Saturday, January 05, 2008


Herriman Saturday

Much thanks to everyone who commented, publicly and privately, on the Stripper's Guide Index preview. In my business the beginning of the year is a very hectic time and I haven't had time to respond to the many comments, but I'll do a post this coming week on that subject.

Our Herriman items for today were originally published on December 8 and 9 1906. The first is a rather generic editorial cartoon about the trusts -- a subject very much in the news throughout the 1900s.

Next we have an odd one. Herriman supplies a cartoon for a news story about Senator Platt receiving hush money. The odd part is that H seems to be experimenting with an alternative style using heavier than normal outlines on some of the figures. The change isn't particularly obvious on a quick perusal, but having spent two hours cleaning up this cartoon (it had a very heavy dark fold line running through it) I had ample opportunity to examine it. Herriman abandoned this stylistic experiment forthwith, as can be plainly seen in the third cartoon, where he returns to his damnably wispy lines (not that they aren't attractive, but they reproduce badly on my photocopies).

The third cartoon finds Herriman jabbing boxer Jack O'Brien who was making noises about a possible retirement from the ring. O'Brien didn't go through with it, though -- he was active (though less so than in previous years) until 1912.

Finally we have an ad for the anniversary edition of the Los Angeles Examiner featuring a nice Herriman cartoon. The Examiner was a wee three years old this year. The paper finally folded in 1989, though it was a shadow of its former self from the mid-60s on when constant labor strife hobbled it.

Be sure to tune in to Herriman Saturday next week. Herriman inaugurates his first recurring comic strip for the Examiner!


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Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Stripper's Guide Publication Video Preview

How's this for weird? A video on a comic strip history blog. Last year I made a new year's resolution to publish the Stripper's Guide index. This video documents what I came up with in the past year.

I produced this video to show you folks the Stripper's Guide software application that I've been working on. The video is about 20 minutes long, filled with me saying brilliant things like "um" several hundred times (script? we don't need no stinking script!), and video quality that leaves a whole lot to be desired -- oddly enough, my real desktop isn't a blurry pixelated mess. The first few minutes is audio only, so bear with it.

I'd be thrilled if you folks would give the video a watch and post feedback about the proposed application. What you like, what you don't, suggestions for features and improvements that you would like to see. I'd also be mighty interested to know what sort of price you think would be fair (no, free is not an option smarty-pants).

EDIT: turns out that Blogger only allows me to show this video at thumbnail size -- watch the video at full size (still blurry but at least legible) by clicking right here.

Hi Allan,

I'm excited to hear about your project... it sounds like it has been quite an undertaking. Regarding a print version, you may want to consider print on demand, since it is quite affordable. One of the best known POD publishers online is I have some friends who have had good experiences with them. Hope that helps make your big hardcover wood-pulp dreams a reality. Thanks for the wonderful blog!

Best wishes,

Steven Stwalley
I am also a book kind of guy and I would like to see it in printed format. I have a Doug Hinman index relating to The Kinks of some 550 pages which he also added a supplement of 65 or so pages a few years later. So the print-on-demand idea, with occasional supplements, works for me.
As for the software application, that's looking good too. Maybe I would have to buy both formats if they were both available.
So...I seem to remember you having some doubts about fair use policies of some syndicates. Is there any pros or cons with that issue in regards to which format would be legally more manageable? bringing up the McManus brothers had me wondering how in depth you would go with people in the comic strip business. Does Leo McManus get a mention and/or entry as a KFS staffer? With McNaught there is McNitt and McAdams. I always enjoy when you get into this kind of background information on your blog or in your articles. Will the Stripper's Guide go anywhere down that road.
Finally...did you mention a time frame when this may be available. I, of course, want it now!
Hi Allan,

I'm also very excited at the prospect of a brand spanking new version of the Stripper's Guide. I still have my old version and use it rather frequently.

The search tool looks MUCH better on the new version. I love the fact that you've add so many new search parameters. I also like the fact that you've lessened the amount of clicks one needs to get to the info.

More images is always better, since much of the material can't easily be found by folks like me.

I would love to see basic biographical info given on artists, even just birth and death years, but I understand that that would be a rather daunting task.

Really, it looks like a great tool and I look forward to its release.

