Saturday, January 02, 2010


Herriman Saturday

Tuesday, October 1 1907 -- Joe Gans, lightweight champion, has decided to retire and hand off his crown to the last man he fought, George Memsic. As alluded to in Herriman's cartoon, the title came with strings attached -- Memsic had to promise to take on all comers, including black fighters. Gans' retirement would ultimately turn into a mere leave of absence. Even at the time it was recognized as an attempt to stir up interest and bigger purses rather than any real desire to put the gloves away for good.

Wednesday, October 2 1907 -- Usually my LA Examiner photocopies cut off much of the articles associated with Herriman's cartoons, but here's a rare case where the whole article was preserved, so enjoy C.E. Van Loan's article describing the Angels' prospects for the final weeks of the baseball season. And yes, this florid prose is pretty representative of how most newspaper sportswriters of the day plied their trade.


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Friday, January 01, 2010


Happy New Year!

Krazy Kat special drawing found by Cole Johnson in the Des Moines Capital of New Year's Day 1923.

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Thursday, December 31, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Life Story of Richard Nixon

In the fall of 1955 President Eisenhower suffered a massive heart attack that left the nation wondering if Vice President Richard Nixon would take over the office. Newspapers debated over whether Nixon, already a divisive name in politics, was fit to be president.

News-based comic strips were nothing new in 1955, in fact NEA and the Associated Press produced closed-end strips about major issues on a pretty regular basis. King Features, however, rarely used the form. They broke with this tradition to produce The Life Story of Richard Nixon, a hagiographical portrait of a politician already reviled in some quarters for his Communist witch hunts. Of course this was back in the days when many newspapers were still openly partisan, so Republican papers would have had no qualms about using it.

Or so you'd think. I've never seen this series printed in a newspaper, nor does it turn up in searches on Newspaper Archives or Google News Archive. I only know about its existence because it exists in proof form in the collection of Cole Johnson.

The 6-strip series was drawn by A.S. Packer (who, I assume, is not editorial cartoonist Fred Packer) and the writer is uncredited. The suggested running dates are not on the proofs, so I can only take my best guess that the series was released in the fall of 1955. Has anyone found this series actually running in a newspaper?


I don't believe we yet live in an era without partisan newspapers, but we do live in a climate where the new york times, newsweek and the washington post are sold to us as even-handed, reasonable and accurate. Maybe if obama and his pals can stay in office long enough, maybe they can subsidize our ailing journalism industry and then we'll truly have a bright new non-partisan age where all papers will speak in one voice. Oh joy! When there's none of those evil differences of opinion, we'll be in utopia!
Here's a biography by his daughter.
The sentence "In 1943, Packer returned to NYC to become the feature illustrator for the Hearst Organization until he retired in 1985" works for him doing this 1955 strip.
Daughter never says what the "A.S." stands for and, amazingly, even the Social Security Death Index lists him as "A. S. Packer".
It seems his full name is Abram Shore Packer however.
Funny how the "liberal media" bashers always sign themselves "anonymous." All those anonymouses are indeed working hard for a day without those "evil differences of opinion," and with some success: just check out Fox News, CNN, and the Three Majors.
I can't believe his second name was Milhous! I thought that was something The Simpsons had made up. Or is it a kind of compound last name? *learning things about the USA through the medium of comics*
It is indeed an unusual name. I googled around and discovered it was the last name of several relatives (uncle, grandmother) who came from Pennsylvania Dutch backgrounds.

The name origin sites say it's a variation on the English name "Millhouse," which was originally attached to people living at mills. There are a lot of Milhouses out there, too. Not that it matters any, but it's interesting.

A bit of trivia: Richard Nixon's mother was born near Butlerville in southeastern Indiana. Nearby is an old German town called Millhousen. That's probably no coincidence.

Terence Hanley
Hello, Allan---I wouldn't exactly call Nixon's efforts "witch hunts", as that would emply a fruitless, foolish endevor searching for imaginary foes. He was responsible for bringing down Alger Hiss, a pretty impressive result. Nixon could dine out on his conservative credentials for ever more on his early anti-communist efforts on behalf of this country, but once he got into the white house, he certainly didn't act conservative. (Gigantic new beurocracies, price controls). ---Cole.
Hi Cole --
How many thousands of innocent lives were irreparably harmed or even completely ruined in the pursuit of a few small-fry spies, and, far more often, people of conscience who had merely been open to a different form of government in the depression 1930s? The imprisonment of Hiss, far from an "impressive result" is a prime example of why I used the term 'witch hunt'. The government's case consisted primarily of the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a questionable source if there ever was one, and a typewriter that has since been pretty well proven to be a rigged-up later model. Hiss may well have been a spy for all I know, but the government's Swiss cheese case shows they were willing to do most anything to fan the flames on behalf of Nixon and the other Commie-hunters, facts be damned. That's a witch-hunt.

