Friday, October 21, 2022
Under The Radar: Carmichael
This post is the inaugural episode of a new occasional series, Under The Radar*. The theme is to discuss newspaper comics that are not obscure, because they ran for many years in a relatively substantial number of papers, but were never celebrated or even noticeably popular with readers. These were not necessarily bad features, and evidently feature editors saw some value in them, but they never inspired reprint books during their time, never seemed to get much promotion, and rate hardly a mention in books about newspaper comics.
Carmichael is a pretty good example of this thesis. It ran for an impressive 28 years, and in its better years was claimed to have a very healthy 150+ newspaper clients. Yet other than the obligatory promos that a few papers ran when they initially bought the feature, I can find hardly a word about Carmichael or its creator, Dave Eastman.
Carmichael debuted as a daily-only feature on March 3 1958, and was sold by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate on the basis of its unusual tall one-column format. The feature was also unlike the run of the mill panels in that it always consisted of depressive one-liners from a middle-aged sad sack character; unusual for the time. The drawing was initially a little more cartoony than the samples you see above, with Carmichael's face more rounded and, dare I say, almost verging on cheery. But soon Eastman had perfected the look of his mouthpiece, giving Carmichael both the look and the one-liners of Rodney Dangerfield (who he was not copying -- this is before Dangerfield became well-known).
The promos for Carmichael say that Eastman was born in 1924 in Indiana, and moved to LA in 1948 after serving in World War II. He had extensive art training and his early cartooning endeavours were focused on selling magazine gags. Carmichael was his first syndicated newspaper feature.
Carmichael maintained a healthy client list through the 1960s and early 70s, but faltered thereafter. He lost his home paper, the LA Times, in 1976, and is seldom seen in the 1980s. It is tough to get an exact end date, because Carmichael, as designed, tended to be used as a filler panel. But I do have two papers that last ran new material in May 1986, and one of them, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, switched over to reruns after their last new panel ran on May 30. I think it reasonably safe to say that the series ended on May 31 1986.
Eastman would have been 62 when Carmichael was cancelled, but I have no idea if he went on to other things, retired or passed away. I can find not a word about him except in those early promos.
* I'm all ears if you can come up with a catchier title!
Labels: Under The Radar
Being of the earliest stage of appreciation, the pithy, uncomplicated few words offered by Carmichael helped me when I was learning to read.
I made another round of searching for name mentions in 1973 papers particularly, and I still come up with nothing. I do find a Betty Eastman very active in golfing in California, but she didn't slow down her tournament play at all around September-October, so I'm guessing I've got the wrong person.
By the way, that Carmichael book you mentioned -- I should have said something in the post, but it is insanely rare; a few copies at major libraries, but not one out in the wild that I can find.
A 1959 article says over 124 of his Carmichael cartoons appear in a collection of Peanuts then on sale. No idea to what that refers.
He started a second strip called "Today" in 1965 according to the Anderson Daily Bulletin.
I'm lucky to own one of the Carmichael originals.
Tall Tales only lasted six years, which Jaffee blamed on an editorial directive to add words, which lost them a bunch of international clients. So it's interesting that this word-based strip lasted so much longer.