Saturday, May 05, 2012


Herriman Saturday

Wednesday, March 4 1908 -- Pianist extraordinaire Paderewski, whose fame and fandom in this era was  comparable to that of Sinatra in the 40s or the Beatles in the 60s, plays to a packed house in L.A. last night. In his second visit to the city, Paderewski was gratified that his concert wasn't rained on, as was the one three years before. Paderewski must have quite liked California, as he later bought a tract of land there and started a Zinfandel grape orchard, the product of which became famous.


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Friday, May 04, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Jonah, a Whale for Trouble

We end our week of Frank King with a mega-dose of this obscurity, Jonah, a Whale for Trouble. Shortly after Frank King broke into the cartooning ranks of the Chicago Tribune, he penned this series about an evil imp named Jonah. The strip began on October 3 1910, and at first ran as a true daily. Later on in the run, perhaps hitting the wall looking for new ideas for this one-note concept, the frequency faltered, and by the time the last episode was printed on December 8 1910 it was appearing only a couple times per week.

What I enjoy about this series is that King could have easily made it a pulpit-pounding lesson in morality. If Jonah only went after people who treated him badly this strip would be the same old story that Aesop was telling a millenium or three ago. But King throws us a little curve -- doesn't matter if you treat the little bugger well or badly, you're in for trouble. Unless, of course, you're Teddy Roosevelt, who makes a cameo to show us all that Jonah is not all-powerful. And who better to do that!

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!


Is that Skeezix in the last strip?
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Thursday, May 03, 2012


News of Yore: King Tells Where He Gets Ideas for "Gasoline Alley"

Says There Are Loads of Ideas If You Can Tune in for Them

Real Characters
Artist Also Gives Some of His Own History
Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina), 4/26/1926

Where do I get my ideas? I sit down and tune in and try to catch them as they go past. There are loads of ideas everywhere, but you must be tuned to receive them. Some come from real life direct. Most situations, however, are evolved by putting imaginary characters in possible situations and imagining what the result would be. By trying this over and over, if the wind is right, if the magnetic currents are favorable and the barometer O.K., a usable idea may be produced. If it has enough human nature in it, it is good—otherwise not.

The habit of observation is the important thing, both as regards ideas and drawing.

My Skeezix is five years too old. He is nine years of age and I have to remember back for material from that source. I also must remember a lot of things which didn't happen but which might have happened. That is one of the fortunate things about human interest stuff. You are not limited to what has happened, but you must not do things which would never happen.

Many ideas are sent in, but very few of them are usable. Many come in in some form of propaganda, which have to be weeded out carefully. A few ideas come from friends' children.

Yes, some of the characters are real people.

Skeezix is sort of a composite inspired by what I can remember of my own Skeezix, Robert Drew King. Skeezix is not a real doorstep baby, left on a bachelor's doorstep, though many stories come back to me from people who know somebody, who knows somebody else, who had a maid, who had worked for my wife's cousin, that such was the case. Or, that I have a baby just Skeezix's age, or have nine children to draw upon for ideas.

In speaking of stories, one which seemed to become almost simultaneously current in all parts of the country, arose from somewhere last summer. This explains the mystery of Skeezix's birth by asserting that Walt was shell shocked in the war and had married Mrs. Blossom, who was a war nurse. Skeezix, being the child of that union. Walt, however, losing his memory, forgot the whole affair and is still in ignorance of Skeezix's parentage. This I heard on both coasts and from many places between.

Walt is a real a character. He happens to be a long-suffering brother-in-law, and the original inspiration for Gasoline Alley.

He kept his car in a private garage, one of a string in the alley, back of his apartment near Sixty-third Street, Chicago. It was the bunch of car tinkerers who were garage neighbors that suggested the characters which have endured to the present time.

Walt (Walter Drew) was taken almost bodily and though he has suffered many fictions and slanders in the strip, still remains good natured and up to date has undertaken no reprisals.
Bill is another character kidnapped from the original alley bunch.

Avery is composite of a series of individuals I have come in contact with.

There are several claimants to Doc.

Mr. Wicker is pure fiction and Mrs. Blossom has been evolved from a suggestion a woman sent in. She said she was a widow and used to sit at home alone evenings and Sunday afternoon, until she got a "flivver" and kept it in a garage in the alley. Then she had numerous offers of help fixing and cleaning her car, plenty of company, and rides in bigger cars.

