Thursday, September 24, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Pingos

Clark Watson's only known contribution to newspaper strip history is this rare item, The Pingos. It was a delightful fantasy romp in which a couple of kids, Willy and Winnie, get involved with two societies of weird buglike characters. The Pingos, the good guys, live up in the clouds in a land called Pingolia. The Smigs, their constant adversaries, live underground.

The beautifully designed two-tier daily strip originated in Bernarr MacFadden's notorious New York Evening Graphic sometime in 1930, originally titled The Pingos and the Smigs. It was an attempt to make the Graphic more family-friendly by appealing to kids. Of course there was no way that any parent with an ounce of sense would let a kid get hold of a copy of the 'porno-Graphic'. This was late in the life of the Graphic, and in 1931 all their remaining strips were sold off to the New York World's Press Publishing syndicate, which continued The Pingos.

Press Publishing had slightly better luck syndicating the strip, but it was still in very few papers. In 1932 they decided to revamp the strip in the standard daily format, which effectively eliminated the lovely design work that made the strip so appealing and failed to bring about the additional sales that were the object of the change. The strip apparently ended its run on August 6 1932 just as Willy was about to rescue the Pingo queen from those rotten Smigs. Has anyone seen any later strips?

Clark Watson apparently went into the animation business in the 1940s; I found a smattering of credits at some of the lesser studios.


This stuff never fails to amaze me. I could have sworn (at first glance) that this was a work by one of the better underground cartoonists of the early 1970's. A two-tiered strip like this was a great idea, and after looking at this, I have to wonder why it wasn't tried more often.
What a cool strip!
Wow, I just found your post--I own the original art for the first strip you posted (bought on eBay for pennies, just based on how it looked, since neither I nor the seller had any information about the strip). I'm glad I read Watson's (almost illegible) signature correctly...
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Our Moving Pictures

The name T.E. Powers is often invoked with snickers these days; cartooning fans say his style was childish and I've even heard it said that he was the world's worst cartoonist. I am a vigorous dissenter on that score. I think Powers was a fabulous stylist. Yes, one of his several styles was intentionally naive, and yes, he did use stick figures on occasion (on his famed Joys and Glooms characters). One of these days I've got to put together a post or two showing some of his gorgeous work from the 1900's though -- his clean-line style of that era will, I'm confident, stop his detractors in mid-derision.

Powers rarely invaded the Sunday color section of the Hearst papers, where he was employed doing a daily comic strip for two decades. Powers did, however, create filler strips for the Sunday section when called on to do it. Most of his Sunday contributions were not seen in New York. They were produced specifically to send out to client papers to fill in when a half-page ad ran in the New York American.

Our Moving Pictures is an exception to the rule -- it ran in the New York American from April 10 to August 14 1910. In this series Powers riffs on silent films by doing pantomime strips. It is interesting to note that later "movie strips" like Minute Movies et al., even though they were in the days of silent films, talked up a storm. What's with that? Powers is the only one who got it right! Hmmph.


This one panel has more skill and pure, natural motion in it than practically anything I can think of. I mean, does ANYONE these days really appreciate how difficult it is to draw ordinary people doing ordinary things??? Great choice for a sample. Thanks Allan.
Apologies ... I meant, "This one PAGE ..."
I like the style, too, but what's that on the woman's head?
I assumed they were bobbypins.
I've seen lots worse art than this in old strips. I agree with Mr. Sleestak: the page shows a nice appreciation of everyday motion.

The silent movie theme reminds me of George Carlson's "movies" in Judge. His too were silent. Funny, until you pointed it out, it never occurred to me that the talkies hit the comics long before they did the movie houses.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Bugs

The early years of home radio, the days when pop and Junior would sit around endlessly rewiring and tuning their homebrew crystal sets in the evening, spawned a lot of features vying for a place on the newspaper's radio pages. The radio page proved not to be as big a circulation builder as expected because few people really wanted the techie articles that were its staple. Those that were building radios preferred to buy magazines that covered the subject in depth. The features created especially for the newspaper radio pages thus came and went pretty quickly, too. Bugs is one of the longer-lived ones.

NEA offered this once-a-week strip under the initial direction of syndicate stalwart Roy Grove. Grove had a pleasing style and a pretty good sense of humor that was put to the test by coming up with endless variations on gags about building and tuning radios. The strip started on March 12 1924, and Grove signed off on November 5 1925. Irving S. Knickerbocker took up the gauntlet and continued the strip until April 7 1926, when he wriggled out of the assignment by starting a new strip, The Papers Say. Next up at the plate was Charles D. Small, whose Mudd Center Folks panel got the shaft so that he could take over Bugs. After a little less than a year, Small handed the assignment off to George "Swan" Swanson, whose first appearance was on February 16 1927. (Oddly enough, this is the same pair who did the opposite hand-off on the Salesman Sam strip.)

On June 22 1927 a mystery man by the name of Sefcik took over. NEA seemed awfully confused about the creator of Bugs at this point (who could blame them?) -- during Sefcik's short tenure the title bar on Bugs tried to credit, at least once each, every other cartoonist who had worked on the strip.

The credit conundrum just got worse as the strip finally wound down. On August 10 1927 Don Wootton took over, but his strips were credited to Sefcik for the first few weeks! Poor Sefcik finally got his due; all he had to do was quit. Finally someone at NEA decided they'd had enough of this foolishness and the feature was retired on September 7 1927.

By the way, all the dates given above are -- hmm, what's a good way to put this -- 'creative interpretations'. NEA distributed the Bugs strip once a week with their package, but it was up to the client newspaper when they were going to run the feature. Those with weekly radio pages would run it on whatever day that was, those without one pretty much threw it in as space permitted. The dates cited above are all Wednesdays. That doesn't mean I found a paper that ran the strip consistently on Wednesdays, or any other day of the week for that matter. I just picked a good day of the week (Wednesday seems a fine day for a radio page don't you think?) and 'normalized' all the divergent dates I had to use from a dozen or so different papers. Even in comic strips, sometimes you just have to massage the raw data a little.


Hello, Allan---When the very first radio networks formed, the announcers would rattle off all the stations in the chain at the start of their programs, as in the top example of BUGS. When there became just too many stations, NBC simply created their famous three-note chime signature. The joke in the strip of course, is that the boob thought he was picking up all these far-off stations, always an important goal in the cat's-whisker era. ----Cole Johnson.
Ah, I get it! Still not all that funny, but I get the joke now!

Special greetings to the creator of
Stripper's Guide .
is very good your web page.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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