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.


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Friday, December 03, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Tilly Tawker


C.A. Voight became an anchor cartoonist at the Boston Traveler seemingly out of nowhere, but then again if his recorded birthdate is to be believed, he was just 21 years old at the time. His only earlier series*, hardly worthy of the name since it ran just twice, was Tilly Tawker, drawn for the New York Evening World on February 28 and March 9 1908. Above you witness the entire run.

Tilly Tawker is quite breathtaking. It's very hard to imagine a wet-behind-the-ears kid producing such sumptuous art with wonderful animated anatomy and expressions, well-developed gags and immaculate pacing. This is the sort of work cartoonists aspire to eventually produce after years in the profession. How the Evening World let this kid out of their grasp is anyone's guess, but escape he did.
* In my book I credit a 1902 series from the Evening World to C.A. Voight. It does looks like it could be his early, raw-boned work to me, but it is only signed "Voight", a not terribly uncommon name, and if his birth date is to be believed, he would have been published in one of the important papers in the country at the age of fifteen. Not impossible, but certainly somewhat improbable.


Why did they spell it "Conversazione"?
Is that the Italian version?
the full "C.A.Voight" sig is in the NY Evening World sports page from July 'o3. into '04, and on the NY Evening Mail sports page in '07 and probably earlier as my time ran out before I had a thorough look. In both papers he is certainly our man, therefore no need to posit another Voight. A precocious kid indeed.
If above shows "anonymous," it's from Eddie Campbell
Alan. Here's another obscurity that I found a little on but you might be interested in. Mike.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Burt Thomas

Burt Randolph Thomas was born on December 4, 1881, in Cleveland, Ohio, according to his World War II draft card and Who Was Who in America (1981). His parents were Martin Lee Thomas and Mary Randolph. He graduated high school in 1899 and attended the Cleveland Art School from 1899 to 1902. 

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Thomas, his parents and older brother in Cleveland at 103 Newell Street. Thomas’ father was the proprietor of a planing mill where Thomas was a bookkeeper. 

Who Was Who said Thomas was an artist on the Cleveland Press from 1900 to 1902. He did advertising illustration from 1902 to 1904. 

Thomas continued his art training at the Detroit Art School from 1903 to 1905. The 1903 Detroit, Michigan city directory listed Thomas at 121 Lysander Street. Directories from 1905 to 1908 said Thomas boarded at 494 Putnam Avenue and was a Detroit News artist. 

In the 1910 census, newspaper artist Thomas was a lodger in Detroit at 22 Adelaide Street. 

Thomas’ address was 310 Merrick Avenue in the 1911 city directory. On June 3, 1911, Thomas married Margaret Yarger in Detroit. Their address in the 1912 city directory was 657 Lothrop Avenue. 

Cartoons Magazine, October 1914, published Thomas’ “Utopia Under the Big Top”.

Thomas’ Our Neighbors ran from February 5 to August 17, 1915 and was syndicated by Herbert Ponting. 

Thomas was featured in Editor & Publisher, April 7, 1917. 

Cartoons Magazine, June 1918, published a photograph of Thomas’ seventy foot Liberty loan billboard. 

On September 12, 1918, Thomas signed his World War I draft card. The Detroit News cartoonist resided at 629 La Salle Gardens South. His description was tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair. 

Thomas had the same address in the 1920 census. 

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Thomas produced Mr. Straphanger, for the Detroit News, from February 26, 1922 to 1933. 

According to the 1930 census, Thomas, his wife and daughter were residents of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, at 886 Washington Street. The same address was in the 1940 census. Thomas’ highest level of education was the fourth year of high school. In 1939 he earned over five-thousand dollars and his house was valued over twelve thousand dollars. 

Thomas signed his World War II draft card on April 24, 1942. His address was unchanged. He was employed at the Detroit News. His description was five feet ten inches, with blue eyes and gray hair. 

At some point Thomas moved to California. The 1948 Santa Barbara city directory listed him at 22 East Los Olivos. His office was at 735 State Street in room 334. In 1951 his address was 8 Virginia Road. 

Thomas’ retirement was noted in Editor & Publisher, September 22, 1951. 
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.
Thomas passed away on July 3, 1964, in Berkeley, California, according to Artists of Early Michigan: A Biographical Dictionary of Artists Native to or Active in Michigan, 1701–1900 (1975). 


One thing that baffles me is that there doesn't seem to be any collections of Thomas' work. Quite a few of his cartoons were reprinted in The Literary Digest, and the Britannica Book of the Year had some of his later work, but considering his relative prominence in the field (and how lovely his art is), no collections.
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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


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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?


Sure they are. Rather heavily, too. all characters worth licencing are. if you forget to, they soon become Public Domain, and so whatever licencing you want to do, might end up as free publicity to a now competing product. Remember Superman's "Bizzaro" world, where everything was the illogically a reverse image version of the normal world? D.C. didn't copyright it, and it became a PD term.
Ever wonder why Bluto became "Brutus?" Because KFS didn't copyright Bluto.
I believe "Bluto" became "Brutus" because some King Features legal minion was uncertain in the late '50s whether KFS actually owned the Bluto character.

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.
Hello Griff,
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.
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