Saturday, March 13, 2021

 

Herriman Saturday

 

January 14 1910 -- There's a big aviation meet going on in LA and Herriman offers up some thoughts on the subject. Regarding the first panel, I guess Herriman wasn't aware that parachutes had already been around for centuries. Granted, he has introduced a new wrinkle making it into a skirt -- well, let's leave the fellow some dignity and call it a kilt.

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There’s a good article in Wikipedia about the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet. It was apparently a major event.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1910_Los_Angeles_International_Air_Meet_at_Dominguez_Field
 
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Herriman Saturday

 

January 12 1910 -- A big aviation meet is happening in Los Angeles over the next few days, with some of the leading lights present. Herriman caricatures Charles Foster Willard, Glenn Curtiss and Louis Paulhan.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Mike Wong

 
Michael Lucas “Mike” Wong was born on June 14, 1931, in Siskiyou County, California, according to the California Birth Index at Ancestry.com.

In the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Wong was the youngest of four siblings. Their mother was the head of the household. The whereabouts of their father is not known. Also boarding with them were two teenagers with the Wong surname. They all resided in the Chinatown of Newcastle, California.

The 1946 Klamath Falls, Oregon city directory listed “Michael L Wong” at 623 1/2 Main Street. He worked at the Oriental Cafe.

According to the 1950 Sacred Heart Academy yearbook, Atrian, Wong enrolled in the high school in 1948. He had transferred from San Francisco, California.

The 1949 Klamath Falls directory said Wong was a student, and his father, Lee H. Wong, operated the Oriental Cafe. Their home address was the rear of 619 1/2 Main Street.

Wong graduated in 1950. Information about his art training has not been found.


The 1951 directory said Wong resided at 319 Main Street. He was a stockman at the Walgreen Drug Company. His parents were still at 619 1/2 Main Street and involved with the Oriental Cafe.

The Klamath Falls Herald and News, June 1, 1954, reported Wong’s break into syndicated comics.
Mike Wong, young Klamath Falls cartoonist, is now associated with Hank Ketcham, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Ketcham who syndicates the cartoon series, “Dennis the Menace,” which started this week in the Herald News. Mike is the son of Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Wong, owners of the Oriental Cafe on Main Street. He was introduced to Ketcham by Scott Newhall, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Newhall cartoonist [sic] for the San Francisco Chronicle, when he went to San Francisco to market his work. He is a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and is 22 years old. He recently sent an autographed copy of “Dennis”, to Maurice Miller, circulation manager of the H & N.
Editor & Publisher, June 12, 1954, also noted Wong’s new job., “Mike Wong is now associated with Hank Ketcham, who does “Dennis the Menace.” Mr. Wong is an ex-parttime cartoonist for the Klamath Falls Herald and News.”

It’s not clear how Wong assisted Ketcham who was living with his wife and son in Carmel, California.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the strip, Romulus of Rome, debuted April 10 1961 in the San Francisco Chronicle. It written by J.P. Cahn and drawn by Wong. Editor & Publisher, January 5, 1963, said Romulus of Rome would be syndicated in early 1963. Editor & Publisher, March 2, 1963, reported how the Chronicle was promoting the strip locally.
The recipe for the Kooba kiss is being offered San Francisco Chronicle readers in promotion featuring the “Romulus of Rome” historical adventure comic strip released through Chronicle Features Syndicate. This is the drink all Kooba enjoyed in the days of Romulus, according to the strip’s creators, J. P. Cahn and Mike Wong. (E&P, Jan. 5, page 42). The promotion copy described the beverage as “a delectable potion which changed all history.” The Chronicle declares the recipe is available—by mail only—to Kooban Information Bureau, Room 303, Chronicle. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is required.
 
The series ended on December 20, 1963. Its demise was described in Editor & Publisher, January 11, 1964.

