Saturday, November 27, 2021

 

Herriman Saturday: March 4 1910

 

March 4 1910 -- As in yesterday's Examiner, Herriman is enlisted to provide one piece of art to cover multiple stories. Odd...

The top story concerns a a fraternal organization known as "The Mysterious 10"; they had an election to determine their new grand poobah, and for some reason despite a substantial majority of the votes going to one fellow, another fellow was crowned, or anointed, or whatever they do. How this tempest in a teapot made it into court I cannot imagine, but a Solomon-like judge seems to have made sense of the election and the members of The Mysterious 10 left happy -- except presumably for the fellow who was ousted as Grand Wizier. 

The bottom cartoon concerns a thief by the name of Chow Gow who made off with a goose and rooster from a local home. Apparently when pursued by a posse Chow Gow decided the birds were too hot to handle; he dumped them in a secluded spot and flew the coop.

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Friday, November 26, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Cheerful Primer

 


The Cheerful Primer was one of Charles Kahles' contributions to the Evening World, running pretty consistently twice a week from January 28 to July 31 1907. The idea was to satirize the form of a child's schoolbook, a concept that had been done plenty of times before. Kahles' take on the idea seemed rather perfunctory, with the gags seldom really relating or depending on the framework. Not that the gags don't work (I got a good chuckle out of the sample above) but the McGuffey's Reader thing seems to be pointless. 

Here's a coupla factoids to brighten up this post about kind of a yawner of a strip. During Charles Kahles' long tenure at the New York World he was unusual in two ways. First, he seemed to be able to moonlight to other syndicates openly and freely whereas most other artists did so clandestinely. Second, he produced material for both the Sunday funnies and the weekday Evening World, which was a surprisingly unusual occurrence --- but then again, Kahles was a veritable comic-producing machine, so there's that to factor in. 

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Hello Allan-
Kahles's daughter, Jessie, would proudly boast that CWK had created or worked on twenty-three series, yet I know there were more, she never considered the "weekday" strips from early on, like this one.
 
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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

 

Toppers: Jane Arden's Wardrobe

 
Art by Russell Ross

Art by Jim Seed

 
Art by William Hargis

 

Jane Arden was a successful strip about a female reporter that ran for over three decades, debuting in 1928. One might also call it pioneering as the first major strip, I think, to star a professional woman outside the traditional stenos and secretaries. Unlike later strips to star women, this one never had a female writer or cartoonist during its long run.

I confess that I've never been able to bring myself to read enough of Jane Arden to say what I think of the stories. The art, though by many different hands, was so uniformly stodgy or just downright bad that I can't get past it to find out if the writing is good. So have you tried reading Jane Arden? Tell me what you think about the strip in the comments please. Maybe I'm missing out on something fantastic?

The Jane Arden Sunday page started in 1932, and after a few months running topless added a topper strip, Lena Pry, and a paper doll feature, Jane Arden's Wardrobe, on December 4 1932*.  

The daily strip art at this time was by Frank Ellis, but his work was so primitive that when the Sunday was added, they brought on a new hand for the page. This was Jack W. McGuire, whose art was not that much better but impressed the Register & Tribune Syndicate enough for him to get the gig. 

Two years later McGuire was needed to take over the art on R&T's western strip, Bullet Benton, and after trying to keep both plates spinning for awhile, he was dropped from the Arden strip in favour of Russell Ross. Ross had taken over the daily a few years earlier, and became the artist on the Sunday, including toppers, starting February 17 1935*. Ross was a much better artist, but his artwork has a sterile quality to it. There just never seems to be any joy, any attempt at fireworks; the art just sort of lays there on the page with all the flavour of a hothouse tomato.  

Ross had by far the longest tenure on the strip but you'll never know that from the strips themselves, because for some reason he stopped signing the daily back in the late 1930s, and the Sunday was uncredited most of the time after the death of the original writer, Monte Barrett, in 1949. Why he preferred to work anonymously I have no clue. Ross' art is distinctive enough that I feel pretty comfortable in saying that he was at the helm, probably with more and more assistance as time went on, on the Sunday until 1956 when Jim Seed began getting art credit with the January 29 Sunday**. 

Seed's art is very much in the Mary Worth/Judge Parker mold, draining what little attractiverness Ross had brought to the party. That sort of art was in vogue, though, so Seed was just following the market. With Seed's tenure the paper doll each Sunday was now just a stat of the same very unattractive Jane Arden figure. I mean seriously, Jane is wearing her frumpy granny's underthings and looks like she's steeling herself to undergo a painful medical procedure. 

Seed left the strip after the Sunday of September 4 1960, to be replaced by William Hargis. Hargis' art style is very similar to Seed's, and he used the same frumpy vision for Jane in her skivvies as his predecessor.

By this time the Jane Arden Sunday was running in a tiny list of papers, and so it was dropped on September 3 1961***, making that the end of the topper Jane Arden's Wardrobe as well. 


* Source: Des Moines Register

** Source: Most info on the Sunday strip in the 1950s and 60s is from the Toronto Star.

*** Source: Editor & Publisher, July 29 1961.


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Always glad to lend a hand...there are a couple of late 1940s Jane Arden reprint comics over at Comicbook+. "Pageant of Comics" #2 reprints four daily continuities credited to Barrett and Ross. I read them to save you the trouble.

The stories are all whodunits with Jane, a police inspector, and occasionally a standard Handsome Guy Friend picking up clues and finding the murderer. The writing is much like the art: simple, diagrammatic, excitement-free.

