Saturday, February 27, 2010


Herriman Saturday

Friday, October 25 1907 -- Herriman makes another appearance on the editorial page, this time taking a 'glass half full' outlook regarding Wall Street shenanigans. Note the delicately drawn embossing on Uncle Sam's stein.


Hum. I can see today's wall street using this cartoon to polish their image...but the idea of Uncle Sam quaffing a beer--I don't know.
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Friday, February 26, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Gink and Dink

Gink and Dink may be an obscurity, but it's certainly a far-roaming one. It was originally created by Charles A. Voight for the Boston Traveler when that paper got the urge to become a syndicate. Gink and Dink was one of the earlier features peddled by the Traveler's State Publishing Company. It debuted in the home paper on October 24 1908 and continued there until May 31 1910, presumably when it (finally) became obvious to Mr. Voight that the paper's syndication attempt was a monumental flop despite offering some pretty neat features.

Voight then left for New York where he placed Gink and Dink at the New York Evening Globe. It began there on December 14 1910 but only lasted until December 31st. I guess Voight didn't like working for the Globe.

A few months later it popped up at the New York Evening Mail. It started there on April 3 1911 and was soon also seen in other papers, presumably syndicated by Associated Newspapers. It ran in tandem with several other Voight efforts for a very respectable run through February 5 1914. Interestingly enough, the Boston Traveler, where it had originated, ran the feature in syndication.

Although this feature did end in 1914, some might say it was just put up on blocks for a major retooling. Just a few months later Voight returned with a feature called Petey Dink, featuring a little fellow reminiscent of the Dink character in the original series. This strip, though, had Petey acting as straight-man to an unending parade of gorgeous gals. Although still married, Petey's wife who had played such a major part in the original series was rarely seen in this version. Most published histories, however, blur the two features into one.

A tip of the hat to Cole Johnson for the samples. Thanks Cole!


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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Encyclopedia Brown

Since we covered Can You Solve The Mystery? last week, it seems only fair that we also spend a day with its undeniable forebear, Encyclopedia Brown.

The Encyclopedia Brown book series began in 1963, written by Donald Sobol and illustrated by Leonard Shortall. The book series continues even today, though its heyday was in its first two decades when it was a favorite of kids who ordered the books at school through the Scholastic catalogues.

The comic strip series hit the market on December 3 1978 as a Sunday and daily strip distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. Sobol was given credit as the writer though the scuttlebutt is that Elliott Caplin actually wrote the scripts for this series. Frank Bolle was tapped to provide the art. Bolle was a strange choice given his slick illustration style, so different from Shortall's folksy cartoon illustrations so associated with the book series.

The comic strip seemed mildly successful, but in the world of licensed characters that is seldom good enough. With the pie sliced thin for licensing fees apparently Encyclopedia Brown just wasn't solving the mystery of making money in this venture. The series ended on September 20 1980, a bit shy of two years in syndication.


I will never forgive this strip for replacing the Spider-Man strip (by John Romita and Stan Lee) in my local paper lo those many years ago.
While Frank Bolle draws beautifully and I'm happy to see his artwork anytime, anyplace, in my mind Encyclopedia Brown will always be drawn by Leonard Shortall. No matter how good any of the other artists are who have drawn him, it's just doesn't have the same feel. Kind of like when "The Andy Griffith Show" went to color and lost Barney.

Still, as I wrote, I'll take any chance to see Frank Bolle's work.

PS to Jim Keefe: Love your Flash Gordon art. Comic Revue and Missing Years covers are great too!
As a kid, I was a big fan of the book series. Next to comics, this was my favorite read back in the Day. I never even knew there was a comic strip based on the character until now.
I never even knew about the character..just learnt about Encyclopedia Brown from Katherine Boo's NYT interview.. my inner boy scout brings me here though am in my 30's :)
great blog..hope to be visiting more often..
btw, do these 10 strips have the complete story?
No Shaggy, this isn't the complete story of the stolen Picassos -- since these strips are in copyright we didn't run a whole story, which could be seen as going beyond fair use for review and research purposes.

Hi! I just found your guide, while i was looking up Encyclopedia Brown. I was saddened to learn that Sobol passed away last year. I had just been reading some of Sobol's "Two Minute Mysteries", and that got me thinking about one of my favorite childhood detectives (besides Frank, Joe, and Nancy). I didn't get to read any of the Encyclopedia Brown comic strips (that ran from 1978-1980) and i was wondering if you could tell me how many mysteries (including Sunday strips) were published between 79-80? I know there was a book, published in 1985, that had 49 of the comic strip mysteries mysteries in it; This book was published as "Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Comic Strips: Volume #1
(indicating that there might have been more strips to be published in a possible volume #2).

Thanks :)

Hi Jeremy --
The daily strip mysteries seemed to vary from 1-3 weeks in length, typically three weeks. The Sundays all had self-contained mysteries. I'd guess that the 1985 reprint book used the Sundays. There was only the one book that I know of that was published.