Wong’s artistic skills were noted in the Oakland Tribune, August 8, 1966.
Mike Wong, the hot Berkeley artist, was commissioned by John Von Weisel of the U.S. Treasury Dept. to do a certificate (that will be presented KRON-TV for public service selling Savings Bonds) showing a $75 bond with the award information in the center. Wong finished the design, rushed it to Oakland National Engraving and—whoa! “No chance,” they told him. “It’s against the law to make engravings like that.” Wong has to get a note from Von Weisel saying it was NOT a counterfeiting attempt. …
So far no additional information on Wong has been found.

Wong passed away on April 15, 1988, in Alameda County, California, according to the California Death Index at Ancestry.com.

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How funny that Kooba Kiss, "the delectable potion that changed history" bears the same name as Victor Fox's fraudulent Golden Age cola, Kooba Cola. I understand "Kooba" was intended in the strip to satirize Cuba,so this is probably coincidence. It'd be great, though, if it were an incredibly obscure in-joke.
 
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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: Romulus of Rome

 



 


A lot of obscurities deserve their fates; maybe most of them. One that most certainly did not was Romulus of Rome, an adventure strip set in the Roman Empire during the reign of Nero. Our hero was Romulus; not the famous one, but an entirely fictional (as opposed to mythological) direct descendant of one of the twin founders of Rome. Our Romulus is an outlaw, a sworn enemy of the emperor and supposedly the rightful ruler of the Empire. He's also (of course) a handsome hunk who makes all the ladies swoon, a master swordsman, and as pure as the driven snow. 

Writer C.J. Cahn knows his subject, but he doesn't get pedantic about it. The strip doesn't seek to give us a history lesson and throws in a little humor here and there to keep things light. Cahn seems to  know just the right percentage of baloney to add in to the steak of this historical epic to make a delicious Roman swords-and-sandals thrill-a-minute sausage. Artist Mike Wong, meanwhile, offers excellent cleanly delineated art that, on its best days, reminds me a lot of the great Russ Manning. Wong also loves to draw sexy toga-clad women, who figure into the story constantly. 

Romulus of Rome debuted as a local feature of the San Francisco Chronicle on April 10 1961, and ran there for over a year and a half as a wonderful Bay Area secret. However, the Chronicle was at this time getting serious about syndicating its wares, and finally Romulus of Rome was offered to the world at large, slated to start nationally on January 7 1963. 

This, unfortunately, was when things went to hell. The strip changed in significant ways, none of them good, for its national audience. Cahn decided that hero Romulus was a drag on the proceedings, and his figuring into the stories was reduced significantly. Instead, the strip became an unfunny satire on current events. The first storyline for the national strip was a long meandering one about an island nation called Kooba and its crazed dictator Kasdro. If this sounds like it has possibilities, take my word for it, it is awful. Kasdro's word balloons are 'written' in a sort of hieroglyphic that can be decoded if readers send a request in to the home paper. If you didn't do that, the next few months are a very long slog where one of the main characters speaks gibberish. A perfect introduction to a new strip, eh?

When the interminable Kastro storyline is finally finished, we go on to a story starring Roman versions of  Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher, and later, a story about a big peace summit between Rome and the other empires, with current political figures standing in for their historical equivalents. Wong's caricatures of these personalities is spot on, but the humor is consistently flat, and the stories have become little more than an excuse for the lame satirical shenanigans. 

Finally, at the end of the peace summit storyline, we have Romulus jumping out of a giant celebratory cake to kill his nemesis, Nero. He trips and his sword finds its way into the hand of his adversary, who proceeds to run Romulus through. The last panel of the strip is a gravestone emblazoned with the name of our fallen hero. Thus ended the strip, on December 21 1963, an amazing missed opportunity. A year and a half of sharply written and drawn adventure followed by a sad case of jumping the shark.

Why did Cahn change the strip like that? By 1963 it was pretty obvious that adventure strips were no longer going to be big sellers, especially one like Romulus of Rome that was so offbeat. It would have taken a good salesperson to convince newspaper editors to take a chance on it. Instead, they probably tried to sell the strip as some bizarre hybrid between Prince Valiant and Pogo, which theoretically could work, but the will and the ability just weren't there. 

