Saturday, April 30, 2011


Herriman Saturday

Sunday, January 26 1908


Interesting. Herriman seems to be taking the black fighters side, even as he portrays them in a derogatory manner.
It's kinda sad that Herriman - a man later revealed to have black ancestry - would depict black people that way (then again, everybody drew what were then known as Negroes or colored people in such a derogatory way in the early 20th century.)
Another stunning comic and fantastic touch-up work. Concerning the discussion about racist imagery, I would suggest an alternative interpretation ... Herriman was working with the conventions of the medium, including minstrel-type caricatures that reflect and perpetuate much of the racism of his day (and ours). The fact that he utilized these conventions to make his own statement about race and boxing is a reflection of his development as an artist and a harbinger of Krazy Kat. (I would also add that he was part of a group of Hearst newspaper writers and artists, including Tad, who relentlessly critiqued the boxing color line.)
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Friday, April 29, 2011


Mystery Strip: Marge by Russell Cole

Looking for help on this one, folks. Just received a pile of newspaper clippings. The collection focused on sports, but there were some rare strips that came along for the ride. This one above, though, I can't ID. This strip was printed in a tabloid size rotogravure section in either late September or early October 1929.

The page gives no indication of the newspaper, but most of the collection comes from New York papers, so I'm betting it's from the Evening Graphic, the Daily News or the Mirror. Many of the roto photos are credited to P & A Photos, but that doesn't help me any.

The signature is covered with bandage tape (the whole page is edged with the stuff) but with the aid of a bright light and magnifying glass I managed to determine it is by Russell Cole. I lose track of him after 1926, though, when he was doing a feature for Editors Syndicate.

So can anyone ID the newspaper and, even better, confirm that this was a series, not a one-shot? Comics rarely ran in rotogravure sections, so this one is quite the oddball.


Hello, Allan----My two pennies--The typeface here doesn't match the one used by the Daily News. It does resemble that of the Graphic, however. (The Mirror didn't have a Sunday until 1-8-32.)---Russell Cole Johnson.
Hi Cole --
There were some Graphics clippings in the collection, so it's a distinct possibility. Did the Mirror not do a Saturday roto like the Graphic did?

Somewhere I have a bound volume of Graphics rotos, so I do have a feel for them. They (not surprisingly) featured lots of scantily clad starlets. This roto page, though, is pretty chaste stuff.

From Alex Jay:

Russell Alger Cole was born in Marysville, Kansas on September 18, 1889, according to his World War I draft card. He was the oldest of two children born to John and Mollie, as recorded in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. The family of four was recorded in the 1905 Kansas State Census.

Cole's father passed away before the 1910 census. Cole lived with his mother and sister on Elm Street in Marysville; his occupation was cartoonist. He signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917. He lived at 3205 Grand Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa. He gave his occupation as newspaper artist at the Des Moines Register and Tribune. His description was tall, medium build with blue eyes and light brown hair.

Cole has not been found in the 1920 census, but his mother remained in Marysville, Kansas, and his sister, Miriam, was a teacher in Des Moines. The Morning Herald (Gloversville, NY) published, on August 27, 1921, an Associated Press story on the annual Des Moines Printers' Golf tournament. Cole was paired with a writer. The April 1922 Graduate Magazine (University of Kansas) gave his address as 2714 Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines; he was in the class of 1909. On August 8, 1924, Cole sailed from Montreal, Canada to visit England and Europe. He returned on October 31. According to the passenger list, he lived at 722 18th Street in Des Moines. In the 1925 Iowa State Census, Cole was the head of household which included his mother and sister.

The date of Cole's move to New York City is not known. Beginning in 1936 he worked in the comic book industry; a list of those credits is at the Grand Comics Database, He signed his World War II draft card on April 25, 1942. He resided at 410 Riverside Drive in Manhattan.

Cole passed away on January 27, 1967; he was buried at the Fayetteville National Cemetery in Arkansas.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Sporting Adventures of Mr. Reginald Fitz-Noodles

From the deepest recesses of Cole Johnson's collection, he has unearthed The Sporting Adventures of Mr. Reginald Fitz-Noodles. This one's so old it probably qualifies for radio-carbon dating. However, to save the expense, we'll just look at the dates printed on the pages (in Sanskrit, of course) and report that this series ran in the New York World from August 5 to September 19 1897.

