Saturday, July 26, 2008


Herriman Saturday

Our first cartoon this Herriman Saturday is from April 3 1907. The Shriners Circus (or Sircus as they insist on spelling it here) originated in 1906 in Detroit and this may be the first year that they took the show on the road. The associated article describes dozens of acts, but the standout has to be Oscar Morgan who, it is claimed, commands a troupe of trained seafood. "The great Morgan presents a school of trained fish and lobsters with sand dab clowns. Mr. Morgan has this finny menagerie under perfect control and the work of the sand dab quartet is marvelous in its intricacy." Wow! Sand dabs, by the way, are a flounder-like flatfish.

On the 4th and 5th Herriman pens cartoons about a long-simmering scandal in which Teddy Roosevelt supposedly requested a large campaign war-chest contribution from E.H. Harriman to help the Republicans in the 1904 elections. A letter had just come to light in 1907 in which Harriman made pointed claims about Roosevelt's involvement. You can read an excellent summation of the situation in this 1911 New York Times article. The microfilmed newspaper had a badly discolored patch through the lower half of the April 4 cartoon -- I started in to restore it but then got on my high horse about the anti-Roosevelt stance. TR is as close to a political hero as I've ever had, so I decided to heck with it -- leave it as muddy as the thinking behind it.


The thing I find interesting in the "triumvirate" cartoon at the bottom is the use of the teddy bear (or perhaps Teddy Bear). This wouldn't have been too long after Berryman's famous "Drawing the Line" cartoon, and Herriman's snarky use of it shows just how much the image had stuck by early '07.
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Friday, July 25, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Of All Things

The Sunday version of Grin and Bear It, which I think is the first successful syndicated color page featuring an undesigned grouping of unrelated gag cartoons, might not seem like the likely progenitor of a whole genre. Such features, though, did have something going for them that made them very attractive to newspaper editors. These pages could easily be chopped down to any size or oddball format needed to share page space with an ad, even an oddly configured one. All the editor had to do was drop, resize or rearrange any of the cartoons and voila, a feature configured to wrap around any hair tonic or cigarette ad that needed a home.

Many features copied the Grin and Bear It formula, including this rarely seen one titled Of All Things. The feature was penned by Irving Roir, a successful magazine gag cartoonist and one of the famed Roth brothers, all four of whom were cartoonists of note. It was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate which seems to have only used it themselves in the New York Daily News section, and then not often. According to the Editor & Publisher annual syndicate directories it was offered from 1954 to 1956. The example above, from 1955, is the only one I've been able to find.


Love it! I have seen more shortlived and obscure gag collections like these, but this one works really well.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Doesn't It Seem Strange

Clifford Leon Sherman, C.L. to his buds, knocked around the edges of the comic strip biz for many years. His first outing with a continuing series was at the Boston Globe where he created Doesn't It Seem Strange and one other series. While the art was nothing memorable, Sherman certainly had a gift for layout, as you can see above. The series ran from July 26 1903 to December 25 1904. Although it was a Sunday feature it usually (perhaps always) ran on an inside page in black or some other single color.

In the teens Sherman did a connect-the-dots feature for newspapers and even had a few books published of his puzzles. It got me to wondering about the origin of such puzzles (I assume they predate the 1910s) but I couldn't find any history online. Anyone know?

Please excuse the scan. This example, the only one in my collection, had a hunk missing from the corner. You can see' additional examples of this feature over on Barnacle Press.


Allan - Clifford Leon Sherman, born in 1878, died in 1920, see American Art Annual, 17, (1920), p. 231. --Sara
The first Dot to dots were probably astrological. So going back a long way. Of the first published puzzle u could find no clue.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Thatch

In the seemingly unending quest to duplicate the success of Doonesbury, Creators Syndicate revived Thatch from college newspapers where it had been running 1988-91. Jeff Shesol's strip was covering much the same ground as Doonesbury had, tracking the lives of a group of college students. The strip came out of Brown University but made claim to running in over 200 college papers.

The strip was a pretty slavish imitation of Trudeau's early work. The characters were doppelgangers; Thatch was Mike Doonesbury, roomie Tripp Biscuit was B.D., Sumner Phillips was Zonker, Kate Stephens was a regendered Mark, even minor character Bernie had a clone in Reed James.

