Saturday, April 18, 2009
Monday, July 29 1907 --Herriman himself just enjoyed a one week vacation this month so he might himself be one of these offenders.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, April 17, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: The Dippy Dudes
The Dippy Dudes ran sporadically in one version of the McClure Syndicate's several boilerplate Sunday comics sections. It almost seems to have been a variant section, because it's one of the hardest McClure strips of the period to come by. The strip ran from April 2 1905 to February 4 1906. The Dippy Dudes started life under the title Wobby and Weggy, then Robby and Reggy, then settled on the listed title May 14 1905.
The creator of the strip doesn't seem to have thought much of his feature. Only a few strips are signed with the moniker 'Lester', most are unsigned. I know nothing of this Lester fellow, but his cartooning skills, while rough, showed some promise. Either that promise went unfulfilled or he signed a different name to his later works because this is the only newspaper strip series signed with that name. Alfredo Castelli in Here We Are Again says that his work can also be found in the Life humor magazine.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
News of Yore 1949: One Little Paper, Two Editorial Cartoonists
By Charles G. Sampas (E&P, 3/12/49)
Editor Thomas F. Costello, in a move to strengthen the Lowell Sun's influence, has added two political cartoonists to the staff.
The impact of these new Sun-styled cartoons these past three months has vindicated the Sun's move. Cartoons by the Sun's own cartoonists now decorate the offices of nationally-known legislators and Massachusetts state officials. The cartoons have become one of the strongest features of the Sun. They have brought state and local action.
The two cartoonists are nationally known. Frank E. Agar is a former stock broker, and Tom Flannery was a cartoonist for the overseas editions of Yank.
Agar, who was born in San Francisco, realized his lifetime's ambition to become a newspaper political cartoonist via an ad in Editor & Publisher.
Agar was a salesman and a director of security sales. For 30 years he lived and breathed the Wall Street atmosphere. He retired from the National City Bank in December 1947 and for nine months locked himself at home, working 16 hours a day drawing cartoons. He wanted to develop a style all of his own. When he had completed 50 cartoons, he ran an ad.
He is the father of four children — one of them, Frank E. Agar, Jr., is a freelance artist, while a daughter is a student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
After Agar was graduated from the University of California, he went to Wall Street to seek the proverbial fortune. While working for the National City Bank, he drew, at a banquet, excellent cartoons of Charles Mitchell and J. P. Morgan. When Mr. Mitchell saw the cartoons he was enthused, but "warned" Frank that he certainly couldn't be drawing cartoons while a securities salesman — the customers wouldn't take such "humor." And so, for 30 years, Frank Agar didn't draw any cartoons.
He doesn't know how he picked up the gift — he just studied the newspaper cartoons and sketched on his off moments. And so, upon retiring at the age of 59, he decided he wanted to become a cartoonist.
Flannery was born in December, 1919, in Carbondale, Pa. He was a "depression era" youth. He worked in the "bootleg" coal mines of Pennsylvania, always dreaming of an art career. Eventually, he started studies nights at Pratt. After three months, he quit and tried different jobs including distributing handbills in Brooklyn, auditing hotel books and similar chores. When World War II came, he was chief night auditor of the Hotel McAlpin.
In the army air forces, ground crew, armament, he indulged in his long-neglected talent for cartooning. Overseas, his barracks buddies prevailed upon him to submit a few drawings to Yank. He did and was offered a job as staff cartoonist, a job he held for two years, mostly in London.
Labels: News of Yore
Great website! I'm interested in Tom Flannery; do you recall where you found the photo of him? Thanks!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Strip Teasers: Capsule Book Reviews
Hogan's Alley #16 (Bull Moose Publishing, $6.95)
I can't imagine anyone who reads this blog isn't already a subscriber to HA, so I won't flap my gums at length. This magazine is required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in the history of comic strips and other cartooning genres. The latest issue of this more-or-less annual publication, which continues to offer 144 jam-packed pages at a ridiculously low price, is once again stuffed to the gills with interesting articles.