This series penned at the dawn of the comic strip boom was by a fellow named Gray Parker. Though he doesn't have any other series credits, Cole tells me that he was a regular contributor to the World's Sunday section in those antediluvian days. The fellow's got a really strong art style, and he knows how to present a gag, so too bad he didn't stick with the newspaper cartooning business. Of course he would have had to learn to refrain from blasting dogs with a shotgun for comedic effect. I say, old fellow, bad show, bad show indeed.

Clarence Gray Parker was born in France in November 1847, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. A passenger list recorded his arrival, in New York City, on July 27, 1870.

In the 1880 census, he, his wife Louisa, and son Dudley, lived in Jersey City, New Jersey at 257 York Street. His occupation was artist. The census said his parents were born in England. Parker's wife passed away on May 18, 1890 according to a death notice published in the New York Times on May 20.

Parker and his son resided at the same address in the 1900 census. His occupation was illustrator. A death notice for Parker was printed in the New York Times on January 22, 1910.

Entered into rest at Belmar, N.J., Jan. 20, 1910, Clarence Gray Parker.
Funeral Sunday afternoon, Jan. 23, 1910, at 2:30 o'clock, at residence
of Isaac U. Quimby, 33 Duncan Av., Jersey City, N.J.
Good work again, Alex!-----C.J.
Just happened upon your wonderful fact-filled
celebration of my late 2nd Great Grandfather,
Clarence Gray Parker.
Thank You! I have many of his original cartoons,
oil paintings, bric-a-brac and a family picture
should you ever like to put out more info. on one
of my favorite artists!!
Elizabeth A Finkle

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Guindon

I imagine I'm far from the first person to say this, but just in case I herewith present the Holtz Prime Directive of Newspaper Comics Success:

Thou Shalt Not be a Success by Being Smarter than your Audience

It pains me to say it, but it's true. The exceptions are rare -- in fact I can only come up with two -- Pogo and maybe The Far Side. And I'm not sure about the latter. I suspect a lot of people liked it because Larsen drew cows funny.

Of course I don't mean that as a cartoonist you can't be a brilliant writer. Charles Schulz was brilliant, but he knew how to talk on his audience's level. But if Aunt Sally in Topeka is mystified by your gags you are in deep trouble. Oh sure, you can carve out a niche. Two very smart strips currently running that immediately come to mind are Zippy the Pinhead and The Dinette Set. But how many papers run them? And how often do they come in dead last in those newspaper polls to which Aunt Sally faithfully responds?

Well, Guindon is a prime example of brilliant writing that shot so far over Aunt Sally's head she didn't even hear the sonic boom when it passed.  A tiny cadre of newspaper editors ran the feature, which was self-titled by Richard Guindon. It was a brilliant daily morsel of surrealist mind-candy that on its best days (of which there were plenty) would have had Salvador Dali horking Corn Flakes out his nose at the breakfast table.
Richard Guindon was on staff at the Minneapolis Tribune when he first came up with the series. He'd been there since 1968, but the Guindon cartoon in its formal guise apparently didn't begin until sometime in 1974. At the Trib the series ran 3-4 times per week. In July 1978 the feature was picked up by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and it became a daily cartoon. In 1981 Guindon moved from the Minneapolis paper to the Detroit Free Press, and his syndicator changed to Field Enterprises. The syndication continued until 1985, never appearing in more than a handful of papers, ending its syndication with the successor syndicate to Field, News America Syndicate. Supposedly the cartoon then ran locally in the Detroit Free Press for awhile, perhaps ending in 1987, but I've not yet been able to verify that. For awhile in 1983 Guindon also did a panel titled Carp, but it may just be a part of the overall Guindon series. His wiki bio claims that there was also a Carp comic strip late in the 80s -- I haven't seen any examples of that.