Price? If it were done as a subscription, like the old version of SG, I see no reason by $50 couldn't be a starting price, with say, one year of updates. Then, maybe $25 per year for updates. If this will be the end product, with all of the info already set, I still think $50 would be reasonable.

Hi Allan,

I am glad to see the Stripper's Guide will be updated. Its been a while and even if the book project doesn't come through, its good to see your further efforts get out to the public.

We have had this discussion years ago about making this data more open source, but for a number of reasons you want to maintain the work as your own and I can respect that. I hope that even though you are going this route again, I would like to present to you some thoughts I had to maybe help make the database even better.

1) Consider scripting the database in a cross-platform language (like a java-based language) so it can be used equally by an ever growing Linux and Mac audience. The ability of people using PDA's or iPhones being able to access the data while away from their home computer could only expand the potential audience and make the information more available to the public. Perhaps even an internet accessable database might be a better way to go to allow those who paid for the data to have more options to access the data.

2) Consider some search within search abilities. Let's say I use the extent of the search engine to get a set of data, it would be nice to be able to search even further within the data to parse the information out further.

3) Consider multiple sort options. Instead of the initial database being only sorted only by title, the ability to change the database in order to sort by year, artist, syndicate, et al would be nice.

4) Consider some ability to export information. I know you would never allow the database to be exported out of the program en masse, but how about the ability to allow limited exports of search results or checklist generation. You can even follow the way some research periodicals export their information online to college students. The students can export the data, but the information is tagged with all necessary copyright/trademark information and its is also tagged with the proper endnote citation that the student can use when citing the material. You can create similar tags to protect your copyright.

5) Consider the ability to add more than one thumbnail, especially with strips that had multiple artists over the years so more than one artist can be displayed.

6) Consider doing a one-time sale of the entire database (for a fixed one-time cost) with payable updates available over time instead of a subscription that had a several year wait as it went through the alphabet. One or two DVD's should hold the entire database, I would think, and I am not as young as I used to be and I do not relish the idea of a several year wait for the entire database again. :-)

And that was it. Regardless of how you go, The new Stripper's Guide will be on my short list of items to get in '08.

my best
-Ray Bottorff Jr
Hi, Allan.

I am very interested, of course. But will it be Apple-accessable? I have to agree with Ray that the computer world is changing and you may have to find a way to be able to adept to that. Honestly, I would prefer to have a source like this available from the intrenet. Take a look at Atlas Tales, for example, This is a site (done by a programmer such as yourself) I use a lot and is very friendly to use. And as Ray says, it will still be accessable by other applications when they become more important. I ceertainly would find it cumbersome to have to rely on a cd all the time.

Still, if it helps you going I'll probably get one anyway.
Depending on the price range, I would buy this guide, whether it's on a book format or a software format.

You list the type of format the Daily and Sunday strips have (panel or strip format). Out of curiosity, how will you list that with strips that only comes out once a week (ie: the entire DBR Media comics output)
Allan: Very interesting demo. I could go for an online or software format. The search engine addresses the frustration I often have with books. I agree that it would be good to add more sort options. I like the idea of a one-time offer of the whole database, say on dvds, with an option for yearly updates.

Joe Thompson ;0)

I too am really looking forward to your issuing a new version of this. I agree that a couple of samples would be nice, given how often artists change on some strips.

Re the format - rather than 'Blogged' perhaps the field should be something like "Website" where you can put in anything, not just your site. That way you could put in OSU or GoComics links, or the like.

The new search IS impressive.

Finally, I'd second the recommendation for Lulu, which I'm currently using to put together a book on film adaptations of comics - you can have your cake and eat it too. Or you can also publish cds through Lulu which will let them handle the copying and distribution so you don't have to worry about it.

BTW, the first strip you show in the video - the end date doesn't match what you wrote in your notes.

Great work!

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Monday, December 31, 2007


News of Yore: Bill Holman Profiled

[from "The Cartoonist", fall 1957 issue]

In the annals of American cartoon­ing few men have risen to nobler heights of pure foolishness than Wil­liam Holman. As if born with fun-house mirrors for corneas, everything Holman sees has a zany twist. He is a master nut in the tradition of such past masters as Goldberg, Gross and Herriman.

