Saturday, June 16, 2012


Herriman Saturday

Monday, March 9 1908 -- The White Sox, doing their spring training in L.A., drive down the coast to put on an exhibition game or two there. San Diegans are prepared to give the major leaguers a big welcome.


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Friday, June 15, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Dave

I don't know if Dave is all that obscure. According to the Tribune Media Services, the strip's syndicate, it had 100+ clients, which made it squeak by in the 90's as a financial success. To me Dave doesn't seem obscure at all, because I read and enjoyed it every day in the Orlando Sentinel for years. So if Dave doesn't quite make it as obscure, let's settle for under-appreciated, shall we?

In 1992, when Dave debuted, Dilbert was really starting to hit its stride as a cultural phenomenon, and whether creator David Miller meant the strip as an alternative to Dilbert or not, I don't doubt that TMS marketed it with that idea in mind.

The character Dave was a little less dorky than Dilbert, a lot less techie, more one of those office-drone types. Dave had more of a life outside of work and a steady girlfriend. The strip didn't dwell all that much on character development or plot -- Dave was treated as basically an everyman and commented on the life of white collar 20-somethings. It all sounds rather bland, I suppose, but David Miller had a great sense of humor and the strip was frequently very witty. There was also an odd mix of realism and surrealism that kept the reader just a little off-kilter, not knowing each day the sort of strip Miller might have in store.

Dave began on September 14 1992, and was retired a little short of seven years later, on April 18 1999. Contemporary put out one book collection of strips in 1994.

I remember the strip as well.

I wonder what Dave Miller's up to...
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Thursday, June 14, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Merle Mulholland

Merle Julian Mulholland was born in Pennsylvania on June 22, 1898, according to his World War I draft card and the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. In the census, he was the only child of Charles and Laura, who lived in Jefferson, Pennsylvania on Main Street. His father was a dry goods merchant.

In 1910, he was the oldest of two sons. The family lived in Butler, Pennsylvania at 107 Valley View Avenue. Information regarding his education has not been found. He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He lived with his mother at 117 South Chestnut, Butler, Pennsylvania. His occupation was a machinist, who was described as medium height, slender build with blue eyes and brown hair.

The 1920 census recorded him in Akron, Ohio at 90 Taylor Avenue, where he lived with his wife, Isabel. His occupation was machinist. Information about his art training has not been found. The Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Directory 1929 listed him at 622 Walnut in McKeesport. He was an artist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Publishing Company.

The 1930 census recorded him at the same address as the Pittsburgh Directory. He was married to Clair; the fate of his first wife is not known. He worked as a newspaper artist. The column, Pittsburghesque by Charles F. Danver, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 7, 1931, hinted at a comic strip by Mulholland.

Stand Up, Merle!
The thumb-nail illustrations in the column this week, you may like to know, are the work of Merle Mulholland, staff artist whose name you will probably see signed to an interesting comic strip one of these days.

Mulholland's strip, Alec and Itchy, was promoted in the Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/17 1931

The Post-Gazette, October 19, 1931, highlighted the strip's debut:

Meet "Alec and Itchy"
Why put off laughing until you can afford it? Turn to the Post-Gazette comic page right now—read "Alec and Itchy," the latest addition to the Post-Gazette's family of funny-strip people—chuckle—forget that your Aunt Jenny is coming for a two-months visit. "Alec and Itchy" and all their friends are being sent out in the interests of happy insanity by Jimmy George and Merle Mulholland, of the Post-Gazette staff. They'll be a Post-Gazette laugh-feature every morning hereafter.

The strip ended February 27, 1932. The date of his move to Ohio is not known. Mulholland passed away June 3, 1944, in Warren, Ohio, according to Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, & 1958-2007 at


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Alec and Itchy

Reg'lar Fellers by Gene Byrnes and Just Kids by Ad Carter were very successful features, and as such they spawned imitators. Because the artwork in the two strips was pretty basic, the imitators usually not only duplicated the concept but also the art style.

