Saturday, January 12, 2013


Herriman Saturday

Sunday, March 29 1908 -- Charles F. Lummis, an historian, librarian, outdoorsman, builder and general eccentric, contributes an article to the Examiner's Sunday magazine section extolling the virtues of California's frontier lifestyle. He explains how the California climate and geography allows children to grow into superior physical specimens that make Easterners look like sick fish. It is Lummis' opinion that although California is becoming more and more populated each day, that Californians will always recognize the importance of a healthy frontier lifestyle and never build cities like those in the East. So much for his abilities as a clairvoyant. Lummis likens California to Greece; he says their climates and geography share much in common, and points to the Greeks as fine physical specimens that prove his theories about the similarities. Somehow this leads Lummis to a conclusion that California will grow into an empire like that of ancient Greece. Now there's a prognostication he hit on the nose -- but did he know that the empire would be based on the sleepy little town of Hollywood right next door to L.A.?


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Friday, January 11, 2013


Sci-Friday starring Adam Chase

Copyright renewed (c) 2013 Russ Morgan. All rights reserved.
Adam Chase strip #3, originally published June 19, 1966.


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Thursday, January 10, 2013


Civilization's Progress by John Held Jr.

John Held's series Civilization's Progress doesn't actually belong here on Stripper's Guide, because it was a magazine series, not a newspaper feature. However, these samples bubbled up to the top of one of the precarious piles in the archives, and I couldn't consign it back into the stacks without sharing.

Held produced the series for Liberty magazine about 1931-33 as best I can determine. In the series he combined his much-loved roaring-'20s flapper style with the woodcut style that he seemed to enjoy producing. I have to say I never really warmed up to Held's woodcut stuff, as technically interesting as it is. However, in this series I do love how the two styles complement each other.

It would seem the old timey bicycle may be based on his own mother's debut as Salt Lake's firs "bloomer girl."
In the various Held "flapper" cartoons I've seen, captions and jokes rarely come up to the level of his drawings. In fact, all of these work as well or better without the explanatory text.

As for the woodcuts, I enjoy the New Yorker ones with their far more eccentric (and funny) references and text.
Squee! John Held Jr art I've never seen before! <3
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Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Obscurity of the Day: Out of Bounds

The team of Bill Rechin (art) and Don Wilder (writer) had a major success with Crock, an unlikely hit about soldiers in the French Foreign Legion. Their other collaboration, and our obscurity today, failed to strike the public fancy to nearly the same degree. 

Out of Bounds was an attempt to bring some humor back to American sports sections. While some papers in the 1980s did include Tank McNamara or Gil Thorp in the sports section, most papers seem to have lost interest in having a bright spot of cartooning there. Rechin and Wilder came up with the idea of a sports panel that could easily be dropped on a big sports news day. Unlike the other sports features, one of which was a continuity strip, the one-off gags of Out of Bounds were unlikely to cause reader ire should they go missing for a day now and again.

The feature debuted on June 2 1986, syndicated by Rupert Murdoch's short-lived News America Syndicate. Out of Bounds was especially layout-friendly by being offered in both standard panel and comic-strip style format (the latter seen above). I originally thought the strip format option was dropped after the first few years, but I've now found both formats being used much later in the run.

News America sold out to Hearst in December 1986, and both Crock and Out of Bounds moved to King Features' new little brother, North America Syndicate, in March 1987.

Out of Bounds supposedly started with a very healthy client list of 175 papers. However, as seldom as I saw the strip during its running years, I get the feeling there were a lot of sales to papers who had good intentions, but ended up running it sporadically if at all. There was even a Sunday page of the strip, which is even more seldom seen. It was dropped around 1995, two years before the daily was dropped by North America Syndicate. In 1997-98, Rechin and Wilder self-syndicated the feature, though it is unclear if they were selling new material or reprints. In either case, their self-syndication company, Crock Associates, seemed to have pretty decent luck selling the feature, but I suppose all the extra work of self-syndication was more than the team bargained for, and the offering ended.


Great fun! Now do Goosemeyer!

By the way, what was the Sunday like? A collection of gags of one big one, like Bizarro?
Of the whopping THREE examples I have of the Sunday, they are all multi-panel strip format.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Obscurity of the Day: Boggs the Optimist and Archie the Amateur

Here's another series from the wild, whacked-out pen of Walter Bradford, one of my favorite cartoonists. This series debuted on November 24 1901, just three weeks after the Chicago Tribune inaugurated their color comics section.