The star of the show this time is Jim Korkis' tremendous 19 page history of the Disney movie Song of the South. Although animation is not particularly my fascination, Korkis managed to hold my attention with all sorts of fascinating insider info on the production of the film and the controversy that has made it one of the few Disney movies not available on video (at least in the U.S). Bill Blackbeard contributes a perceptive essay on newspaper comic strip toppers, Stephen "Pearls Before Swine" Pastis is interviewed, plus articles on Jay Irving, the rare My Friend Irma comic strip, a behind the scenes look at Marge's Little Lulu and much, much more. Even an article by yours truly on the terminology of comic strip collecting.
Appeeling - The Best of Bo Nanas by John Kovaleski (self-published, 120 pages, available at bonanas.com)
Bo Nanas, which ran in newspapers from 2003-2007, had a pretty devoted fan-base, but I gather the strip failed to displace enough Peanuts reruns and computer-generated Shoes to keep Kovaleski stocked up with beer and India ink.
Bo Nanas is a monkey living a surprisingly average life in a city. Though Bo is a well-grounded fellow (for a monkey) he seems to attract weirdos and oddballs, and they always want to tell him just what exactly makes them weird. Bo listens politely and then makes a comment. This is the typical plot of the strip. When read one per day, Bo Nanas is a joy. The deadpan Bo is unfailingly amusing, not to mention sly, intelligent and erudite. What works well in a daily dose, however, works less well in a reprint book where we can get caught in the rhythm of this dance. After reading a half-dozen or so pages the gags become like those divisions in a concrete paved highway, the monotonous clunks barely noticed after driving for awhile. If you're the type of reader who can read a page or two and then put the book down for awhile, I highly recommend it. If, on the other hand, you usually read a reprint book from front to back at a sitting or two, you'll come away with little appreciation for Kovaleski's creation, and that would be a shame. Read the book but savor it slowly for the full impact.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies Volume One 1929-30 (Hermes Press, 320 pages, $39.99)
I've read very little of the Buck Rogers strip prior to buying this book, so I was coming in with few preconceptions. I knew the basic plot, of course, but I was completely unprepared for the horrendously bad writing. Since the strip has legions of fans I have to assume that the strip got much better later on, but if the first two years are any indication, the improvement will have to be beyond my ability to imagine. I realize, of course, that much of the affection for the strip is pure nostalgia, but is that all there is to Buck Rogers?
But I can see a kid in 1929 getting excited by Buck Rogers. Since Buck was the first science fiction strip to appear in newspapers, all the conventions of the form that are old hat today were fresh and new. The action is beyond frenetic (an epic battle might be chronicled in a single strip, or even a panel or two), the technology of the future is pretty darn awesome, and the art, while relentlessly amateurish, is lovingly done. But the writing! It's indescribably bad. The characters talk and act like 8-year olds. The plots make no internal sense. The continuity is looser than a Mad Lib. And if all that weren't enough the stories are misogynistic. At least half the stories in the book take as their jumping-off point Wilma starting trouble by behaving like a unreasoning spoiled brat. The writer's obvious animosity toward women is perpetually on display and makes for tough reading. There is nothing purely old-fashioned or juvenile about the way the women of Buck Rogers are written. We're talking full-on psychosis.
I fear that Hermes Press has fallen into a publishing trap. No matter how much better Buck Rogers will get in ensuing years, I can't imagine many readers wanting more after completing the first book in the series. For the sake of fairness I'll probably get volume 2 if it is published, but if it's more of the same then I'll have to wave the white flag and leave Buck Rogers to the hardcore fans. This book is certainly not destined to create any new devotees for the strip.
On a technical level the book is very well done. The strips are presented at a nice large size on good paper and the restorations (from proofs, I think) are crisp. Frankly it can be hard to tell with art this bad just exactly how good a job the restorer has done. Ron Goulart, who we've heard from very little in recent years, provides the introduction. Welcome back Ron!
Spooner: The Complete Collection of Daily Strips Volumes 1 and 2 ($7.95 each, about 116 pages each)
Spooner: The Sunday Comics ($19.99, 132 pages)
Wild Blue ($9.95, 68 pages)
These four books are self-published by Ted Dawson and available at his website. Dawson's Spooner, a daily and Sunday comic strip published from 2000-2002 is reprinted in its entirety in three volumes. The strip concerns a young couple, Spooner and Roxanne, getting used to each others foibles as they embark on married life. Dawson is a good cartoonist, so good that I tried hard to like the strip. I failed, though, because the gags are flat (or non-existent -- many strips are designed to elicit more of an "Aw, aren't they cute!" reaction), and the characters are steadfastly devoid of any personality. Think Family Circus but set when Bill and Thelma first got married. It's all very sweet, but with such uninteresting characters I couldn't work up any interest in the strip. I did enjoy looking at the Sundays, which are delightfully drawn.