I believe that was the aim of Alec and Itchy, a kid strip created by a couple of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staffers, Jimmy George and Merle Mulholland. The duo's nod to originality is (I think) to include a black kid as one of the stars. I say I think that's the case, because the kids are drawn with such minimal detail it could very well be that Itchy just has a dirty face.Alec, oddly enough, looks like Snoodles, a character created by P-G editorial cartoonist Cy Hungerford, whose feature Snoodles Diary, ended in 1927 after a long run.

Alec and Itchy was picked up for syndication by the Register & Tribune Syndicate, but evidently they had no luck selling it. The strip, which began in the P-G on October 19 1931, ended after four months, on February 27 1932, and probably never ran anywhere beyond its home paper.

Jimmy George seems to have taken this experience as proof that his talents lay outside of writing comic strips, but Mulholland may have taken another swing. I have an E&P mystery strip from 1934, called Little Rowdies, by 'Marsh and Mulholland'. Was this the same guy trying out a similar strip with a new writer?

In a minor triumph, this strip avoids having the African-American kid talk in dialect. Where else in the early 1930's - outside of the Negro press - would you see that?
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Rick Fletcher

A Short Biography of Rick Fletcher
 by his son, Ross Fletcher

 [Stripper's Guide thanks Mr. Fletcher for allowing us permission to print this essay, 
which is copyright (c) 2012 Ross Fletcher. All rights reserved]

Rick Fletcher was born in Burlington, Iowa on June 1 1916 to William and Maude Fletcher. He was the second of four children: Russell, Richard, Martha and Edward. Rick had a keen interest in drawing from an early age. Encouraged by his mother, he drew every day and studied art and anatomy books from the local library, teaching him perspective, composition, color and technique. In his diary, he wrote that when asked how he learned his art skills, “I say that I go to art school at the library.”

After graduating from Burlington High School with the class of 1934, Rick and his family moved to Galesburg, Illinois. There his father worked for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad as a fireman on the steamers, and later as an engineer on the stainless steel Burlington Zephyr. His mother was a happy homemaker who loved to raise her family and cook wonderful meals, including Eggplant Parmesan, Rick’s favorite.

Rick’s career growth in 1935 was quite remarkable. During March, the 18-year old Rick and his younger sister Martha started a business. Rick would design and draw paper dolls and Martha would sell them at school to her friends. A diary entry recorded his take, “Made twenty six cents.”

Rick also entered the Knox Laundry Anagram contest, winning three tickets to the Orpheum Theater. The following week he used his little brother Ed’s name and won first place again. The third week he entered with a neighbor girl’s name and won yet again. Another quote from his diary said; “The president of Knox Laundry asked the girl’s sister if Rick Fletcher didn’t do the drawing. My reputation is getting out.”

On May 2 1935 Rick won a twenty-two dollar Mixmaster food mixer in the Doyle’s Furniture Store contest; this further boosted his confidence. He gave the food mixer to his mother.

On September 26 1935 Rick wrote to a longtime friend, Joe Weber, who was working as a photographer at the new Tri City Star newspaper in Davenport, Iowa. He asked about the possibility of a job in the art department. Weber brought Rick to the attention of Mr. Hinkle, the publisher, who liked Rick’s work and hired him for fifteen dollars a week starting October 3 1935. Rick soon moved to Davenport to become a one-man art department. Within a week he complained in his diary, “work is coming in too fast to get any quality” but decided “composition is what puts the drawing over.” Rick went to the Davenport Library for more art instruction material.

Rick worked at the Tri City Star for two years, then found a more desirable position at the Rudy A. Moritz Advertising Agency in Davenport. Rick was hired as the art director, producing ads and campaigns for national accounts. This position allowed him more time to produce higher quality work.

Rick’s final entry in his 1935 diary summed up the enthusiasm he held for his career. “This has certainly been some swell year, all because of my artwork. My first big cash in was the Mixmaster food mixer that I won and gave my mother, and then the big achievement which was the job at Tri City Star. My greatest help has been from Joe Weber and Mr. Hinkle, the Publisher of the Star and the Beacon Publishing Company…I can consider 1935 as a year I was launched in my career, which I hope will reap me rich rewards and fame in the future, it really was an eventful year.”

