Saturday, June 19, 2010


Herriman Saturday

Tuesday, November 19 1907 --  Piecing together a gossamer thin bio of Walter Hoff Seely from Google results, it seems that he was a newspaperman of some minor note with the New York World in the early oughts, then on a trip to the west in 1905 he was offered, and accepted, a job in the insurance industry in San Francisco. He also became the manager of a theatre while in the west, though presumably not the one in which he acted here since that one would have been in San Francisco. In the 1920s Seely was the editor of Success magazine.

Why the Examiner decided to make sport of Walter Hoff Seely's theatrical debut I don't know, but they had so much fun taking him to task that the accompanying article never gets around to naming the play.


He was my grandfather. He worked for William Morris (the man, before he became an agency) traveling across the country, building theaters. He came to San Francisco after the earthquake and built the Valencia Theater. The first actress to star there was Blanche Stoddard, who later married him.
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Friday, June 18, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Runaway Ruth

Probably the first of the Russell Patterson magazine cover series, Runaway Ruth started sometime in or before March and ran until June 23 of 1929. It was distributed by Hearst's International Feature Service.

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I probably should be grateful that illustrations like this do not appear in newspapers any longer, otherwise my house would be filled to the brim with them. Absolutely breathtaking. I notice even tons of comic book artists nowadays have very amateurish styles.
Artists in Patterson's day learned in the classical way, how to draw figures and objects in the realistic representational manner, from which they could simplify it to their own personal styles, to give the clean, elegant artwork that became fashionable in the early 20th century.
Today a cartoonist starts from the simplified line and has little to develop, so they mostly all draw the same way.
Yes, professional cartoonists, when they were children, often copied other cartoonists styles, then they developed a style of their own. An excellent way of learning to draw is by drawing from real life or photographs, then developing your own style from that.
In general, I think I agree with the idea that cartoonists should be privy to a traditional education in drawing. On the other hand, I wonder if such an education would have prevented us from ever knowing E.C. Segar's Popeye, with his biceps somehow located just above his wrists ... :)
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Thursday, June 17, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Dummydom

Clarence Rigby was one of those guys who seemed to work everywhere, and often had signed work appearing with multiple syndicates at the same time. Dummydom was one of his earliest continuing series; it was produced for the New York World, but at the same time he also had work appearing in the New York Herald. This is amazing to me. If he'd been moonlighting at McClure or some venue out of town, sure, but two competing New York papers. Wow! Rigby's Sunday funnies capabilities were certainly already in full flower, though he hadn't quite figured out that you draw the speech balloon after you've done the lettering, so perhaps he was really enough of a hot commodity that he could brazenly sign his work in both papers.

Dummydom's main characters are those wooden puppets with strings that make their limbs move. I know there must be a term for these -- not marionettes I suppose because these aren't nearly that complex and they have a base to keep them vertical. Anyhow, Rigby got some good mileage out of these and other types of toys making guest appearances. Sort of Toy Story for the turn-of-the-century crowd.

The feature ran in the World from November 25 1900 to May 5 1901.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!


Maybe Rigby had sold cartoons to the Herald some time in advance, and only began using them at the same time as thw World did.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Dizzy Dramas

Dizzy Dramas was the comic strip equivalent of a utility man in baseball.While the examples above are printed in the manner in which its home paper used it, in syndication it's usually seen as a page-wide single tier of panels. This format, used by only a few features, was ideal for plugging holes at the bottom of a page. In syndication Dizzy Dramas is usually seen tacked onto the bottom of Sunday color comics pages in lieu of a generic footer panel.

The strip normally used stick figures for characters and large lettering (our second example above is an unusual entry with detailed art)  so it could be easily read where it typically lurked down at the bottom of the page. The gags were simple and didn't use continuing characters. Although the feature was a daily, few papers ran it more than once a week. However, some papers would run a whole weeks worth on Sundays by pasting a strip on the bottom of each page of the Sunday comics section.

Dizzy Dramas was distributed by the Ledger Syndicate of Philadelphia, and they initially ran it in their tabloid paper, the Philadelphia Sun. The feature started there on February 7 1927, though a contemporary article in Editor & Publisher cites a start date sometime in January. Eventually the long-running strip was moved over to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, where it ended on May 2 1942. Although this was probably the end of new material, the strip was sold in reprints for many years. I've seen it appearing as late as 1957.

The strip was credited to Joe Bowers, but Cole Johnson says that F. O. Alexander told him it "was a pseudonym for a fellow with an Italian name, which I've conveniently forgotten now."


Dizzy dramas also were reused as early as 1934 and as late as 1942 by Western Newspaper Union.
The umbrella gag was reused by Stan Lee at least twice.
Hello, Allan----Going back to a 1979 interview I did with F.O.Alexander, he said that "Joe Bowers'" real name was Hugh Dini (Deeney?). -----Morale got so low at the Ledger Syndicate, that they let Bowers/Dini do the last Hairbreadth Harry Sunday! (8-13-39)-----Any info on Hugh D.?----Cole Johnson.
Hugh Dini was a famous escape artist and magician. They made a movie about him starring Tony Curtis -- surely you remember!!


You see, it's stuff like this that drive one to change your name to Joe Bowers.
Hugh Joseph Deeney was born on April 18, 1894 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hugh was the oldest of three sons born to John and Sarah, both Irish immigrants. According to Hugh's World War I Draft Registration Card, he was a self-employed artist in Chicago in 1917. In the 1920 Census, Hugh was a lodger on Manhattan's west side, and worked as an artist. In the 1930 Census Hugh had returned to Philadelphia, living with his parents; he worked as a newspaper artist. His life came to a tragic end.

Trenton Evening Times
May 12, 1943

Comics Artist Killed on Camp Rifle Range

Philadelphia, May 12 (AP).
Hugh J. Deeney, 41, Philadelphia artist, who drew
the comic strip "Dizzy Dramas" under the name
Joe Bowers, was killed accidentally yesterday on
the rifle range of Camp Blanding, Fla., the War
Department notified his family.

Hugh was actually 49 at the time of his death.
Well I'll be damned. I thought that Cole was pulling my leg.
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Monday, June 14, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: The Baby

Here's a short-lived series that appeared in the top-of-the-line version of the McClure Sunday comics section (the one with Billy Bounce, Simon Simple, etc.).The Baby ran from December 25 1904 to March 5 1905. The feature was never signed, and I tend towards it being by a cartoonist not in the usual McClure creator corral, while Cole Johnson suggests it might be Mark Fenderson's work. The ugly mug on that baby does put me in mind of Fenderson, so Cole may well be right (as usual).

Thanks to Cole for the scan!


My apologies for going slightly off topic, but this past weekend I picked up a 1930 issue of Time magazine, and they had a story in there about comic strips. The article discussed, briefly, the ghosting of "Mr. and Mrs." and also discussed a brand-new suburbia strip being started by New Yorker stalwart Rea Irwin. A panel is included. I assume you know of this article and/or the Irwin strip, but if you don't, particulars avail on request.
Hi Eric -
Rea Irvin's strip that started in 1930 was "The Smythes", syndicated by the NY Tribune. Beautifully drawn, as was anything by Irvin.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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