Saturday, May 23, 2009


Herriman Saturday

Thursday, August 29 1907 -- The Angels lose in a rout to Oakland. Herriman claims that the Oakland pitcher's 'mush' (spitball) was to blame.

August 30 and 31 1907 -- Herriman was tapped to do a series of cartoons about a rather odd subscription scheme at the Examiner. The paper offered a Craftsman-style easy chair at a low price to new subscribers. Herriman gave the cartoons just about all the attention they deserved (darn little, that is). He produced quite a few of these little two-panel strips but these were the only two for which I could get even a barely decent photocopy. The cartoons ran along the very bottom of page one, and the pages were very dark down in that region.

Saturday, August 31 1907 -- The most interesting part of this cartoon is the vignette about Angels catcher Bobby Eager wearing shin guards. New York Giant catcher Roger Bresnahan was the first to wear them in the major leagues in this year, and got kidded a lot for being a sissy. But obvious Eager was, er, eager to follow suit to save his aching shins, no matter the taunting he was sure to get from the fans and the press.


Wow, so getting a subscription to the Examiner can not only get you a chair, but can change your life for the better and fix all your relationships. Sweet. Gotta get me one.
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Friday, May 22, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Just Among Friends

Joe Strauss' Just Among Friends began in the New York World in it's last hobbling days shortly before it was sold off. The feature debuted on August 15 1930 to a suitably cold reception from newspaper editors. While the panel cartoon was perfectly fine, with adequate art and reasonably good gags, it was such a slavish imitation of the popular Briggs and Webster panel cartoon series that editors must have wondered why they should buy the imitation rather than the beloved originals.

Just Among Friends used a set of revolving 'subtitles' just like the more famous Briggs and Webster versions. Where Briggs had When A Feller Needs a Friend, Strauss substituted Life's Little Disappointments; Webster's The Timid Soul was channeled by Strauss' When Courage Fails. All except one of Strauss' series was a straight copy -- the one exception was Well, What Of It in which one fellow who fancies himself quite a card peppers another fellow with ridiculous 'facts' -- the poor soul endures this for five panels and then yells "Well, what of it!". The gag was cute, but when repeated at least once a week it wore thin pretty quickly.

Just Among Friends survived the end of the World, but not by much. Ending on August 13 1931, obviously the cartoonist had negotiated a one year contract. Joe Strauss was not heard of again in newspaper cartooning that I know of.


That last panel with the ice man reminds me of the old "Out Our Way" panels. I really like that one.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009


Mystery Strip Clues

Anthony Sciarrino writes me with some tantalizing information about a pair of Mystery Strips. He tells me that he went to an estate sale in St. Louis (MO) and purchased some original art from two of my mystery strips, Doctor Sam and the Space Monsters and Julian of the Jungle. Both strips were, according to their E&P listings, syndicated by something called the Editorial Board Syndicate.

The Editorial Board Syndicate was based in St. Louis, so that fits well, and they offered three strips from 1967-69; the third was something called Riff McTic. All three strips were advertised as both daily and Sunday.

Here are some pics of the Doctor Sam and the Space Monsters strip. Sciarrino found both a Sunday and some dailies, plus a color proofsheet of the Sunday:

And here are some pics of Julian of the Jungle, he just got a Sunday strip of this title:

Now none of the above would be of all that great an interest to me. There's plenty of original art out there for strips that were never published. What heightens my interest is that Sciarrino says that there were also some newspaper tearsheets of the Julian of the Jungle strip at the sale. Unfortunately he did not take the tearsheets and apparently only gave them a cursory look because he cannot remember the name of the paper that they are from. He provides this tantalizing but inconclusive picture that he took at the sale:

So we're left with tantalizing but inconclusive evidence that at least one of the strips, and probably all three, were in fact taken by at least one paper. But without knowing what paper they appeared in (and for all we know it was just an underground or school paper) we have a painful case of cartoonus interruptus.

Can anyone provide further clues? Does anyone know the whereabouts of the principals of the syndicate, James Westermann, Darryl Martin, Kenneth Green, Frederick Taran, or Alex Crosby?


After doing a cursory search on the web, all that I can discover about Dr. Sam and the Spacemasters is that a handful of episodes were apparently reprinted in a comic fanzine in 1973 called "Cartoon Parade."
"JULIAN OF THE JUNGLE" appears to be one of the black newspaper strips. Is it researchable in the several archives offered on line for that date?
Hi Anon -
Very perceptive! I agree that Julian looks like it would have been a good fit for black papers. But it is in none of the ones I've indexed, and it would be odd for a strip meant for them to have a daily version (since the vast majority of the black papers are weeklies). It may well have been in a St. Louis black paper, but I have no way to check that short of going to St. Louis.

