Saturday, May 02, 2009


Free Hogan's Alley Day

This week we'll be going Herriman-less. Instead I offer (or rather Hogan's Alley editor Tom Heintjes offers) a free copy of everyone's favorite cartooning magazine. In observance of Free Comic Book Day, Heintjes makes the following offer:
Even in the depths of the Great Recession, the best things in life are
free! Mark your calendars for this Saturday, May 2: Free Comic Book
Day. Send us an e-mail ON THAT DATE with your mailing address, and
we’ll send you a FREE issue of Hogan’s Alley! No obligations, no
strings attached; the only thing it will cost you is several hours as
you enjoy the issue. (This offer is valid for all U.S. residents,
whether you’re a current subscriber or not.) Remember the one condition
—we must receive your e-mail request on Free Comic Book Day (May 2),
not the day before or the day after. (Before and after that date, any
requests for freebies will receive only scorn and derision.) Feel free
to pass this offer along to anyone you know who might enjoy Hogan’s
Send your request to Do it today or don't bother!

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Friday, May 01, 2009


News of Yore 1949: McClure Obituary

S. S. McClure, 92, Dies; Father of Syndicates
(E&P, 3/26/49)

Samuel Sidney McClure, 92, who launched the first newspaper syndicate, Nov. 16, 1884, died in New York City, March 21, almost forgotten by the general public that his editorship and inventiveness had once so importantly influenced.

Since writing his "Autobiography" in 1913 he was virtually retired from McClure Syndicate and the once-powerful McClure's Magazine.

He had another fling at publishing, however, in 1916 when he and associates bought the old New York Evening Mail, in later years to be merged with the New York Telegram under the ownership of the late Frank Munsey.

Wiry, alert, bright-eyed and always in a hurry, Mr. McClure is remembered by his associates as a man who could completely absorb himself with a new idea.

"I never get ideas sitting still," he said.

Started with $5 Loan
Mr. McClure began the syndicate on $5 borrowed capital, after the idea was rejected by his employers, Century Co., for the material in St. Nicholas Magazine which he insisted newspapers would pay to reprint. Five months later he owed authors $1,500, had $1,000 coming in from newspapers.

He was joined by John S. Phillips, a friend he had worked with on the Wheelman, Boston publication of a cycle manufacturer. Mr. Phillips was a business man, and Mr. McClure was not inclined to watch money, as he admitted.

The fortunes of the syndicate were at a low ebb when Mr. McClure went over to Columbia College and offered to file clippings at $3.50 a week. Even when he had 40 newspaper clients, he gave stories free to one of them to get proof-press releases for the others.

Mr. McClure was responsible for developing many great authors. Robert Louis Stevenson, then a noted writer, was promoted to new heights, when Mr. McClure received instruction from Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World to get Stevenson for $10,000 a year to write a weekly essay.
The syndicate also printed Stevenson's "Black Arrow" under another title, first story to be illustrated. The illustrations were done by Will H. Low, friend of Stevenson. This brought in the most money of any of the McClure's syndication.

At the turn of the century the McClure Syndicate developed its own printing plant in Baltimore, Md., and was among the first to print color comic sections.

In 1892, S. S. McClure had turned the syndicate over to a brother, T. C. McClure, so that he could devote himself to his proposed magazine. McClure's. He had developed a wide acquaintance with authors and journalists in nine years of syndication, although he had less than $3,000 in the bank.

Recognized Writing Genius
Mr. McClure's almost infallible ability to recognize writing genius made his magazine top rank. He discovered Willa Cather, helped popularize William Dean Howells and Mark Twain, and introduced Kipling, A. Conan Doyle, and many others.

Mr. McClure, ever modest, declined to take credit for his discoveries. "What an editor does is give a writer a chance to be printed," he said. He compared himself to a farmer who does not "make the wheat. What the farmer did was give the wheat a chance to grow."

His life is in accordance with American tradition. He was born in Ireland, came here as a poor boy, worked his way through college in Indiana, married a daughter of one of the professors. To his father-in-law he gave much credit for his training. To Harriet Hurd, the girl he married, he owed much, too. She helped him through early struggles, decided in favor of postage for the syndicate rather than steaks for the family, and translated French and German stories for him. She died in 1929.

