Saturday, June 01, 2019
December 21 1909 -- A one-shot strip from Herriman in which a black man gets a beating for agreeing that Jack Johnson is going to clean Jim Jeffries' clock. The most charitable thing I can say about this is that we could choose to believe that Herriman was helpfully reminding black folk to be careful of being too exuberant in their excitement about Johnson in mixed company. As if they really needed a reminder.
The last panel offered a word new to me, which turns out to be yet another offensive term for a black person.
PS: Note the typo in Herriman's name. Oops.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, May 31, 2019
Wish You Were Here, from Charles Dana Gibson
Here's another Gibson card from Detroit Publishing. This one is #14004, and based on the copyright we know that it originally appeared in a 1900 issue of Life. What we don't know is why an unused postcard like this one is all chewed up around the edges.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Gummi Bears
As an example of bizarrely successful cross-promotion, Gummi Bears is a master's class on crass commercialism and rapacious capitalism. Supposedly it all began when Disney head honcho Michael Eisner noticed his kid eating Gummy Bears candies (note the spelling difference). For some strange reason he decided that the company should turn these squishy, rubbery, tooth-rotting candies into Disney's first foray into TV animation. I'm betting that part of that 'inspiration' was also the success of American Greetings' Care Bears characters. Kudos Disney for piggybacking your new product on the backs of a candy franchise and a greeting card company, yet no pesky licensing fees to pay --- score!
So was born Adventures of the Gummi Bears, a cartoon show set in medieval times and starring a group of bears who, after drinking magic juice, are able to bounce around not unlike Tigger. The plot sounds utterly inane to me, but I've come across plenty of fandom in my little bit of research on the subject, so I gather the cartoons were not completely and utterly without redeeming value.
So once you've created your mildly successful TV kid's show based on candy and greeting cards, what's next? Well, a newspaper comic strip series, of course. But whatever tiny amount of charm and thought might have gone into the animated series, it failed to reach from one division of the company to the next. The Gummi Bears comic strip, which debuted via partnership with King Features Syndicate on September 1 1986, offered incredibly lame one-liner jokes in the dailies, and the Sunday did the same plus added attractions of a "Bear Fact" (pre-school level trivia), and a couple of puzzles or games. None of it exhibited an ounce of creative thought, and managed to annoy even fans of the Gummi Bears by ignoring most of the characters and plotlines set up in the TV show.
The creators of this waste of space, which thankfully found few clients, were probably very happy to be uncredited and anonymous. That is, they would be anonymous if it weren't for Disney researcher extraordinaire Alberto Becattini, who unmasked them as Rick Hoover (writer) and Lee Nordling (art).
The Gummi Bears TV show lasted until 1991, but the comic strip was such a stinker that it fell by the wayside on April 1 1989, a fitting end date for a feature that was a practical joke on the newspaper-reading public.
"The Simpsons" version was slicker and tuned to the show's sensibilities. That appeared to come and go equally quickly, perhaps because they weren't sure whether it was a kid feature or an adult parody.
"Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids" appears to be the hardiest survivor, unless there are others I don't know about.
I liked the show and after having watched it on Disney+ I can say it holds up pretty well and could have turned out much, much worse considering the target audience and what they had to work with. But this comic is just bizarre. I like the art but otherwise it's a pale copy that stripped out just about everything that made the show memorable.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Magazine Cover Comics: Curious Kitty
Carolyn Wells and Fish were both tremendous talents, but I think Wells was a better artist than she was a versifier, and Fish was a better writer than she was an artist. So what does the American Weekly do but put the two together and assign each the role in which they're weaker.
Curious Kitty is a pretty forgettable cover series that ran in the American Weekly from June 28 to August 30 1931. The plot is that Kitty keeps getting in trouble because of her insatiable curiosity, until the final installment ... well, go ahead and read it yourself, because our sample is the concluding episode of the saga. All's well that ends well.
Labels: Magazine Cover Comics
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Punch and Judy Up To Date
Due to racist language and stereotyping, Punch and Judy Up To Date may well be just fine staying forgotten, but that's not how we roll here at Stripper's Guide, so here it is.
Taking a cue from the long-standing British tradition of Punch and Judy puppet shows, Mark Fenderson claims to be updating them by focusing on Mr. Punch and a black character, Toby. Only problem with that thesis is that Punch and Judy shows had been occasionally including a black character, often named Jim Crow, for probably a hundred years or more.