Back to "Dr. Sam's" appearance in "Cartoon Parade." I'm sure that there have been tons of comic fanzines I've never heard of. I checked to see if I could find a copy of "Cartoon Parade" on eBay, and sure enough, a 1962 copy surfaced. That one was a digest-sized publication and featured a Basil Wolverton strip. Allan, are you familiar with "Cartoon Parade" or any of its history?
Hi Hugo -
In my searches I found some covers from the 70s and Cartoon Parade looks to be one of those many mags that combines cartoons and nudie photos. I never quite got why that particular combination was so prevalent -- why not cartoons and pop science articles, or girlie pics and world news?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


News of Yore 1949: Cartoonist-Adventurer Lute Pease Profiled

Lute Pease; Nearly 80, Pens Vigorous Cartoon
By Shirley M. Friedman (E&P, 2/19/49)

Newark, N. J.—Every afternoon, a little, squatty-built elderly man with ruddy skin and youthfully bright brown eyes, heads for the editorial writing section of the Newark News.

Under his white shirt-sleeved arm, he clutches a rough drawing seemingly as large as he. Invariably, the sketch reflects with pungent treatment and facile line his paper's reaction to events boiling in the political cauldron.

This deceptively plain-looking gentleman is close-to-80-years old Lute Pease, nationally-known cartoonist whose work for 34 years has been reproduced in magazines and newspapers from coast-to-coast. But few of those who admire his work with pencil and brush—often compared to the best in Punch—are aware of Pease's extraordinary background that springboarded him into caricaturing the world's great.

A Medley of Adventure
He eagerly recalls a series of amazingly vivid memories that meander blithely over America and back through his Trader Horn-like years before heeding the call of art.

It was a medley of ranching, canvassing, small-business trials, land-locating efforts—"I tried to get in on the 'Oklahoma Strip' months before the rush"— freighting with oxen on the White Pass in '98, five years of Alaska mining, wood-chopping, running a Nome bunkhouse during the time of the 'Spoilers,' and being first resident U.S. Commissioner in northwestern Alaska. To say nothing of being the intimate of the great and the near-great the country over.

As a cub reporter-sketch artist (before the days of the halftone) on the Portland Oregonion, Nevada-born Pease, got the famous five-minute interview with Mark Twain which that renowned humorist praised as "the most accurate and best ever written of me."

Mr. Pease tells of that incident: "You recall his world trip that started in '96, when he tossed that gray plume of his to the winds of his popularity and set forth to pay the debts of his publisher and rehabilitate his own fortunes.

"The suave, polished old Major Pond was Clemens's lecture impresario. As everywhere else, he crowded a Portland house.

"Next morning I got to his hotel just as he and the Major were departing for Seattle.

" 'Get right in with us,' drawled Mr. Clemens kindly. 'We'll have several minutes before they run these bus horses to death getting to the station.'

"I asked if he were going to write 'Forty Years After.'

"He chuckled, 'You mean "Forty Years After Innocents Abroad?" 'No, I'm slower and grown even lazier and I'm going to write an easy-going book. No guidebook, just anything that happens to interest me. I'll inspect the Equator and wind up a few sections to make a ball of yarning.''

"You'll remember,", Pease reminded us, "he afterward called the book, 'Following the Equator.'

"Well, I got Twain to talking about Tom Sawyer while I tried to sketch him.

" 'I didn't create Tom or Huck,' said he, 'any more than you are creating Mark Twain with your pencil. I knew them and I drew them from life. You could make me up from memory, but you prefer the life model, because you can make a surer, truer line, can depict the character without the haziness that comes from feeling 'round by guesswork.'

"He had started a striking figure of speech when he had to jump aboard the train. Now, I wanted to get that figure in my interview. So I finished it for him, thinking he'd probably never see the 'Oregonian' for months, if at all. Imagine my consternation when I opened a telegram from Victoria a couple of days later; 'Good enough. You said it better than I could have said it myself!'

"I thought this was sarcasm. Then next day I happily got a letter from Major Pond, enclosing a snapshot he had made of Clemens being interviewed and telling me how pleased the author had been. I often think upon the kindness of that famous man taking trouble about an obscure cub reporter."

But the cub became the Pacific Monthly editor whose magazine paid Jack London $7,000 for his "Martin Eden"— after it had been turned down by later-to-eat-crow Eastern editors. Pease recalls London remarking:

"When you bought that novel, and paid cash for it, I nearly fainted. I couldn't believe it of a West Coast magazine. I once had a fight with one of them trying to collect the five dollars they had promised for one of my first things. I got rough in their office and they threw me downstairs."

Sketching and Roving
Lute can show you, too, a letter from London saying, "Funny about 'The House of Pride.' I wonder if some of the disinclination for it is due to the fact that I didn't kill anybody in it. You. know my reputed formula for a short story is to start with three characters and to kill four before the end. Of course I could have had them drown themselves in the surf, or murder each other or fall on each other's necks in brotherly love. The only trouble is, life so seldom works out that way."

