Saturday, March 18, 2017


Herriman Saturday

January 8 1909 -- American disaster aid is filling freighters bound for Italy, responding to the horrific Messina earthquake. The disaster is estimated to have killed somewhere between 75,000 and 200,000 people. The earthquake, and a resultant tsunami, levelled most of the bustling port city of Messina. Naturally Californians are particularly empathetic to the plight of the survivors.


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Friday, March 17, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Carl 'Bunny' Schultze

This 1906 postcard, given compliments of the Boston Sunday American, features Foxy Grandpa, the boys, and Schultze's trademark Bunny signature.


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Thursday, March 16, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Sunley

John J. Sunley was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 26, 1915. His birthplace was determined from census records and birth date was from the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Sunley was the sixth of seven children born to William, an electrician, and Elizabeth. The family resided at 5617 Whittier Avenue in Cleveland.

The Sunleys’ address in the 1930 and 1940 censuses was 1692 Wayside Road.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), April 12, 1932, announced the winners of the Tarzan coloring contest. Sunley won a pair of tickets to see Tarzan, the Ape Man.

The Plain Dealer, June 5, 1938 and June 4, 1939, reported the May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art and mentioned Sunley’s freehand drawing.

According to the 1940 census, Sunley, an artist, and his oldest brother, William, a comic writer, worked for a weekly newspaper.

Link, the Cleveland Institute of Art Magazine, Summer 1983, published highlights of Sunley’s art career based on his letter (see page 11). He was in the museum’s class of 1939 and earned “a living as newspaper illustrator and cartoonist, as staff artist at Newspaper Enterprise Association in Cleveland, and as free-lancer for the Akron Beacon.” He served in the Air Force during World War II.

El Reno Daily Tribune 8/18/1941

El Reno Daily Tribune 8/19/1941

Two more samples of Sunley’s art are here and here.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Sunley produced the first two strips of the NEA’s Ticklers, dated June 30 and July 7, 1941. He was followed by Bob Moyer, Bill Arnold, Bob Moyer (again), William Hayes, and George Scarbo. Sunley also did the close-end series The Easter Story, from April 3 to 8, 1950, also for NEA.

In 1951 Sunley moved to Buffalo, New York, where he worked as editorial staff artist on the Buffalo News. He retired early in 1978. Sunley continued work as a freelance courtroom sketch artist for television.

According to the Guild Reporter, June 12, 1958, Sunley was one of several artists to receive a trophy at the Buffalo Newspaper Guild annual Page One Ball.

The Buffalo Courier Express, October 20, 1959, said Sunley was elected to active membership in the Fine Arts League. Sunley’s prize was reported in the Courier Express, September 12, 1960, “John J. Sunley, 139 Doat St., received a first prize gold medal for a boy and dog portrait ‘Chris and Lassie.’”

Sunley passed away March 7, 1993, in Buffalo. His death was reported the following day in the News. Sunley’s wife, Ellen, passed away March 25, 2014.

—Alex Jay


John and Ellen Sunley were my grandparents. I have a lot of my Grandad's newspapers art and courtroom sketches, if there is any interest in adding more of his work to this site.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Ticklers

From the 1920s into the 1970s, NEA offered a 'pony service' to small weekly papers. This was the cheapest option they offered, and even then many weeklies were too poor to afford it. Nevertheless, despite anemic subscriber lists, NEA doggedly continued to make it available. It's offerings, at least as far as comics go, were  rarely seen, though some of them were quite creditable. Ticklers, a gag panel, was offered for a very long stretch to the pony service subscribers, and usually offered some pretty darn good art, if not the snappiest gags. But since it appeared only in minor weeklies, notorious for not running material when it was intended, and the NEA archives themselves are spotty in their pony service material, dating is a bit of a challenge.

Ticklers by Sunley

Ticklers seems to have debuted on June 30 1941, sporting art by a fellow named John Sunley. His grease pencil artwork was a little reminiscent of George Clark, a fellow NEA staffer. Only problem was that Mr. Sunley lasted a mere two weeks on the newly minted series. Starting on July 14 1941, the reins were passed to Bob Moyer.

Ticklers by Moyer

Moyer also had a nice style, in his case somewhat like NEA staffer George Scarbo. He made it all the way to sometime around January 1942, when a fellow named Bill Arnold got his shot at pony service stardom.

Ticklers by Arnold

Bill Arnold, who I know absolutely nothing about, was another grease pencil aficionado.He spent a short time on a few minor NEA features, offered up some lovely work, and then disappeared. He ran the Ticklers concession from sometime around January to around March 1942. Next was a return engagement by Bob Moyer, who filled in for a few weeks, and then William Hayes took over on March 23 1942.

Ticklers by Hayes

Hayes was by far the least artistically accomplished of the Ticklers crew, though on occasion he could ratchet his work up a notch. Unfortunately this generally coincided with him swiping from magazine gag artist George Price. Hayes had a couple of recurring sub-titles for his panels; Museum Pieces featured gags about dinosaur skeletons in a museum, and Spot 'n' Speck were a couple of bugs.

Hayes ran the show until June 26 1944, but during that stretch there was a six month hiatus from April 12 to October 18 1943. When Hayes left, NEA had the good sense to put a bullpen stalwart on the job. The great George Scarbo took over (as just 'George'), and started his long tenure by trying to turn Ticklers into a more memorable feature by retitling it G. Willikers. That dog didn't hunt, as they say, and the title reverted to Ticklers on August 14, barely a month and a half into the experiment.

In 1945, Scarbo tried again. On June 11 he retitled the feature Looney Luke and added a continuing character. This experiment also failed, and the title reverted after only four installments to Ticklers on July 9. From then on, Scarbo no longer rocked the boat. For the next decade and a half, he produced a weekly Ticklers cartoon for his vanishingly small weekly audience. The feature was finally put to bed for good in 1960. The NEA archives are  too spotty on the pony service by then to offer an exact end date.