Originally this was actually two separate series. One starred Archie the Amateur, who always wanted to learn about some new activity and invariably all hell broke loose. The other was about Boggs the Optimist, whose signature modus operandi was less specific, but the results were the same -- pandemonium. After a short while in which Bradford ran the two series separately, he evidently decided that he may as well band his numskulls together as a team -- two idiots coming together apparently making more than the sum of their parts.

The combo series, which rarely had the room to run under its full name of Boggs the Optimist and Archie the Amateur, ran sporadically until January 4 1903, when Brad left the Chicago Tribune.

Of special interest is sample #4 above, for two reasons. First, notice that Bradford has worked closely with the Tribune's engravers in order to show the 'preliminary sketch'  artwork in panel 3 with no enclosing lines (unfortunately this is rather hard to make out at screen resolution -- sorry) -- this is the sort of love of craft that all but disappeared from the funnies not many years hence. Second, you may be thinking that the portrait with the facial features all out of whack is one of those tiresome hackneyed slams of Picasso, but recall that Picasso's surreal faces wouldn't become a feature of his work for several years yet. I don't think that any modern art of that type had really surfaced in the public consciousness by January 1902, when this strip was printed. Bradford, the first surrealist?

Thanks to Cole Johnson, who supplied all the wonderful samples!


The difference is, that in 1902, before we were educated to "Modern Art", such artwork would be seen for what it is, viz a viz, ugly, worthless rubbish.
VERY unlikely the cartoonist would have known any fine art that looked anything like his "bad" sketch. The closest thing at that time would have been, I suppose, Gauguin or Van Gogh, and both of them were more or less totally unknown in the US until the Armory Show in 1913, and neither were that abstract. I'd chalk it up to prophetic coincidence.
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Monday, January 07, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Charles Biro

Charles Biro was born in New York City, May 12, 1911, according to the Social Security Death Index and census records. He was not in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census because he was in Europe. A February 1921, Philadelphia passenger list recorded the return of Biro and his parents from Le Havre, France to New York City. The list said his parents, Anton and Josephine, were of the Hebrew race, Czechoslovakian nationals who spoke German. Their last permanent residence was Wien, Austria, and they were in New York City from 1909 to 1914. The Monthly Supplement 1951, to Who’s Who in America, said Biro attended the New School in 1918.

The 1925 New York State Census said the family of five lived in Queens County, New York at 148th Street and Grand Central Parkway. His father was a machinist and his older brothers, Michael and Louis, were a plumber and decorator. In 1928 Biro was sports cartoonist for the Long Island Daily Press, according to Who’s Who in America. As a Jamaica High School student, he was an assistant to the art editor on the school’s yearbook, The Oracle, June 1929.

In the 1930 census the Biros resided in Queens at 147-52 Grand Central Parkway. His Hungarian parents emigrated in 1898; his father was an engineer at a hotel. Biro’s brother Louis was an advertising artist. At this time, the earliest documentation of Biro’s professional career was found in the Daily Star, (Long Island City, New York), September 9, 1932:
Brooklyn Girl Betrothed to Queens Song Writer
Mr. and Mrs. Anton Biro, 147-02 Grand Central parkway, North Jamaica, announced the engagement of their eldest son, Mitchell, to Miss Ceil Bayer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.A. Bayer of Brooklyn, at a formal dinner.

Young Mr. Biro is a well-known song writer. Among the guests were Charles Biro, sketch artist for the Van Beuren Film Corporation of Manhattan, Mr. and Mrs. Lou Biro of Beechhurst, Miss Contia Biro of Brooklyn, Mr. and Mrs. Isadore Jacobwitz of Flushing-Hillcrest, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Luther of Brooklyn and Al Koenency of Brooklyn.
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Biro worked for the Fleischer animation studio in the 1930s, however the Who’s Who in America entry does not include Fleischer; it said he was an animator at Van Beuren Productions, R.К.О., from 1933 to 1936; then animation director of Audio Productions, from 1936 to 1937, and the Hastings Studio in 1937. He left animation to become art director at the Harry “A” Chesler Syndicate, from 1937 to 1938, and he drew the Foxy Grandpa comic strip (note from Allan: the only Chesler strip known to have actually run in newspapers was a revival of Little Nemo -- this version of Foxy Grandpa has as far as I know not yet been found actually running in a newspaper). The cover of Syndicate Features, December 15, 1937, featured a portrait of Carl E. Schultze, Foxy Grandpa and Biro. Around the same time he produced another strip, Goodbyland, and it’s not known if it was ever published. From the Chesler Syndicate he went to the comic book publisher MLJ from 1938 to 1939.

courtesy of Heritage Auctions

His art training was intermittent according to Who’s Who in America: Brooklyn Museum School of Art, 1932; Art Students League, 1934; and Grand Central School of Art, 1939. On September 13, 1938, he married Frances Bishop.