Mr. McClure is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.


The obit here, as most obits are, is probably a little hagiographic, but I have to admit that the McClure quote in which he compared himself to a farmer who gives the wheat a chance to grow really touched me.
Anyone one know what happened to the comic strip properties (archives and rights) that belonged to the McClure syndicate? Were they bought out? Does another syndicate own them now?
Jason, according to one of Allan's older posts, McClure was bought out by Bell/North America News. Here's the link to that:

I could be wrong, but their properties generally seem to have been eventually absorbed into King Features.
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Thursday, April 30, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Private Will B. Wright

Private Will B. Wright was a rather undistinguished 'me-too' feature, one of dozens of strips and panels about military life that were created during World War II. The panel was a real latecomer, starting on December 18 1944, a scant six months away from the end of the war. No matter, though, because Private Wright was apparently in the same camp as Beetle Bailey would later inhabit -- in the middle of a war he never left his base.

When the end of the war came, creator Joe Certa did his darndest to keep the panel going. Private Wright was mustered out, went home to mama and got a job. What worked for some other military strips didn't keep this strip out of the cancellation crosshairs, though. The latest known appearance of the daily panel was in September 1945.

Certa tried to sell his syndicate, McClure, on the idea of a Sunday page version of the feature. He produced at least six samples (all hand-colored as the example above) but as far as I've been able to determine the idea met with no interest.

Certa went on to uncredited work on the Joe Palooka strip in the 1950s, and did get a byline on the short-lived Straight Arrow strip. He also did a lot of work in the comic book industry.


Notably, Certa was the co-creator of J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter, who would become one of the early members of DC's Justice League of America. Although strictly a second-stringer, J'onn J'onzz's early adventures as a backup character in DETECTIVE COMICS and later as a headliner in HOUSE OF MYSTERY have been collected in two volumes of SHOWCASE PRESENTS: MARTIAN MANHUNTER. That's roughly 1,000 pages of wall-to-wall Certa, if anybody is so inclined.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


News of Yore 1949: Mandrake Art a Family Affair

Mandrake and Narda Look Like Creators

by Ogden J. Rochelle (E&P, 1/22/49)

Cartoonists often draw heroes (i.e. principal characters) that resemble themselves.

This statement is trite, with varying degrees of accuracy, but it is doubly true in the case of "Mandrake the Magician," drawn for King Features Syndicate by Phil Davis.

Not only can Davis put on silk topper and cloak and pass for Mandrake, but Mrs. Davis can slip into one of the fashionable frocks of Narda, the heroine, and Mandrake fans would see the resemblance.

Mrs. Davis, as a matter of fact, often draws Narda. An artist in her own right, and a fashion illustrator for a St. Louis department store until early in War II, Martha Davis got in the habit of drawing Narda—and sometimes the entire strip — when her husband was working with the Curtiss-Wright Corp., illustrating Air Force manuals.

"Without her help," says Davis, "Mandrake probably would have folded."

Mrs. Davis enjoyed her work on the strip so much she stayed on after the War. Now the couple produce it as a joint effort, but Phil usually does Mandrake and Martha usually does Narda. They work in a studio in downtown St. Louis, move out into the Ozarks in the Summer.

The strip was hatched when Lee Falk, a St. Louis advertising agency executive, asked Davis to draw a dozen panels on a speculative basis. Davis agreed and in 1934 Falk took the idea to New York and sold it. Falk has continued to supply the continuity. Artist and continuity writer are no longer geographically close. Falk, now a New Yorker, spends his summers in Massachusetts, where he is co-owner of Cambridge Summer Theater.

Mandrake is another strip with double-appeal—to the men for adventure action, and to the women because of the accurate modishness of Narda's wardrobe.

Davis denies any resemblance, especially Mandrake's lust for strenuous exercise.

"When I get the desire to exercise," he says, "I just lie down for awhile until it passes."


