Joe Thompson ;0)
Hello, Folks----If you want to be introduced to Larry Semon at his hilarious best, check out his short comedies up to 1925. After this point, the quality just jumps off a cliff, they are generally terrible. The same thing with his feature films---the surviving ones (THE PERFECT CLOWN, SPUDS, and especially the god-awful THE WIZARD OF OZ), are as bad as the earlier shorts were good. Larry's aforementioned nervous breakdown must have contributed to this quick decline in his work, as well as his health, as he died in 1928. ------Cole Johnson.
Re the "Larry" strip Cole refers to, only place I know that ran it was the Long Island Press -- they ran it for three months in late 1927. Bell must have been selling the strip in reprints. I haven't seen the strip myself (the Press info is courtesy Jeffrey Lindenblatt) so if anyone has a sample, I'm sure we'd all love to see it. And Cole, I agree that there are few autobiographical strips from back in the day. Does "Carnera" count?

Intriguingly, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley has 6 original Larry strips in the Gus Arriola collection--apparently Arriola collected them, which was a big surprise to me. (What a coincidence that your Boarding House Goat example includes a Mexican character.) I just went up there and looked at them in person. They're cute, although not particularly original in style: there's a character who looks a bit like Mac from Tillie the Toiler, and another who resembles Sunshine from Barney Google. I didn't actually see a character I thought really looked like Semon, although I was so occupied with reproduction issues that I forgot to really think about that. Maddeningly, I was not allowed to get any pictures that I can share, but the Library is open to the public, so anyone in the area can go look at them (although you have to run a huge security gauntlet).
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Obscurity of the Day: Papa and Winning Willie

Here's another of DeVoss Driscoll's strips from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. You may recall from previous posts that Driscoll was essentially on his own to cartoon their whole Sunday funnies section.

This one goes by the working title Papa and Winning Willie - the strip wasn't named in any consistent manner, but these were the two main characters. It ran from November 22 1903 through January 31 1904. The strip traded on the Buster Brown bad boy theme and is pretty forgettable stuff, though Driscoll's slightly askew art is always worth a look. I did get a chuckle out of the roadmap comment in this one, and Willie's expression in the final panel is priceless.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Obscurity of the Day: Mount Ararat (2nd Series)

One of Jimmy Swinnerton's longer running series when he first came to New York was Mount Ararat, a raucous comedy starring a motley crew of jungle animals. The series ran for a few years but was phased out in favor of Swinnerton's big hits Little Jimmy and Mister Jack.

Yet Swinnerton, either because of restlessness or editorial demands, usually had at least three series running at any given time (though rarely would all three run in the same Sunday section). So it was on October 22 1911 that Swin brought back his Ararat players for another turn on the stage. Miss Kitty Tiger, Mister Jaguar and the rest all returned, but their reprieve from cartoon purgatory would not last long. The series lost its biblical title after March 3 1912, ran under various one-shot titles for awhile, then a new title, And Her Heart Was True To Harold, was settled on with a revised cast of characters.

To call the series a delight would be mere repetition -- I did mention that it was by Swinnerton, right? The gags were repetitions on a theme, but the slapstick (as in the example above) was top-notch stuff, and the dialogue was snappy and laden with double entendres (it's often forgotten that Swinnerton had a gift for snappy patter).

I'm writing to you from Portugal.
I have purchased some original art through the years and one of them was a strip that I think is from tha 1910's, but I don't know anything about it.
I'm sending you a link to an image scan (low quality, I'm afraid, but I can arrange a better one):
I'd be very happy if you could find out any infomation about the strip or the author.

Do you know M' Ginty's Guard, from Tony Swarstad? I've purchased some of the artist's work, but there is few information on him.
The article I wrote is in:

although in Portuguese, I'm afraid.

My comics blog adress is:

also in Portuguese, Sorry.

Thank you and all my best,
João Carlos Costa
It looks like another Kemble from the same unknown series discussed in this post:

As for M'Ginty's Mob, I've never seen it before. You seem to be saying in the post on your blog that it ran in a San Diego paper - do you know which one?

