Saturday, April 19, 2008


Herriman Saturday

This week's Herriman Saturday features the master's output for a single day. All three cartoons above ran on Sunday, February 3 1907 ... and two of them were full page width extravaganzas to boot. Herriman must have been working on asbestos drawing paper to avoid combustion from his flying pen.

At the top we have a boxing cartoon -- interesting thing about this one is that Herriman appropriates Tad Dorgan's character Bunk on the right side. Dorgan used this canine mascot frequently as a commentator in his sports cartoons, and also did a sporadically appearing comic strip usually titled And His Name Was Bunk. I guess Tad had a storyline going with Bunk that Herriman wanted to get in on.

Next Herriman shows us that he's no stranger to the kitchen, using sauce reductions as a metaphor for trolley companies that refuse to take responsibility for accidents.

Finally Herriman previews the 1907 Altadena Hill Climb event, a popular sport back in the early days of the automobile. A few hill climb events do survive, like the famous Pike's Peak race. The 1.5 mile course in Pasadena was first used in 1906, and the last hill climb held there was in 1909. The course was considered rather dangerous, what with a railroad track crossing that drivers would routinely hit and go airborne, parts flying off everywhere as they thudded back to earth.


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Friday, April 18, 2008


News of Yore: Iger's Phoenix Features Expands Its Lineup

Phoenix Features Offers Two New Comic Strips
By Erwin Knoll (E&P, 7/5/52)

The cautious optimism which prevailed in feature syndicate of­fices for most of the first half of 1952 seems to have been gener­ally dissipated by the latest news­print price increase. Though can­cellations received to date have not been as heavy as might have been anticipated, all syndicates have received "kill" orders. Some retrenching is indicated, and trade gossip reports several syndicates taking all salesmen off the road for the summer months.

Bearing the brunt of the cancel­lations, as usual, are the smaller syndicates and their more obscure offerings. One relative newcomer, however, seems to be going full speed ahead despite sales trends. It may just be whistling in the dark, but Phoenix Features, which entered the newspaper fea­ture field six months ago with the "Flamingo" comic strip, has an­nounced two new comic features for release in mid-August.

First of these is "Bobby," a kid-adventure strip aimed primar­ily at a juvenile audience and de­scribed in syndicate promotion talk as "a combination of humor, gentle satire and an adventure continuity." The strip's main characters, Bobby and Cap'n Patch, have appeared in comic magazines and in "Bobby's Diary," a children's book which sold over 500,000 copies.

Creator of "Bobby" is S. M. Iger, who joined the New York American's cartooning staff in 1925 at the age of 15. Since then he has worked for the Paul Block newspapers and created comic magazine features and strips for the weekly field.

"Bobby" is available as a four-column strip. A Sunday page (full tabloid or half-page stand­ard) is planned for late-September release.

The second new Phoenix comic is "Sports Arena," a gag-a-day strip with a sports setting. Creators are Seymour Rothman and Walt Buchanan, both of the Toledo (Ohio) Blade staff. Mr. Roth­man, with the Blade since 1936. writes a regular sports column and special feature articles. Mr. Buchanan, who does a weekly sports strip for the Blade, has previously worked for the Col­umbus (Ohio) Dispatch and the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

"Sports Arena" will be offered for six-a-week release. The strip may be used in four-column size or may be reduced to three col­umns by dropping the optional first panel.

[Allan's notes: As best I can tell, Sports Arena never saw the light of day, at least it didn't run in the Blade in my checking. Bobby was Iger's evergreen strip that he syndicated originally in 1938, then was used as an ad strip in the 40s. Iger advertised it in E&P sporadically as late as 1985!]

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Just Little Ones

Just Little Ones was the New York Herald's answer to the popular T.S. Allen kid series of the New York Journal. It really wasn't much of a contest though -- Allen's style was sparse and rather basic, while Robert Carter's Just Little Ones was lush and illustrative. Carter's cartoons looked like they could have been reprinted from Puck or Judge, while Allen's were strictly newspaper cartoon fare. Allen's characters were hard-edged street urchins, a good fit for the Journal's audience, while Carter's were mostly Little Lord Fauntleroy types keeping in line with the Herald's more affluent readership (though the Herald was originally a populist penny paper, the advent of the World and the Journal had pushed it to seek a new higher-brow audience).

Carter's captions were devilishly funny, be sure to read the cartoons above! Carter's kids are miniature versions of their hoi polloi parents and their utterances foreshadow the style of Shulz's Peanuts. The middle one in the second cartoon, featuring a sly caricature of a wee W. R. Hearst, is a particular delight -- one of the funniest cartoons that I've seen in months, and I read a LOT of cartoons!

Robert Carter was better known in his day as an editorial cartoonist, and he was a spectacular one. His lush detailed drawings, mostly for Hearst and then later for the Philadelphia Press, were widely admired and reprinted. His flirtation with the newspaper comic strip was fleeting -- he did this feature for the Herald from August 17 1902 to November 1 1903. In 1903 he produced two true comic strip series, one for the Tribune and a really delightful one titled Coffee and Sinkers for the McClure Syndicate. I must dig out an example or two of that one to share.