This article prompts a question from someone who doesn't know much (i.e. me) for someone who really knows (i.e. you) about the art on the Mandrake strip. Davis' dry-brush style artwork on the 1930s strips, especially the Sundays, looks entirely different from the art in most of the run of the strip. The art from the 40s and 50s has a strong style too, but its aggressive lack of drama contrasts so greatly with the earlier work that I wonder: did Davis simply change his style radically, or was the strip ghosted (by Mrs. Davis, maybe?), or what?
Hi Smurf --
Your confidence in my inside knowledge is touching. Misguided but touching. As far as I know Martha was Phil's only assistant, but I certainly haven't made a study of the subject.

I've read very little of Mandrake, but I would love to read more ... perhaps Dean Mullaney will take it into his head to do one of his classy reprints. The very stiff art of the 40s and 50s is oddly appealing to me. But then I love Jay Disbrow's art, too, which most people poo-poo as similarly stiff.

It's not in good-ol'-fashioned print, but there's a wonderful resource for "Mandrake" material at
One can find 4 different styles for Mandrake by Phil Davis.
In the early strips one find the art quite tense. Then the art soften a bit. After 1938 one find that the figures becomes more slender. From early 40s the panels look more and more ‘frozen’ in time.
The first daily strip was in the papers June 11. 1934, then the first Sunday page from Feb 03. 1935. Reading interviews of Phil Davis he said he did the layout, pencil, ink and letter work in the early years (1934-1938).
During spring 1935 we can see a dramatic change in the art style. PD never told anything about assistants in the early years but it is known that Ray Moore (The Phantom from Feb 17. 1936) started helping PD with some of the ink work. Perhaps about this time ?
For the dailies the last strip signed by PD were Jan 11. 1936. According to Lee Falk (Ciff-Wiff # 12 – 1964) he believe that PD stop signing the strips because ‘he would therefore no longer considered him self as solely responsible for the drawing’.
In 1939 PD said that he had a pen and ink draftsman whom he sublets part of his pen work and another part time worker (Eddie Walcher ?) who did his lettering.
So when did Martha Davis start as assistant on Mandrake ? It is said that she came in when PD did some work for Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company from 1942 and on. But during 1941 we find several Sunday pages without the signatur of Phil Davis. And the last page I have found with his signature are the one from June 01. 1941. Looking at the dailies from the June 1941 we can find the ‘new MD look’ for Narda. Looking through strips and Sunday pages from 1942-1946 one can find several looking ‘ghosted’ by Martha Davis.
Sorry, a bit bad english, but....
Friendly Peder
Lots of comments.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: For He's a Jolly Good Fellow

Here's one that came and went pretty quick. C.H. Wellington, who was a one-man cartooning factory back in those days, did For He's a Jolly Good Fellow for Hearst's New York Evening Journal from May 31 to June 18 1910.

It's a bit surprising (to me anyway) that this is the only continuing comic strip ever to bear this exact title -- seemingly a natural since everyone knows the traditional song, and it's a perfect name for a strip about a good-time Charlie, a harried husband, or an overly accommodating nebbish (as in Wellington's strip). There is one other strip that uses a variation on the title, but I'll keep that one under my hat for another day.


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Monday, April 27, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Little Orvy

After over a quarter century of service on the Buck Rogers strip, the stormy relationship between artist Rick Yager and syndicate chief Robert Dille exploded in 1958. When the smoke cleared Yager was off the strip and Dille was happy to see him go. Yager vowed to create a rival sci-fi strip that would zap Buck Rogers off the comics page.

But Yager's dreams of revenge went unfulfilled. His next comic strip, syndicated by the Chicago Sun-Times Field Enterprises syndicate, was about a bespectacled little boy named Orvy and his daydreams. While Orvy did indeed occasionally fantasize about the future, most of his daydreams were of a more prosaic variety. The strip was firmly in the comedy vein and actually succeeded at that rather well. Considering that Yager's previous comic strip experience was with the always earnest and serious Buck Rogers, whose only comedy was unintentional, Little Orvy was quite surprisingly good. Little Orvy was a Sunday only strip, and each of his fantasies usually played out over the space of 2-4 pages. To my eyes, Orvy's humor owed something to the hip, inventive stuff that was on display in the pages of Mad magazine.