If all this history of the feature seems pretty vague, it doesn't help that Guindon himself is notoriously reticent about giving a straight answer about his history. I have every one of the Guindon reprint books, in most of which he offers a bio of some sort, and yet he's hard to pin down about specifics. Of course, for pure pleasure all his books are highly recommended, even if you can't get a straight answer out of the guy. Go find the following Right Now:

Cartoons by Guindon (Quick Fox, 1980)
Guindon (Minneapolis Tribune, 1978)
Michigan So Far (Detroit Free Press, 1991)
Together Again (Andrews-McMeel, 1986)
The World According to Carp (Andrews-McMeel, 1983)

EDIT: Since this post ran I have determined that Guindon's panel (or sometimes strip) ran in the Detroit Free Press until October 2 2005.


My parents both came out of Minnesota, and they and the folks back home seemed to regard Guindon as almost a private Minnesotan joke. Never felt mystified as I sometimes was by Larson -- maybe it wasn't so much an intellectual thing as a Minnesota mindset (ice fishing, giant mosquitos, serious little boys who want a filing cabinet for Christmas...). Felt slightly betrayed when he went to Detroit.

One detail that did puzzle me: I could understand the guys with one bicycle clip on their pants, but not the teddy bear dangling from the belt like some sort of emergency device.
I remember the first time I ever saw a Guindon one-panel comic and thought, "Ok, here's something new."

I believe he was the first of the single-panel absurdist artists to to show up in a newspaper instead of a magazine. *Then* came 'The Far Side' and the rest.
He wasn't obscure in Minnesota. His comic was extremely popular. Then he left.
Some Guindon strips have stuck in my head for 30 years or so. Including:

"Carpenters turning fish boards into fish sticks."


"Things to do in case of nuclear war #8: Go to a movie."
Somewhere in my house, I have my favorite Guindon comic from my university days in the early 80's.

Two shopping carts are stuck together. The words are: It must be mating season.

I still love his humor. -Kim
I just saw him as a guest on an old 1983 episode of the Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson reading the captions of his enlarged and mounted cartoons while previous guest (a young Robert Blake) and Ed McMahon looked on.
I think the comment about a "Minnesota mindset" may be true. One of my favorite Guindon cartoons was "Why are so many small towns named after water towers?" and a lot of people I've met from outside the Midwest don't seem to get it.

LIke the above example and others mentioned here, his cartoons often didn't need a picture, e.g. "You can make as many copies of carp as you want, because carp aren't copyrighted."

By the way I believe his cartoons first appeared in the Minnesota Daily, the U of M campus newspaper.

I enjoyed his comics in the boulder paper when I was in high school in the 80s. Bought a couple of his books which got lost in boxes in my moms house, only recently thought about him again and couldn’t remember his name for several weeks. Tried googling half a dozen of his caption lines from memory and didn’t come up with a single hit—he’s one of the only things I was really into back in the day and thought was obscure which doesn’t turn out to have an avid online following now.
Funny, I think that might point to a miscalculation in your piece above: he really was aiming right at the audience depicted in his panels. It’s more the rest of us don’t appreciate how out there regular midwestern folk are...
Googling Guindon captions is hard, indeed.

I was trying to find the cartoon -- I think it was Guindon's -- captioned something like "Remote controls for traffic lights were a great idea -- until every motorist got one."
My favorite cartoon was with two people standing next to a sign saying "Not responsible for lost or stolen articles" and one says "No one person is responsible, we all share the blame"
I don't even know why I found that so funny
His first book ends with a cartoon of an older couple walking, and the woman is saying, “I not only don’t understand other cartoons—I don’t understand this one.” I wonder if he based that one on reader feedback. :)