Nor did life work out that way for Lute. For amidst all his adventurous living, the love of art haunted him. Always he kept up sketching scenes visited in his rovings.

"When I built my log cabin on the Yukon, I peeled the bark off the walls and used the surface for pencil sketches of occasional trappers or mushers. " His adventures there in the gold rush days are vividly described and illustrated by him in his recent book, "Sourdough Bread".

"But how did I get into newspaper work? Well, I had a job as salesman with a California grocery concern. I hated it. Lord, how I wanted a job I enjoyed!"

He got it "all because a rejected lover killed the girl and committed suicide."

Walking down a street in Portland, Pease witnessed the tragedy, made sketches and landed a job on the Oregonian. Later he spent six years as editor of the Pacific Monthly, during which its circulation jumped from 40,000 to over 100,000, when it was sold to the Sunset in 1912.

From there, he came East with his artist-wife, Nell Christmas McMullin, frequently exhibiting their paintings. The National Academy of Art hung his portrait of Henry Rankin Poore— "I've never dared try 'em since," Pease sheepishly admits.

In 1940, he demonstrated political cartooning in the main gallery of the New York World's Fair. In that year, Paramount News animated his cartoon on conscription as one of the outstanding cartoons of the year.

Portrait of Tex Rickard
Landing in the East from his Pacific Monthly stint, Pease started a cartoon syndicate. But the Newark News' then managing editor, John W. Maynard, taken with his work, offered him the plum of staff cartoonist. One of his early contributions to the paper was the now-famous portrait of Tex Rickard standing at a bar in Nome, Alaska, with a wood-burner in the background. Lute drew it from memory, just as others he had drawn of Rex Beach, Sir Henry M. Stanley of Dr. Livingston fame and countless such personalities.

"It's 34 years ago since I've come to the News," Pease smiles contentedly. "And I want you to know I've never had to draw a cartoon contrary to my own convictions—except once—and I think that's a remarkably happy record."

That one exception was rather amusing. The late Wallace M. Scudder, founder and publisher of the News, was a kindly man with a keen sense of justice and a soundness of judgment that kept him master of his own emotions and guarded against any exercise of prejudice. He greatly resented Teddy Roosevelt's biting criticisms of Woodrow Wilson early in the World War although the News had supported Teddy during his own regime.

"One day Mr. Scudder said, 'Lute, I wonder if you can work out a cartoon on Roosevelt expressing what I feel about his attitude,' proceeding to give a complete description of his feelings.

"Well, Teddy to me, as to most Westerners, was something of a demi-god, and I instinctively knew such a cartoon would be a mistake. Why couldn't I manage to prove it?' I did, by simply drawing a savage, bitter cartoon exactly in line with the publisher's blueprint. He was delighted.

"Sitting back in his chair, the drawing in his hands, he chuckled, 'Just what I wanted, Lute, but I'll hold it here on my desk a few days till the right time comes to use it.' The right time never came."


This was the year he won the Pulitzer for "Who Me?" But you knew that!
Hi Lyn --
Oh, heck, you betcha. Just slipped my mind for a mere moment!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg

Phila Webb was a fixture in the kids' section of the Brooklyn Eagle along with her usual collaborator Jane Corby. We first met this pair of ladies when I covered Cat o' Nine Lives. On today's feature, however, Webb worked alone or at least took sole credit except for one short sequence.

The Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg was the tale of a pair of rag dolls in a bizarre fairy tale land. Sort of Raggedy Ann and Andy meet Alice in Wonderland. The stories, always told in typeset prose, were anywhere from a handful of weeks long to epics that would go on for months.

Here are the various incarnations of the strip:

Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg 4/27 - 11/9/1924
Rhoda and Roger Ragg in Chinatoyland 1/4 - 3/8/1925
Rhoda and Roger Ragg in Storyland 5/10 - 7/12/1925
Rhoda Ragg's Wanderings 4/18 - 6/6/1926
Those Raggs (with Jane Corby) 8/4 - 9/25/1929
Remarkable Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg 1/4/1931 - 6/26/1932
The Ragg Book 7/3/1932 - 3/26/1933
The Raggs at School 4/2 - 6/18/1933
The Raggs at Camp 6/25 - 9/17/1933
Ragg Adventures 9/24/1933 - 2/4/1934
The Ragg Storybook 2/11 - 2/25/1934


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Monday, May 18, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Bela Lanan, Court Reporter

Decision in the Strange Case of

"The Crime Factory"

"REVERSED!" -- Sally Matson, self-confessed violator of the prohibition law that existed at that time was freed of the charge and released from custody. It was a startling reversal of the lower court's decree, and one that created much comment, both pro and con.