In the 1940 census the couple lived in Sunnyside, New York at 4542 41st Road. He had four years of high school and his occupation was artist in the publishing industry. In the column for 1939 income, he earned 700 dollars, and his wife $1,250. Biro continued work in the comic book industry: editor-in-chief of Comic House, Inc., from 1939 to 1940; editorial director and editor-in-chief of Gleason Publications, since 1945; and president of Biro-Wood Productions, since 1945. Some of his comic book credits are here. He was credited with another comic strip, Judge Sterling, that may or may not have been published in 1946. The Kingston Daily Freeman (New York), October 12, 1946, noted one of his visits: “Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hubbell had as their week-end guests Mr. and Mrs. Charles Biro. Mr. Biro is Mr. Hubbell’s editor.” He contributed illustrations to Pat the Pilot, first published in 1949.

The New York Times, July 14, 1951, reported the Society of Amateur Chefs duck dinner at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, the organization’s headquarters; two brief excerpts:
Among the co-conspirators at the range with Mr. Melchior were cartoonists Ham Fisher of “Joe Palooka” fame and Charles Biro, who left the fate of Pee Wee, Scare Crow and the other “Little Wise Guys” in midair to don his starched chef’s cap and apron. The latter costume, gay with red and black inscriptions, was worn by members over their conservative business suits. It was designed by fellow member and assistant chef of the day, Russell Patterson, the illustrator….

Bill of fare for the evening (selected by Mr. Biro):
Anchovy twists
Mint juleps
Petite marmite
Wild duckling with sauce smitaine
Wild rice
Whole glazed cranberries
Mixed salad
French pancakes
Demi tasse
During the month of October 1952, Stars and Stripes, September 21, 1952, reported that nine cartoonists were scheduled to visit American bases in Great Britain and France. They were “…Russell Patterson, the famed beautiful-girl illustrator (‘Mamie’); Dick Wingert (‘Hubert’), C.D. Russell (‘Pete the Tramp’), Bob Dunn (‘Just the Type’), all of King Features Syndicate; Al Posen (‘Sweeney and Son’), Bill Holman (‘Smoky Stover’ and ‘Nuts and Bolts’) and Gus Edson (‘The Gumps’), all of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate; Bob Montana (‘Archie’), McClure Newspaper Syndicate, and Charles Biro (comic books, ‘Dare Devil’ and ‘Peewee’).” Their Christmas greetings were published in the December 24, 1952, Stars and Stripes; Biro’s greeting is below.

The Times, October 1, 1953, noted Biro’s leasing of space in the Steinway Building, 109 West 57th Street, in Manhattan. Maybe it was this location where he produced an eight-page comic book about the State Training School for Boys at Warwick, New York. The school was established to help juvenile delinquents. The April 17, 1954, Times reported the use of the comic book and printed two panels (below).

When his career in comics ended in the mid-1950s, he made the switch to graphic design in television. From 1962 to 1972, he was employed at NBC. Biro passed away March 4, 1972. The Comics Journal #245, August 2002, published an interview with Creig Flessel who recalled a couple of incidents regarding Biro. Photos of Biro are here. An issue of Uncle Charlie’s Fables can be viewed here.


Thanks for your wonderful articles Alex! Is there any way of getting a higher res copy of these Biro Foxy Grandpa dailies? I'd love to be able to read them better. Thanks for your article and your help.
Mark Kausler
Sign up at Heritage Auctions to read the strips. Here's the link to the item:
On ebay there is an original panel Biro probably tried to sell about television. Fits in rather nicely with his later career.
awesome post
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Biro is pictured on the 1930-1931 Fleischer studio personnel chart. Goobyland was published in the 1938 Joe Penner-Cocomalt Big Book of Comics.
I've been wondering two things.
First, do we know where Biro died and is, presumably buried?
And what is known about his post-comics work at NBC and elsewhere?

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Sunday, January 06, 2013


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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