Fenderson was a sloppy cartoonist who seemed to put exactly as much effort into his work as he could get away with. Some of his strips for the McClure Syndicate, where the Punch and Judy strip appeared, are downright painful to look at. Not so with this strip, which was well-drawn for what it is, and Fenderson was proud enough to sign it consistently, which he seldom bothered to do. The gags, on the other hand, are hardly worth the name, but for that maybe Mark can't be blamed -- after all, real Punch and Judy shows offer simple-minded violence as a primary source of humor.
Punch and Judy Up To Date had a short run, no shame that, from December 6 1903 to February 7 1904*. Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.
* Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Monday, May 27, 2019
Toppers: Simple Sylvia in Gags and Gals
The cheesecake artist Jefferson Machamer, looking for a steady paying gig during the early years of the Great Depression, accepted an offer from Hearst's New York Mirror to contribute a weekly color Sunday page to their paper. Naturally the chosen subject was the female sex. Machamer had a marked preference for statuesque beauties, and at least for humor purposes he loved the mercenary gold-digger type, so Gags and Gals abounded with those "Machamer Girls."
In addition to the gag panels that dominated the page, Machamer included a strip, never named, in which the artist, using a rather cruel self-caricature of himself, chronicled his experiences with women. This unnamed strip could be considered a topper, I suppose, but since I've never once seen Gags and Gals cut down to half-page format (in which that strip would be lost), I think of it as an integral part of the feature.
I can trace Gags and Gals back to 1932, with the earliest example in my collection being from September of that year. However, since Mark Johnson tells me that the Sunday Mirror debuted on January 10 1932, it wouldn't surprise me if Gags and Gals was there right from the start (can anyone supply some facts to go along with my guesswork?).
The strip doesn't seem to have been offered in syndication until late 1933, and it ran in very few papers until 1936, when it finally started accruing more of a substantial client list. The new popularity of the feature probably had something to do with its translation into a series of movie shorts that began making the theatrical rounds in early 1936. Here's a fun installment of the series:
Soon after this new spate of popularity began the feature finally added a real topper, presumably at the request of newspaper clients trying to fit Gags and Gals into different formats. The new topper was titled Simple Sylvia and it debuted on February 14 1937.The feature was really just a 'more of the same' for the Gags and Gals package, starring one of Machamer's Amazonians beauties.
Simple Sylvia was later joined by another topper, Bubbling Bill, and both lasted until the end of the Gags and Gals feature on February 6 1938.
Labels: Topper Features
The film included in your posting has the title of Gags & Gals but it is not the one from 1936, which was one of a short series of Jefferson Machamer-starring short subjects made in the waning years of the Educational Pictures studio. What the film shown here is from the 1940's. Official Films served the home use and film library markets. They licenced second hand Hollywood products like old Columbia or Hal Roach shorts, and Vanburen and Terrytoon cartoons, often giving them new titles. The only credits there are for "Zarek & Zarina" are to some "Soundies", and "Gags and Gals/ Male Order" seems to be retitled Soundies too. (Soundies were short musical films that were seen in a coin-op contraption called a "Pan-o-ram" that was supposed to replace juke boxes, but it was a bad idea, and the machines were in constant need of repairs, so they were only around 1940-47.)
Bumps/Pete by CD Russell
Honeybunch's Hubby/Smatter Pop by CM Payne
Tailspin Tommy by Forrest
The Lovebyrds/Etta Kett by Robinson
Silly Symphonies/Mickey Mouse by disney
Tarzan by Foster
Phil Fumble/Fritzi Ritz by Bushmiller
Fisher's Foolish History/Joe Palooka by Fisher
I know that's the first Mickey Mouse sunday, Maybe the first also for Etta Kett and Pete (the Tramp)?
Just for the record, the last Sunday Mirror's line up:
Lil Abner by Capp
Steve Canyon by Caniff
Mickey Finn by Leonard
Henry by Anderson (Liney)
Rex Morghan MD by Bradley & Edgington
Dan Flagg by Sherwood
Kerry Drake by Andriola
Life' Like That by Neher
Priscilla's Pop by Vermeer
Better Half by Barnes
Apartment 3-G by Kotzky
Emmy Lou by Links
Louie by Hanan
There Oughta be a law by Shorten & Whipple
Our Boarding house by Freyse
Out Our Way by Cochran
Joe Palooka by Depreta
Palooka was in every single Sunday Mirror section!
As a show of just how poorly the Mirror was doing, in all this, there's only one ad in the whole section.
Steve Canyon would be picked up by The New York Journal-American.