Monday, April 13, 2009


The Redwood Journal-Press-Dispatch

Ger Apeldoorn discovered this paper on If you haven't been following his blog, you can read the post about it here. I won't rehash what's discussed there except that what we seem to have is a whole page of weekly comics being produced by Disney artists.

Along with other giddy Disney-philes and comic strip researchers, I've been plowing through the paper trying to make sense of the comics page. What I've determined is that in addition to the unknown Disney moonlighters syndicate, we have others as well, some of which are almost as interesting.

I'm writing this post more or less just to get the information straight in my own head. For pics and so on I'll refer you to Ger's blog and also to the Sekvenskonst blog which is discussing the material.

Okay, preamble over, here we go. I'm going to cover this by syndicate, not by date, so bear with me. Also note that newspaperarchive has a lot of problems with this newspaper, so many issues are missing.

The Disney Moonlighter Syndicate
Although no official name has been unearthed, the Disney experts tell me that the material was most likely produced either by Tele-Comics (co-owned by Dick Moores) or by Sangor Studios.

The syndicate started in the paper on April 19 1950 and ended in May 1951 (only the May 2 page is available). This is pretty consistent with a one-year contract, after which the syndicate almost certainly got deep-sixed. All the syndicate's strips and panels lasted from the beginning to the end of the run. Here's the line-up and notes:

Pepe/Cap Gun Tex: Starts as Pepe , retitled on 12/20 or 12/27. A pantomime strip through January, but by March uses word balloons. Signed "Will" throughout the run, Alberto Becattini says this is probably James Will.

Holly Wood: By Gil Turner who does a self-caricature in the 5/24/50 strip. Starting on 10/25 or 11/1 (10/25 issue missing) the strip is signed Jack King.

Milford Muddle: Bylined by Ray Patin on the first few strips. According to the Disney experts Jack Bradbury does the unsigned art on the first two strips. Starting 5/10/50 the strip title is shortened to Milford. Starting 8/23/50, the previously unsigned strip is occasionally signed by Wes Campbell. Since I see no particular change in the art, I'm guessing that Campbell took over from Bradbury after the second strip. Only the first few strips are bylined, so did Patin write the whole run, just the first two? Who knows.

Pam: By Gus Jekel who rarely signs but art stays consistent through the end of 1950. Pam changes from a blond to a brunette in January 1951 and the artwork seems a bit different.

Life With A Wife: Bylined Mitchell but never signed. Alberto Becattini says this may be Dave Mitchell.

Merton Musty: By Dick Moores, sometime between 11/22 and 12/13 the strip changes to being signed "James". In January the strip title is shortened to just Merton. Perhaps this 'James' is James Will again?

Sleepy Holler: Signed and bylined Jerry Hathcock throughout.

Animal Antics: Bylined and occasionally signed Bob Dalton. Weird that this is the only animal strip from a bullpen full of Disney guys!

Sidetrack: Panel cartoon bylined Dick Shaw. Rarely signed near the end of the run, but art remains consistent. Another obscure one for railroad fans.

Starlight: Panel cartoon about celebrities by Tom Ray. Ray never signed the panel, but the byline and art stay consistent. An animator named Tom Ray is still alive and active, Ger is trying to contact him to see what light he might be able to shed on this syndicate.

Dusty's Stamp Album: Very little original art in this panel about stamps (most of it is repros of the stamps) and never signed. Who might Dusty be? Dunno.

That's it for the Disney moonlighter offerings. Now let's switch over to the Atlas Feature Syndicate. This one is responsible for a batch of my E&P mystery strips, now a little less mysterious. Except for Famous Firsts, they all first appear on 6/6/51, but could have started in May when we have almost a full month of missing papers. The syndicate stops appearing in Redwood after 5/14/52. The appearance of these strips in the Redwood paper put me on the trail for other Atlas appearances, and I've found more in the Bessemer Herald, which I'm still indexing.

Famous Firsts: Although this feature started on the page dominated by the Disney moonlighters, and was never blessed with a syndicate stamp, my guess is that this one is from Atlas, given that the creator, Jay Ganschow, seemed to be working for them at the time. This panel feature, yet another Ripley's wannabe, started in the paper on 8/2/50. It ended sometime between 1/31 and 2/28/51.

It's A Fact: Bylined by Jerry Cahill, who was the president of Atlas. It's suitable that he got the top spot on the page. This is yet another Ripley's clone, and probably took over for Famous Firsts, though we have a four month gap in Redwood that we can't account for. The panel was advertised in E&P from 1948-59.