All I know of Cahn is that he also wrote articles for the magazine True in the early 60s. Of Mike Wong I also know practically nothing; in the early 50s he was a 'part time' cartoonist for the Klamath Falls (OR) Herald and News, and apparently then began assisting Hank Ketcham in some way starting in 1954. Both these creators had a lot to offer to newspaper comics, and it's a shame they were (as far as I know) never heard from again. Alex Jay, though, has managed to figure out some biographical details, which will be seen in our next post.




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Hello Allan-
By your intriguing description, it would have been more interesting to see some of the Castro and Liz material!
You say the original version appeared only in the SF Chronicle for the first twenty months, but I notice in your samples there is a cut into the first panel of each, in the upper left corner to accomodate clients that would fill that space with the strip title, which was often done in Tabs and foriegn papers, mostly. If there was but one paper Romulus ran in at the time, this wouldn't have been necessary. I don't know when the Chronicle started "Chronicle Features", but the copyright line here would indicate the two creators owned it themselves.
 
This was an unexpected pleasure. Looking at the first strip on the page, it was immediately clear that this was well done, but reading further I was really captivated by Cahn and Wong's storytelling. Thanks for posting this terrific and undeservedly obscure treat.
 
I have the first couple of months but really want to see more of this strip. It is a holy grail for me. Thanks for this write up!
 
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Monday, March 08, 2021

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Chad Grothkopf


Chauncey McKee “Chad” Grothkopf was born on June 14, 1914, in Ironton, Ohio, according to his World War II draft card. He was adopted by Oscar Frank Grothkopf, a traveling salesman, and Fay McKee Zurlage, who married on August 22, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois. At some point the couple moved to Ohio and adopted him. The Ohio Birth Index at Ancestry.com has a “Chance[y] Burlage” who was born on the same date. Some sources have Charles as Grothkopf’s first name but there are no official documents with that name.

In 1926 the Columbus Dispatch mentioned Grothkopf twice in its Junior Legion children’s page, for those between the ages ten and fifteen. In the November 4, 1926 edition Grothkopf was among many winners in the contest to draw the face of Bringing Up Father Jiggs. Grothkopf had a strip and an illustration published in 1927. 


 Columbus Dispatch 2/13/1927

Columbus Dispatch 3/13/1927

On July 24, 1927, the Dispatch said Grothkopf was one of fifteen boys and girls who qualified for art classes at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. They

received instruction in the art of cartooning and pen and ink drawing suitable for newspaper reproduction. The first experiment continued for 16 weeks.

H.E. Cochenour, member of the teaching staff of the art school and himself an artist, took these young Dispatch children’s page artists under his wing and outlined a course so planned as to be of practical help to these of varying experience.

He gave them the fundamental rules of drawing perspective design, figure drawing, lettering and arrangement. …
Grothkopf was a student at North High School in Columbus. Below is the Marrigale Art Club picture from the Polaris Annual 1929; an arrow points at Grothkopf.


The 1930 U.S. Federal Census listed Grothkopf as an adopted son. He and his parents were Columbus residents at 1758 North High Street. His father was a traveling salesman in the oil and advertising industry.

The Dispatch, May 5, 1930, reported the contest winners.

Three Columbus high school students were awarded prizes ion an art contest held by Sun Dial, Ohio State university campus publication, it was announced, Monday. First prize in cartooning and second prize in illustration were awarded to Chauncey Grothkopf, 1758 North High street, North High school …
Grothkopf talked about his childhood, art training and early career in an interview published in the Fawcett Companion: The Best of FCA (2001).
I was born in a small Ohio farm town. I had a very Huckleberry Finn-like upbringing. We’d all go swimming on hot summer days in the Ohio river. … I started drawing at a very early age. … I loved fait tales and cartooning and would draw everything as if it were alive … If you were an artist in my hometown you were considered a sign painter; I was surrounded by farmers and art just wasn’t something that was thought of as a legitimate career. …

I won a scholarship [in the early 1930s] at the Chicago Art Institute where I took a fine arts course … After graduating, Paramount Pictures selected me to be one of their junior art directors. At Paramount, I did no cartooning, just straight illustration like the type I did when was at DC. Lousy stuff … My heart belonged to cartooning. … I started out at Detective Comics (DC Comics) in 1938 …

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Grothkopf’s earliest comic strip effort may have been Toytown Christmas which was for the Ledger Syndicate in 1938.