And if I thought for one second that Nixon, Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and the rest of the Commie hunters did it because they truly saw a threat to the country, it might come closer to being forgivable. But they all did it seeking publicity and power, and they couldn't care less how many innocent lives they ruined in the process. Scumbags, every one of them, in my humble opinion.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Plunk Family

Hy Mayer was a very highly regarded cartoonist of the late 19th and early 20th century. His work was frequently seen in the humor magazines Puck and Life, and when he did newspaper cartooning it was always treated like a bit of a special event -- the presence of a Mayer cartoon in a newspaper was usually a highlight of advance advertising. He rarely drew any sequential strips, much preferring large single panel cartoons and collections of vignettes, both forms represented above. His very modern style had an air of sophistication yet was never high-brow.

Mayer did quite a bit of work for newspapers in the first decade of the 20th century, and his very first identifiable titled series was The Plunk Family, created for the Pulitzer organization in 1900 on the occasion of that year's Paris Exposition. The series ran from May 6 to July 1 1900, but I don't know if all the installments related to the World's Fair or not.

In the 1910s Mayer shifted his focus to animation and produced film cartoons well into the 1920s.

Tip of the hat to Cole Johnson who supplied the scans from this series. Thanks Cole!


Just bumped into this are doing great work here Allan!

You haven't, by any chance , ever heard from Peter Arno's granddaughter have you. Thirty years ago she was a Syracuse University student- a bright ,vivacious wonderful gal.
Sorry, don't think so.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Leonardo

Leonardo was an offering of the Artists & Writers Syndicate that ran from July 26 1976 to March 19 1977 as both a Sunday and daily. The Washington-based syndicate, headed by Phil Seitz, was never more than a niche player in comics -- I know of only one other comic strip they handled, Pluribus.

Leonardo looked like it had a chance at being a real winner. The highly stylized, sophisticated art instantly grabs your attention; a real standout on the comics page. The plot is a slight updating of Wizard of Id -- where that strip had a medieval backdrop, Leonardo moves us up to the Renaissance, but both strips often have their characters acting as if they are in today's world.

Leonardo's gags are quintessential 70's, and are the only weakness of the strip (though a rather important one). Like many other features of the day the subjects of women's lib, disco, dieting, fashion and such are overused, and this feature does little to spice them with any originality.

The strip was the creation of Phil Collins, who despite being a superb cartoonist seems to have popped out of nowhere to do this feature, and then just as quickly disappeared once more. I guess he found his musical career in Genesis more rewarding (kidding). If anyone knows anything about our mystery cartoonist please share!


I am looking for a comic that I saw around 1990 that was titled "HamCat" subtitle: "Because cats love ham and kids love finding them in it." It included I thnk 6 illustrations of how to wrap a cat in ham slices and the final one of the kids unrolling it. It was one of the funniest things and have been trying to find it an cannot.

Thanks for any help.
Hello, bman4-----This sounds like the 1980's B.Kliban Cat feature the Register & Tribune syndicated. ---Cole Johnson
Thanks for sharing this Leonardo strip; very interesting. Phil Collins artwork (especially his women) reminds me of the art on Bullwinkle & Rocky.
I am Phil Collins daughter, my Dad died Oct. 2018. And yes he did pursue his musical career after the strip ended, on the keyboards. Great review, thankyou, he would have agreed with it as do I.

Cindy Collins

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Monday, December 28, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Strange Adventures of Pussy Pumpkin and her Chum Toodles

Thank goodness for cut and paste. If I had to type in the fershlugginer title of today's obscurity more than once I doubt I'd have the energy left to talk about it.

The Strange Adventures of Pussy Pumpkin and her Chum Toodles was by Grace Drayton, who at the time was working under her married name of Wiederseim. This is Drayton's second newspaper strip series, unless you count it as a continuation of her first, Naughty Toodles, which ended just a few weeks earlier. The strip ran from August 2 1903 to January 10 1904 in the Hearst newspapers.

Toodles, obviously, continues from the earlier strip, but here the spotlight also falls on her owner/companion Pussy Pumpkin. The companions engaged in fairy tale adventures that displayed Drayton's subversive genius for pleasing both parents and kids:

Parent (after a cursory look-see): Ah, this is fine reading for my precious little Priscilla. Nothing like those horrid Katzie rascals. Just a sweet story about a little girl and her kitty helping out poor Mr. Alligator.

Priscilla (after a full reading): This is bully! That alligator just tried to eat that sap kid and her alley cat, and now the elephant's gonna break every bone in his body swingin' him like Hans Wagner. Me for more of this!

Although this was very early in Drayton's career, note that Pussy Pumpkin was already a prototypical Campbell's Soup kid, as would be most every kid she ever drew throughout her career. Drayton would gain lasting fame for her iconic contribution to 20th century advertising shortly after this series ended -- either in 1904 or 1906 depending on who you believe.

A tip of the hat to Steven Stwalley for the sample of this strip!


There are some examples (black and white scans) at the Library of Congress's Chronicling America archive of newspapers:
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Sunday, December 27, 2009


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

Two books by Jim Ivey are available at or direct from the author:

Graphic Shorthand: Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. 128 pages, coil-bound. Lulu $19.95 plus shipping, direct $25 postpaid.

Cartoons I Liked,Jim Ivey's career retrospective; he picks his own favorite cartoons from a 40-year editorial cartooning career. Lulu $11.95, direct $20 postpaid.

Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

When ordered direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.


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