Robert Carter's career was cut short when he died at the young age of 44 in 1918. Robert's memory is sometimes besmirched by being confused with "Ad" Carter by comics historians, including, I sheepishly admit, myself. Thankfully Arnold Wagner got me set straight on that point.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Duke Handy

Cigarette advertising in Sunday comics had been going on in earnest since the early thirties, often featuring sports and entertainment stars lavishing praise on the ol' coffin nails, going so far in some cases to claim that cigarettes were their secret weapon against the competition (good exercise for the lungs, dontcha know).

In 1958, Philip Morris decided they might recruit more young 'uns if they produced a continuity strip for the funnies -- the result was Duke Handy. A two-fisted blue collar he-man, Duke went through life kickin' ass, takin' names and huffin' butts. The sample above, which I think is the second in the series, has Duke getting out of hot water with a touchy cop by offering him a smoke. I'll have to remember that trick the next time I'm pulled over for speeding.

The series was a six month affair that started on April 6 1958 and ran until September 14. Some sources claim it ran until October, and an E&P article of the time had it planned to go to the end of the year, but the strip for 9/14 seems to conclude the series. I'm happy to hear from dissenters on the dates.

Duke Handy was written by veteran strip dialoguer Allen Saunders, ably teamed with artist Alex Kotzky. One source says that Kotzky got the job when Milton Caniff backed out, but this factoid isn't in Harvey's bio of Caniff, so I'm going to guess it's more legend than fact.

The Duke may not have lasted very long, but he was not forgotten. The feature merited special mention in a 1997 Surgeon General's report on preventing tobacco use by young people, cited as one of the most obvious instances of the tobacco industry trying to recruit kids as smokers.

I have to go upstairs to check my dates... I have almost all of the run and someday soon I am going to run them all on my blog. I like this strip and I think it has some of the best work Alex Kotzky ever produced.
Ger Apeldoom,

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Run them on your blog!!! I would love to see the entire run of Duke Handy! ALex Kotzky was one of the greats! Duke Handy is an extremely interesting advertising comic!

Hi Dan -
Given that it's an advertising comic for a product that no longer exists (they don't sell that brand anymore, do they?) I doubt that any legal eagles would have a problem with me running the whole series.

Unfortunately I only have a few samples in my hardcopy collection. The dates I cited in the post were based on my microfilm research of the Washington Star. If someone wanted to loan me sharp 300 dpi scans or a collection of tearsheets I suppose I'd be willing to scan and clean them for all to enjoy.

That would be great, Allan! Your blog really is a special place for fans and creators of comic strips.

Best, Dan
I'll second that.

Eddie campbell
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Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Casey

Some features deserve to be obscurities, but Casey certainly doesn't fit in that category. Charlie Rodrigues' strip about a cop on the beat was devastatingly smart, funny and had its own unique look. Who could possibly not love a strip that features a nasty old codger named Mr. Herpes!?

There's no particular plot to Casey -- the episodes always concern Casey on his beat passing the time of day with a cast of (ir-) regular characters. You've got the aforementioned old coot Mr. Herpes, Mr. Proust the undertaker, the incredibly dim yenta Mrs. Medusa, Mrs. Xavier the crystal-ball gazer and a few others. Casey's conversations with the motley assortment are farcical, fantastical and very funny.

Casey started sometime late in 1976 and ended in 1979 as a Sunday and daily strip. It was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-NY News Syndicate. Its lack of success was likely due to spineless newspaper editors worried about flak over the frequent very black humor.

Charlie Rodrigues, who was Portuguese, pronounced his surname "Road-reegs" and was reported to get furious with anyone who muffed it. He was best known at the time for his National Lampoon cartoons. After the demise of Casey he had better newspaper success with a less outrageous panel series titled Charlie. He passed away in 2004.

Unfortunately Casey was never collected in book form, a memorial it richly deserves.

UPDATE 7/10/2023: I've since determined the running dates; daily January 17 1977 to March 10 1979, Sunday January 23 1977 to April 22 1979.


I remember reading this in a paper at the time - the Charlotte News? I have a couple of samples of the Sunday around here somewhere.
I think Casey also ran in the NY Daily News since I remember reading it regularly. I'd forgotten how great Charlie Rodrigues was. He did a lot of work for National Lampoon, and had a regular strip in MacWeek for a while. His replacement at the latter a few years later was absolutely awful; quite a let down from Mr. R.
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Monday, April 14, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Otto's Auto

Here's one of the many panel features marketed by Ledger Syndicate. Otto's Auto was unsigned and the credit in the E&P listing was just to 'Otto'. The delightful art kind of has the look of a style sometimes used by Dorman H. Smith to me. I'm probably off-base though since he was busy at NEA at the time. Another dim possibility might be F.G. Cooper. Anybody else have a guess about the mystery artist?

Otto's Auto was syndicated in 1927-28. Sorry, haven't been able to pin down exact dates on this one.

Thanks to Cole Johnson who supplied the samples.


Hello, Allan-----I've found OTTO'S AUTO starting in the Philadelphia ILLUSTRATED SUN on August 8, 1927. One of the staff artists on this PUBLIC LEDGER-owned paper was Ray Rohn---Do you think he's the artist here? Looks like his stuff to me.-------------Cole Johnson.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008


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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