Hi, thanks for your quick answer to my comment. I've also received an email message from Alfredo Castelli on these two works, and I've sent him a new scan of the strip.

Regarding the Tony Swarstaad M'Ginty's Guard, I've purchased a folder with several pages of work, but the seller couldn't tell me more about it. he said it had been published in a now defuncted San Diego newspaper, but he wasn't able to tell me which one.

My guess is that it was never published and the folder was only used to carry the pages to the newspaper and no more than this. I may be wrong but I can't tell any more about the characters or the pages.

Thanks for your answer. And best regards.
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Monday, June 18, 2007


Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: A History of Webcomics

A History of Webcomics - The Golden Age:1993-2005
by T. Campbell
Antarctic Press, 2006
ISBN 0-9768043-9-5 / 978-0-9768043-9-0

I must confess that I've never been an online comics reader. There's just something about reading comic strips on a pixelated screen that doesn't quite measure up to the comfort of good old ink and paper. I know that there's a vibrant community of online cartoonists, and some of the material I've stumbled across over the years is not only professional, but on occasion superior to the stuff we find in our daily papers. Without the 'benefit' of syndicate editors and the Victorian attitudes of newspaper editors about comic strip content, the online cartoonist has the elbow room to explore subjects outside the extremely cramped box that syndication allows. The online cartoonist also has the freedom to let their creations grow and change, an entirely natural and healthy process that is rarely condoned in the buttoned up world of the newspaper cartoonist.

So I was happy to stumble across this book by T. Campbell, with its promise to bring me up to date on the happenings in the vibrant world of web-based comics, a world that I've supported philosophically but ignored in practice. And in the opinion of this utter neophyte, Campbell does an excellent job.

The book starts out with prehistory, an entertaining bit of nostalgia about the days before the 'real' web. Lewis discusses Arpanet, and how that medium used for scientific communication quickly had its own humor back alleys. These were the days of the first 'net based art -- it was ASCII art at the time, kiddies! Lewis bounds past this point quickly, pretty much ignoring the days of the home-based BBS, and the pseudo-Web services like PC-Link, Compuserve and Prodigy. I'll reinforce my geezer-hood by admitting that I was disappointed by this omission.

Campbell goes on to discuss the early web-based strips, most of which fall into a category termed 'nerd-core'. These were the days when a net strip was a guaranteed fan-favorite if the jokes revolved around programming and computer gaming. But subject matter quickly branched out, though certain genres, including nerd-core, have remained fertile ground. Manga and fantasy-based comics have done well, as have autobiographical/journal comics, and even pixel-comics (a form where the characters are low-res images, often sampled from old computer games). One of these, Diesel Sweeties, has even made the jump to newspaper syndication against seemingly long odds.

The web allows cartoonists to experiment with the form and poses no restrictions on coloring and size, so Campbell discusses a lot of the experiments, both successful and unsuccessful, that have passed across the ether. A proper amount of space is also devoted to philosophical discussions about such experimentation -- Scott McCloud has apparently been acting as cheerleader and soothsayer in this movement, and his ideas, and reaction to them, are discussed.

But I found the most interesting aspect of the history was the business end. Every cartoonist on the web has two problems - how to get people to read their work, and when they do, how to convince them to pay for the privilege. Although the rank amateur can be happy just posting his or her scrawlings to a website visited only by a close circle of indulgent pals, those who have ambitions to be professional cartoonists, to actually make a paying job out of web comics, face the inevitable, and practically insoluble problem, of getting paid. Campbell's discussion of the business aspect of web comics is tremendously thoughtful, entertaining and well-researched. The soap opera-ish tales of the comic strip 'portals' and their creators is fascinating stuff, as are the stories of the individual creators who struck out on their own.