Dawson's Wild Blue, on the other hand, is a bit better. This strip was published in the Air Force Times from 2002-2004. The gags are still a bit flat, but at least Dawson gives himself some meat to chew on with a cast of Armed Forces characters who have some personality. I enjoy strips like this because of the insider's view. Same reason that I have a soft spot for strips in trade journals. Wild Blue is certainly no competition for Russ Johnson's masterpiece trade journal strip Mister Oswald, but we get to meet a group of interesting people and learn a little of what it's really like to live in their world. Co-created by Ted's brother, Steve, an Air Force officer, so the situations and characters ring true.
Labels: Strip Teasers
I'll grant you that not all 144 pages are about comic strips, but at $6.95 I think it's still a heck of a deal even if you like only a portion of the contents. What's a thin little copy of Newsweek go for these days -- $5 or so? HA showcases some of the best writing about cartooning history you're going to find. Where else can you get that at any price?
As a matter of fact I WAS wondering while I read the BR strips if there was any possible way that Phil Nowlan wrote at this level for the pulps as well. I haven't read any of Nowlan's Amazing Stories work (the Buck prototype story would have been a great bonus in the book) but it boggled my mind that someone who wrote this badly could get published elsewhere, even in the pulps. If Nowlan was intentionally dumbing it down for the kids, the pendulum was swinging WAY too far.
Armageddon 2419 A.D.
The Airlords of Han
I think you fail to grasp the difference between "misogyny" and older role-based perceptions of women.
And how, praytell, are you so sure that Wilma didn't act like a typical woman of that time period (the 1920s) in the presence of men? Again, you expect them to behave now like they did then.
You have to be careful to adjust your expectations of other eras to match the prevalent ideas of the time. You have no reason to be surprised or revolted when you see a doctor in a 1950s film smoking a cigarette. It was accepted and completely normal then. The 1920s were a time of transition for gender roles. Women were getting first getting free of the strictures of protection which were a widespread part of society up to that point. It's hard to be sure what kind of behavior was truly typical then, and it's even harder to argue how that behavior *appeared* to the typical male reader of the 1920s, which is highly relevant to how it was reflected in the behavior of cultural icons of the time. Even if women didn't have the underlying motivations of Wilma, it may well have appeared to the young male of the time that that WAS how they acted and thought.
P.S., I haven't read that specific collection, but I've read other collections of both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Both are like ERB's John Carter and Pellucidar stuff -- sort of cheezy and unsophisto by modern standards but fun and simple in their own way.
If you can't get past those weaknesses to appreciate them, well, that's unfortunate. But when some "young punk" tells you that your favorite 40s movies are boring and slow (just an example for illustration, possibly not accurate), don't be surprised, that's the same sort of response -- an inability to transcend modern expectations.
LOL, you want full-on psychosis, go look at WM Marston's early Wonder Woman strips. The things would appeal to any bondage aficionado or masochist. "Submission to feminine superiority" and all that.
And this was written for true adolescents!
I'm rather amused, thinking back thanks to the title of the second one you listed, that Allan mentions misogyny, but failed to notice the exceedingly blatant anti-Oriental nature of the villains in Buck Rogers, also common in Flash Gordon, too.
(sorry, I refuse to use the term "Asian" to refer to Those-Who-Used-To-Be-Oriental, since I've noticed that there appear to be, oh, a few BILLION Asians who **aren't** from the region formerly known as "The Orient", and I find the usurpation of the term for Orientals to be offensive... I just note this preemptively in case anyone wanted to comment on that term.)
Monday, April 13, 2009
The Redwood Journal-Press-Dispatch
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!
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...
Bit late to respond to this thread, but I found some samples of "Merton Musty" on newspapers.com 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:
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Jim Ivey's new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from Lulu.com 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:
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807
Also still available, Jim Ivey's career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on Lulu.com or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.
Labels: Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics