Saturday, July 09, 2022
Herriman Saturday: April 13 1910
April 13 1910 -- The workmen who are on site building an observatory and monastery atop Mount Wilson are working under tough conditions, and when the group said they wanted a new cook, managers of the project listened and obeyed. They found a real pip of a hashslinger, but she supposedly weighs 350 pounds, and the standard way up the mountain, by burro, is just not gonna happen. But it turns out that the new cook is no prima donna, and she gets up there mostly under her own power, with a little help from workers pressed into service to help with the treacherous bits.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, July 08, 2022
Toppers: Dinglehoofer und his Dog Adolph
My father escaped from behind the Iron Curtain after World War II and immigrated, a teenager all by himself, to Canada. He stepped off the ship hardly knowing a word of English but, out of necessity, learned it at breakneck speed in order to get a job and make a living. In hardly any time at all he had all but mastered the language, a small miracle. Yet no matter how he tried, he could not seem to rid himself of his accent, and it remained through the rest of his life. It wasn't anything much by the time I came on the scene, just a pronunciation of 'V's as if they were 'W's -- a Volvo was a Wolwo in my dad's world.
After the war it was not exactly an asset to have a German accent, and I can only imagine how tough it was for him in this war-weary country (Canada suffered over 100,000 dead and wounded in World War II). That was brought home to me when at a very young age, fancying myself a budding comedian, I stupidly tried to poke fun at him for his accent. It wasn't ever a subject of discussion in our home, and I was too young to realize that it could be a sore point for him. Well, my father didn't have much of a sense of humour on his best days, but you would have thought I had stuck a knife in his chest and twisted. He was always quick to anger, but in this case he didn't get mad. He just gave me a withering look, a look of intense disappointment and betrayal that I can still see in my mind's eye to this day, and walked away. Although it was never spoken of again, it was a moment that changed our relationship irrevocably. He no longer could completely trust that I was on his side; even his own son was no exception in a world that mocked him openly for where he had the misfortune to be born.
Of course it wasn't fair to expect a mere child to understand all that, or to blame him for your own emotional scars. But imagine what my father must have been put through, that he couldn't brush off a stupidly tone-deaf remark from his own kid. Imagine how much pain he must have been put through because of that accent, that he could not find perspective enough to ever completely forgive his child for a stupid attempt to be funny. It took me many years to come to that understanding, and by then it was far too late to repair the damage; my father went to his grave never believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that his son was his unconditional and absolute ally and defender.
So I said all that because today's subject is Dinglehoofer und his Dog, a topper strip to The Katzenjammer Kids. A good portion of the humour to be derived from this long-running topper series is the ridicule of the characters' German accents, just like in the main strip. As you might imagine, that source of humour falls on deaf ears in these quarters. I can barely make myself read strips like The Katzenjammer Kids, so I'm really not someone equipped to discuss them in anything close to an equitable manner. But, lucky cuss that I am, Mark Johnson in his old Ask The Archivist feature on the Comics Kingdom website, covered the strip so well I that I don't feel I have anything of value I could add even if I wanted to. So take a trip over to this Ask The Archivist post and learn everything you need to know about Dinglehoofer und his Dog.
Labels: Topper Features
Thanks much for referencing my old blog.
Sorry to hear your father took the accent mimickry so seriously. I wonder what he made of the Katzies?
German dialect comedy had been a part of American humor for many years. Often called "Dutch" comedians,(obviously an anglicization of "Duetsch") vaudeville/music hall stars like Weber & Fields kept the tradition going for many years. Comic strips were full of comic germans, especially all those Katzie knock offs.
I suppose there were for many years, immigrants with such accents coming into America and Canada, so it was a relatable stereotype, just as it was faor so many other nationalities. And it was not only acceptable, most of the time those of those nationalities did their material in dialect. So, Harold Knerr and Rudolph Dirks had no problem in supporting the accent.
By world war two, we weren't seeing much vaudeville or so many of these immigrants any more, and dialect humor was waning. Certainly Germans were not seen in the same way, yet the Katzenjammer Kids/Captain and the Kids lasted for many years.
Wednesday, July 06, 2022
Obscurity of the Day: Josephine
In the early 1940s Robbie Robinson was working for the Indianapolis News in their sales department while moonlighting as a gag cartoonist, submitting to the magazine markets. According to Robinson's Cinderella tale, someone at the paper happened to see a packet of submissions he was about to send out and swiped it to show the bosses. The rest, as they say, is history. The bosses decided to run the cartoons in the paper, dubbing the gag series Just Hearsay. By 1945 the feature was syndicated and three years later Robinson had also become editorial cartoonist for the paper, a post he would hold for 22 years.
In 1948 Robinson started featuring an unnamed little girl in the daily panel. She was prone to asking absurdly philosophical questions of her elders, embarrassing them with undiplomatic remarks in front of company, and trying to act like a grown-up in an eight year old body.
