Saturday, February 14, 2009


Herriman Saturday

Sunday, June 23 1907 -- A portrait of Henry Berry, manager of the San Francisco Seals is featured on the front page of the Sunday sports section. The drawing is huge, over half a page.

Sunday, June 23 1907 -- Herriman creates Bugs Bunny, and here you thought he was created by those no-talent animator folks at Warner Brothers.


(Another question from an outside observer; forgive me if it's too ill-informed.) I always wonder when I see these: what would the workload of Herriman have been like at this time? This work looks to me to be quite time-consuming, or would that have been reduced by his skill and experience, giving him the ability to draw faster than we might imagine?
Hi Lyn -
Actually that's a great question.

I think if you pay attention to the publication dates on the cartoons over time you'll see that on average Herriman was getting a large cartoon published almost every day. There were occasional ebbs in his production but they come when he was sent out on assignment or given a short vacation.

What you don't see published here on the blog are all the spot cartoons he also contributed to the paper. Herriman regularly supplied as many as 4 or 5 small cartoons a day, usually to the regular columnists' pieces.

(These spot cartoons were too small for me to get decent photocopies, so these aren't included on our Saturday posts.)

So figure one major cartoon plus a handful of spots per day when he was in the office.

Is that a heavy load? Not really unusually heavy for the anchor staff cartoonist of the day. Outside of the biggest cities (NY, Chicago, etc) the staff cartoonist was expected to produce at this sort of volume -- he was a pretty busy fellow. Staff cartoonists then were expected to be fast and you can often see evidence in Herriman's cartoons when he was in a hurry. There was rarely time to correct mistakes or fine-tune drawings.

One thing to keep in mind is that cartoonists of this day were experts at cross-hatching, practically a lost art today. Cross-hatching of the type you see on the Hen Berry caricature might look to today's cartoonist like the product of hours of painstaking planning and work, but it was second nature for the cartoonists of Herriman's time. Such gorgeous penwork that lends that wonderful feeling of depth to the cartoon was probably produced in practically no time at all with barely a moment's thought.

Post a Comment

Friday, February 13, 2009


Ad Strips : Billy Poster

Here's a sampling of ads from a campaign for Gravely's Chewing Plug Tobacco. Gravely's doesn't seem to have been a particularly big name in the tobacco biz, so it's quite impressive that they coughed up the dough to get the services of the great Edward Kemble. Kemble seems to have dashed off the art for these ads pretty quickly, either that or he was intentionally trying to create a stiff, old-fashioned look to the drawings. Kemble's drawings were usually highly expressive so these cartoons are anything but typical of his delightful style.

These samples were submitted by Cole Johnson, for which I offer a tuneful ringing of the spittoon. Unfortunately the samples Cole submitted got filed away somewhere and I can't find them to give the dating. I'm pretty sure these were from 1918 or 1919.

About the dates: this one from the Spokane Daily Chronicle is from October 1917:
Post a Comment

Thursday, February 12, 2009


News of Yore 1949: Inky Introduces Garish Funnies

Phila. Inquirer Introduces 'Rotocomics'

(E&P, 3/19/49)

PHILADELPHIA — Roto comics will make their initial appearance in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday, March 20. The supplement is the first product of the Inquirer's new, huge rotogravure building.

The St. Louis (Mo.) Post-Dispatch has been printing comics in colorgravure more than a year.

The Inquirer, however, not only is making use of a process which gives vivid reproductions of the artist's work, but has also registered with the U. S. Patent Office the word, "Rotocomics." Inquirer management hit upon the use of the word as a trademark several years ago but kept it secret until needed.

Bold and attractive display, in hobo-style lettering, is given to the word Rotocomics. Name of paper, date, etc. are in secondary position.

The addition of Rotocomics brings the number of rotogravure sections in the Sunday Inquirer to six. The others are Today, Everybody's Weekly, Parade, Books and Gold Seal Novel. The news and classified sections are the only sections of the Sunday Inquirer printed in black and white letterpress.


Hello Allan----If you are of a certain age, and lived in the Philadelphia area, you fondly remember the Inquirer's funnies with those big multicolor cartoony letters spelling out "ROTOCOMICS" at the top, with Dick Tracy on the cover. They were shiny, with deep colors, on different paper than on any other comic section. They ran this section up to the mid-60's.(The trouble was, the Bulletin had much better comics!) Can you reproduce the cover of a Rotocomics section here? Thanks!----Cole Johnson.
The Bulletin's comics weren't better, they were just more up-to-date: Peanuts and Beetle Bailey as opposed to the Inquirer's Dick Tracy and Little Iodine. The Inquirer had a nameplate announcing that it incorporated the long-defunct Public Ledger, and its mindset never got beyond the 1940s. I think ROTOCOMICS ran at least till the late 60s.
Post a Comment

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


News of Yore 1975: American History Strip Debuts

Bicentennial Stories Featured
(E&P, 2/1/1975)

Richard Lynn of Lagro, Indiana has begun self-syndication of a Bicentennial story strip which will run in five-week sequences until July 4, 1976.

