Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Charles J. Coll, Jr.

Charles Joseph Coll Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 15, 1889, according to his World War I and II draft cards.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Coll was the oldest of six children born to Charles, a bookbinder, and Catherine. The family resided at 49 North 36 Street in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8, 1907, mentioned Coll’s marriage in Wilmington, Delaware, “Charles J. Coll, of 2021 Ellsworth street, and Miss Jennie D. Corr, of 2226 Manton street, were married here today by Mayor Horace Wilson.”

The 1910 census recorded studio artist Coll, now single, in his father’s household which was in Philadelphia at 4021 Powelton Avenue. Charles Sr. was a “dancing master” who wrote Dancing Made Easy (1919).

Coll signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917. Coll, his wife and child made their home in Philadelphia at 5920 Osage Avenue. He was a newspaper artist with the North American. His description was five feet ten-and-a-half inches, 150 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair.

Coll’s address was the same in the 1920 census. The newspaper illustrator’s wife was Agatha and his son, Charles Earl.

American Newspaper Comics said Coll was involved in four series for the Ledger Syndicate. He was the first artist on Deb Days, from April 18 to June 18, 1927. He was followed by Earle K. Bergey on June 20. The series writer was Litta Mabie.

San Francisco Chronicle 4/13/1927

Next, Coll illustrated Flapper Fairy Tales, starting April 21 to May 26, 1929, which was written Ruth Plumly Thompson. Third, Coll was one of four artists on Roy Powers, Eagle Scout which began May 10, 1937. The others were Jimmy Thompson, Kemp Starrett and Frank Godwin. Coll started on the strip in 1938 and ended some time later. According to Coll’s obituaries, he created The Shadow strip which debuted June 17, 1940 and was by Vernon Greene, artist, and Walter B. Gibson, writer. Coll worked on The Shadow comic book which may have been confused with the strip.

McClure’s, March 1928, mentioned Coll’s uncle, Joseph Clement Coll, “…Charlie is a nephew of Joe Coll, recently deceased, one of the greatest pen-and-ink men of them all. His nephew received his early training under him….”

The 1930 census recorded Coll, Agatha and sons, Charles and Robert, in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania at 7117 Hazel Avenue. The same address was in the 1940 census which said Coll was in Cleveland, Ohio in 1935. The self-employed artist had completed one year of college.

For the NEA, Coll drew Myra North Special Nurse which began February 10, 1936. The series ended August 31, 1941. Ray Thompson was the writer. The Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), July 10, 1936, published a profile of Coll and said in part

…Coll grew up in Philadelphia. It was in that city that he came to the rescue of a fifth grade Christmas party with blackboard sketches of Santa Claus and his reindeer. The grateful teacher told Coll’s mother of the lad’s talent and young Charles was launched on an art career, although football, swimming, fishing and other sports were to claim most of his time for the next few years.

Coll's uncle, Joseph Clement Coll, was one of America’s best known illustrators. To his studio marched Charlie, there to spend long hours under the expert guidance of the famous uncle.

Later, on a Philadelphia paper’s art staff Coll’s pretty girl drawings in the Sunday edition won a big following. He drew “Flapper Fables” and “Campus Capers” and illustrated cover pages for the magazine section. From this job, Coll went to free lance advertising art workm and illustrating magazine short stories and serials and children’s books.

Coll joined N.E.A. service in Cleveland in 1934 as art director of Every Week Magazine. He did outstanding work illustrating serials for Every Week before conceiving Myra North last February.

…Coll lives in Cleveland, is married and has two sons—one in college and one in grammar school. His ambition is mural decoration. He likes golf but admits his stroke with a pen is much more useful than that with a mashie.
Myra North Special Nurse was reprinted in comic books.

On April 27, 1942 Coll signed his World War II draft card. The gray-haired artist was working for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Coll worked for comic book studios and publishers in the 1940s.

Coll passed away January 18, 1949, in Bywood, Pennsylvania, according to The New York Times. His passing was also noted in the Editor & Publisher, January 22, 1949, “Charles H. [sic] Coll, Jr., 58, creator of “The Shadow” and “Myra North, Nurse” comic strips and former art director of Philadelphia Ledger Syndicate and NEA Service, January 18 at Upper Darby, Pa.”

Further Reading
Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists

—Alex Jay


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