Small In The Saddle: by Jack Taylor, advertised in E&P 1951-59.

Heavy Hannah: sometimes signed by Bob Alexander, sometime by Jay (Ganschow). In E&P, where it was advertised 1951-59 it was credited to John Haslemo. Whenever I see a name that is some variation on H.T. Elmo I pretty well assume he was involved somehow.

Indian Summers: Another tag-team effort. I find signatures of Jay Ganschow, Bob Kirk, John Zima. Zima got the credit in E&P, where the strip was advertised 1951-59.

Windy Windup: Usually signed by Dean Fisher, who gets the E&P credit for 1951-59, but sometimes signed Chris (Vander Veer).

That's it for Atlas, now let's hit the National Weekly Newspaper Service. Finally a syndicate that I've seen before, though this is still rare stuff. I didn't follow these as closely since I've already got better information than the Redwood paper can provide.

Mayor McGup: This strip by John Jarvis was advertised from 1948-55. You can also find it in the Soda Springs Sun on newspaperarchive.

Laff Of The Week: National Weekly's most popular item. This was syndicated by them from 1946-62, then was taken over by Community and Suburban Press Service. Frank Adams penned the first batch of panels, then Bob Barnes took over for years and years.

The Middles: Produced by Bob and Lynn Karp. Originally a Consolidated News Features strip, it was also distributed by Western Newspaper Union and NWNS at various times.

The Baffles: This one was only advertised 1956-62, but I already had a start date in 1951. This one is by someone named Mahoney.

Now a quick stop at NEA. I didn't track these in the Redwood paper since I have information from the NEA archives. But just so you don't think I was inattentive, these are from NEA: Ticklers, The Tillers and Peggy.

Two more that I want to cover:

Joe Beaver: a freebie from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it sports wonderful animal art by that master of the genre, Ed Nofziger. It starts in Redwood on 9/19/51, and I was able to find it running semi-regularly as late as July 1954 in other papers.

Sugar And Spice: This well-drawn panel cartoon started sometime in February or on 3/7/51, taking over the spot previously used by Famous Firsts. It got dropped in May along with the Disney Moonlighters, but I doubt it was from them. Maybe it was another Atlas feature. Anyway, the panel was never bylined, never signed, and disappeared in May.

Having gone through a pretty exhaustive list here, I think I'd be safe in saying that pretty much any other features you find in Redwood during this period are PSAs and freebies.

It goes without saying, does it not, that any further information you can provide on these features would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for listing this, I may copy it for my next posting of whole pages. I think you skipped just a few. There is a Ralph Stein panel on some pages called Maim Street. I can't make out the syndicate line underneath which can be seen under the first one at my blog. The Tom Kay panel The American Way (very interesting satirical panel about a 'red' called Lefty) appears on some pages, but also elsewhere in the paper (on wednesdays) and something called My Neighours by a Bill Paulson. There is also a Ripley rip-off called Seeing is Believing and a panel gag thing called Ticklers by George on another page. Also, xould it be that the strips disaapear because the paper changes it's name to Ukiah something after May 1952?
Hi Ger -
Maim Street would be a freebie, probably from the Traffic Counsel or Highway Dept. or something like that. Those things are all over weekly papers.

The American Way I wasn't watching because I thought it was either a freebie or an editorial panel. You say it has a continuing character? Guess I better take a closer look.

Seeing Is Believing - don't recall it but likely an advertising thing. Give me a date and I'll go look.

Ticklers - I mentioned that, its NEA (and George is George Scarbo).

I was able to follow the paper to the end of 1952. 1953 was a dead zone, and 1954 was so full of bad pages I gave up. Busy now working on the Bessemer Herald. That's the problem with this weirdo stuff -- one batch almost invariably leads you to another, and another and...

A delayed thank you, Alan.
Hi Allan,
Bit late to respond to this thread, but I found some samples of "Merton Musty" on from early 1948, and also one from January 1953. Only the 1948 strips have a copyright notice for "Artists Associated Syndicate". The 1948 comics page featured Life with a wife by "Mitchell", Sleepy Holler by Jerry Hathcock and Moores' Merton Musty.
The side project theory for Disney animators seems plausible to me. Besides samples from the Press-Tribune, the site now also offers samples from the Ukiah Daily Journal.

On 14 October 1949 the Pepe strip was credited to "De la Torre", while it is generally signed with "Will", so I figure this must be William de la Torre:

Best regards,
Bas (Lambiek)
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