Thursday, May 12, 2011


A Closer Look at Detective Riley

Alex Jay sends a wonderful assortment of Detective Riley strips, an obscurity we first discussed the other day. Following are some of the many faces of the weekly dick.

Strip numbers 83 and 84, done in a pleasant semi-cartoony style. Looks a little like Ben Batsford work, but he was gainfully employed elsewhere at the time. There's something about that drawing of Private Buck in the last panel of #83 that I feel should be the big clue, that distinctive pose and the style of the face seem really familiar.

Strip number 85 welcomes in a new artist, who preferred a more realistic style. This guy used swipes for practically everything:

Strip #133, and our same swipist has taken a real shine to Alex Raymond. Is there any part of this strip that isn't a direct Raymond swipe?

In December 1937, another abrupt change. H.T. Elmo himself is now the cartoonist, and takes credit for them too (numbering obscured, probably #144 and 145). Elmo was woefully unsuited for drawing a realistic adventure strip:

In January 1938 (numbering also obscured), Elmo is still struggling away but no longer feels the need to take credit:

In February 1938 (again, number obscured) either we have another new artist, or Elmo decided to do some swiping of Chester Gould. My guess is that it is still Elmo here because of the distinctive lettering style.

Finally, here is the man himself, H.T. Elmo in a 1925 passport photo. Thanks so much to Alex Jay for submitting this interesting material!

Hello, Allan--I'm getting an Ed Whelan vibe on the later episodes.
I can see where your Wheelan vibe reverberates from, but it's Elmo for sure in my book. The eyes, the poses and even the lettering all point to Elmo for me. Duel at dawn?

Best, Allan
I guess a once-weekly strip didn't pay well enough to keep artists.

I like the layout of the first panel in the second strip. It looks as if the MP is addressing the Chinese servant! Riley in disguise?

Elmo's Gould fixation started earlier than you indicate...that sure looks like Steve the Tramp in the first strip and a typical generic Gould cop in the third.

Interesting post!
I posted this last week about the Lincoln newspaper features strips but it seems to have vanished. Other titles from their syndicate I have found are
DID YOU KNOW? by Topps
NAPPY by Irv Tirman
all running in a few papers from 1939-44.
Isn't Socko the Seadog a brit import?
I have printing plates of Sally Snickers which have the H.T. Elmo name on it. It also has Jackson for a name and H.T. Omle (Elmo backwards) which was a Iger/Eisner trick to use other pen names for them to look like they had more cartoonists than they really had. I understand that Jack Kirby did the Sally Snickers strips for H.T. Elmo along with "That's Amazing" which does not have a cartoonists name, but it looks like Kirby's work. Any corroborating information in that world of comic information you have?
Joe G
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011


News of Yore 1909: News Round-Up

All these items appeared in The Fourth Estate:

January 2: The Outcault Advertising Company, Chicago, owners of the Buster Brown comic pictures, have begun a suit for $1,824.90 against the Smith Baking Company of Kansas City. This amount is alleged to be due the plaintiffs for the exclusive use in Kansas City of the Buster Brown service, which the bakers used.

January 9: The Toledo Times has followed the example of the Boston Herald and abolished the use of comic supplements.

January 23: Elmer Bache, cartoonist of the Spokane Orator-Outburst, has given up his position and returned to New York.

January 30: T.C. McClure has retired from the active management of the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. He is succeeded by R.B. McClure, who for a number of years has been associated with him in the management of this business. Mr. McClure intends to devote his attention in the future to work of an encyclopedic nature.

February 6: Ferdinand G. Long, a well known comic artist with the New York Evening World, is the originator of a new "Billikins." He has christened his funny little model, "Bub, the Cherub of Cheer."

February 20: The Star League newspapers of Indiana, comprising the Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Muncie Stars, have resumed the colored comic supplement service with their Sunday papers. The Star papers discontinued this feature some time ago, believing that they could increase their circulation and advertising business without it.

March 6: Homer Davenport, the well known cartoonist of the New York Evening Mail, was cut by broken glass Sunday when the taxicab in which he was riding crashed into a tree in Central Park.