Mrs. Matson's only plea was that she was entrapped into selling the liquor to the soldiers through the instigation of the government's agents. She further claimed and proved that they came to her place for the sole purpose of trapping her into the commission of the offense.

Mrs. Matson was guilty and yet, strange to say, she went free, and here's the reason! The court said: "The government of this country is not engaged in the manufacture of criminals, and when one of our officers persuades a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime, we find it abhorrent to our sense of decent administration of the law. In cases of this kind, the courts have always been inclined to say that a crime thus induced does not support a conviction."

This is a true case. Reference of citation may be had by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to "Bela Lanan, Court Reporter."

Starting next week:
The Strange Case of The Woman Who Talked Too Much
Don't miss it -- follow it daily in this newspaper.

Despite the odd name and the tiny syndicate that offered it, Bela Lanan Court Reporter appeared in a quite respectable number of papers. The strip was syndicated by the Carlile Crutcher Syndicate, which was the distribution company for the Louisville Courier-Journal (Crutcher was an editor of the paper).

The strip was originally titled You Be The Judge when it first appeared on July 6 1936, but apparently someone else had that name tied up, so it was renamed to the listed title on October 5 of that year. Despite the name change, some of the marketing material for the strip continued to use the original title for years afterward. As an interesting bit of trivia regarding the title, I don't believe Mr. Lanan was ever actually heard from in the strip, though presumably the stenographer that can often be seen in the Saturday episode is our title character.

The strip retold court cases in the space of each week's six episodes, and on Saturdays the final disposition of the case was given in a text column. Our sample above is a pretty typical example of the type of narrative used throughout the life of the strip. The example is, I think, particularly a propos since Obama has been excoriated lately for citing "empathy" as a quality he'd like to see in his Supreme Court candidate. Without empathy, there might be no exceptions made for entrapment in law, and Sally Matson would be in prison for taking pity on some tired soldiers.

The writer, L. Allen Heine, and artist Robert Wathen, have no other credits I've been able to find.

Bela Lanan lasted until at least June 1941, perhaps a few months more.

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me by Carlos Altgelt that the origin of the name Lanan in the title likely derives from reporter William Lanahan, who collected stories about interesting court cases; Heine was in possession of his court case files and used them as the basis for the strip. See this post for more.


The previous holder of "You Be the Judge" was probably the Saturday Evening Post. I used to read their legal feature as a kid, and I believe that was its title.

Insofar as entrapment goes, as presented the police in this case really did set out to "manufacture a criminal." They don't seem to have any reason to get the old lady...perhaps she had been reported before for handing out booze?

I wonder what on earth prompted them to use the name "Bela Lanin." During the 1930s how could readers not think of Bela Lugosi? Maybe this was Lugosi's evening job. I thought it might be an anagram, but I didn't come up with anything. Maybe it really was the name of a court reporter!
Hi Smurf --
Great minds think alike. I too teased around with that name a bit thinking that it had to be an anagram.

I think the first strip in the sequence is trying to give us the impression that the old lady was under serious suspicion, but no specifics are given. And since the story was set during prohibition, she shouldn't have had any beer at all, though as early as it was in that ridiculous experiment she could very well have had some reserves from before the law went into effect.

My dad was Robert Wathen, the artist for this strip. I have a box full of the original drawings in my basement. I don't know what the source of Bela Lanin was either, but he told me he found characters to draw into the strip by visiting bars in downtown Louisville. Lanin may have been one of them, but I never talked to my dad about that name. He did tell me that the strip languished after its very good Jewish salesman stopped selling it in syndication. He said some of the salesman's family and friends pointed out to him that the strip's sponsor, Bayer, was a German company which did business with a government which wasn't friendly to his relatives in that country. So he quit, and they never found a salesman that could keep it in syndication.
would like to know if: robert wathen is your father/did he paint the pendennis club louisville 1962? i have one of the paintings , would like info on him. it is beautiful
dixie klinger reynoldsburg ohio thanks
I believe I have a painting by your dad, also. It is titled "Horse Laundry Churchill Downs." I got it through my grandfather who was president of the Mulligan Advertising agency in Louisville. It is beautiful, also. My grandfather must have connected with your father through the agency.In those days adverising art was done by real artists. Just wanted you to know that your dad's art is still being enjoyed. Corydon, IN
Leslie "Allen" Heine (1883 - 1959) was a stockbroker in 1910, advertising from the mid-1910s to the mid-1920s, when he became disabled. Also wrote a couple of books and some sheet music.
We have an oil portrait of my husband's grandfather that was painted by Robert Wathen in 1945. For many years it hung in the Bank of St. Helens. It came to the family when the bank was bought out.
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Sunday, May 17, 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.


Nice one. I think this is a good one to get people checking in. Let's see if I can send some folks your way!
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