In 1942, Rick’s career was interrupted by World War II. He went to Camp Dodge in Iowa on September 29th1942, then on to Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. He was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers in April 1943 and assigned as a First Lieutenant S-1 Adjutant to the 308th Engineer Combat Battalion with the 83rd infantry Division.

Rick went through five European military campaigns from D-Day +10 at Omaha Beach, the Battle of Normandy through the hedgerows zigzagging across France, into Belgium, Holland and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He raced through the German Wehrmacht into Germany along with the 83rd Infantry Division when General Eisenhower ordered the Army to stop. He was in Zerbst Germany near the Elbe River just eighty-eight miles from the bunker where Hitler was hiding in Berlin. Two weeks later Hitler committed suicide in the bunker when the Russian Army invaded from the eastern front. Rick received the Bronze Star for his service in the war in Europe.

At the end of the war until his trip back to the United States, Rick was assigned various positions; commanding officer of the Sonndorf Prisoner of War Camp in Germany; purchasing and contracting officers to build camps for Displaced Persons and Prisoners of War; and trial judge advocate. Aside from his regular duties in the U.S. Army, Rick hand-lettered signs and painted vehicles. He also passed the time by drawing caricatures of himself, expressing his moods in his letters home.

Rick’s desire to draw became increasingly problematic as many supplies were scarce while overseas. Rick frequently instead relied on his 35mm Leica camera to produce quick, convenient photographs. Throughout Europe he took photos of citizens, soldiers and landscapes, eventually making a scrapbook. He later made a watercolor painting of Belgian peasants based on a photo he took from his jeep.

He was separated from service as a Captain on February 27 1946. His name is inscribed in the Book of Honor at the Court of Patriots - Rock Island Arsenal Museum, located on the same property as the National Cemetery in Rock Island Illinois where he is buried along with his wife Beverly.

After the war Rick was offered jobs at two locations, the Chicago Tribune and a local engraving studio. In a diary entry Rick decided to choose the Tribune because “I just liked walking down Michigan Avenue and going into the Tribune Tower, which has quite a mystique in Chicago.” Rick joined the advertising art department in April 1946, handling illustrations and cartooning. Rick studied for several years under the supervision of Carey Orr, Pulitzer Prize winning chief editorial cartoonist; learning advanced comic strip technique. Orr taught many illustrators, including, back in 1917, then high school student Walt Disney.

Tribune colleagues took notice of Rick’s art, which showed quality and versatility. While he worked in the advertising department, Rick continued to pursue opportunities in illustration by submitting original samples of his own work to editors at the Chicago Tribune. The Old Glory Story was Rick’s first strip, a color Sunday feature, starting in February 1953. Written and researched by Athena Robbins, this award-winning story began as an illustrated history of the American flag. The feature was so well received that Robbins and Fletcher were asked to continue it after the initial story was completed, exploring other aspects of American history. The unique aspect of The Old Glory Story was that all the stories, flags, people, uniforms, weapons and transportation were illustrated with historical accuracy and reproduced in full color. The feature ended up running over thirteen years, finally ending in April 1966. The stories told in the strip are as follows:

The Old Glory Story 2-15-1953 – 9-25-1955
Daniel Boone 10-2-1955 – 1-8-1956
George Rogers Clark 1-15-1956 – 4-29-1956
John Sevier 5-6-1956 – 8-19-1956
Captain Robert Gray 8-26-1956 – 11-18-1956
Mad Anthony Wayne 11-25-1956 – 2-17-1957
Lewis and Clark 2-24-1957 – 7-7-1957
Zebulon Pike 7-14-1957 – 10-6-1957
Stephen Decatur 10-13-1957 – 12-29-1957
William Henry Harrison 1-5-1958 – 4-6-1958
Andrew Jackson 4-13-1958 – 8-24-1958
Defense of Baltimore 8-31-58 – 11-23-1958
Stephen F Austin 11-30-1958 – 2-22-1959
Astorians of Oregon 3-1-1959 – 5-24-1959
Lewis Cass 5-31-1959 – 8-23-1959
Jed Smith 8-30-1959 – 12-20-1959
Dewitt Clinton 12-27-1959 – 3-13-1960
Sam Houston 3-20-1960 – 6-12-1960
Great Western Migration 6-19-1960 – 9-11-1960
Kit Carson 9-18-1960 – 12-25-1960
Old Glory at the Crossroads 1-1-1961 – 6-6-1965
Frontier Adventures 6-13-1965 – 4-17-1966