Kind of sad that Scarbo did all that work for years and practically no one saw it.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ralph Lane

William Ralph Lane was born in Princeton, Missouri in early 1905. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Lane’s father, Fred, in Princeton where he married Grace Miller on November 16, 1902. According to the 1910 census, the trio were resided in Princeton on Ballew Street. Lane’s father was a bookkeeper at a bank.

The 1920 census said Lane, his parents and younger brother, Allen, lived in Trenton City, Missouri, at 510 Pleasant View Avenue. The United Press International article, in the New York Times, February 9, 1965, reported “Lane studied music at Trenton, Mo., and art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 9, 1965, said “Lane in 1923 started drawing cartoons as a freelance cartoonist in Kansas City. Eventually he went to New York City and was a regular contributor to the New Yorker and the old Judge and Life magazines.”

A 1925 New York City directory listed a “Wm R Lane” who worked at The World newspaper and resided at 237 West 148th in Manhattan.

The Missouri marriage records at said Lane married twenty-one-year-old Florence Naegelin on June, 26, 1926 in Jackson, Missouri.

In the 1930 census, Lane worked at an engraving company and his wife was a fashion artist. Living with them were his mother and brother in Kansas City, Missouri, at 4044 Harrison.

According to the 1940 census, Lane remained in the same city but at a different address, 5803 Virginia. The freelance commercial artist had a seven-year-old son, John. Lane’s highest level of education was the fourth year of high school.

The Times and Plain Dealer said Lane joined the Cleveland-based Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1945. This anecdote about the NEA art department appeared in Cartoonist Profiles, Volumes 41-44, 1979.

[George] Scarbo was in the first floor art department and the desks all faced east with the light from the north to everybody’s left. Ralph Lane moved into the department and, being left-handed, he turned his board around and now faced the artist directly behind him. The artist happened to be a very pretty and nice girl named Emerson (can’t remember her first name). Emerson became very bothered with Lane sitting there looking at her legs all day, so she taped a sheet of drawing paper to the front of her drawing board. During lunch hour, somebody cut two holes in the paper, adding a sign, “Five cents a look.”
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Lane assisted on Roy Crane’s Buz Saywer from 1943 to 1945. Lane went on to draw 19 NEA strips, all but one were closed-end which were Churchill: A Man and an Era; Daniel Boone; Fathers of Flight; The First Christmas—A Story for Children; Freedom of the Press; Gifts of the Magi; Hell Bomb; In Convention Assembled; Iran: Cockpit for Conquest; Japan; Rebirth of a Nation; Lincoln and Gettysburg; On the Beach; Sputnik Plus Five; Squanto’s Thanksgiving; The Story of the Atom; Story of the Pony Express; Valley Forge: Inspiration for Today; and Wild Bill Hickok. Lane drew the long-running NEA series, Vic Flint, from January 6, 1946 to July 30, 1950. The strip was continued by artists Dean Miller, Art Sansom, and Lane’s son, John. Lane’s Vic Flint also appeared in comic books.

Some of Lane’s other NEA work can be seen here, here and here.

A game of bridge between Lane, NEA writer Russ Winterbotham and their wives was written up in W. E. McKenney’s column “Dealing with Bridge” that appeared in the Canton Repository, February 2, 1948.

Lane passed away February 7, 1965, at a hospital in Lakewood, Ohio. His death was reported two days later in the Times and Plain Dealer which said Lane was survived by his wife, son, mother and brother. Lane’s home was at 29700 Wolf Road, Bay Village, Ohio.

—Alex Jay


I have links to the complete Hell Bomb and Sputnik Plus Five at for anyone wantinf to see them.
The Library of Congress has an original drawing for Squanto's Thanksgiving published in the Morning Herald, Hagerstown, Maryland, on Thursday, November 26, 1942, p. 5, so Lane joined the staff of NEA earlier than 1945.

Sara W. Duke
Curator, Popular & Applied Graphic Art
Prints & Photographs Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4730
Has it ever been determined why Ralph Lane quit VIC FLINT? He left in mid-storyline, which would suggest something urgent in his departure. (Still writing about Dean Miller, his successor, for an article that will appear before too long, perhaps in THE COMICS JOURNAL...)
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Monday, March 13, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Japan: Rebirth of a Nation

In 1951, Japan was coming to the end of its occupation and reconstruction by U.S. forces, and naturally there was great curiosity in America over how things had gone. The closed-end comic strip series Japan: Rebirth of a Nation sought to tell the story of rebuilding Japan in twelve information-packed episodes. The story was highly self-congratulatory, and not without good reason. The U.S. had brought a functioning democracy to a land that had been mostly feudal, had helped rebuild Japan's industrial capabilities and shipping fleets, and had guided modernization of everything from medicine to agriculture.

The U.S. had learned a lot from the way Germany had been mistreated after World War I, and how that mistake more than anything had led to World War II. We were not about to have World War II set the stage for yet another worldwide bloodbath. Japan was truly reborn in those six years, and the nation took its place in the second half of the 20th century as an industrial and business powerhouse that now rivalled her former enemy. If anything good can be said to come out of war, the rebirth of Japan, as well as Germany, are candidates for that distinction.

Japan: Rebirth of a Nation was issued by NEA to run from August 20 to September 1 1951, though I've never found a paper that actually ran it on those dates -- most started it between August 22 and the end of the month. The writer of the series was uncredited and the excellent art was provided by Ralph Lane. Lane had just bowed out of NEA's Vic Flint strip, presumably to tackle projects like these. Lane handled the art on over a dozen of these closed-end newsy strips in the 1950s and early 1960s.


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