Thatch debuted in its Creators run on October 1 1994. With Doonesbury now going on hiatus on a regular basis newspaper editors, seldom ones to think too far out of the box, were willing to give Thatch a chance in the role of pseudo-Trudeau. Thatch, though, couldn't seem to find its own voice and fittingly never ran in very many papers. It did have one pretty good hook in Politically Correct Person, an alter-ego of Thatch who wore superhero tights and sought to stamp out all he saw as anti-minority, anti-woman, pretty much anti-anything.

In a turnabout on the normal course of events Thatch made its biggest publicity splash when it ended on April 11 1998. In 1997 Shesol had published a book on the feud between Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson titled Mutual Contempt. President Bill Clinton read the book, was impressed, and asked Shesol to come work for him as a speechwriter. Pundits of course had a field day with the idea that a cartoonist was going to write speeches for the president.

A reprint book of Shesol's college strips, Thatch Featuring Politically Correct Person, was issued in 1991 but there were no reprint books of the syndicated strip. You can find more samples of the strip from throughout its run on this site.


I'm not actually sure if "Thatch" began on Oct. 1, 1994.

Oct 1, 1994 was a Saturday. As far as I know, most (if not all) syndicated strips begins on either a Sunday or a Monday.
Doonesbury character rip-offs for sure, but with Bloom County rip-off art.
Right you are Charles. That date came from Tom Heintjes, who cited it in Hogan's Alley. Anyone know the correct date?

Wall, the art on Bloom County in turn looked a lot like the early Doonesbury (before Trudeau wised up and hired a ghost).

"(before Trudeau wised up and hired a ghost)."

Just to clarify, Trudeau still does detailed and very tight pencil work of his comic. The "ghost" merely inks it.
Fair enough, but I do wonder how often those tight pencils happen in real life as opposed to when Trudeau is publicly discussing his working arrangement.

Thatch began in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday October 2, 1994. Don't know if that is the actual start date for the strip though.
Thanks DD. Sounds like a winner to me.

I just linked to your site and saw your obscure comic posting and wondered if you know anything about a comic strip called KELLY (Later Kelly and Duke) by Jack Moore(sic)? Anything about the fate of the cartoonist? Thanks.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


News of Yore: Tom Hill Profiled

[Editor's Note: I scanned this article thinking this was the Tom Hill who worked on Mark Trail for many years -- turns out it isn't. Can't throw away a perfectly good article, though, so here it is. You can visit this site to see examples of this Tom Hill's work.]

Tom Hill Is Traveling Artist for Chi. Tribune
By George A. Brandenburg (E&P, 1952)

Chicago — Travelin' Tom Hill, six-foot, red-headed artist for the Chicago Tribune, is equally adept with his sketchbook in a GI fox­hole in Korea, or on the banks of the lazy Wabash in Indiana.

When Tom gets an assignment from A. M. (Mike) Kennedy, Sunday editor, he bundles up his sketchbooks, brushes and water colors, and he includes a notebook and pencils along with a small camera loaded with color film. He recently accompanied Wayne Thomis, Tribune aviation editor, to Japan and Korea, for a five-week tour, spending a week at the front with American GI's.

Writes His Own Captions
Tom's black and white sketches, illustrating Wayne's articles, ap­peared in the daily issues of the Tribune. Tom's impressions of Korea and Japan in water colors have since been published in the Sunday Tribune's "Grafic" maga­zine section. He writes his own "captions" for his illustrations.
Young Hill's doubletruck in color dealt in sketchbook style with American GI's in Korea. "These are things our boys are seeing every day" wrote Hill. Then followed his illustrations of Kore­an women washing clothes in a stream, the re-fueling of an Amer­ican jet fighter plane, a Korean farm scene, and American soldiers in an observation post "up front."

His impressions of Japan fol­lowed the next Sunday in the Grafic section in another color doubletruck. The busy street scenes in Tokyo were to Tom's liking. "I prefer to paint the life around me, places and people as I see them rather than any specific sub­ject," he explained. "I'd rather do a street than a house, and the men, women and children walking, working and playing in that street than any individual."

Served in Navy
Tom Hill, born 30 years ago in Texas, has been a Tribune artist for the past five years. Prior to coming to Chicago he had lived in California and Hawaii. During World War II the big redhead finally got in the Navy, although assigned to limited service because of ear trouble developed in boy­hood. He served as a Naval visual aid artist in Honolulu, where he held his first one-man show at the Academy of Arts. He has since held seven one-man shows of his work and has exhibited in the Chicago Art Institute, the Nation­al Galleries in New York and other places. His latest one-man show, devoted to his Korean and Japanese paintings, opened at the Chicago Artist Guild's club rooms in late August.

