Saturday, April 23, 2011


Herriman Saturday

January 24 1908


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Friday, April 22, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Your History

By far the most popular and long-lived of the historical/inspirational features of the black papers was Your History by pioneering historian J.A. Rogers. It seems to have been syndicated out of the Pittsburgh Courier but ran in quite a few black papers across the country over the years. Rogers was much admired for his research into black history, but  sometimes came under fire, or at least gentle ridicule, for his very far-reaching definition of 'blackness'. He considered most Middle Easterners, for instance, to be black.

Your History was a delightful and yet instructive mix of Ripley's-style items and more serious history. The feature began on November 10 1934, with art initially by George L. Lee. Lee wasn't much of an artist, or at least was a bad choice for a feature that depended on realistic illustrations. He doggedly stuck with it, though, until July 31 1937 when the feature went on a long hiatus.

On November 16 1940 the feature returned to the pages of the Courier under the more professional collaborative brush of Samuel Milai. Milai was better able to handle the art chores, though even he was much more at home with more traditional cartooning.

The title of the feature changed to Facts About the Negro in 1962, for unknown reasons (my guess is that the title change signaled that the feature had gone to reprints). Rogers died in 1966, but the feature was carried by the Courier regularly until February 13 1971, and popped up occasionally after that.

Your History is a rarity among black newspaper features in that it was actually published in book form. Rogers self-published quite a few books of his prose work, so it was only natural that he also published Your History in book form as well. The first book, titled Your History, was published in 1940, and Facts About the Negro around 1960 (it carried no publication date).


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Thursday, April 21, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Guiding Lights

Another in our series spotlighting black-produced historical/inspirational features, Guiding Lights covers both bases in these two examples. This is Richard Brent's only known series and was produced for the New York Amsterdam News from August 6 1938 to March 30 1940. Brent had a great style, and frankly calling these cartoons might just be stretching the definition a tad. My source scrapbook had just these two examples, but they are very effective in showing both his excellent straight illustration work as well as an appealing art deco sensibility.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: What American Histories Omit

 What American Histories Omit told Chicago Defender readers about the contributions of black men and women in the history of our country.  The strip was intended to give readers a sense of belonging and pride in the accomplishments of their race in building this country, a subject completely absent from the school curriculum in those days. The look of the feature was intentionally patterned closely after the mainstream newspaper hit Highlights of History.

Writer Nathan Hopkins and cartoonist Leslie M. Rogers produced the weekly feature from March 10 1928 to April 13 1929 for the Defender.


I have a warm spot in my heart for the Chicago Defender, not simply because of its service to the black community, but because The Cisco Kid, Brick Bradford, Secret Agent Corrigan, and Big Ben Bolt all found a much needed home in its pages during the 1960's. The Defender gave me my first real taste of all of these strips.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Did You Know

For the rest of the week we'll be looking at some features from black papers. They are all related by being about Afro-American history, and further related by all the samples having come from a scrapbook put together by some young newspaper clipper in the 1940s. Big tip of the hat to Cole Johnson who put me wise to this scrapbook being advertised on eBay.

Our first feature is Did You Know, a panel by that great girlie cartoonist E. Simms Campbell. The circumstances of its debut are interesting. It was one of three features (four if you count a revival of an earlier one that was brought back) that he started in the same April 6 1940 issue of the Amsterdam (NY) News. Campbell essentially seems to have taken on the challenge of producing the bulk of their comics page, with an adventure strip, a humor strip, and an Ollie Harrington-style panel cartoon rounding out the offering. What's even odder is that April 1940 just happens to be the very same month that Campbell's daily Cuties panel began with King Features.

Was Campbell trying to see just how much he could produce? Was he sloughing off a bunch of unsold tryouts to the News? Was the News getting rid of a bunch of old Campbell work they had on file? I dunno, but all four features ended abruptly after eight episodes on May 25 1940.


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Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm Back

Hi folks. Sorry for the long silence. Been going through some personal issues that left me not all  that enthusiastic about talking comics strips for awhile, combined with devoting a lot of time to my software business, and (hopefully) near to final touches on my forthcoming book.

Regarding the book, I've been asked a lot about the publication date, originally cited on Amazon as November of last year, and apparently pre-ordered by quite a few of you (for which, MUCH thanks!). Yes, the book is still most emphatically a 'go'. The challenge of converting my huge, and somewhat complex, database of comic strip information into printed form has been a greater task than my editor or I expected. However, the vast bulk of those problems have been ironed out and things are looking pretty darn good. The front matter of the book has all been put to bed, and the cross-indexes don't seem to present much of a challenge. Right now we're trying to figure out what we'll do for the book cover, so we're definitely in the home stretch.

Although I don't have a revised publication date from the publisher at this time,  I'm going to go out on a limb and take a guess that a late summer or fall release is likely.

Glad to see you back. Hope everything is going a bit better. We missed you.
Put Little Iodine on the cover!
Over my dead body, Henry! However, now that you mention it, if anyone has contacts with major newspaper cartoonists who might be willing to have their character(s) appear on the cover I'd love to hear from you.

Being as how the book has an extremely modest budget, with no budget at all for licensing, the current plan is to feature only public domain material on the cover. However, it sure would be nice to have something on there that the average book-buyer might actually recognize as a newspaper comics character!

Good to have you back!
Hello, Allan---That's great news, and it's wonderful to have the GUIDE back! It's always the first thing I look at in the morning. Cover: 1}- Everyone puts the YELLOW KID on their Comic Histories---but how many have had the guts to put THE BERRYS on the cover? 2}-Piles of different comic sections, and dust (Probably only appealling to me, and the people behind HOARDERS. May scare all female buyers away.) 3}-A portrait of Ernie McGee. 4}-A picture of SAMBO ordering you to "make a noise like buying this book!" 5}-Sex sells---Howabout a nude picture of "Babe" from OZARK IKE? 6}-L-I-T-T-L-E I-O-D-I-N-E-. -----Cole J.
If you're going to focus on public domain characters, you should talk to the cartoonist Michael Deforge.He's a young, but immensely talented, cartoonist who won the Doug Wright Award last year for best newcomer. He's made use of collages of classic character collages in his work to great effect:

Just a suggestion. Love the blog and look forward to the book!
Hi AB --
Deforge certainly has a talent, but the problem is that even if the characters are drawn by other hands, we still need licensing clearance for use on the book cover.

I suppose famous comic strip characters in silhouette still need clearance, eh?
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