Meanwhile, in 1961, while working on Old Glory at the Crossroads, an opportunity was presented by Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy and Rick’s colleague at the Chicago Tribune. Gould’s young assistant, Dick Locher, had to leave for family reasons, and Gould hired Rick as a part time assistant artist, His duties for Gould included penciling panels, illustrating and inking backgrounds, advertising layout and illustration, as well as developing story-lines.

During the spring of 1962 Gould hired Rick on a full time basis to be part of the Dick Tracy production team, which at the time included Chester Gould’s brother, Ray, for lettering; Jack Ryan, production art, and Chicago Police Detective Al Valenis for police-related research.

Rick concurrently worked on The Old Glory Story and Dick Tracy from 1961 until the last Old Glory strip was completed in 1966. Rick performed as a member of Chester Gould’s production team for the Dick Tracy comic strip continuously for 16 years, 1961-1977, learning Gould’s unique drawing and story style that Rick called “Gouldism”. This long-term experience and an already award-winning illustration career led Chester Gould and Tribune executives to agree to have Rick Fletcher take over production of Dick Tracy when Gould retired on December 24 1977.

Working with a young new writer, Max Allan Collins, Rick began showing his strengths by equipping Tracy with state of the art equipment: a nickel plated Colt Trooper MKIII .357 magnum revolver with illuminated night-sights and the 2-way wrist TV (which Rick created with his younger brother Ed in 1963 while working with Gould).

Rick drew the Dick Tracy comic strip for five years, always researching the latest technologies, reflecting current trends in popular culture and listening to his fans. Rick also utilized proper law enforcement techniques and procedures learned from several of his friends in law enforcement. Among them were Julio Santiago of the Dakota County Minnesota Sheriff’s Office, friends working at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and his old friend Al Valenis from the Chicago Police Department.

Contributing time and talent to his local community in Woodstock Illinois, Rick produced several illustrations for fundraising auctions, as well as personal cards for friends in the hospital. On several occasions Rick  acknowledged friends and family by using their name or likeness hidden somewhere in the background of the Dick Tracy panels, then present them the original art as a gift.

Teaming with the Chicago Tribune from early 1946 until cancer took his life on March 16, 1983; described by his colleagues as the “world’s greatest artist of guns, hardware and machinery in the history of comic strips,” and having hundreds of millions of readers around the globe agree, Rick proved his abilities to manage and produce exquisite, timeless American illustrations.

Postscript: Rick Fletcher is often confused with another man with a nearly identical name who cartooned for the Chicago Tribune in the same era -- Dick Fletcher. That other fellow produced the strips Surgeon Stone and Jed Cooper. In case there is any lingering doubt about there being two cartooning Fletchers at the Trib, here's proof in the form of a 1956 Joseph Parrish caricature of the two:


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Monday, June 11, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Judge Blount

After 25+ years researching American newspaper comics, I'm still constantly amazed at how many comics features remain lurking in out of the way papers.

Last weekend I went up to Micanopy, a little tourist town in Northern Florida with some good book shops. At the best shop in town, O. Brisky Books, I emerged with a nice pile of goodies. There was a book of Paul Revere's cartoons (etchings in the parlance of the hoity-toity book), a book of Israeli newspaper cartoons from the Six Days War, and a biography of Don Marquis. But the interesting oddball of the bunch was a little booklet titled "The Best of Judge Blount" by Ted Tindell. I'd never heard of the feature or the cartoonist, and I'd never before seen a copy of the booklet.