The book is a worthwhile and entertaining read whether you are a long-time fan of web comics, or like me, a sideline observer. I will, however, point out two problems. First is that Campbell is far too enamored of footnotes ... and more footnotes ... and yet more footnotes. There are pages in this book that look like a bingo card. Thankfully his notes are all at the back of the book, but with practically every sentence festooned with a numeric garland it gets downright annoying, especially when he doesn't restart his numbering in each chapter. The footnote numbering in this thin book finally tops out at 614 -- enough already!

Illustrations are the second problem. Many are too small to be comfortably read, and some are printed so dark as to make the images little more than ink blots. My guess is that the author intended the sample strips to be printed in color, and they should have been -- Antarctic Press was penny wise and pound foolish in going the black and white route. On the other hand, given that quite a few web comics include animations or infinite canvas techniques, some dilution of the material was inevitable. Perhaps Campbell should have arranged for all the illustrations to be made available on a website, maybe one that includes links to the creators' current output. Given the impoverished state of the typical web comic creator, I assume the authors of the sample strips would have been happy to oblige if it meant that they might gain some new, maybe even paying, readers as a result.

Minor quibbles aside, Campbell has done a fine job and he deserves our thanks for committing this history to print. The evanescent web, like a beach that quickly and efficiently erases the footsteps of all who pass, has no memory beyond what resides on the servers in the here and now. Without Campbell to chronicle these early days of web comics the stories would inevitably be forgotten, leaving those of us who value history with no record of the trailblazing days in this important new cartooning medium.


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The only Web comics I've found that I regularly enjoy are Joy of Tech and Tundra. The rest of the lot seem to be aimed at 20-somethings who are too intelligent for society, an excuse to proliferate obscenties, have a narrow-minded liberal viewpoint, or are just generally smarmy. I am seriously open to recommendations for what good mass appeal Web comics I should be reading. And if any can point me to a good adventure Web comic, I'd be all the more grateful.
A good adventure Web comic? Look no further! Check out Girl Genius at
Though I do plan to check out your recommendation, I apologize for not specifying. I'd like to find a good adventure Web comic in the classic adventure comic strip vein. Something that would remind me of Terry & the Pirates, the Phantom, Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby, Brick Bradford, Lone Ranger, et al, and drawn in a classic newspaper strip style.
Okay--I only became interested in webcomics the lst few years and I'm old enough to remember many of the ones you mentioned! You don know many of the old strips from newspaper days are now being rerun online by the syndicates that own them? I haven't yet seen Terry and the Pirates, but Steve Canyon is now on Humorous Maximus, and The Phantome old and new is King Features Syndicate. My criteria for a web comic is good artwork, and adventure with a decent storyline. Girl Genius hits well here, along with Mega Tokyo. Although MT's plot line can be a little confusing at times, I have actually bought the books to keep up. Another new one by an amature is Get Medieval, entertaining and nice artwork, regular posting. Alpha Shade is a good one with a twisty story, and Lackadaisy has beautiful artwork if you don't mind cats! The Wotch--while not having the best artwork, is an entertaining story, Crimson Dark is a new one that promises to be good, Tales of the Revenant is black and white, but is fairly dark in a Phantom-ish way. The Rainbos Orchid is another one with beautiful artwork and an excellent storyline. Classic newspaper strip style isn't seen so much anymore since webcomics allow for a different stle of format. Try some of the ones I've suggested here and see what you think!
Penciller -

Actually, "Tundra" is a newspaper strip. It's self-syndicated to about 100 papers, including LA Times.
I'm not really looking for comics that have magna-style artwork on comic book size pages, and I definitely don't like cats. However, in following links offered by mamafrog, I did find another link to one that looked somewhat interesting, Captain Spectre. I'll have to go back and check it out. Can anyone vouch for it, or does anyone know of adventure strips out there in a similar vein?
Captain Spectre is an excellent strip--very "Phantomish" in artwork and storyline. Unfortunately its update is very irregular due to the need of the artist to make a living! It currently hasn't been updated in awhile--but I check on it once a week to see of anything has happened.
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Sunday, June 17, 2007


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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