I didn't know of the comic strip either. I loved Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid! I tried to get my older kids to read them, ( they're in their 20's). I have luck with my youngest daughter who is 9. She loves them also and reads them at school. I warned her not to look at the back for the answers! I told her that I consider them to be a prerequisite to read Sherlock Holmes books. They are a bit young for a 4th grader, but IMO it teaches kids to absorb info while reading so they don't miss the "clue"! So many young kids almost "peruse" books just enough to pass a test!
Loved the Encyclopedia Brown Books when I was a kid, and was happy to discover that Donald Sobol wrote a few more of them after I had grown up, although, sadly, the new books don't have the art of Leonard Shortall. I never knew there was a comic strip. Now I'll have to see if I can find them.
Do you know what a physical copy of Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Comic Strips #1 would be worth? I found one a while back in nearly perfect condition and now wonder if it would be worth selling. I can't find any information on it though.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


News of Yore 1929: A Miscellany of Short Items

Artist Signs with Western Syndicate
(E&P 10/19/29)
H.V. Heide, an artist formerly employed by the Vanderbilt newspapers in California, is a new member of the art department of the Seattle Star. He serves the Star and Western Features, a feature service organized by the Scripps-Canfield newspapers. Mr. Heide will divide the work with Sam Groff, formerly a police reporter for the Star, who is devoting his time largely to comic line work for the Star and Western Features.

Ripley Feature Expanded
(E&P 9/21/29)
A full black and white page of Robert Ripley's "Believe It or Not" feature will be released by King Features Syndicate October 20 for Sunday papers. This page supplements the regular daily feature.

Syndicate Bushmiller Color Page
(E&P 9/14/29)
A colored comic page by Ernie Bushmiller, comic artist for the New York Evening World, titled "Fritzi Ritz," will make its appearance October 6. The page will be syndicated by the New York World Syndicate.

Hill Writes Talkie
(E&P 9/14/29)
Thomas Hill, formerly staff artist for the Cleveland News and Cleveland Plain Dealer and for seven years art director of the Central Press Syndicate, is the author of a talkie, "Black and White Clown," a 'behind the scenes' story of the life of a newspaper artist. The play will go into production shortly.
[Anyone know if this was ever released?]

To Issue Comic in Colors
(E&P 8/3/29)
A new weekly color page of "Tailspin Tommy," daily comic strip handled by Bell Syndicate, Inc., is being prepared for distribution starting October 6.


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Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Strip Teasers: Bringing Up Father From Sea to Shining Sea

Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea

IDW Publishing, 2009
Hardcover, 11" x 10", 277 pages, $50
ISBN 978-1600105081

What a wonderful treat to have two high quality reprint books of George McManus' masterwork available after so many years with not a peep from Jiggs. First there was NBM's reprinting of the first two years of the series, both historic and wildly entertaining, and now IDW enters the market with arguably some of the very best of the strip in its greatest era, the mid-30s to mid-40s.

Being a big fan of McManus I'm thrilled with both books, of course. Not only that but I had the privilege of working on both, a thrill in itself. For the IDW book I did the restorations on the majority of the dailies, a job which only increased my admiration for McManus' superb clean-line style.

This whopping fat book reprints not only the famous cross-country sequence of the strip from late 1939 through mid-1940 but also the balance of 1939. While the tour sequence is justly famous, I'm glad editor Dean Mullaney chose also to reprint what might unjustly be called more mundane material from earlier in the year. 1939 is a great example of how humor strips operated back in the days when the adventure strip was king. Instead of strict gag-a-day material, Bringing Up Father and most humor strips weaved the gags into storylines. In 1939 we have the arrival of Jiggs' grandson providing comedy fodder in a long story, plus great short sequences like Jiggs trying to rid himself of an always-snoozing brother of Maggie's and a hilarious series with Jiggs waiting for Maggie to get off an interminable phone call. McManus had a gift for juxtaposing the reasonable and the surreal in these sequences that is magical to behold.

If the book were sold on infomercials this would be the point at which Ron Popeil would gleeful tell you "... but wait, there's more!" Not only do you get a year and a half of Bringing Up Father dailies, but we're throwing in all the Sundays from the same period! Of course the tour sequence just wouldn't be complete without those glorious Sundays, a few of which you've undoubtedly encountered in survey-type books. The Sundays, restored here to their original brilliance, are a joy to behold. Zeke Zekley, McManus' assistant and a master in his own right, claimed that one of the Sundays took them two weeks to produce and I don't doubt it for a second. They are not to be missed.

Rounding out the book we have two intros, by Brian Walker and Bruce Canwell, which supply some interesting nuggets, a subject index by Randall Scott, and a sampling of 11 strips from the Bringing Up Father "Remember When" sequence of Jiggs' and Maggie's younger days in the Irish ghetto (a series which richly deserves reprinting, too).

My impression is that, despite reasonably strong sales, NBM has no immediate plans for a follow-up to their Bringing Up Father book, so if you're a McManus fan then you really need to show the folks at IDW that you want more of this material. This McManus fan certainly encourages you to buy multiple copies!


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Monday, February 22, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Bunny Bright, He's All-Right

E. Warde Blaisdell was a regular contributor to Harper's and St. Nicholas magazines, and also occasionally to Life. His cartooning and children's illustration credits all seem to be from the late 1890s to mid-1900s, so I don't know if he switched careers or if there's more to his cartooning output that I'm missing.

Anyhow, here's his only known foray into newspaper comic strips, Bunny Bright, He's All-Right. The star, who seems to have an acne problem that comes and goes, is pretty closely patterned on Br'er Rabbit. He cons other animals into doing things for him. Not much originality on display here.

The strip ran in the Boston Herald's comic section from May 6 to November 11 1906, more than enough time for the formula to wear awfully thin. Bunny Bright must have impressed someone, though, because a collection of some of the strips was published by T.Y. Crowell & Company under the rather generic title Animal Serials.

Tip of the hat to Cole Johnson for the scans. Thanks Cole!


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Sunday, February 21, 2010


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.


Heard the story many times from Jim and it always makes me smile. Of course, Jim has that effect on me.
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