In Animation: The Whole Story (2012), Howard Beckerman wrote

The earliest mention of made-for-television animation in America is Willie the Worm, an eight-minute cartoon that aired on NBC in 1938. Animated by Chad Grothkopf using cels and cutouts, it was seen in the New York area by a handful of people who owned sets with seven-by-ten-inch screens.
The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Etc., 1939, New Series, Volume 36, Number 3, included Grothkopf’s copyright for Willie the Worm: “Grothkopf, Chancey Mckee,* New York. Willie the worm. © Feb. 8, 1939; A.A. 29.2749. 9814”

The 1940 census recorded Grothkopf and his parents in Forest Hills, Queens, New York at 109-14 Ascan Avenue. Grothkopf was a freelance artist who earned two-hundred dollars in 1939. Six months later Grothkopf married Doris Anna Vaughn on October 12 in Manhattan. Four days later, Grothkopf signed his World War II draft card which had three addresses at various times: Forest Hills Inn, Station Square, Forest Hills, New York; Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica, California; and 155 West 20th Street, New York, New York. His description was six feet, 170 pounds with green eyes and brown hair.

Grothkopf produced material for Stan Lee at Timely Comics. He found success at Fawcett Publications with Funny Animals which featured Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, Willie the Worm, Sherlock Monk and Chuck, Benny Beaver and many more.

The 1942 Manhattan city directory listed Grothkopf at 155 West 20th Street.

Famous Fiction began on January 11, 1942 with Cut-Out as its topper. Grothkopf drew it from March 29, 1942 to December 20, 1942. Other artists worked on the strip while Grothkopf continued writing it. The Bell Syndicate series ended on May 19, 1946. Also in 1942 Grothkopf drew True Comics which began with Sam Glankoff.

Grothkopf enlisted in the army on February 12, 1943. After the war he continued work in animation for television.


The Evening Star (Washington, DC), October 24, 1943, said Grothkopf was one of five soldiers who exhibited at the Alexandria Library show, sponsored by the Artists’ Professional League, during American Art Week in November. The soldiers were doing technical work at Fort Belvoir. The Star said Gorthkopf was a Chicago Art Institute student who draws the syndicated strip Moments of History.

Grothkopf was profiled in Editor & Publisher, July 8, 1950. He talked about the PM beer advertising campaign. Grothkopf hired Al Stahl to do an animated film of the product.

The radio and television success of Howdy Doody spawned a comic strip drawn by Grothkopf and written by him, Milt Neil, Stan Lee and Edward Kean. The United Features Syndicate strip ran from October 15, 1950 to June 21, 1953.

The Wilton Bulletin (Connecticut), September 23, 1953, reported the formation of Chad Inc.

A certificate of incorporation for “Chad Incorporated” was filed recently in the town clerk’s office. The new firm will engage in the television business, including writing, directing, producing, recording and filming of TV shows. Its incorporators are Mr. and Mrs. Chad McKee Grothkopf of Wilton and Agnes Vaughan of New York City.
American Cinematographer, October 1955, examined the animation process at Chad Associates, Inc., 40 East 49th Street, New York City. Grothkopf produced work for Disney, Mighty Mouse, Underdog, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Bugs Bunny, Tiny Toons and others.

In 1960 Grothkopf appeared in the Famous Artists Schools advertisements which said “Chad Grothkopf, TV art pioneer, spelled out everything anyone needs to know for successful television drawing.”

Grothkopf passed away on January 25, 2002, in Norwalk, Connecticut. A partial obituary appeared at Westport-News.com, February 4.

 

Further Reading and Viewing
Fabulous Fifties
Heritage Auctions
Lambiek Comiclopedia
Potrzebie

Grand Comics Database
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999


—Alex Jay

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

 

Wish You Were Here, from Dwig

 

Here's another Dwig card, this one from the Raphael Tuck Series #165 -- Knocks Witty and Wise. this one doesn't offer much of a cartoon, but the sentiment is a keeper.

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