Just Hearsay was not exactly burning up the sales charts, but then again, it was syndicated by the New York Herald-Tribune, which was almost absurdly bad at placing their generally fine wares with client papers. So it was evidently decided that the panel might be more appealing if it featured a continuing character. Thus Just Hearsay disappeared, replaced by Josephine on November 8 1948*.
The panel still didn't take off, but apparently the client list was just enough to keep the feature afloat. Things were on an even keel until June 1950**, when syndicate salesman Harry Cook decided that he could do better on his own than at the Herald-Tribune Syndicate. He talked a few of the H-T's minor creators into coming with him, including Robbie Robinson, and Josephine got a new syndicate slug, from the Harry Cook Syndicate.
Mr. Cook's sales abilities did not seem to live up to his belief in himself, because Josephine certainly didn't take off in spite of having a syndicate salesman working almost exclusively on her behalf. Harry Cook's few features struggled, and in November 1955 he finally threw in the towel. He sold off the syndication rights to Josphine and one or two other remaining features to General Features. Their syndicate slug debuted on the panel on December 19 1955**.
Robinson seemed to end up over and over with organizations whose sales abilities were not exactly legendary, and General was no exception. The panel continued to limp along with a short client list. To bring on a partner on a low-paying feature seems like a case of slicing the pie a little too thin, but on June 2 1958*** Robinson relinquished the art chores on Josephine to veteran gag cartoonist Charles Skiles. Skiles' artwork on the feature was a little more modern-looking than Robinson's, and he changed Josephine into a cuter, smaller little girl (Skiles art is on the last two samples above). These changes may have helped to pick up a few more papers, so maybe it was a smart move.
Robinson stopped taking writing credit after 1962****, leaving Skiles as a solo act. Skiles continued producing the panel until his death in February 1969. The panel continued on, using up backstock, until May 3 1969*****. Ironically, Robbie Robinson passed away just months later, in October 1969.
* Source: Oakland Tribune
** Source: Indianapolis News
*** Source: South Bend Tribune
**** Source: Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directories
***** Source: Sacramento Bee
Monday, July 04, 2022
Obscurity of the Day: History of the U.S.A.
Happy Independence Day to you folks down there to the south! Today's obscurity seems on the face of it a great obscurity to feature today, but names can be deceiving. History of the USA told the story of the country through a different lens than you would expect from an American newspaper: a purely negative lens in which the focus was squarely on all the wrongdoings and missteps associated with the young nation.
What American newspaper would commission such a comic strip, you wonder? What newspaper had such an axe to grind against its own country? Why, it was that infamous organ of the American Communist Party, of course, the Daily Worker.
The heydays of that newspaper were during the Great Depression, when many Americans, out of work, hungry and despairing, were disillusioned with the American capitalist system and democratic government. The Soviet communist system, theoretically anyway, seemed like it might offer a viable alternative. The Daily Worker was where many curious Americans dipped their toe in the water to find out more about this strange new form of government pioneered by the USSR.
The Daily Worker took full advantage of that wide-eyed naivete, reporting national and world news with a constantly droning editorial voice telling how in all things the American system was flawed and the Soviet system was wonderful. So it's no surprise that they offered the same sort of material in their comics.
History of the U.S.A. ran weekly from January 12 1936 to March 14 1937 in the Sunday edition of the Daily Worker. Almost all cartooning contributors to the paper hid behind pseudonyms, but William Sanderson is an exception to that rule. He also produced work for the left-wing magazine New Masses, and gained fame for his striking paintings. For this comic strip Sanderson adopted a faux woodcut style that is well-suited to the historical material, but he seemed to struggle with organizing his material so as to read smoothly from panel to panel.
Just before the end of the run, Sanderson's gave up the art chores on the strip to someone named "Hall", who got co-credit with Sanderson from February 14 1937 on to the end of the strip.
Sunday, July 03, 2022
Wish You Were Here, from Charles Dana Gibson
Although they forgot to take credit on this C.D. Gibson postcard, the maker is James Henderson & Sons, a British imprint. The drawn out explanation on the back of this card is as follows:
"SNAP SHOTS" Post Cards -- C.D. Gibson's Drawings: "Heads" -- 18
As noted on the front, this and other Gibson images for this series are taken from the magazine Pictorial Comedy, a British publication that, as best I can tell, is more than likely to be the American Life magazine under different wraps.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
"Pictorial Comedy" was a monthly magazine that was published in London by James Henderson & Sons, which had a lot of Gibson cartoons in it, mainly from LIFE. They advertised a lot of his art, available in art prints and in sets of Postcards. Other cartoons that appeared in the magazine were by other artists, like Flagg, which were from LIFE as well, which I believe were owned by Gibson as well.