Hill told E & P that he has been drawing and painting since before he can remember. He was going to art school in Los Angeles when the war started. When the Navy first turned him down, he went to work for an aircraft factory, draw­ing illustrative material showing how to assemble aircraft parts. Upon returning from service after the war, he served as assistant art director of the Universal-Interna­tional Art Studios in Hollywood.

A Chicago art broker put the Tribune on Tom's trail. Through a combination arrangement, young Hill was assigned to the Tribune's Sunday staff, but "available" to the Tribune's advertising art depart­ment. Fred Shafer, head of the ad­vertising art department, met Hill when he came to Chicago and as­signed him his modest studio. "Have fun," said Shafer, "and try to come up with something."

Likes Travel Assignments
During the past five years, Tom Hill has not only been having fun, but has "come up" with plenty of good illustrative material. He liked the travel assignments given him by the Sunday editor. These first included New Salem, Dubuque, Southern Indiana and the Ohio River Valley.

He works almost entirely in water color. He explained, how­ever, that while at the scene he often makes quick sketches and uses his color camera "as a tool" to capture the color and detail. When he gets back to the Tribune, Tom functions much like a report­er; he finds out what space the editor has planned and then selects and paints his illustrations to fit the space assigned.

Tom is perfectly aware of the "competition" of the color camera in modern illustrative work. He feels, however, there's no need for illustrations and photographs to be competitive. "The two are entirely different mediums," he pointed out, "and they serve entirely different purposes."

Paintings Can Interpret
"Painted illustrations interpret," he said. "Color photography is a literal translation. An artist can give the illustration a little more interpretation and imagination. While I paint realistically, I don't try to copy like the camera would.

"The camera is impartial. The artist can be selective. His paint­ings can be very interpretive and individualistic in their presenta­tions of scenes and people."

In addition to his art work for the Grafic section, Mr. Hill also does illustrations for the Tribune's travel sections in color. In fact, he likes being an "artist correspondent," going to the scene and com­ing up with "feature stuff that is of news interest."
Doubles in Water Colors
Scheduled for an October issue of the Grafic is Tom Hill's double-truck painting of how Chicago's new Outer Drive extension is go­ing to look. He continues to "double in water colors," dividing his talents between editorial and advertising art. He also does black and white advertising illustrations.

Sixteen of his water colors, de­picting scenes from Guatemala, Canada and the Hawaiian Islands, hang in the Well of the Sea dining room at the Sherman Hotel. His wife, Wanda, is a well known tex­tile designer.

Their baby son, Tom says, has kept them from traveling to "far away places" in recent years. That's why the Northwest Air­lines "press flight" via the Great Circle route to Japan early this spring appealed to Tom Hill, who became an accredited war corre­spondent (shots and all) so that he could accompany Wayne Thomis on a "side trip" to the Korean front. They call him, "Travelin' Tom," at the Tribune.

Hill is also well known for his oil portraits of Chicago Press Club presidents, whose pictures hang in the club's quarters in the Sheraton Hotel.


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Monday, July 21, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Vic Jordan

One of the better though less well-known of the war strips was Vic Jordan. American publicist Jordan was caught in Paris when the Nazis took over and he became a member of the French resistance. The strip was several notches more realistic and better-written than the standard fare. Vic doesn't defeat a whole battalion at his whim, like many wartime strips, but he did engage in smaller and more realistic assignments like blowing up bridges, smuggling out downed airmen, and, in our story above, help to blow up a munitions factory that has been taken over by French workers. When France was liberated in 1944 Jordan took his base of operations right into Nazi Germany where he continued his derring-do until victory in Europe ended his career.

The daily and Sunday strip started the week before Pearl Harbor on December 1 1941. It was ostensibly written by 'Tom Paine', who was in actuality the team of Kermit Jaediker and Charles Zerner. The strip went through a succession of artists; the first was Elmer Wexler. Wexler went into the military but managed to finish out six months on the strip; his last daily was May 30 1942, his last Sunday June 14. When Wexler left the Sunday was dropped.