While Holman's Smoky Stover has delighted readers with outrageous gags for 22 years, Holman, the man, has provided a fascinating shower of anecdotes for his friends for most of his 54 years. Holman's foibles are leg­endary. Many Holmanisms refer to his parsimonious resemblance to Jack Benny. Holman, they say affection­ately, has spent 40 years working to the top of a hotly competitive pro­fession, inspired by a passionate devo­tion to money. Holman would be the last to quarrel with these observations.

Although Holman is not considered a lavish spender (his money is com­pletely tied up in cash), John Pierotti recalls at least one exception: "I roomed with Bill on one European tour with Wilson McCoy, Hilda Terry, and Bill de la Torre. On our last night in Germany we drank and ate it up real good. Came the bill, we discov­ered we were broke because we had spent our last marks on shopping sprees. But Holman, as usual, had hoarded his. It was the only time I saw Bill stuck with a check."

In seeming contradiction to the leg­end, more than one artist in distress could tell of considerable Holman fi­nancial help. One close friend ob­served that both pictures are true and Holman is a man with conflicting im­pulses. His nature, generous and out­going, is restrained by a conservative midwest rearing and early years of financial insecurity.

It was while tending a popcorn ma­chine in a dime store that Holman, age 16, abandoned his early ambition to be a fireman and went to Chicago to study cartooning under Carl Ed at the Academy of Fine Arts. He started his career that year as a copy boy for the Chicago Tribune for $6 a week. Among his new cronies were Garret Price and Harold Gray.

For $35 a week Holman moved on to Cleveland to draw a strip called "Billville Birds". It was here that he met two men who became his life­long friends: a fellow wearing a fur collar, named J. R. Williams, and a tall, skinny blond (with whom he was to swipe gags from the local vaude­ville house) named Chic Young.

At 21, Holman felt prepared to move to the big time and New York. "Holman was a success right from the start in New York", says Reamer Keller. "He got a job at Hubert's Flea Circus. He'd lay down every evening at five and let the fleas feed on his head. The job kept Bill in scratch for a long time." This episode is not fully documented, but it is certain that Holman's itch to become a top car­toonist was unrelieved.

He started a strip, "G. Whizz Jr." [make that "Gee Whiz Jr." - Allan], with the Herald Tribune. The Trib­une syndicate office in the 1920's was a colorful rallying place and Holman was completely at home. The great Winsor McCay, smoke curling under his straw hat, presided over an India ink court of cartoonists and assorted actors and publicists who came to roost. It was here that W. C. Fields taught Holman to juggle. He can still bounce a few off the walls with fi­nesse. Will Rogers often dropped by. Also on view were Charles Voight, Clare Briggs and Frank Fogarty.

Frank recalls the then 26 year old Holman. "He held second base on the 'Syndicate Indoor Baseball Team' which played outdoors against 'Ward Morehouse's Editorials' in the rooftop league, atop the Tribune building. Once Bill hit a tremendous wallop into 40th Street. Gathering up speed on its ten story descent, the ball tore through a woman's umbrella and completely destroyed it. The lady sued the Tribune and Bill was the first baseball player benched for hit­ting."

Holman's early concern of cash ex­penditures was not limited to his own. Listen to Dave Gerard: "In the early 30's, Holman lived two stories above me on East 39th Street. Bandel Linn and I had been up on the newly com­pleted Empire State Building. We called Holman from the top to stick his head out of the window and wave a towel so we could see him through the telescope, which he did. One day later Linn was in my room and called Holman's room. "Holman", he said, "Gerard and I are on top of the Em­pire State again. Wave the towel!" We watched Holman wave his towel frantically two stories above. We re­peated the gag ten days running with Holman just as energetically waving his towel. Finally he exploded, "Look, for God's sake! You guys are always broke! What's the idea of paying a dollar-ten to go up on the Empire State Building every afternoon to see me wave my towel!"

Holman's romantic escapades of that era are largely unrecorded. Otto Soglow supplies one, however, that re­veals Holman as the Great Lover. "One day Bill found himself at Coney Island and ventured into the Tunnel of Love and discovered a female sit­ting on one of the painted rocks. She explained that she was left there by some guy who was getting too familiar. Bill saw a lot of the girl and senti­mentally recalls her in his strip to this day. She was a Lithuanian; Notary Sojac was her name." No Holmanisms are more inspired than Soglow's.