March 20: O.P. Williams, the cartoonist who in 1904 went from the Boston Herald to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, is again drawing cartoons for the Boston Herald.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: There's A Reason

The very productive C.H. Wellington has been seen on Stripper's Guide quite a few times now. My favorite work of his are the panel cartoon features, and I think the best of those is And The Worst Is Yet To Come. There's A Reason is sort of in the same vein -- a pantomime feature that makes the reader expend at least a little brain juice to figure out the gag. There's A Reason isn't nearly as creative with the concept, but then Wellington wasn't quite so practiced in the form yet. This weekday feature was done for Hearst's New York Journal from January 20 1909 to July 14 1910.


Part 1

Charles Hewitt Wellington was born at Edore Central Township, St. Louis County, Missouri on January 13, 1884, as recorded in the Missouri Birth Records. His parents were James and Josephine. His father died before the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. Wellington has not been found in the 1900 census but his mother ran a boarding house in St. Louis. She also cared for her parents, Charly and Carrie Hewitt. According to Edan Hughes (Artists in California, 1786-1940), "Wellington was educated at Smith Academy in his native city and at Washington University."

In the World Encyclopedia of Comics: Volume 5, Maurice Horn wrote, "'Duke' Wellington's first published work appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Republic. He accepted, in 1908, an offer to draw for the Memphis News-Scimitar and later moved to Nashville for a six-month stint on the Tennessean." He has not been found in the 1910 census; his early career in New York City can be read here,
Part 2

Wellington's listing in the New York, New York Directory 1916 was "artist Newspaper Feature Service 35 W39th." He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address was the Friar's Club, West 48th Street, and occupation as cartoonist for the Newspaper Feature Service. He has not been found in the 1920 census; he moved to California about 1925 according to Hughes.

In the 1930 census, Wellington and his wife, Emily, lived in Los Angeles, California at 9920 Toluca Lake Avenue. They had married in 1919. His occupation was cartoonist for the New York Tribune. Wellington passed away on April 1, 1942. The Newport Mercury and Weekly News (Rhode Island) reported his death on April 3, 1942.

Charles H. Wellington, 56, creator of the comic strip, "Pa's Son-In-Law,"
which ran in the Daily News for years until recently, died at his home,
North Hollywood, Cal., Wednesday. He created the strip, which was one
of the most popular of the cartoons, in 1914. The daily strip, which ran
in the Daily News from the New York Herald Tribune, was discontinued
because of Mr. Wellington's recent illness, although he continued his
Sunday feature. Surviving are his wife and his mother.
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Monday, May 09, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Detective Riley

The enigmatic Lincoln Features, which was run by Horace T. Elmo, is a syndicate that sold features to weekly papers. Weeklies are a notoriously bad market, and Elmo never had a great deal of luck selling his material. Lincoln was a curious mix of slapdash and brilliant work. The syndicate's main claim to fame is that Jack Kirby got his start there. Unfortunately Kirby, as far as I know, didn't discuss the syndicate in any depth in later years, so we really don't know much about it. Some of the Lincoln material is so rare that it has yet to be found actually appearing in a newspaper (Kirby's Abdul Jones, for instance, so far exists only in the form of a run of proofs that Kirby held onto).

Runs of Lincoln strips are so rare that this is the first opportunity I've had to feature one on the blog. Detective Riley could, I suppose, be considered Lincoln's flagship strip. I've actually managed to find it running on a consistent basis in a few papers for decently long runs; most Lincoln products tend to pop up and run for only 4-6 episodes, which invariably means that the syndicate sent the newspaper some samples, which they went ahead and ran without any intention of picking up the service on a paying basis.

As with any Lincoln feature, information is spotty. The strip ran at widely varying times because Elmo didn't worry about such niceties as dating his material. All features were numbered so that he could continue to sell the material on hand for years on end. The best guess I can come up with as to an 'official' starting date for Detective Riley is February 1 1935. This is based on looking at numbered strips appearing in papers and then figuring back to when strip #1 would have appeared. That date is calculated from my earliest samples, which ran later in 1935. However, there is a run from 1940-41, with current copyright years cited on them, that figure back to a start date in August 1934. Of course that paper probably didn't stick with the service all those years (no paper ever seemed to stick with Lincoln for more than a year or two at most) so of course I'm just talking hypothetically.

The end date is no less murky. The highest numbered strip I've found is #435, which would have run on June 4 1943 in the almost certainly hypothetical paper that ran the whole series. It's worth noting, though, that #435 is in the middle of a story, so presumably there are more strips lurking out there somewhere. Not many, though, because Elmo switched gears in 1944, gave up on Lincoln, and started a new venture called Elmo Features Syndicate with a whole new stable of features. The man must have been quite the masochist, because this syndicate, too, tried to sell to weekly papers, and with no better success.