Hobbies? About everything but bridge and golf. I don't like cards and gave up golf because I would rather save up my days and half days and get out with a pack outfit on the Arizona desert, or load up the car and hit the road out through the mountains or make a canoe cruise.

My wife usually goes along and has ridden a mule hundreds of miles across the desert and hit mountain trails and many thousands of miles of auto roads. Son Robert has accompanied us on many trips and is comfortable and happy under any outdoor conditions.

As to biography—here goes. Birthplace, Cashton, Wis., but tired of the town and moved to Tomah one month later. High chair, measles and arithmetic there, also higher education culminating in learned essay at graduation from high school entitled "Newspaper Art" It embraced everything I had learned since and much more. Stuck type for Tomah Journal and spent four years in art department of Minneapolis Times. Left to go to art school in Chicago, and Minneapolis Times collapsed one month later. Three years with Hearst but he didn't know it. Then The Chicago Tribune, Motorcycle Mike, Bobby Make-Believe, Rectangle, Gasoline Alley, Walt and Skeezix.


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Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Young Teddy

Continuing on our week of Frank King posts, here is Young Teddy, which ran in the Chicago Tribune Sunday section from September 10 1911 to October 6 1912. The premise was very simple -- Teddy tries to train an animal and things don't go well. Memorable it wasn't, but then just how much could King do with these single tier strips that the Tribune liked to use on the inside pages? Way back then, after all, newspapers hadn't figured out that they can print their strips at microscopic size.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!


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Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Frank King

Frank Oscar King was born in Cashton, Wisconsin on April 9, 1883, according to Who's Who in Chicago and Vicinity 1936. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was the oldest of two sons born to John and Caroline. They lived in Tomah, Wisconsin at 1710 Superior Avenue. His father was a mechanic. The New York Times, June 25, 1969, said

…Tomah, a small town in the Kickapoo Hills…provided much of the background and setting for "Gasoline Alley"….His talent for drawing soon found vent in country fair competitions and one day he drew a sign for a bootblack in the local hotel for 25 cents. A traveling salesman later saw the sign and learned it had been drawn by the son of one of his customers and arranged an interview for the young artist with a newspaper editor in Minneapolis. Mr. King took the job for $6 a week and in four years doubled his salary doing art work for the paper.

Who's Who said he graduated from high school in 1901, and attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1905 and 1906. The Minneapolis Journal (Minnesota), March 20, 1905, mentioned King's chalk talk at a St. Patrick's Day celebration. The Wisconsin Biographical Dictionary (2008) said:

…by the time he decided to pursue his studies at the academy, he had been working as a cartoonist at the Minneapolis Times for five years, beginning in 1901 when he was eighteen."

In 1906, he worked for a short time at an advertising agency then became a staff member of the Chicago Examiner. He stayed until 1909, and then switched to the Chicago Tribune where he had his own weekly cartoon.

The Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina), April 26, 1926, published King's brief account of his life.

As to biography—here goes. Birthplace, Cashton, Wis., but tired of the town and moved to Tomah one month later. High chair, measles and arithmetic there, also higher education culminating in learned essay at graduation from high school entitled "Newspaper Art." It embraced everything I had learned since and much more. Stuck type for Tomah Journal and spent four years in art department of Minneapolis Times. Left to go to art school in Chicago, and Minneapolis Times collapsed one month later. Three years with Hearst but he didn't know it. Then The Chicago Tribune, Motorcycle Mike, Bobby Make-Believe, Rectangle, Gasoline Alley, Walt and Skeezix.

The 1910 census recorded him in Chicago at 4936 Jackson Avenue, where he was boarding with a doctor and his family. King's occupation was newspaper artist. His first strip for the Chicago Tribune was Oh Augustus in August 1910. In 1913 The Rectangle debuted, which later introduced the characters of Gasoline Alley. In 1914 he contributed Hi Hopper to the Sunday comics page.

Who's Who said he married Delia Drew, of Tomah, on February 7, 1911. The Evanston (Illinois) Directory 1917 listed him as a cartoonist at 611 Madison. He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address was in Glencoe, Illinois at 533 Madison. His occupation was newspaper cartoonist at the Chicago Tribune. He was described as medium height, slender build with gray eyes and black hair.