Holman is almost as well known as a performer as he is a cartoonist. He has appeared in movies and worked on radio and TV. Abner Dean, who was on a panel show with Holman, Gus Edson and Soglow, says of Holman the performer, "Bill has the rare quality of being able to switch from comic to straight man. He becomes a stimulant. His essential zanyism lifts others out of any rut."

The effect of Holman upon his au­diences is unique. He instantly estab­lishes rapport as he strides on stage dressed in a dark blue suit, dotted bow tie and perhaps a light blue sweater. His mouth clamps a lit cigar and his bald head is topped incon­gruously by a bright red fireman's hat. Before the audience can quite absorb the initial visual onslaught, Holman barks in deadpan, "Cut out that laugh­ing, you idiots!" or "Shut up, you crazy screwballs!" The effect is elec­tric. They howl.

This approach has also provided his fellow performers with some queasy moments. Al Posen, long time friend and associate, had this experience: "We were putting on a show at the military hospital at Northport, L. I. The doctor in charge cau­tioned us not to make any reference to the mental condition of the patients as the audience would be made up of G.I.'s from the psychiatric ward. Bill evidently missed the briefing be­cause as soon as he came on he began referring to the patients as a bunch of nuts and screwballs — and they loved it. Bill was probably the only man in the world who could get away with it. Obviously, the audience recog­nized him as one of their own."

Holman cavorts overseas as if Europe were his home town of Crawfordsville, Indiana, where everybody knows him. He assumes that everyone from an obscure Arab in Morocco to a barmaid in a remote French village is a rabid Smoky Stover fan. This blithe assumption is incredible to his traveling companions only until they find it more often than not to be true. Gus Edson was one. "We were flying 7000 feet over the stormy North Atlantic when the pilot turned to Bill and said, 'There's a Norwegian weather ship right below us,' and with that the pilot radioed the ship and told them, 'I have Bill Holman aboard, famous American cartoonist who draws Smoky Stover.' The ship radioed back, 'Ask that crazy guy what Notary Sojac means!' "

After almost 40 years of cartoon­ing Holman retains all his youthful enthusiasm for his work. He takes pride in his craftsmanship. His gentle nature is always masked in a jest. He is incapable of a mean intention. His head is a jackpot of puns. His comedy fuse never stops sputtering. Holman looks and acts like an operator newly in from promoting P. T. Bamum's latest oddities.

Marty Branner wrote this "Owed to Bill Holman", dedicated to Mrs. Hol­man.

Many a tale I've heard over and over
About that cartoonist who draws Smoky Stover.
You could grow old waiting for Wil­liam to buy,
Yet, when you know Holman, he's not a bad guy.
He once threw a dinner, and 'twixt me and you
Bill paid the whole check and he never said "FOO".
But of all his virtues, the best, be it said,
Is his wife Dolores, that gorgeous redhead.

Dolores, the best Holman authority of all, has this to say: "Life with Bill certainly isn't dull. I never know if on a week's notice I will be heading for Paris, the middlewest or Timbuktu. He does have a faculty for not hearing at times (when I want something) but then, aren't most husbands like that? To use that old cliche, I'd do it again. You just gotta love that guy."
We all do, Dolores, we all do.


Hello, Allan-----Technically, in the eighth paragraph, it should say that Holman did GEE WHIZ, JR. for the N.Y.Herald, not the Herald-Tribune, as the two papers didn't merge until about a year later. Also, it says that he met Winsor McCay there. Wasn't McCay working for Hearst for some ten years at this time?---------2266 Nix Nix, Cole Johnson.
Hi Cole -
McCay returned to the Herald 1924-26 to resurrect Little Nemo. As for the Herald-Tribune the papers didn't combine until 1924 but weren't they under the same ownership earlier?

-- "Too Lazy To Look It Up" Allan
Hello All----I don't know how I forgot about McCay's second run at Nemo in '24-'26, but you see here that anything's possible.-Cole J.
I recently bought a reprint of Smokey Stover #1 with an intro by Harvey Kurtzman who mention's Holman's having been in a couple of movies. Any clues anyone?
There were documentary shorts: Maestro of the Comics (1946) and Screen Snapshots: Famous Cartoonists (1950).

Bhob @ Potrzebie
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Sunday, December 30, 2007


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

Order Jim Ivey's new book Cartoons I Liked at or order direct from Ivey and get the book autographed with a free original sketch.


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