Saturday, December 04, 2021
Herriman Saturday: March 5 1910
March 5 1910 -- The Chicago White Sox are barnstorming through the west, but have been waylaid over and over by bad weather. Now they've finally reached sunny southern California for their matches against the local Pacific Coast League teams. Note that Herriman does a sort of sub-strip, rather like he will soon do with The Dingbat Family, now only a handful of months in Herriman's future.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, December 03, 2021
Obscurity of the Day: Tilly Tawker
Wednesday, December 01, 2021
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Burt Thomas
Detroit—Burt Thomas, creator of Mr. Straphanger, has retired. His present address is Santa Barbara, Calif., where he has ideas (jokingly) of becoming a beachcomber.For 48 years, Mr. Thomas drew pictures for the Detroit News. For more than a score of years he was one of the nation’s celebrated editorial cartoonists whose work was syndicated to hundreds of newspapers.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, November 29, 2021
Obscurity of the Day: Mr. Straphanger
Does Mr. Straphanger really qualify as an obscurity? Well, let's put it down as at least an honorary member of the club. It was the only Sunday comic strip offered by the Detroit News, and as such you could reasonably guess that it would garner little interest from newspaper editors, who'd rather work with more established sources for their syndicated material. But just from my collection I can offer a list of major papers that took it: Milwaukee Journal, Washington Star, Boston Post, Brooklyn Eagle, El Paso Herald, Dallas Morning News, etc.
I hate to admit that newspaper feature editors might actually be able to recognize superb art when they see it; they so rarely show such taste. But maybe in the case of Burt Thomas' Mr. Straphanger their normally sleepy eyes for once were forced open. The strip was seldom very funny, which is odd since Thomas' earlier work impresses me in that department, but the quality of his art, though also not as sumptuous as early in his career, is still impeccably clean and beautifully executed.
The term 'straphanger', now almost forgotten, once was a colorful term for a suburban commuter, typically an office worker who had to shoehorn themselves onto public transportation at the same rush hour as everyone else in a city -- hence they rarely found a seat, but hung onto the overhead straps in the streetcars and buses. Mr. Straphanger seems to me a little well-heeled for that sort of lifestyle, but his actual position at the office he frequents is never (that I've read) made clear, and in the later years of the series he spent much of his time trying to strike it rich through various schemes.
Mr. Straphanger has a family -- wife, teenage daughter, young son -- but they are barely supporting players, mostly there as window-dressing. The comic generally has the titular star, sometimes along with his canine companion, Elmer, getting into outlandish situations by his own devices. The strip also had a little continuity -- the top example here is from a set of strips about him losing Elmer the dog, for instance. Later in the run the continuity came much more to the fore, in my opinion to the detriment of the humor.
Burt Thomas was the Detroit News' well-regarded editorial cartoonist, and so Mr. Straphanger wasn't really his bread and butter, but it may be that the character originated on the op-ed page. Some histories state that Mr. Straphanger was originally a character used in his editorial cartoons to represent the commuting people of Detroit versus the 'traction trust' that was railed against in most major cities at one time or another.
The Mr. Straphanger Sunday page began on February 26 1922* and ended sometime in 1932, almost certainly on April 10 1932**, a page that appears to be a sort of farewell, with Mr. Straphanger finally striking it rich in a strip titled "The Fade Out". However, the strip was advertised in the 1932 E&P Directory which comes out around August, which would seem to indicate it may have run longer. Unfortunately I ran out of time with the Detroit News microfilm in the Library of Congress before I could find a definitive end date.
After the original run of the strip ended, some of the material was resold to World Color Printing. They seem to have only bought the tail end of the strip's run. They began running Mr. Straphanger on May 20 1934, and ended on February 17 1935* with "The Fade Out", which makes a strong case for it being the end of the original series as well.
PS -- In the 1931 E&P Syndicate Directory the strip is listed as a daily and Sunday feature. I think this was a typo as I've never seen a daily version of the strip.
* Source: Detroit News
** Source: Monroe Morning World
*** Source: Mexico Intelligencer
Sunday, November 28, 2021
Wish You Were Here, from Charles Schulz
Here is a Peanuts postcard issued by Hallmark. This one is coded 50PST 302-8 on the back, whatever all that means. Oddly, the copyright line on the reverse is for Linus only; usually these cards say "Peanuts Characters" are copyrighted. Is each Peanuts character separately copyrighted I wonder?
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Ever wonder why Bluto became "Brutus?" Because KFS didn't copyright Bluto.
At the time, the syndicate was unable to determine whether Segar had created the character for the "Thimble Theatre" strip (which would mean that KFS owned it) or if the Fleischers had created Bluto as a foil for Popeye in theatrical cartoons (which would mean that the Fleischers or Paramount owned copyright to the character).
Since Segar had indeed created Bluto (for a 1932 "Thimble Theatre" continuity), King Features did own the character... but since KFS didn't know that, the company simply developed "Brutus," an amazingly similar character, for use as Popeye's chief antagonist in the hundreds of inexpensive made-for-television cartoons King produced in the early '60s.
When Bluto was created in 1932, it was to specifically have a recognizable adversary for Popeye when the animated cartoons came out. Segar devised Bluto in a 1932 series(a year before the animated version debuted) with this in mind. I guess he didn't have interest in the character to ever bring him back in the strips.
In fact, Bluto reappeared in the strip again briefly in the 1950's when it was done by Ralph Stein. but it was also the last time,as apparently it was determined that Bluto was not ours,as we copyrighted the strips he appeared in, but Paramount copyrighted the characters for their cartoons. "Screen Rights" one would call them. When Sagendorf took over the strip in 1959, he had occasionally used a Bluto-like character who didn't have a name...."Big guy" was about all the name he had, indicating we were hesitant at naming the character, yet definately didn't want him named Bluto. We were gearing up for the TV cartoons. With their launch in 1960, another Blutoesque villian had appeared, as Popeye needs such a story catalyst, but his new handle was "Brutus", a name we could copyright. Sagendorf's "big guy" became "Brutus" too. That confusion would follow was not a concern.
Thanks for the clarification regarding "Bluto" and "Brutus"! I much appreciate hearing the real details on this.