From Russell Ross' artwork I gather that either he was either totally unimaginative or totally unmotivated. His drawings are pretty good, though composed in endless static, eye-level shots. But whenever there's the least hint of a complex scene--Jane discovering a ransacked room, the cops photographing a murder scene--Ross goes out of his way to draw as little as possible. There are a remarkable number of shots of peoples' feet. Maybe after twenty-something years he was just tired of it all.
 
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Monday, November 22, 2021

 

Mystery Cartoonist: "Kaulee"

I was recently contacted by Karen Green, curator of comics and cartoons at the Butler Library of Columbia University regarding some comic strips she found. They were discovered in the papers of the Society for the Prevention of Crime (ironically, an organization that vilified comic books). What she found were a couple of proof sheets for strips titled Hopeless Henry and The Same Old Hokum, bylined by "Kaulee." 

Green contacted me on the chance that I might be able to ID the artist. Unfortunately I could not do that, and I had never seen the comics strips either. 

Online research led me to an obscure set of series evidently issued through the auspices of the United Nations. There seems to have been three series, the first of which was titled Hopeless Henry. In this series the UN keeps a relatively low profile, concentrating more on material about European war relief. Some strips don't even mention the UN. Green has two proof sheets for this strip, with the strips numbered 1 through 7, which appears to be the extent of the series. Here are some samples:



The proof sheets credit Community Relations Service, located at 386 4th Avenue in New York City. I can find little on this organization, but it seemed to be in the business of issuing pamphlets and other printed materials for various religious, community and social do-gooder organizations. Whether "Kaulee" worked for them, the U.N., or some contracted art agency is unknown, but the latter seems like the best bet.

Hopeless Henry strips were issued as freebies to newspapers, and so assigning definitive dates to the series is relatively meaningless since the issuer does not seem to have prescribed specific running dates. Very few papers took the bait to run strips from this series, and I found none that printed all seven. Of those few who did use Hopeless Henry, the earliest I can find ran it in July 1947. 

Although Hopeless Henry failed to get many takers, a second series was issued, this time titled Hopeless Herman. Why the name change? I dunno. Maybe they ran out of rhymes for Henry. But the new series was also credited to "Kaulee". Here's a few samples:


 

For this series we don't have the benefit of proof sheets, so these samples are from digitized microfilm. The highest number strip I can find is #6, but it wouldn't surprise me if this series also consisted of seven strips. This series is more openly cheerleading for the U.N. and lobbies primarily for the Universal Bill of Human Rights, which would be passed in December 1948 and would become quite influential in world politics. The earliest I can find Hopeless Herman strips running is in October 1948.

Finally there is a third U.N. series, yet again with a new title, this time the cheerier outlook of Hopeful Herbert. "Kaulee" is credited once again, and once again the series seems to consist of seven strips. Here are some samples from microfilm:


The earliest printed example from this series I've found is from October 1949. 

This appears to be the last U.N. series produced, but "Kaulee" has another credit, on The Same Old Hokum, a series that uses the same style and format as the U.N. ones:



This series is aimed at combating racism and promoting ethical behavior in veterans. It is not at all obvious who paid for this series to be produced, but it seems unlikely to be the U.N. as the subject seems a little out of its purview. This was apparently quite a long series in comparison to the others; the highest number found is #22. It also varies from the other series in that it appears to have only been distributed to military base papers and veterans' publications (thanks to Alex Jay for ferreting out these appearances).This series has been found running as early as 1947 and as late as 1949. 

"Kaulee" also produced some other material for Community Relations Service, including a pro-immigration booklet titled The Face At The Window, which impressed the editors of the Des Moines Tribune enough to run it on their op-ed page. The pamphlet seems not to have credited the work, but it is obviously our "Kaulee":


 Green alerted me to another booklet obviously produced by "Kaulee", this one about workplace discrimination and unionism. It was titled "Discrimination Costs You Money" and it was produced for the National Labor Service:

In researching this pamphlet I came upon several different versions of it floating around the interwebs. The typical version, as usual, offers no creator credits, but finally I hit paydirt on the Civil Rights Movement Archive website, where they have a digitized version of the pamphlet that offers full credits at the back. And that's where the mystery ends, because they tell us that "Kaulee" is  the team of writer Sonya Kaufer and artist Lee Levy. 

Sonya Kaufer pops up in newspaper archives during the 1950s as a pamphlet writer, poet and civil rights activist, but sadly for artist Lee Levy the trail goes cold.


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I've seen some of these UN handouts in several papers in different states. They apparently came with further UN propaganda in the form of editorials, columns and photos to the same papers.
 
Poking around a bit, there's a listing for a Sonya Firstenberg Kaufer, nee Sonya Ruth Firstenberg, born January 7, 1921 in Bialystok Poland, and who died August 21, 2004; if these strips came out in the mid to late 40s, they were done when she was rather young. Since at least 1977 through 2002, she lived in Putnam Valley, NY; in the 1930 census, she's listed in the Bronx (under "Sonya Firstenperg" [sic], having come to the US in 1928 (as a Yiddish speaker) and in 1940, as "Sonia [sic] Firstenberg," a clerk in a cleaning and dyeing shop, living in Brooklyn; she'd briefly attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.

One item that caught my eye in noodling around was that there was a comic artist for DC comics named Harris Levey, also born in 1921, who worked under the pseudonyms Lee Harris, Leland Harris, and Harris Levy. Could it be possible he also worked under the name Lee Levy, mixing names from two of his pseudonyms? I admit that's a longshot, but it's a very curious coincidence. As of February, 1942 (his draft registration card), at the age of 20, he was living in the Bronx, and working for "Superman, Inc." He died, it seems, in 1984, up in Lake Placid.
 
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Sunday, November 21, 2021

 

Wish You Were Here, from Jim Davis

 

Here's another Argus Communication Garfield card, this one coded #P2100.

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