Paging through it, the feature is revealed to be sort of a latter-day Abe Martin. The judge dispenses folk wisdom, good-natured common sense, non-partisan political and social commentary and bewilderment at the ever-changing world. A short introduction revealed that the cartoon panel series ran in the Maryville-Alcoa (TN) Daily Times on a daily basis starting on May 5 1976.

The booklet itself wasn't dated, but by the looks of it I'd guess late-70s to early-80s. So that means these little Judge Blount cartoons could very well have run for a couple of years and that was bout it. I Googled the artist and his feature and came up pretty dry. This also led me to assume that the feature was a long-forgotten blip on the map.

Without even a guess at an end date, though, I took a moment to dash off a query to the editor of the paper, asking on the off chance if he or anyone there had any memory of the feature. A few days later, managing editor Frank "Buzz" Trexler, wrote back, sending me Tindell's obituary, which follows:

Creator of `Judge Blount' cartoon dies
Daily Times, The (Maryville, TN) - Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Author: Thomas Fraser of The Daily Times Staff

A man who had his finger on the pulse of Blount County for decades died Sunday. 
 Theodore "Ted" Tindell , known for his wry "Judge Blount" cartoon
commentaries on the front page of The Daily Times, was 88.
"He had a great appreciation for local history," said longtime friend and Daily Times editor Dean Stone, noting that one of Tindell's books was on the communities of Blount County.
Through, for instance, his "Judge Blount" panel, which graced the front
page of The Daily Times for 22 years, he showed that he "knew what the
community was thinking about, and quite often hit the nail on the head," Stone said. 
 "Judge Blount" was discontinued in 1998 after Tindell's health began to decline. 
 Tindell in 1997 was inducted into The Daily Times Wall of Fame honoring graduates of local high schools for their contributions to society.
 Born in Knox County in 1912, Tindell moved to Blount County in the 1920s and attended Everett High and graduated from Lanier High in 1931. He later graduated from the University of Tennessee and Lincoln Memorial University.
 He was a World War II veteran of anti-submarine patrols in the Atlantic and served as editor of the Tennessee ALCOAN, a publication for employees at Tennessee Operations, and later was editor of The ALCOA News, the national publication in Pittsburgh.
 "Out there when they had all three plants going at full speed, he picked up a lot of human interest stories and local news from the community, particularly those involving ALCOA employees," Stone said.
 Tindell married Louise Allen in 1939; they had a son, Johnny, of Maryville; a daughter, Stephanie Schuler, of Houston; and two grandchildren.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Daily Times, Maryville, TN
Ted Tindell
So there's your 'obscurity' for today -- unknown to the world at large, but a cherished daily tradition for twenty-two years for the newspaper readers of Maryville. Humbling to think that someone can produce something that people enjoy for that long, and yet never receive any notoriety outside that small circle.

What a find, and what a post! That's just the sort of story that's kept me dropping into the Guide all this time. Thanks.
My name is Stephanie Tindell and my dad was Ted Tindell. A neighbor recently found your blog and shared your comments with my mother. Mom would like to say Thank you to you. Please email me at and we can link you my mom.
Hi Stephanie --
My email can be found by following the link on the left side of the page, see the heading "Emailing the Stripper". Glad your mom liked the post!

Best, Allan
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Sunday, June 10, 2012


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


I can't help but think the cartoonist should have added some wit or cleverness to accompany his characterizations of the two candidates. He might just as well as labeled the two characters as "Obama, The Good Person" and "Romney, The Bad Person."

I don't expect the cartoonist to be indifferent between the two candidates and avoid indicating his preference, but there has to be a better way to do that than to have one candidate shout "nice" things and the other candidate shout "mean" things in response.
What do you expect? Ivey is an old lefty hack.The primitive directness of this bit of work is right out of a union rally, or perhaps it's a taste of progressive propaganda for unsophisticated school kids.
"I like to help people", indeed! Actually putting those words in your candidate's mouth. That's pathetic, or desperate.
Have you never read Oliphant? Or Conrad?
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