Paul Norris then took over the art duties until he in turn went into the military. His stint lasted until July 10 1943. Our samples above are from his tenure. Norris was replaced by a fellow by the name of D.H. Moneypenny who hung on until February 12 1944. He was in turn replaced by someone who signed himself Robinson (Jerry perhaps?) for a two week stint ending February 26. The final artist was the excellent Bernard Baily, better known for his comic book work. He brought the strip to its conclusion on April 28 1945.

The strip was syndicated by the great liberal paper Newspaper PM. The paper was funded by Marshall Field, whose Chicago paper, the Sun, also ran the strip. Few other papers ran Vic Jordan, which is a shame. The intellectualism of PM shows through in this strip, where Nazis are never shown as bloodthirsty monsters as they are in most strips -- they are the enemy, of course, ruthless and efficient in their machinations, but nevertheless human. This alone sets Vic Jordan apart as a higher quality strip, interested more in providing realistic adventure with fleshed out characters than in mindless propaganda.


Allan, as long as we're on the subject of PM, how about an entry about Dante Quinterno's "Patoruzu"? Paul Milkman's definitive book about PM gives the paper's very first comic strip short shrift, ignoring its Argentinian origins and the likely role America's "Good Neighbor" policy played in PM's decision to run it.
Hi Aaron -
I'm afraid I have no examples of the strip in my collection. I indexed it, of course, but the library where I worked on PM had no photocopying facilities.

Perhaps you'd like to do a guest post about it?

I'd jump at the chance, but I have yet to see PM's translated version. My knowledge of the strip is limited to what I can glean from Argentinian fan sites. Speaking little Spanish myself, it appears to be fun, light strip more than a little inspired by Segar's early Popeye, Patoruzu likewise being a brave, super-strong naif manipulated by a greedy Castor Oyl-ish schemer (while Patoruzu made his first appearance in 1928, his super-strength seems to have become an element only after 1931). The twist is that Patoruzu is also an extremely wealthy landowner, the last living heir of his tribe, which makes him a relentless target for thieves and conmen. As for the strip's political leanings, something besides its South American origins must have attracted PM's attention, but until I can get my hands on those translations, I have no clue what that might be.
Okay, so does anyone out there have a cache of PM's Patoruzu strips they'd consider sharing with us? If someone can send me CLEAR scans, minimum 150 dpi, better 300, I'd be glad to run them on the blog.

I am surprised by the quality of the art on this strip. I've never cared for Paul Norris' work. Everything he drew--Jungle Jim, X-9, Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, Tarzan--was stiff and clunky. It makes me wonder what went wrong...this stuff actually looks good!
One of the "few others" that ran Vic Jordan was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette? It was announced there on November 27, 1941, but the heading of the announcement is in the Google News Archive copy ( replaced by "Censored!" Does anyone have a clue what has been censored, and by whom (Does Google itself censor its newspaper scans)?
Vic Jordan was still running on August 21 1944 but disappeared by October 6 1944, replaced by Candy (there is a fap in the Post-Gazette scans between those dates, but the Candy comic strip by Harry Sahle apparently debuted on October 2, 1944)
Hi Fram -
I think that's supposed to be a catchy headline for the announcement.

And yup, Candy did start on that date.

That's what I first thought as well, but would they use one single line of blue background on a completely black-and-white page? The yellow blocks on the text "Vic Jordan" are the result of my search string, but I see no reason at all why "censored" would be in blue...
Found it, and sorry to have wasted your time on this. The blue rectangle is actually Google's method of accentuating the title / start of article they returned in their search. So "censored" is the original text in the newspaper...
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Sunday, July 20, 2008


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

This wasn't part of Jim's series, just a strip that he sent me in one of his letters. Jim may not be a computer guy, but he sure does seem to know what people do on the web. Since I can monitor referrals to the blog I can confirm that a surprising percentage of visits to Stripper's Guide are from people googling something other than comic strips. Some of the searches that land people here are rather embarrassingly specific -- the most memorable being "black dwarf strippers for parties in flint michigan". I sincerely hope that our man in Flint gave up his bizarre quest and was content with reading some old comic strips instead. Or perhaps I should take the blog in a different direction...

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.


Conversely, I could access your site from work with no problem for quite awhile; then they put in a new internet guard. I was called on the carpet for trying to enter porn sites on the company system. I explained my way out of it but your site is still verboten on the basis of name alone.
LOL! Leave it to Jim!

Perhaps he should do some strips about the calls he used to get for the Cartoon Museum... car tune ups -- when are the cartoons going to be shown, etc.
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