The current story in the strip under the general title “The Sons of Liberty” is that of John Peter Zenger, whose trial was a landmark in establishment of freedom of the press. The Zenger story ends just before Washington’s birthday when Lynn will depict early events in Washington’s military career. Other sequences dramatize historical events in the lives of the Founding Fathers. After the highlight date of July 4, 1976 Lynn plans to turn the strip to other historical areas.

The author-cartoonist, who is syndicating the strip through his own firm Richard Lynn Enterprises (Mail Trace Road in Lagro) decided he wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist at the age of six when he started drawing his own version of “Dick Tracy” with pencil and crayons on ruled paper. When he was nine, he got a letter from Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, who explained to the young artist that cartoonists use black India ink. With that technical information, Lynn went to the drawing board and won two cartoon prizes in an Open Road for Boys contest. He has been an advertising agency art director and editorial cartoonist for the Marion (Md.) Chronicle-Tribune and the Wabash (Md.) Plain Dealer.

[Some vital statistics on The Sons of Liberty: it ran from January 6 1975 to July 4 1976. The final episode was a Sunday page, the only Sunday in the series.]


Comments: Post a Comment

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Cat-o'-Nine-Lives

The Brooklyn Eagle maintained a really good locally produced children's section from the oughts right up into the 1930s. In addition to the mainstay of Buttons and Fatty (which we'll cover one of these days) they frequently had one or two additional color strips in the section. In the 1920s many of these were produced by the team of writer Jane Corby and cartoonist Phila Webb.

I know nothing about these two ladies, but I've always visualized them as two happy old spinsters. I imagine them living together in a picturesque old brownstone in Brooklyn, telling stories to the neighborhood children on the front stoop in the afternoons.

Cat-o'-Nine-Lives was a nine part closed-end series that features the death of a kitten as the denouement of each episode. How, um, precious. This particular series was only credited to Phila Webb, but I suspect that Jane Corby did the writing. It ran from February 24 to April 20 1924.


Not a comment on today's content, but I am SO glad that someone is doing a detailed history of American comic strips. I love it, and will continue to read as long as you choose/continue to publish.

Post a Comment

Monday, February 09, 2009


Behind the Scenes with Cole Johnson

Cole Johnson sends in a group of neat items; first we have a 1914 parody version of the New York Evening Globe. This item was produced for a party thrown at Claridge's Hotel for the staff of the Globe. Several of the Globe's cartoonists contributed cartoons poking fun at various members of the staff. We have, in order of appearance, Pop Momand, creator of Keeping Up With The Joneses; Percy Crosby of future Skippy fame, a fabulous Robert Ripley caricature of the sports editor, perhaps even the editor who recognized the genius of Ripley's one-shot Believe It or Not cartoon in 1918 and encouraged him to turn it into a series. Finally we have two whimsical cartoons by a fellow I didn't even know was at the Globe, H.T. Webster. Apparently he spent a short interlude there in between stints at his long-time home at the New York Tribune.

In addition Cole sent this photo of a bunch of sots on their way to getting rip-roaring drunk. But these aren't just any old juicers.

Standing, from left: Jack Callahan (Freddie the Sheik), unknown, Peck (possibly George Peck, creator of Kayo Kid Klinch)

Sitting: unknown, Bud Counihan (Little Napoleon, Betty Boop), Bonnell (?), unknown (but looks to me like it might be Robert Ripley, though perhaps only because he's on my mind because of the Globule), Jack Farr (Bringing Up Bill).

Hi Alan - I'm an author, currently working on a book about Robert Ripley. I love your blog, and would like to speak with you further about my research. How can I contact you? My email is Please drop me a line, and thanks... Neal
My email is right over there (<-) in the sidebar Neal.

Hello, Allan-----The guy standing in the middle is "Bugs" Baer, the famous columnist, and the fellow sitting, fourth from left, isn't Ripley, but Broadway performer Eddie Dowling, in whose honor this 1922 backstage party was held.----Cole Johnson.
Hello, Allan. Thanks for posting the picture of the "sots." I am a descendant of Jack Farr's mother's side of the family. His mother's name was Julia (Munro) Farr. I did not have a picture of "Jack" (aka William Gordon Farr in real life). I would love to know if there are more pictures or information about him.

Post a Comment

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

Jim Ivey's new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey's career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.


Since I was present at the Jim Ivey crow-fest, I knew about it... and some of the other comic appearances. I wasn't aware of the novel appearances. [Indeed they were novel, weren't they.] I'll have to keep an eye out for them.
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]