Detective Riley is one of those high-adrenaline adventure stories that were a staple of early comic books, and the art was about on that level. The feature was credited to Richard Lee throughout, but most of Lincoln's features were done under pseudonyms. Part of the run does seem to have been done by Jack Kirby, but others are by unidentified cartoonists (like the later samples above).

Needless to say, if you have have ANY information on Lincoln, Elmo, or any of their features, or any samples, I'm all ears.


Part 1

Arazio "Horace" Theodore Elmo was born in New York City on April 3, 1903, according to a family tree at He was the sixth of seven children born to Joseph, a barber, and Josephine, as recorded in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. His parents and five older siblings were born in Italy. The family lived at 430 East 11th Street in Manhattan.

In the 1920 census the family lived at 878 Kelly Road in the Bronx. Elmo's occupation was a stock clerk in the exporting industry. His father's real name was Sebastian, who brought his family to America in 1900. Elmo married Martha Oliver on May 15, 1928. The couple returned from a trip to Havana, Cuba on March 3, 1929. The passenger list recorded their address as 1304 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York.

The couple lived at 2497 Grand Avenue in the Bronx according to the 1930 census. His occupation was cartoonist for a newspaper. A Walter Winchell column, published on January 29, 1955 in the Kingsport News (Tennessee), said that Elmo was a cartoonist at the New York Evening Graphic. It is not clear what happened to first wife, Martha, but he remarried, on February 3, 1931, to Vilma A. Molnar. The second half of the 1930s was a very productive period for Elmo as an artist and packager.
Part 2

Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999 lists the following syndicated projects by Elmo: Facts You Never Knew; The Fizzle Family; Goofus Family; It's Amazing; Laughs from Today's News; Our Puzzle Corner; Sally Snickers; Socko the Seadog; Useless Eustace; and Your Health Comes First.

Page 1279 of the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Books, Group 2, New Series, Volume 32, Volume Index for 1935, listed Elmo's copyright for Detective Riley; and on page 1498, it listed one of Elmo's pseudonym's, Bruce Stuart. Stuart was credited on the strip, Little Buddy, which was published in the Cullman Banner (Alabama) from February 18 to June 24.

He also produced material for DC and Marvel Comics in the 1940s and 1950s. Two books by Elmo, Modern Casanova's Handbook (1955) and Hollywood Humor (1957), were published by Ace. Other Elmo strips include The Rhyming Romeos (Arkansas State Press, 1950s); Puggy and Tell Me, both appeared in the News Reporter (Hubbard, Ohio) in the 1960s, and Spirit Lake Beacon (Iowa) in the mid-1970s.

Elmo passed away on October 23, 1992 in the Bronx, New York, according to the Social Security Death Index.
Thanks for posting this scarce feature. It's not so bad, really. Interesting how the art shows the influence of the pervasive Sickles-Caniff school in its layouts and spotting of blacks, though the artist doesn't imitate S/A drawing outright.

Did readers of weekly newspapers actually wait eagerly for seven days to see another three panels of a continued story? Maybe that's why Elmo features didn't sell.
I think it's interesting that some of the 3/4 views of the faces in this strip look a lot like Kirby's from that era. Some of the shading as well. I doubt that Kirby had anything to do with this, but I wonder if his influence lingered.
Hi Smurfswacker --
Indeed the inherent limitations of telling continuity stories at the rate of one daily-size strip per week most certainly is a huge handicap. Just ask the good folks who do Prince Valiant today. Their Sunday space is barely bigger than a daily of the 30s.

Hi Michael --
Yes, our ghost certainly was cribbing from Kirby's old Lincoln material. So odd that they referred to Kirby for 3/4 views, and Caniff for straight on and profile. The swiper knew what he liked...

The weekly Medina Tribune had the Lincoln newspaper features
FACTS YOU NEVER KNEW!!!,DETECTIVE RILEY and NAPPY in mid 1941, though with 1940 copyright line.
Another weekly, Cayuga Chief, of Weedsport, New York had the same three, with the year cropped out of the copyright line, as late as January 1944.
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Sunday, May 08, 2011


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


I really look forward to Jim's Sunday Comics. I wish he had something up DAILY!!

This one made me smile. It's always good to smile.

Thanks to you both!
This is very true, Jim! Thanks!
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