King lived in Glencoe at 533 Madison Street, according to the 1920 census. He was a newspaper cartoonist. His son was nearly four years old. The Rockford Register-Gazette, April 7, 1923, published an article about vehicle license numbers. It noted the numbers of the following cartoonists:

John T. McCutcheon, noted Chicago cartoonist, carries license No. 10 on his Studebaker…Number 348, of "Doc Yak" fame, is held by Sidney Smith, Chicago Tribune cartoonist and creator of the "Doc Yak" strip and now author of the Gumps. Number 354, which appears on Andy Gump's chariot, is held by Frank O. King, Glencoe, also a cartoonist on the Tribune.

On September 2, 1927, the King family returned from Europe. The passenger list said their son, Robert, was born February 1916 in Chicago. The Tampa Tribune, February 22, 1929, noted the building of his Kissimmee home: "Work has begun on the residence being erected at Lago Vista…by Frank King…Mr. King is here giving personal supervision to the preliminary work….The residence is on Lake Tohopekaliga."

The King family was counted at their Glencoe address during the 1930 census. He continued as a newspaper cartoonist. The date of their move to Kissimmee is not known. The 1935 Florida State Census listed King and his family; his occupation was retired cartoonist. Kissimmee, Gateway to the Kissimmee River Valley (2003) pointed out the real-life connection to one of King's cartoon characters.

Another of Kissimmee's favorite sons, Frank O. King, creator of the "Gasoline Alley" cartoon strip, lived between Kissimmee and St. Cloud for more than 20 years. King's Highway runs south from Neptune Road to the more than 230 acres that included the cartoonist's Folly Farm estate on the northeast shore of Lake Tohopekaliga.

The cartoon's banker, a Mr. Enray, was a caricature of one of King's neighbors, N. Ray Carroll, president of what then was the First National Bank of Kissimmee. Carroll—and Mr. Enray—gave out saving advice as well as loans….

…The comic strip banker guided the strip's main character, Skeezix Wallet, as he ran his fix-it shop, named Wallet and Bobble….

Life magazine, February 16, 1942, covered the growth of Skeezix from infancy to age 21. The 1945 Florida State Census counted King and his wife; his occupation was cartoonist. In 1949 the National Cartoonists Society awarded the Silver T-Square to King.

King retired from the Gasoline Alley Sunday strip in 1951, handing it to his assistant Bill Perry. The year 1959 was eventful for him: the San Diego Union, February 8, 1959 noted the passing of his wife, February 7, at their home in Winter Park, Florida; he was named cartoonist of the year by the National Cartoonists Society; and he retired from the Gasoline Alley daily, which was continued by his assistant Dick Moores.

A 1968 photo of him is here. King passed away June 24, 1969 at home in Winter Park, according to the Associated Press. He, his wife and an infant son (1912) were buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Tomah Wisconsin. Gasoline Alley original art is here.


I know when Frank King moved to Folly Farm because my aunt and uncle were his maid and chauffeur there. My aunt interviewed with Mrs King in Evanston Illinois on July 26, 1934. She married on August 12th and they left for Kissimmee the next day, reporting for work on August 17th.
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Monday, April 30, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Hi Hopper

We're still handling the fallout from last week's posting about Crazy Quilt, that great Chicago Tribune jam page feature. This week we're going to focus on the great Frank King, whose Hi Hopper was one of the integral pieces of that feature.

Hi Hopper debuted in the Chicago Tribune Sunday section as a standalone feature on February 1 1914, and after the Crazy Quilt page ended on June 7 1914, Hi Hopper went back to its previous format, ending December 27 1914. As you can see from the samples here, King quickly ran out of ideas for a frog character, and so the character became just a basic nebbish, whose species is immaterial.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!


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Sunday, April 29, 2012


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


I greatly enjoy Jim Ivey's comics. Thanks to you both for sharing them. It's a bit of a stretch, but in the spirit of today's comic, "Jim Ivey" yields Jive M' Yi!, and comic strip gets us Comics Trip (or, in some cases -- present company excluded) Comics T' Rip.
I love Jim's Sunday Funnies and would miss the anagrams should Jim stop using them. Of course he could do strips based on puns...

But like writing using a pencil without lead, it would be pointless...

Or it could be that Jim has done enough anagrams and he's like the baker who stopped make donuts after he got tied of the hole thing...

Of course since Jim is a cartoonist we may never know the real reason why he quits doing them... the details are just too sketchy.

- Craig

PS - I can see Jim gritting his teeth with each pun.
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