What might have held the strip back from success was the fussiness of Yager's art. The breezy writing was confounded by an art style that looked like it would better match a serious strip. Since Orvy often fantasized about historical subjects, I can imagine that kids might have thought the strip was supposed to be educational and avoided it like the plague, not realizing that under that facade lurked a pretty funny strip.

Little Orvy ran from January 3 1960 to January 21 1962 in a very short list of papers.

EDIT 9/12/16: Recently I discovered that the strip ran quite awhile longer, to September 30 1962


I corresponded with Rick Yager near the end of his life, as he was losing his eyesight (and his job on the "Grin & Bear It" panel) In his scrawling hand he received my admiration for his Buck Rogers work very kindly and graciously. Thank you for digging this up.
I actually think Yager's style, especially his super-thick outlines and postery compositions, work well for a humor strip. It certainly isn't the first to combine realistic backgrounds with cartoony characters.

Was the strip's coloring really just red and blue? Also, I don't get why the kid's glasses glow in every panel.
Hi Smurf --
Y'know I didn't even notice those glowing glasses until you pointed it out. Weird!

The predominant reds and blues are an artifact of trying to restore the strips. They're bolder that greens and yellows, so they tend to really pop when you start monkeying with levels. The restorer pleads guilty.

Thanks for this information about Little Orvy. The strip was syndicated in the British comic Knockout in the 60s, and some episodes were reprinted (not in colour) in another British comic, Buster, in the late 70s. As I recall, the artwork looked a little dated, but the sophistication of the humour still held up well.
Orvy also ran in the British weekly "Valiant" in the late 60s.

In the one example of the strip I have, there is no "glow" to his spectacles.

I see a lot of Al Capp influence in Yager's work on Orvy.
Rick Yager was my grandfather, and I can fill in some of the blanks about this strip and its beginnings. I think that you are correct in noting that many of the strip's antecedents are in Buck Rogers. If you look at Rick's work on Buck Rogers, you see the evolution of his style, and how it actually became cleaner and less detailed by the late 1950s. The falling out with the syndicate over Buck Rogers was quite sudden, and there were actually some uncompleted Buck Rogers strips that were never finished or published (both dailies and Sundays). I would say that those strips pointed in the direction that Little Orvy later went-- less hyper-realistic and much more stylized. Rick was a master at using different styles, and when he later took over Grin and Bear it, few people realized that strips in George Lichty's style were appearing long after Lichty had passed away-- Rick had amassed a library of all Lichty's strips and learned how to match him, even though the style was very different from his other work.

As to the colors on the strip, they were eye-popping, as they were on Buck Rogers. Rick was primarily a water color artist, and the originals were stunning. The limited range of colors available in a newspaper did not do them justice, and unfortunately, the colors themselves faded over time. But when he painted them, they would make your eyes pop.

As to the humor, Rick was also much more of a humorist than you might suspect from Buck Rogers, where the syndicate kept him on a very very short leash (the ever-shortening leash was the ultimate source of friction between them). Unleashed, his work made Mad Magazine or Al Capp look tame. It's my hope that someday some of this surviving and very much unpublished work can be compiled and published, so that fans of strips like Buck Rogers and Little Orvy can have the same insights into Rick that I was fortunate enough to have. He was one of a kind.
I had no idea this comic strip existed, until I discovered that it briefly run in the weekly UK boys comic KNOCKOUT. I have an image of an ad announcing the coming of the feature, but I don't have the option of posting it here.
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Sunday, April 26, 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.


As strange as it might seem to people on the web today, the people you're trying to sell your cartoons to really do prefer being mailed hard copies in real envelopes. Otherwise, it's just asking to be spammed. Not all of the venues Jim mentions will pay us what we know the work is worth, but as I was once told years ago, when you're starting out it helps to "have someone print your samples for you." And that's essentially what a lot of small time jobs do for you in the beginning. They help build a portfolio.
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