Guindon really lost me with the whole “carp” fixation. It just wasn’t funny, and he stuck with it for ages, probably hoping for better ideas to come along and they just didn’t. It happens with a lot of comedians, musicians and writers who burn through their creative fuel early on and when they run dry, they just turn weird.
Wish I could find the one where people are sitting around randomly on stools in a gymnasium. Caption is "park board sponsored ice fishing practice"
As a Michigan expat, I also view Guindon as a bit of an inside joke that I was lucky enough to experience. Pretty formative reading for six-year-old me!
Two of my favorites are people carrying a ladder away from a sign reading “Welcome to Detroit,” with a tacked on poster beneath continuing the thought: “A great place to buy a wig.”
And a group of people, pants rolled up, standing in a lake, with little “ooph” speech bubbles rising from the water, captioned “Fish kicking,” and signed “Guindon, who doesn’t understand this cartoon.”
Guindon did wonderful work in Minnesota. He was a staff illustrator on the newspaper, so his income didn't depend on sales to newspapers. He actually starter in the 50s on the campus paper of the University of Minnesota doing a panel character called Hugger Mugger. He then went the Feiffer route for The Realist in New York City before returning to Minnesota. Besides the panel cartoon, he did regular illustrations for stories in the Minneapolis Tribune. Exhibitions of his originals were quite popular in town and sold for decent prices, yet no one outside of the Twin Cities (at the time) really cared about owning one. He had a studio fire that destroyed all his files and most of his original from the Detroit era.
"One problem with the barter method is getting the carp into the cash register."
I miss the Guindon panels we used toget from the Detroit Freep. I suspect that the general Michigan mindset does account for much of our ability to identify with his acute perception of our understanding of his genious. One of his panels that seems particularly prescient shows, the foreman of a Chinese factory crew reading an order sheet to his crew saying, "It's from America -- says 'Send more stuff.'"
When catching a carp remember to bring it into the body
The catching a carp and remember to bring it into the body has stuck with me since I first saw in The Detroit Free Press
The Guindon Carp comics ran in the San Francisco Chronicle when I was at Fresno State from ‘81-‘84 . His humor helped me survive along with great friends and teachers!
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Bill Blackbeard RIP

Bill Blackbeard has passed away at age 84. He died on March 10. This man was almost single-handedly responsible for reviving interest in the history of newspaper comic strips in the 1970s. His books were among the first I ever saw, and I suspect that's true for many of us who picked up the comic strip gene. His love of the material shone like a beacon to guide a whole new generation of fans.

I never met Bill in person, and our occasional correspondences was usually argumentative, though always civil and respectful. I rarely contacted him except to question something he'd said. I can now only regret that I never took the time to write him the gushing fan letter that he deserved. Always too embroiled in trying to get to the bottom of some fine point of comic history, we debated, we argued, we compared notes, but I never did a great job of expressing my deep appreciation for his lynchpin role in researching, archiving, and popularizing this art form that has become a big part of my life.

Goodbye, Bill, and thank you for so ably sharing with us your passion. I can only hope that you got some satisfaction that a new generation of researchers and archivers like myself have tried to take on the mantle and continue the work that you pioneered.

For a much more artfully worded and informative tribute to Blackbeard, please click over to R.C. Harvey's essay at Comics Journal (from whence I stole the image).

I was saddened to hear of Bill's passing as well. I had such great admiration for his knowledge of comic strips and pulp literature, and had the great privilige of visiting his San Francisco Academy of Comic Arts in the 1980s. It was the most amazing amalgamation of old bound volumes of newspapers I have ever seen! The collection was in every room of the old house, so big I got lost in the stacks and I had to holler to Bill for help! What a shame he didn't live to publish his history of the comic strip. He sold me photocopies of L'il Abner, Old Doc Yak, Felix the Cat and several others. His willingness to share his collection set him apart from all other comic archivists. He set an example for all of us "strippers", be generous, both with our time and our collections.
From Mark Kausler
He will be sorely, sorely missed. I have a lot of his boks and articles and learned alot as a young man about a wonderful subject which I loved, for which there wassn't much info. Blackbeard helped fill a void.
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Monday, April 25, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: J.M. Muggsby's Social Aspirations

Even when Harold MacGill wasn't working on his Hall-Room Boys strip, he was obsessing about people trying to climb the social ladder. When Hearst had him add a Sunday strip to his repertoire (he was primarily appearing in the weekday papers for Hearst) he came up with J.M. Muggsby's Social Aspirations, which played out much like Hall-Room Boys episodes except that the butt of the jokes was a middle-aged married fellow who did actually have the dough, but still couldn't get society to take an interest in him.

The strip seems to have been more of a filler than anything else. It only ran from October 13 to December 8 1907.


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Sunday, April 24, 2011


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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